There are some experiences in your life that you will never forget. For me tonight was one of them. We heard about Dîner en Blanc last year from our friends, Stacy and Jason, two Texas expats who have been living in Paris for two and a half years now. They told us of a special night in June that happens once a year in Paris, where you dress all in white, gather tables, chairs, dishes, glasses, candles, and food, wine and, of course, friends and go to a location shrouded in mystery. You only find out where exactly you are going about 15 minutes before the event begins. When it is finally announced, you and 10,000 other Parisians descend upon one of Paris’ beautiful landmarks and set up long lines of tables for the most colossal dinner party you’ve ever seen. You eat and share food, drink wine and champagne, and laugh and enjoy each other’s company. At one hour before midnight, all the dinner guests light up thousands of sparklers and celebrate the joy of life. You dance for an hour or two longer and then as quickly as it was set up, everything is packed away and taken home, without a trace to be seen, as if it had never happened. I was enamored with this concept and only let it remain in my imagination what it might be like to attend such an event. We don’t usually get to travel abroad during the summer, plus the event is invite only, so I figured I would never get the opportunity to see it for myself.
The first morning we were in Paris, as we were getting ready for the day, Geoff announced to me that he’d just been informed that Dîner en Blanc just so happened to be tomorrow and Stacy and Jason were inviting us to attend with them. We didn’t quite know what to say at first, but we quickly formulated a plan to procure some white outfits for the three of us and set out on a day-and-a-half long journey to prepare for the event. A lot of shopping and a little cooking later, we got all donned up in our white clothes and we were meeting our friends near the Palais Royale, and then on to the Arc de triomphe du Carrousel, the arch across from the center of the Louvre, which looks directly out to the more famous Arc de triomphe de l’Étoile off in the distance. It was there, just around 9:00 pm, that everyone started setting up.
Our group of 7 (if you count Bear) pulled out all the yummy food we’d brought and shared a toast of champagne before digging in. After we’d eaten for a bit, Bear was getting a bit restless in his stroller, so I let him run around the perimeter of all the tables, while I followed, taking photos along the way of course. And in case you were wondering, yes, he did get dirty immediately. I can tell you that ours was literally the only child in attendance, but that was okay. Most people were unfazed, but others smiled and said hi. We got a few funny comments, people were calling him “bébé en blanc.” I will say he looked pretty darn cute. He was seriously having a blast. If there is one thing that I have learned about Bear’s one-and-a-half years young personality, that is that he is a people person. He always seems really content after he has spent time around a group of people. I can tell you he gets that from his dad. Maybe Bear will turn out to be an extrovert just like Geoff. Geoff truly has a gift when it comes to conversation. I, on the other hand, am severely lacking, so I’d be happy for Bear to get that trait. Bear spent the next hour or two running to, fro and all around our table while Geoff and I tag-teamed watching after him. We ate, we drank, we talked, we laughed, we snuggled our little man.
At 11 o’clock we waited for the Eiffel tower to start sparkling (as it does on the hour) and in turn lit our own sparklers. This was when the night turned magical. The glow of thousands of sparklers combined with the energetic joy of everyone around me was enchanting. We waved our sparklers in the air, took photos, and danced a little.Once most of the sparklers were done, we started to see people sending paper lanterns up into the air. One went up, then another, and another. Soon there we dozens floating off, up and over the far-off Eiffel Tower. We all stared in wonderment.It was getting pretty late, and (it seemed like) Bear was starting to lose steam. So I laid him into the stroller with his bottle and walked the gravel pathway between the Dîner and the Tuileries garden entrance back and forth, back and forth. It was in this time that the whole night, the whole trip thus far, really, started to sink in for me. I know I mentioned extroverts before, but my extremely introverted self sometimes needs a little alone time so walking Bear around was just the thing. It was then that I simply and truly looked at everything around me. I felt the cool night air, I gazed at the beautiful architecture of the old buildings, I watched all the other happy Parisians and visitors, walking around, having picnics (yes, even at nearly midnight, people are still out having picnics when the weather is nice), playing Pétanque, talking, laughing, and enjoying life. I looked at all the beauty around me and was left in disbelief that this exquisite place is actually real, and I am actually here, and this is actually happening. It all seems too good to be true. I walked my baby back and forth with a huge smile on my face and a happiness in my heart.Normally the bumpiness of the stroller is just the trick to get our tired baby to lull to sleep, but not today. He was far to excited to fall asleep and so he never did until we put him in his crib back at the apartment. He just wanted to be a part of the party I guess. Just around midnight, we decided to pack it in and head back. We packed up, cleaned up, and made sure that not a scrap was left behind. I listened to our friend Jason play a song on his banjolele (that would be a banjo ukulele and I want one so bad!) and sing along with his wife. We hugged all as friends and parted our separate ways for the night. Geoff, Bear and I rode the Metro “home”. It was truly an unforgettable night and one I’ll always be grateful for having experienced with my little family and friends.