JUMP TO:

Dîner en Blanc 2019: Dinner with 10,000 People in Paris

DSC_1198

For the past half a decade, we’ve attended Dîner en Blanc in Paris. And almost every year I’ve posted about it. Perhaps more for me than for you. This year will be no different. And despite us no longer living in Paris, we still make the (relatively short) trek down to The City of Light for what is always our favorite night of the year.

The event is invite only, and varies in size from 10,000 to 20,000 people. Unlike buying tickets to a concert online, the key here is being invited by a past DeB organizing attendee, which is how we got our invites years ago. And also unlike buying tickets to an event, there’s virtually no cost. Save a whopping 2.50EUR. Oh, and finally – unlike a concert, you don’t know where the event is until minutes beforehand when you’ll receive a text of where to go.

With that, a bit of a recap of the night.

Getting Ready:

In a highly unusual moment for us, we were actually early to our meeting spot. See, you don’t actually meet at the final location you’ll be dining. Instead, at noon the day of, you’re given a street address to meet that evening. That address is usually a 5-15 minute walk away from the venue. And it’s often a bar or café that you can start your pre-game festivities at.

This year however was a bit different. We’d be pre-gaming with a street length’s worth of art galleries that were opened for an unrelated event that night. If you’ve ever wandered the streets near Musée d’Orsay, you’ll find gallery after gallery of expensive works of art (of all mediums). That’s where we were.

2019-06-06 19.51.41 HDR

Of note was there was a small champagne truck there, giving out free glasses of champagne. It wasn’t too shabby either. Obviously, we consumed some of that.

2019-06-06 19.19.49-1 2019-06-06 19.23.40-1

Gratuit, duh.

2019-06-06 19.22.10 HDR

Around 8:30 it was time to get our group together for the great migration across the River Seine. We’d received word of our spot in the Tuileries, and it was time to make the trek, complete with all our gear.

2019-06-06 20.49.47 HDR

See, the point of Dîner en Blanc is to take everything with you. This isn’t some catered event. You bring your table, chairs, white tablecloth, candles, flowers & vases, plates and everything else you’d need for a multi-course fancy meal. Yes, including separate champagne flutes, wine glasses, and water glasses. Pom’ de Pain ce n’est pas.

2019-06-06 20.48.35 HDR

Except one problem: Half our herd got locked out.

See, many people often speculate exactly how much coordination really occurs between the city of Paris and Dîner en Blanc. After all, you are ‘randomly’ showing up with 10,000+ people. Yes, it’s technically a flash mob, but is it really? It’s always kinda assumed there’s a bit of quiet confirmation between the two parties that happens here behind the scenes.

This year illustrated that’s just your imagination. It’s as legit as it gets.

After about half of the crowd got into the Tuileries (which is a large garden  that locks up at night), the security guards rolled the gigantic cast iron gates closed, blocking us from getting in, and those inside from getting out. You can actually see the portion that got in, just beyond the fountain in the photo below.

2019-06-06 21.00.25-1

Fear not: Plan B. There’s always a Plan B.

And in this case, Plan B was simply setting up (with order and architectural table drawings that’d make any CAD user proud) in the gardens of the Louvre, which don’t lock at night.

2019-06-06 21.11.13 HDR

Once it was confirmed that was our spot, we got to work setting things up (and the folks in the Tuileries would eventually get the boot, joining us as well). The process takes about 10-15 minutes as people unpack everything and get it all sorted into as close to a Michelin starred establishment as you’re going to find two people can drag on their backs.

Food & Party:

IMG_6769

With the setup behind us, it was time to crack open the Champagne and start passing around the food (and wine…and more champagne):

2019-06-06 21.26.44-1 DSC_1091

That even included this amazing bread that had our team name (Team Food Society) on it (look, we had to have a team name, and none of us could come up with anything more creative a few years back, so…yeah, it stuck).

DSC_1084

As always seems to be the case, there’s usually too much food. The idea is to make a dish and then share it around, which certainly happens. But our specific group of attendees (Team Food Society), are pretty food obsessed, and take pride in self catering the best plates! As well, we all collectively forget how much talking and wandering you end up doing, so you don’t quite eat as much as you might elsewhere.

DSC_1094 DSC_1111

DSC_1112

Speaking of wandering – part of the allure of the event is people watching, and just catching up with friends in other social circles that you rarely see. There are a number of people in Paris that I pretty much only see once or twice a year (even before we moved), save for some sort of specific meeting/appointment. Like our realtor, some restaurateurs we know, and so on. So a quick catch-up here is always good. Or, you can just watch the scene float by.

DSC_1126

Around 9:30PM or so there’s the ceremonial napkin twirl, which is why you need to have cloth napkins. None of that paper napkin stuff. Also, in case you didn’t notice, we also have ceramic plates, real silverware, and glasses. No disposable stuff permitted.

DSC_1109-2

After which it’s back to more eating and drinking, and catching up with friends.

DSC_1164 DSC_1159 DSC_1196

IMG_6805

Then later at 11PM there’s the sparklers. The organizers cover the cost of these, and then pass them down to ‘team’ leaders, who in turn get them to everybody. One per person, in one giant sparkler lighting festivus:

DSC_1284

I can’t remember if I mentioned the champagne…or wine, yet. It happens.

DSC_1279

I’m not terribly certain on where the #DrinkChampagneParis light-up sign came from, or how it ended up on our table, but it became a photogenic hit!

DSC_1232

After that the music kicks into high gear. Both roaming bands as well as makeshift DJ’s setup. No electricity is provided onsite, so people temporarily drag in whatever they need.

In our case though, we mostly just relaxed and enjoyed the evening. It was a bit chillier than most DeB’s we’ve been to. But hey…no rain!

IMG_6867 IMG_6817

And if you’d prefer to avoid being seen dancing in public, you can simply keep on drinking champagne and chatting with friends. And I suppose you could transition to wine. Though, I personally ensured our champagne didn’t go to waste. After all, nobody wants that to happen.

P.S. – Thanks to David for a few of the photos in here. My partner in photo creation crime.

Disappearing into the night:

At midnight, Cinderella’s clock chimes and people disappear into the night. And if done correctly, nothing is left behind. No bags of garbage nor random bits of baguette. It should be a clean slate, save perhaps a few melting ice cubes.  First of course is clearing out all the remaining food and dishes. Each table is required to bring two garbage bags for exactly this purpose.

DSC_1305

Then you’ll deconstruct your tables. In the event you got super fancy with elaborate lighting structures, that means those gotta come down too. Given you’re likely 6+ Champagne glasses into the night by now, you’re probably regretting your desire to upstand your neighbors about now.

DSC_1313

And finally, you’ll double-check the ground near you to validate there’s no bits of plastic or other things left. Usually the dark spots are where water or ice cubes are helping to hydrate the earth.

And that’s it. In our case, by the time we finished helping other organizers clean up and ensure the site was spotless it was closing in on 2AM. But it’s definitely worth it. The event has a reputation for ensuring the venue is left nicer than it was upon arrival.

2019-06-07 01.15.17

With that – thanks to Roger once again, and thanks for reading, and see y’all next year!

And wanna to take a look back at some past ones? Ask no further! Here’s the previous Dîner en Blanc goodness: 2017 (incredible at city hall), 2016 (complete with video!), 2015 (near the Louvre!), and 2014 (on the bridges)! And since you’re probably wondering – I never ended up getting a 2018 post out, but here’s a photo of our group of amazing gals from last year:

clip_image001

Oh, fear not, back to sports tech stuff tomorrow.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting

Add a picture

*

14 Comments

  1. Chan

    Definitely on the bucket list for me to one day able to make this. (Yes I know the rules, secret invite only).

  2. SwimNbike

    Sad Panda Comment;

    I was lucky enough to join a Diner en Blank ( international event) after seeing your post a couple years earlier.

    Unfortunately it also leaves a bitter taste.

    The Diner en blanc was a great success. I managed to surprise my better half and go there together. Actually it was around our 6th year wedding anniversary.

    Not sure what happened after that.. cox 6 months later we were separated and divorced after being together over 14 yrs and married close to 7…

    it still dang hurts. I’ll be honest.

    Another event that year was, I turned 40, and after deciding I had to get on the IM wagon as well. As a middle age guy thing.
    I did some oly’s a couple years before
    So about 2 months after our separation, I did my first and only 70.3 to date.

    I did my SBR. but my headspace wasn’t right. I was in the paradise in terms of location, in Phuket.
    The missus insisted going to the fanciest hotel, if we were to go. This was before we were separated. Lucky me I was in the fanciest hotel there, with private pool. the whole 9 yards..
    I got the honeymoon treatment, with roses on the bed. while i was in terrible – dumped – mood. Oh btw it was all prepaid for. So I couldn’t get a refund. and I emailed the Hotel mgt that I wanted low-key treatment, no festivities. But I guess they didn’t the memo. and I got the honeymoon treatment.

    well anyways about the race 50m before the finish, I walked off the course, and gave my bib to a race official and I retired from the race. I just didn’t want to finish my first 70.3 in a terrible state. I felt if I am going to race 70.3 or IM. I was going to do a proper race and finish in satisfying fashion. finishing up to my potential. that day wasn’t my day.

    It wasn’t all bad, that race was about giving and forgiving, I handed salt tablets to fellow racers, I paced for someone from our club. I patched a flat for another team-mate, to help him get to the bike finish with 10k to go. Dealing with stomach issues from bad food the night before. I managed what I could.
    with rolling starts I was 15th out of the swim. I hoped it would set up my race, but it wasn’t what I hoped for.
    even the post-race party was cancelled, because King Bhumibol had just passed, (RIP) whole of Thailand was in mourning.

    Alas that was my 70.3 attempt.

    I still feel I have unfinished business there at the 70.3 Phuket. but that race is now cancelled.. so I guess it’s a past station. Sorry for hijacking this comment section. reading the post just triggered memories. excellent writing, reviews and blogs. Keep up the good work. Ken

    Swim N Bike
    Bib 508 ^_^

    ps. typo it’s cubes not cubs

  3. Reinhard

    Certainly a very nice event. One question comes to my mind: What about toilets? If I understand it correctly, there is no organization. 10-20.000 people, a lot of champagne, wine, beer and other drinks …

    • Anonymouse

      This is an excellent question. Do tell, Ray!

    • It’s funny, the French are really really good at one thing: Holding it.

      Actually, two things: Not caring about not holding it, and finding a bush nearby.

      There are no toilets, though there are some street toilets in/around the city, albeit none in this specific area of town. Most people tend to go prior to leaving the pre-game meeting points (in cafe’s/etc…). Somehow, it just works.

  4. Rick Burgess

    Hey, we are Amsterdam later this week – after spending 2 weeks cycling around Holland. Any chance of stopping by the cave?
    Thx,
    Rick

    • Yup, I’m around all week. Feel free to ping me (just my first name at domain) and happy to find a time for you to swing by. I’m located roughly near Olympic Stadium.

  5. Duncan Tindall

    Wish it was $2.50 over here. We’ve been to the Tauranga, NZ version the last two years, and whilst it is a fantastic night, really enjoyed it then it is about the most expensive night out of the year for us. Works out about $400 for the two of us, and that’s not including the white outfits.

    You need to join the DIB international ‘club’ and then you have to buy tickets which includes a bus to the mystery venue. Can’t take any booze in so you needed to have pre-booked the wine (at their inflated prices). Also hire the tables and chairs. And of course as you got a bus to the random venue, not only have you a taxi home, but also need to rescue your car from the bus pickup the next morning.

    Still, a good night out, even if it does have even less demographic mix than the average ironman startline…

    • Yikes, that’s crazy money. Though, like you said – if the event hits it, then awesome!

      I think it’s also a bit driven by cultural expectations and allowances. For example, drinking in public is generally just fine in France (and much of Europe), whereas in the US (and many other places) it’s not at all fine. So that drives things like being able to hold events like this (with wine and champagne and what-not), without being on private property.

      Also, since this event started some 30 years ago, the tradition of it upholds the rigors of what people have to do to attend it (namely dragging all their own stuff not via car, and complying with rules like cloth only napkins). Whereas if you try and introduce that concept to many people in the US in a random city, it just wouldn’t hold water.

    • Duncan Tindall

      Yup, and indeed one of the great things about New Zealand is how chilled dining is. Even ‘posh’ restaurants you will see people in shorts/tee. Basically, all is good.

      So then creating out of nothing rules about what you can wear, what you can bring, the dimensions of the table you need to provide, etc, it’s a heck of a culture shock! But I guess that’s what makes it so special here because it is so different.

  6. Monica Quijada

    Favorite post every year!