Have you ever been a part of a flash mob?
I’d see the Youtube videos and read the stories and think, “That would be so cool.”
A year ago we were walking along the Seine when thousands of people dressed in white, carrying tables, chairs and picnic baskets descended around us. “What is this?” we thought. Later that evening, we watched in amazement as they set up their dining tables over the bridges of the Seine for a late night posh picnic. Instantly, it was something I wanted to be a part of. But it is by invitation only.
Flash forward one year: last weekend while vacationing in Portugal, we got the email. The coveted invite. Exclusive and elusive. I squealed for joy. We’d be part of the flash mob picnic. We’d be going to Diner en Blanc just days later courtesy of our thoughtful and clearly well-connected friends, Bobbie & Ray.
Then the intense planning commenced. About 20 people were listed on this email chain. The emails flew back and forth. Someone will bring a meat course. Someone else will bring some cheese. Who has extra plates we can borrow? I have extra napkins if someone needs them. Everyone will bring champagne and wine!
In addition to the food, we had to bring everything else you need for a posh picnic. Tables and chairs for example. We didn’t have any so I scrambled during the daytime to borrow and buy what I needed. White tables clothes, white dishes, real cutlery, real wine glasses and champagne flutes. Candelabras and white floral centerpieces.
This was no joke.
Then our outfits: more white, more extravagance. White shoes. White dresses and pants. White accessories. A white fascinator I quickly made would do the trick. But others really went all out.
But then a rumor surfaced. The night would be canceled. Security issues. The national vigipirate plan was in effect. “Say it isn’t so!” I was devastated and confused.
With no real confirmation, the planning continued. Then when the day finally arrived, it started with an email at high noon. “Meet here at 8pm. No later.” Our first rendez-vous was at a bar in the vicinity of our final destination. Texts went back and forth: it may be the Jardin de Tulieres. It may be at Place de la Concorde.
Getting strange looks as we walked to the bus stop, we boarded the bus at 7:30pm. There were others there. Strangers exchanged secretive smiles. We knew the secret that no one else did.
We then met up with our friends and the rest of our group. Exchanging compliments on the outfits and stories of the moments leading up to the event. Then our group leader, using a trident to guide his crowd, led us into the Palais Royal.
Once he indicated our row, the mad scramble began. Unfolding tables. Unfolding chairs. Unpacking the food and cutlery and decorations. Moving tables down. Laying out the table cloths and the decorations and the mountain of food. After a few hectic minutes, we were sitting in our chairs having the first toast of the evening. Then came the big napkin swirl as we all celebrated the beautiful warm almost-summer night among friends surrounded by a historic building.
As dusk arrived, platters passed around, plates and glass emptied and refilled, the lights from the palace switched on. Live music played around us. The constant chatter of friends reuniting and new friendships being made. Laughter. Clinking glasses. Twinkling lights of candles. Flashes of lightning in the distance lighting up the gray clouds. It all filled the air with Parisian magic.
When the clock struck 11pm, the sparklers came out. Then the delicious dessert: a multi-layered cake from Bertie’s Cupcakery. We just wanted the night to go on and on.
And just an hour later, it was all over. It was over too soon in fact. We dismantled our places. Repacked everything we had brought. And didn’t leave a trace of garbage. It was like no one was ever there. Not a soul out of the 10,000+ people.
Our group dwindled down to the last few who didn’t want the night to end. As we waited for cabs to go to a nearby bar, the downpour of rain made us change our minds. After all, we had everything we needed: tables, chairs, leftover wine and music. So we planted ourselves at the edge of the Palais Royal, protected by the arcades and continued to chat, laugh, sing and dance the night away. Until 3am.
The video is here!!
We’re so very grateful for the opportunity to share this unforgettable experience with our friends. A truly magical night that has added to our enriched expat life here in Paris. I wish I could say we hope to do it again next year, but sadly, we likely won’t be here by then.