Paris is usually the world’s most romantic city—except during this, the hottest stretch of summer, when the sweltering heat forces even the meekest Parisians to behave rudely. To provide some measure of relief, the city temporarily closes sections of the Georges Pompidou Expressway, which runs along the Seine River, as well as other riverfront areas and transforms them into beaches. Known as Paris Plages, the annual event opened on July 20 and runs until August 19. It gets bigger with each year, drawing 4 million visitors in 2006, according to the city’s Department of Culture.
Roughly 3,000 tons of sand comprise the Paris Plages, which are lined with umbrellas, palm trees, beach chairs, and music venues. Sponsors include the materials supply firm Lafarge, the EDF power company, and the FNAC electronics store. When the event began in 2002, these temporary beaches abutted the Right Bank and stretched nearly two miles from the Louvre to the Pont de Sully, incorporating parts of the existing Seine quays. Last year, additional beaches were added on the Left Bank, along a half-mile-long stretch of land in front of the Port de la Gare and Dominique Perrault’s Bibliotheque Francois Mitterand. That spot includes a floating pool, an arts center, and an outdoor library.