Thousands descend on Paris garden for mass dinner 'in white'




Paris - By Pol O Gradaigh, - Thousands of people, dressed in white and carrying white picnic equipment and hampers, descended onto the lawns in front of Paris' old Invalides military hospital on Sunday for a flashmob dinner that has been taking place annually since 1988.
Organizers said that 17,000 were expected at the event, which is by invitation only except for those who manage to catch a place on an online waiting list.



 
Strict rules apply: participants must come dressed elegantly and all in white, bringing a picnic table with white chairs, water, wine or champagne, and a white hamper containing a full meal.
"We regularly have a picnic with our friends once a year," one diner, who only gave his name as Thierry, told dpa. "It's an atmosphere that would be hard to find anywhere except in Paris."
Beer, strong alcohol, baseball caps, and t-shirts are all banned, although some bottles of beer could be seen lurking here and there amid the champagne flutes.
Bands played and every now and then guests cheered and waved their - white, of course - napkins in the air.
Some more everyday picnickers on the lawns were taken aback to find the well-marshalled guests quickly colonizing the ground.
"We've been annexed!" one young man exclaimed as tables and white chairs sprung up at speed all around the rug where he and three friends had been enjoying a few beers in the mild summer evening.
The event, launched in Paris 30 years ago by businessman Francois Pasquier, now takes place in dozens of cities around the world.
Previous Paris venues have included Place Vendome, the Champs-Elysees, Place des Vosges, the Pont des Arts footbridge over the Seine, and the square in front of the city hall.
Some 6,000 of this year's guests were coming from abroad, according to organizers.
Among them were Nikki Boutte, 37, a human resources officer, and Laurence Self, 30, a therapist, both from Louisiana in the United States.
It was Boutte's first time at a dinner in white event - they take place in Louisiana, but it's too hot there to eat outdoors in the summer, she explained to dpa - and in Paris.
Self had been to Paris twice before, but it was also his first time at a dinner in white: a friend had invited them, he said.
"I love it," Boutte said with a grin amid the ordered chaos of the mass picnic being set up.

 


Monday, June 4th 2018
By Pol O Gradaigh,
           


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