I just had dinner in the park. With 17,000 of my closest friends. Okay, so the park was the Esplanade des Invalides near the Eiffel Tower. And the dinner was Paris’s annual Dîner en Blanc—a pop-up formal alfresco über picnic. It’s my third year attending. Diners came from all over the world for this year’s Dîner—their biggest ever—to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the event. And it was a blow-out to end all blow-outs.
Before I attended my first Dîner en Blanc (as the guest of an invitee), I always imagined it to be a stuffy affair of who’s whos, uptight and pretentious. But it’s actually quite the opposite. Sure, it looks glamorous, but it’s also playful, relaxed, totally inclusive, and totally fun.
One of the most notable features of the dinner is that the location is a complete surprise. We show up at a meeting place wearing white head to toe, loaded down with our gear—tables, chairs, linens, china (no paper or plastic allowed!), food—and await our instructions. Then, we thousands in white parade en masse towards the mystery site through the streets of Paris, taking bets amongst ourselves where we’re headed. This year, it was the great lawn (Esplanade) in front of Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried.
In a matter of minutes we transform the site into the world’s largest and most elegant outdoor dinner party, lining up our tables in rows, scrambling to lay on the linens, china, glassware. Never mind we have to carry it all; people still spare nothing, serving six-course meals. I even saw a three-tiered cake. The most ambitious diners create enormous light fixtures and elaborate tablescapes, which is no mean feat when you figure you have only about 10 minutes to set up your table before the official opening toast. But nothing is understated about a dinner the size of Dîner en Blanc. It’s the perfect excuse to let loose and celebrate life (in style) under the skies of Paris.
Highlights en Blanc
For more info on Dîner en Blanc, click here.
Learn more about the journey that led to My (Part-Time) Paris Life in my memoir of the same name, ON SALE NOW! Nominated “Best Paris Book” by Expatriates Magazine.
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