Le Dîner en Blanc
There is always something exciting going on in Paris. When you least expect it, if you keep your eyes and ears open, around the corner will be a random opportunity to explore and enjoy yet another pleasure that Paris has to offer.
After watching midnight in Paris last night and I now have yet another first-hand experience of how simply walking the streets of Paris can not only be beautiful or pleasurable it can become enlightening and defining.
Yet again my view of Le Flaneur was proven to be true as I walked passed a crowd dressed entirely in white laden with chairs, tables and picnic baskets.
I was shocked and wondered what was going on….
So I followed my instincts and inquisitiveness and walked with the crowds through the archways and entered the Cour Carré, the courtyard at the rear of Palais du Lourve.
I was faced with the orderly rushing crowds of elegantly dressed ladies and men all in white busying themselves setting up tables and chairs.
I nervously asked one of the guests what was happening – seeing as I was clearly a tourist he said in a frustrated and snappy voice – it is the “Le Dîner en Blanc”, “The White Dinner”.
I quickly googled it and knew at once that somehow, someway I had to come for real!
So I escaped through one of the exits and rushed to the nearest metro stop, Lourve-Rivoli, and quicky made my way back to the Marais.
From the rattling metro carriage I quickly messaged my closest neighbour and friend to co-opt her and her guest into my fiendish plan.
I scrambled up to my apartment and rummaged through my cupboard desperately looking for anything white. I ended up resting on cream linen pants, a white t-shirt and my dark blue suit jacket to try and live up to their chic style.
We left the Marais, with four freshly baked cakes, a knife and a camera in hand headed for a night we will never forget.
The White Dinner is an annual event in Parishaving occurred for the last 35 years – invite only it is a hot ticket – an event to remember.
As I learned every year, on a prescribed day, thousands of people meet at 8pm at designated pick-up points scattered throughout Paris. The masses bring tables, chairs, food from simple snacks to gourmet multicourse dinners, wine and of course champagne. They file unknowingly onto buses that take them to a surprise public landmark for a night of festivity.
It is an eight to ten thousand strong flash-mob illegally parked in some of the most iconic locations in Paris enjoying food and drinks as the sun sets and long into the night.
The Police surreptitiously allow it to occur and it has become a yearly institution in the summer schedule in Paris, so much so that the founders son has begun Diner en Blanc in cities all over the world – including New York and Berlin.
We nervously walked through the gates and were faced with a sea of people in white, the night already in full swing, with long tables of people enjoying dinner and glasses of wine.
The location was unique and unimaginably stunning with the reflecting pool creating a stunning backdrop to this event.
There were rows and rows of people of all ages and social groups joined in feverish discussions and clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves.
The location was truly special with the buildings all alive with light and made the setting surreal.
We were spoilt, but having made our way into the party, we then had to execute the second stage of our coup; and this took a little bit more courage and conviction.
Interestingly, I was the least shy one of our small crew, I may be confident on the outside but working up the gall to speak to unknown groups of random people let alone Parisians in my broken French was a sight to behold.
After delay tactics including taking loads of photos and soaking up the atmosphere for a while, I spotted a table that looked reasonably friendly and looked like they were getting into the spirit of the event.
“Pardon moi, Voulez vous manger un morceau de gateaux? Je mapelle Ari, je suis etudant de patisserie à l’Ecole Ritz Escoffier. J’ai deux gateaux d’essayer– Cake au Chocolat et Framboise ou Tarte Chocolat et Nougatine.”
Well, I was happily surprised to find that they said yes and they answered in French… I think only to make me feel better and then they switched to English.
We joined them to celebrate with the traditional lighting of the sparklers at 11pm and we were surrounded by a sea of bright lights literally dancing across the entire courtyard and loud celebratory singing.
It was the first of many culinary victories but they were stretched in between multiple responses of “Non-merci” and “Tres Jonti” and “Tres Jolie”.
After walking down multiple aisles and a glass of sauterne each as a thank you for the cake we decided to give up the dessert struggle for now and dance the night away with the incredible bands scattered across the court.
More people enjoyed delicious mouthfuls of cake but after a while we gave up the battle to feed the French we decided to dance with them instead.
The bands were fantastic and we listened intently as everyone cheered.
Our greatest success was passing a huge box filled with cake to the many members of our favourite band to share after their incredible performance.
At around 12:40 we headed to catch the last metro as we all had class in the morning.
I think it is safe to say that none of us will ever forget Le Dîner en Blanc 2011.