Life's a beach (Paris Plages), the flame torch and gold rings

It’s been a whirlwind 12 days in the City of Lights with the kid and her Auntie Nora (that would be me!!) and even though our pink-sneakered feet rarely tired of traipsing up and down the cobblestoned laneways, our sojourn in this magical metropolis was drawing to a close.  From hanging out with the Mona Lisa at the Louvre to pretending that the Batobus was our own private yacht and fantasizing what it would have been like to have been ladies in waiting in Marie-Antoinette’s regal court, our Parisian escapades were nothing short of splendiferous.  Yes, cliché, but nonetheless true.  

We had accomplished quite a bit in our adopted city and it was now time to wrap up, scamper around town, and immerse ourselves in as much French culture as a 24 hour window of opportunity would allow.  From having discovered the Liberty Flame at the foot of the Pont d’Alma tunnel, frolicking in the man-made beach fronts that littered the expressway thoroughfares of the Seine and encountering gypsy gold ring scammers along the way, our last day in Paris was an action packed exhilarating adventure, to say the least. So, here you go…a snippet of a glimpse of some of our memorable highlights.

Meandering along the tree-lined Seine on a hot and humid mid-August day, the pink-sneakered kid and I happened to inadvertently stumble across palm trees, chaise lounges and sandcastles playfully scattered along the banks of the river.  Say what?  Who knew that Paris had beaches?  Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) is a month long event celebrating sand, water, beach and the lazy, hazy days of summer.  Initially conceptualized in 2002 as an experimental venue, it quickly morphed into a much beloved yearly event, held from mid July to mid August.  More than 3,000 tons of sand is trucked in, palm trees planted, volleyball nets set up, miraculously transforming the riverbanks of the Seine into a French Riviera Mediterranean resort where boardwalk bistros seductively invite you to lounge around and indulge in a cool and refreshing beverage.  Spanning over 2 miles of boardwalk, Paris Plages is accessible at 3 separate locations along the Seine, each offering quite the assortment of “fun in the sun” activities.  Whether your passion is kayaking, row boating, rollerblading or even attempting to scale the walls of the river bank, you will not be disappointed, as there is something to be found for everyone.

If, perchance, frolicking in the sun and building sandcastles is not your thing, you can dance the night away, swaying to the beat of rhythmic guitar strumming hip and cool musicians crooning into the wee hours of the night (that is, at least until midnight, when Paris Plages shuts down for the evening for a bit of shut-eye, re-opening at 8:00am the following day). 

Sifting the white sand out of our pink sneakers, the kid and I reluctantly sauntered away from the banks of the river, anxious to cram in as much activity as possible into the remainder of our last day in the city.  Weaving along the café strewn avenues, we somehow ended up by Pont d’Alma, overlooking the tunnel where Princess Diana tragically lost her life.  Standing guard a few feet away, a massive bronze flame torch towered over the top of the underpass, a visual marker of what appeared to be a monument dedicated to the memory of the late royal.           

 Erected in 1989, the Liberty Flame (La Flamme de la Liberté) is a replica of the flame that lights the Statue of Liberty’s torch.  Originally designed as a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of an English language daily newspaper in Paris, financed largely by donations, la Flamme de la Liberté was presented to the city of Paris by the International Herald Tribune.  It seemed quite fitting that the Statue of Liberty, being of French descent herself and also marking a centenary of her own, was the model for the bronze flame replica that eventually found its’ way back home across the ocean, taking up residence at Place de l’Alma.  The proximity of the bronze marbled torch to the now infamous tunnel has led many to mistakenly believe that the monument is a tribute to the late princess, drawing hordes of tourists, gawkers and curiosity seekers alike.  Covered in graffiti, love notes and flowers, the once largely ignored pristine torch has instead been transformed into a makeshift shrine, a memorial to the people’s princess. 

Having spent the morning playing in sand dunes and the afternoon milling about Place de l’Alma, the kid and I reluctantly wandered away and headed towards the vicinity of Pont Neuf.  Lost in our thoughts, we paid scant attention to a youngish woman who ran up to us, inquiring whether or not we had accidentally lost a “gold” ring.  We should have clued in right away, as she approached us not from behind, as one would expect, but from the opposite direction from which we were coming.  When the kid piped in and yelled “this is a scam!” she succeeded not only in startling her clueless ol’ Auntie but the gypsy scammer girl as well.  Having read in her guide books to be suspicious of these types of unscrupulous cons, my fearless 12 year old niece promptly threw the ring back, where it bounced off of scammer girl’s body, rolling and ricocheting along the pavement, temporarily stunning Mademoiselle con artiste. Screaming “run Auntie Nora, run!”, we bolted across Pont Neuf, huffing and puffing, not daring to glance back at the tirade screeching vagabond who was now on the receiving end of a totally unexpected reaction, halted in her tracks by a “wise beyond her years” 18th century obsessed Canadian youngster.  Way to go, kid!!

Safely reaching the far end of the bridge, standing confidently on safe territory, the photographer in me desperately longed to snap a few photos of “le scammer girl”, but the rational Auntie in me thought it best to err on the side of caution and not take any digital imprints.  That would most definitely not be cool on the off chance that any digital documentation could further infuriate Mademoiselle scammer, causing her to become even more belligerent and perhaps chase us all the way back to our digs in Le Marais.

Would we have envisioned any other way in which to spend our last day in Paris? Mais, non!! After all, this is the stuff that memories are made of…n’est-ce pas??

Come build sandcastles and imagine the possibilities….come adventure with us….

Next week – What new adventures await? Stay tuned!

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