No more drinking in the parks… Well, sort of

Tour EiffelLast night I was in Paris for the second time in a month.  Every tour group has its different dynamics and this one was no exception.  I’m leading around a group of seven adults, three couples, and one single gentleman.   After a grueling day of walking and sightseeing, we were all looking forward to my traditional picnic on the Champ du Mars.  The weather has been unseasonably cool and until last night, clear and cloudless.  That changed yesterday afternoon when the colds rolled in and there was even some sputtering rain. 

Not to be cheated out of the picnic experience, we grabbed our umbrellas, and then went off to the market.  The Monoprix is a combination of a department store and a supermarket.  These are scatted all over Paris, but this one is particulary convienient because it is just three blocks from the Eiffel Tower in the Cambronne area.  So, we divided up our shopping duties and agreed to meet outside in twenty minutes.  Forty-five minutes later we were loaded with food and were walking to the park.  

As I mentioned, it was sputtering rain so there were very few pods of people sitting on the grass park. We decided to risk it and staked out our territory on a grassy section with an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower. We spread out our “table cloth”, all the food, and a couple of bottles of wine. Then we dove into the food.

Looking down the park toward the Eiffel Tower we noticed a group of policemen in white shirts visiting every pod of people, telling them a few things, and then the people either packed up and left or remained seated. This was odd, and very different from all my previous experiences picnicking here.  Soon the policemen in white shirts came to our little group of picnickers.  One officer told us it was forbidden to have open bottles of “spirits” in the park.  I took this to mean liquor, not beer or wine.  But when I asked he said no, nothing of the sort was allowed.  Now this was really odd.  I cannot even begin to recount the times where I’ve picniced with my tour groups on this very location and had no problem.

We all started packing up our food deciding that the weather was not so good for a picnic anyway.  Then after about five minutes, more policemen were heading towards us.  These were different police, not in white shites but in black commando uniforms with heaving-duty pistols strapped to their side.  When they got to us, we all hurriedly said we knew the new rule and were packing up.  One of them laughed a bit and said, “No, no it’s ok. Just hide the bottle of wine in your bag and it is ok!”  These guys obviously carried more authority than the police in white shirts.  So we stayed!  No more rain and the evening was a success. 

Later we noticed the two sets of policemen speaking with one another.  They both were animated in their gestures and it was obvious there was some disagreement.  Some of the men in white walked back the way they had come in shame.  It seems they were being a little too aggressive in enforcing the new alcohol policy in the park.  Three hours later, when we were packing up to go home, we noticed the “NEW” signs which had just been stuck in the ground stating this new “policy.”  In big bold icon on the right stated no sitting and drinking from bottles. HA!

So the moral of the story here is that the rule has changed in Paris.  There are signs in the parks that illustrate the no drinking rule.  But apparently for now, it is ok as long as it is out of view. 

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