Monday, June 15, 2009

Le dîner en blanc: The White Dinner Flash Mob in Paris

Every year a slightly covert organized Flash Mob takes place in Paris...the White Dinner (Le dîner en blanc). This year we went too, which even with the 10,000 people attending it isn't easy to get invited to this private event.

It is a bit exclusive and elitist, but was still extremely cool. In effect groups of people dressed completely in white meet in slightly hidden areas of Paris (in parking garages, in galleries, etc). They are not only dressed in white but have a table and two chairs and a full dinner setting all in white. They even recommend that you try to bring food that is white, along with the champagne and white wine, of course.

Then, at the appointed time everyone descends upon a location in Paris all at the same time and sets up shop. There were even buses of people that arrived from locations further out in Paris.  This is illegal, for sure, but what can the police do when a Flash Mob of 10,000 people sets up to eat dinner where they please?

 Four years ago they did this at Invalides. Three years ago at the Arc de Triomphe. Last year at the Champ de Mars (Eiffel Tower). We did not know where it would be this year. It is a highly held secret by the organizers. We were told 5 minutes before we had to walk there from our 'hiding spot' (meeting point) at Madeleine. This year it was at Place de la Concorde (Concorde Square) square next to the Tuileries garden. 

If you have seen this plaza you know how ginormous it is. Imagine throngs of people just converging on it suddenly with their tables and chairs. The organizers were extremely prepared, including maps of where they were supposed to set up, and all the tables are put down in long rows. We covered it completely. We took over Concorde! Within 15 minutes there were 10,000 people in white sitting down to a white dinner at Place de la Concorde! It was truly an amazing site.

The cops drove by a couple times bleating their sirens at us. In response everyone stood up on their chairs and began to cheer and spin their napkins in the air above them in haughty defiance. Leave it to the French!

Then after dinner, exactly at 11pm, everyone lit sparklers. Yes, everyone. 10,000 sparklers all lit at the same time and waved about. Then the music started! There were bands, and DJs; it depended on your section. This is one of the coolest things I've ever done and we now plan to do it every single year.

They sent out many notices and emails prior with all the rules: dress all in white, white food; hide before hand so that it's truly a surprise flash mob; only couples allowed as they want an equal # of men and women and no 'meat market' of singles hitting on others and bothering them during their meal; women sit on one side of the row, men on the other. It was controlled to perfect French style. They even had a minute by minute agenda for the arrival process something like this: 1) arrive at 9:30pm. 2) 9:32pm set up table, 3) 9:33pm set up chairs, 4) 9:34 pm put on white table cloth, 5) 9:35pm set plates, silverware and flowers, 6) open champagne ....etc....

The upside is the amazingly friendly atmosphere and extremely good organization of such a complicated event, as well as the fun you have in the process of defying French authority.

The downside is that couples of men and women only were allowed, which means that single people and gay couples are excluded, and we did not think that was cool at all.

Learn more:

The White Dinner Official Website:

How to get invited? It is very hard. You must know someone who is organizing a section at it, and they can each only invite 10 people...

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