Paris's 'Dîner en blanc' toasts 30th anniversary with record turnout at Invalides

Parisians and tourists wearing seasonally appropriate all-white outfits enjoyed gourmet picnics Sunday in front of the French capital’s 19th century Les Invalides monument, a meal heightened by a preceding mystery.

The location of the 30th anniversary staging of the international dining event known as “Diner en Blanc,” or “Dinner in White,” was revealed to participants in a series of text messages up until the last minute.

People gathered on green lawns with fabulous views of the gold-domed building that houses the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte and other prominent French figures.

They brought tables with white tablecloths and sipped champagne and wine, some punctuating their elegant white attire with extravagant white hats. Hard alcohol and beer are strictly forbidden and participants are required to pick up all of their litter when proceedings wrap up around midnight.

“All of this white, it is magnificent! It is incredibly visual. There is no money at play and it is really pleasant even if it probably is a bit Parisian ‘bobo’ [bourgeois-bohemian],” Yann Arthus-Bertrand told Agence France-Presse at Sunday’s dinner. The prominent French photographer, who gained international celebrity with his aerial photography book “Earth from above”, immortalised Sunday’s event while attending with his family.

Organizers say a record 17,000 participants turned up for this year’s edition, including 6,000 foreigners said to have travelled to Paris especially for the purpose. The Champs-Elysées, the Louvre museum, the forecourt of Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Champs de Mars in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower count among past venues for the rendezvous.

François Pasquier, who launched the event in Paris in 1988, said more than two dozen orchestras were set to entertain guests at Sunday night’s edition.

Last year, over 110,000 people in 28 countries participated in “Dinner in White” events. Eighty cities, including New York, Montreal and Sydney, host versions of the gathering.

 

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