The picnic season in Paris is slowly fading away, but we had several good times here and there, this year again. I can't but praise again this extraordinary opportunity to enjoy dinner (or lunch) in the company of friends and complete strangers in a beautiful setting and at a ridiculous cost. I'd be curious to know the figures of individual picnic occurences throughout summer in Paris, this data would probably make salivate the restaurant lobby (but I'm not too worried for them, I think that on the whole they're faring quite well). The almost-unlimited availability of virtual outdoor restaurants with no cork fee, relaxed smoking allowance and even a dogs-allowed tag at the top of that [see pic above] makes Paris one of the most penniless-tourist friendly capitals of Europe. I'm sure that it's more helpful to the occasional visitor and permanent resident alike than the Paris-Plages thing (an artificial beach with recreation activities) set up by the Paris administration, which is an appaling fantasy costing 2,5 millon euros every year.
The prime locations pictured in this picnic story cost nothing, all you need is bring your own food, choose your wine without second thoughts because of the right side of the wine list (the one with the fine-print figures, if you see what I mean), and have a good time. These summer outings have become a traditon that we try not to miss, and we usually prepare the ingredients with all the seriousness of a Tea Ceremony. The rule is that every one joining the party brings some food and some drink, and even without prior consultation we usually end up with a well-balanced dinner.
Incidently, I think that alcohol consumption is not really allowed on these particular lawns, the local administration being worried with unruly teenagers gathering here and drinking, but as long as you're discreet (and not being categorized as a teenager or a homeless helps) you'll be fine. I suggest you keep your bottle away from public view and everything will run smoothly. We didn't even hide the bottles as you can check, and it didn't cause any problem, so do as you feel. We were 4 or 5 couples here and each brought a bottle of his choice. I may have brought two and I of course jumped on the opportunity to share an additives-free wine; I don't always know what they really think of the wines as we have other conversations than just wine, but I can assure you that the bottle doesn't last long usually.
This is one of our favorite spot, the Western tip of the Ile de la Cité in the heart of Paris. You enjoy here the breeze from the two branches of the Seine river.
For this particular Seine picnic, we had brought two bottles, an organic rosé from the organic wine-coop of Correns in Provence (from organic vineyards but not sure fully vinified as natural wine), and above all this bottle of Georges Descombes Morgon 2008. This was a hit among our friends, and our friend Tadashi asked to see the label from close (usually means you hit right). It went down fast too and at one point I wished I'd have taken two instead of one (but shortage in good things is very formative, I found out).
There's a funny thing with the wine along the banks of the Seine, it is that the crowds on the passing boats like the Bateaux-Mouches often yell at us picnickers in salute, to which we usually respond by raising our glasses. Speaking of glasses, we bring with us real wine glasses (ordinary, though), this is better, especially that we usually choose good wine. We opt for basic plastic glasses if we're too many (packing lots of real glasses in your backpack when you ride a motorbike is hazardous). If you prefer to buy your food (& wine) at the last moment (for example at the end of a day spent visiting Paris), there a convenient minimart near there, a Franprix, it's located on a side street neat the Seine, rue Bertin Poirée. You should find plastic glasses & plates there too.
Here is something new, now : an American expat points me a natural wine I never heard of... The front label is a nice, Japanese-style watercolor, and the back label gives a full information on the way this wine was made : it is totally additives-free (including SO2) and unfiltered, 3 weeks fermentation on its own yeasts plus 12 months in casks (there's indeed an oak feel in the mouth) and bottled by gravity. In short, a real wine that goes down well in spite of its 14 ° in alcohol. Kristen found the bottle at La Crèmerie, a wine restaurant which is also a caviste.
La Grapperie (the name of the estate) farms its vineyards organicly on a surface of maybe 5 hectares, some of the parcels being very old (70 to 100 years) and the cellar consists in galleries deep in the tuffeau. Here is another wine farm I'm wishing to visit, will this never end ? Thank you, Kristen ...;-)
The funny thing is that while it gets relatively dark on the banks of the Seine, every time one of these boats passes by, it's like full day for a minute, as they probably use the equivalent of a nuclear plant's output to inundate the river banks with their flood lights. You basically can't see the boat anymore when it passes, you just bath in the light, with the feeling of being exposed naked to hundreds of passing tourists, or facing close encounters of the third type.... Remember : that's when you can raise your glass, it will help the unidentified aliens on the other side of the light wall appreciate our easy-wine culture... Must not be easy for the ones coming from the Gulf countries, all these lightly-dressed nice young women drinking booze with their friends, OMG...
The Police speedboat on the left is not going after people drinking wine or sparklings, this is legal and everyone does it around. This is the brigade fluviale, I don't know what's their role exactly, maybe it's about getting fast to the spot when people are drowning in the Seine.
I shot this picture on Quai Saint Bernard, that's where people dance along the Seine, there are several "dance floors", each with a different style of music, like Tango, Salsa or folklore from the French provinces. It's pretty well organized, with people bringing music systems and directing the whole thing. Another great spot to picnic indeed. Here is a video (not mine) on some of the dancing groups at Quai St Bernard.