Secret white picnic in Paris

Secret white picnic in Paris

This week a peculiar thing happened in Paris. An open public space like a park or a square from one moment to the next filled with tables, chairs, white tablecloths and 11,0000 thousands people dressed in white carrying champagne and gourmet food. It must be le dîner en blanc. This year it was the turn of the Louvre and the Trocadero.

The chic event is by invitation only and the venue is kept secret until the very last moment. In order to know where to show up, you have to be on the list of one of the rallieurs, and wait for the phone call or text message on the day. The atmosphere is lively, as you can expect with so many people in one place. There is a Woodstock spirit but Paris in style, as people share food, drink and most importantly, conversation, but with clear guidelines as to what guests must bring: A table, two (white) chairs, a picnic basket comprised of quality menu items and china dinner service. They must wear white and be dressed elegantly. Originality is encouraged as long as it stays stylish and denotes taste.

Detractors complain that the place is left a mess the day after. They have a point, although the litter is carefully bagged up (one of the key rules is to leave the place as clean as they found it) a huge crowd will leave its trace. Although the event organizers do not have a permit to occupy the public space (that would give the plot away) the city police so far have turned a blind eye and survey the unfolding of the gathering from a discreet distance.

Similar events have cropped up internationally in Montreal, Toronto, and New York and about 12 other cities. The unique appeal is the spontaneous nature of the meeting, the random mix of dining companions, and the magical space that would otherwise be unlikely to hold a chic picnic of this magnitude. You could do worse than sip chilled champagne on a mild evening gazing at the Tour Eiffel or the Louvre palace. If you don’t mind crowds, that is.

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Sylvia is a freelance journalist based in France, focusing on business and culture. A valued member of the France Media editorial team, Sylvia is a regular contributor to our publication.

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