A Night at Diner en Blanc 2015!

There are a near never-ending flow of cool events and things to do within the city, but I think that there’s really a handful of events that rise above everything else into the ‘Epic’ status category.  Some of these are public/open events (like Bastille Day at the Eiffel Tower), and yet others require a tiny bit more planning (for example, the Versailles Ball).

As you might remember, last June we attended Diner en Blanc.  It’s a massive 13,000+ person pop-up dinner that occurs at generally famous locations within Paris.  On the scale of complexity, to attend is not terribly hard, as it’s basically a free event held on public grounds – but you have to know someone to get all the details (the tricky part).  That’s because the event operates similar to a flash mob.  The exact location is texted to you moments before it commences.  And after attending last year with other friends, we were super-excited to be able to attend again this year (courtesy of our obviously totally awesome friend Roger).

To start, you’ll be given a meeting point location at noon the day of the event (it was last Thursday evening).  This isn’t where you’ll actually be spending the evening, but rather just a queuing location.  Sorta like waiting outside in the security line of the airport.  Close, but not on the airplane yet.  Obviously, with 13,000 people you don’t all end up at the same spot, rather, you’re scattered in little piles all over creation.

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You’ll head to this semi-close location around 8PM, and then wait for the detailed location text that comes in between 8:30-9PM.  It’s this text that gives you the very precise location of exactly where to place your tables.

So around 8:45PM we got our magical text, and our group made what was akin to the great migration.

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Of course, we still had to watch out for busses (white busses no less!), as we wandered through the streets for another 10-15 minutes to our final resting place.

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Each year the location moves around the city.  It’s sorta a complex affair, as the event sits in a grey zone between being official and non-official from a permit standpoint.  The organizers obviously coordinate with various organizations within the city to ensure happiness, but at the same time it’s not on any official city schedule.  Thus it’s kinda like an elevated flash mob.

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This year the event was held in areas close to the Louvre.  First was Le Palais Royal, which has a grand enclosed square and garden area that you could place a number of football fields within.  And the second was the space around the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, at the entrance to the Louvre.

In our case, our specific table assignment spot was within the Palais Royal, and so once our fearless group leader (Nick of the Expatriés Triathlon Club) had navigated us to the very precise splotch of dirt, we began setting up our row of tables.

Due to the size of the event, everything is incredibly detailed.  On the arrival front, this gets down to the precise alignment of the rows.  But on the attendee preparation side, this also includes items like exactly how big your table should be, the chairs, and of course – what you’ll wear.

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As you’ve probably noticed by now – everything is white.  Everything.  Hence the name ‘Diner en Blanc’ (Simply translated: Diner in White).  The event has been a tradition for some 27 years now in the city – which is pretty incredible.  These days, there’s also editions elsewhere in the world too.

In addition to bringing your own tables, chairs, and person – you also bring all your own food.  Of course, it’s designed to be a communal event, so you no doubt coordinate with your friends to create a feast (the amount of coordination e-mails with our group of 24 people was mind-boggling).  The resultant of such coordination obviously includes a cake from the CupCakery.  Perhaps non-obviously however, carrying a two-tier cake around the city by hand isn’t terribly fun.

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The whole setup process takes a wee bit of time, mostly as you try and figure out how to arrange far more food onto your table than you ever considered possible.  These are mostly tiny tables, not really designed to hold a 3 err…16-20 course meal.  We also collectively might have over-fooded.

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They also aren’t really designed to hold the numerous bottles of wine per table.  For example, we somehow thought the two of us would need to consume four bottles of wine by the end of the night.

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Yet also somehow, all wine was consumed by the end of the night.  Hmm…

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Almost all of the photos in the post are taken by me, however, perhaps one of my favorite photos was taken by our photographer friend Lindsey, who does photo tours/portraits.  She grabbed the below photo, among the many others she took:

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This was also notable, because just to the very left edge of the photo above (where you see someone’s watch) is a Getty Images photographer, who captured the other side of this image, looking back at the girls.  That photo would eventually end up on the various news wire services to be used in photos of the event.

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Of course, as with any dinner, it’s all about the food!  And on that front, we had tons!

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Seriously, there was basically way too much food.  But that’s OK. Go big or go home!

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Looking out across the gardens was pretty incredible.  Some people even hooked up fancy lights to trees:

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Others meanwhile decided to bring full-on bands with them.  Because…well…why not?!?

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Some were below a tree canopy, making it feel like you were out in a forest or park:

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While others were under stone archways in a vast central square:

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I decided to take a quick walk over to check out what was going on at the Louvre.  It was just across the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel that there were thousands more people setup:

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They then looked back over across to the famous glass pyramid of the Louvre itself:

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We timed our photo-walk arrival back to our table just perfectly – as folks were just passing around the sparklers for the group lighting:

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And of course – one more of us taken by Lindsey!

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The event officially ends by 1AM.  At 12:30AM you’re supposed to start packing up.  It’s at this juncture that you realize packing up for the way there was way easier than packing up post-party.  All sorts of dirty stuff everywhere.

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It’s like wilderness camping, but in the middle of the city.  Everything you take in, you must take out.  So each table should have also brought two garbage bags for packing the remains out.  The place should look completely spotless when you’re done – as if nobody had ever been there.  And, I must say – our section of the place looked pretty darn good!

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With that – and until next year – thanks for reading!  Oh, and if you want another perspective, one of our friends in some of the pictures here, wrote up a post on it as well. Enjoy!

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16 Comments

  1. Thanks for the linking to my post and THANK YOU so much for inviting us! Such an unforgettable and beautiful night :)

  2. Richard Kaufmann

    That looked like FUN! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Rob

    Love the one of the Girl taking/passing the plate of food – such a happy photo and it sums up the atmosphere perfectly. That could have been a Getty image!

  4. Jonas S.

    Did you again use just the GoPro Hero 4 Silver? ;)

  5. MattB

    I always love the annual report for this event – it just seems to generate an endless stream of spectacular images! The photo of “The Gents” is very classy!

    PS – Also liking the new website header!

  6. Dan Lipsher

    Ray, I think you mean “buses,” not “busses” — or maybe you’re going with (100-year) old school grammar. Anyway, always an entertaining post, but now I’m looking forward to a scientific analysis of the effects of drag on facial hair when swimming/cycling/running.

  7. Allison T.

    1- you 2 are so adorable, you got some really great pictures from it! 2- they do this event in Philly now and I had the chance to get an invite and like a dummy passed on it. Hopefully next time I’ll go. The suspenders were an excellent outfit touch.

  8. Sean Lally

    Four bottles! Absolutely necessary. :^)

  9. Wow, that looks like a fun and stylish night out. The setting is fantastic too. There is probably not a better place for such an event than Paris. You were lucky with the weather.
    One question: what exactly is the champagne bottle wrapped in orange with a leather handle and fastener in picture 10. Is this a cooling sleeve or does the wine come like that?

  10. Mike 9

    That is fascinating…with every post of yours I get one step closer to planing my vacation to Paris!

  11. Solo

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    Very Classy Image.

    Thank you for the report.

  12. Ivailo

    A very CURIOUS event!

  13. cristina

    BTW – they now have dinner en blanc in DC – link to washington.dinerenblanc.info