The Suitcase Lady


June 21, 2011, 9:54 pm

Only the French could have created something as marvelous as Diner en Blanc, The White Dinner. This event is an annual, invitation only, secret dinner party where the white clad guests gather at a different outdoor, public space such as The Arc de Triomphe, The Invalides or The Tuileries.

On the evening of June 16th, 2011, 8,000 Parisians filled with joyeux de vivre flocked to the Cour Carree du Louvre. A second location was added this year, and thousands more set up in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. No one knew where they were headed until 30 minutes before the event.

Those with the right social connections receive an email or call informing them of the date of the event a few days ahead of the party. They are instructed to be prepared with white clothes (hats are recommended for women), folding chairs and tables, china and stemware, a picnic in a basket and champagne.

On the night of the event, guests get a message directing them to a pre-dinner meeting site. Here they board buses which ferry them to the surprise destination. Because the organizers wish to keep the party spontaneous, no police permission is requested to use the space. Don’t contemplate what would happen in America if 10,000 people with wine bottles showed up at a moment’s notice to have a party in a public park or street!

Arriving at the destination, the guests quickly set up tables, cover them with white clothes, white flowers, white candles, china and glassware. Corks pop, elegant picnics are taken out of picnic baskets and laughter fills the air. The global economy might be collapsing around them, but the French still know the art of living well.

The start can be traced to the 1980’s, and theories on its origins abound. One version is that a French gentleman invited a few friends to The Bois de Boulogne one day in June. He asked them to wear white so they could find each other in the park. The dinner was a success so they decided to ask other friends and repeat the event the following year. The annual growth rate has been exponential.

Whatever or whoever is behind Diner en Blanc, I would love an invitation. If only I were connected.

If you can spare a few minutes, this YouTube clip puts you on the scene.

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