Oct 5th, 2016, 11:36 AM

Reflections on Paris's All-Nighter

By Lily Radziemski
Image Credit: Instagram/pretavoyager
On Saturday night, Parisians united to explore the nocturnal playground of Nuit Blanche.

A chilly breeze stills upon entry through the ornate doors, as midnight creeps in on Saturday night in Paris. But this is not a bar or club; this is the Eglise Saint-Eustache, an unlikely destination for thousands of people looking for a midnight adventure.

The church, a place that celebrates vertical soaring, repurposed its barrel-vault ceilings to become a nocturnal spectacle. Originally meant to convey the power of the church and of the Christian God, the sky-high ceilings are now cranking necks upwards as lights scatter the walls, resembling a trance show. A mass of people cover the cold floor, gazing upwards into the light (a little metaphorical, given the setting) as the sound of organs blast through the walls and echo through the church. 

This event, formally titled "Les Voûtes Célestes à l’Eglise Saint-Eustache," is just one component of the annual Nuit Blanche, which took place Saturday, October 1, 2016. Every year, the city of lights turns its lights on full blast, and doesn't turn them off until morning. Throughout the night, there are countless events that include late-night expositions, parties in unlikely spaces, and the repurposing of classic Parisian landmarks.

The original concept of Nuit Blanche was created in 1984 by Jean Blaise. Taking place in Nantes–before expanding to Helsinki–the event focused on exhibiting the work of six international artists throughout the city from 6:00pm to 6:00am. However, Nuit Blanche as we know it really took off in 2001, when Bertrand Delanoë (then the mayor of Paris) implemented Nuit Blanche as an all-night festival throughout Paris. Ever since then, it has been one of the most important events of the year.

After leaving the church, zipping through the metro feels like a slap back to reality. However, upon exiting at Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau, it’s clear again that this is not a normal Saturday night.

The Pont des Invalides is no longer a bridge, but a nightclub. A DJ booth is set up midway across. Techno booms through the air and lights scatter throughout the sky, with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop. Hundreds of people crowd onto the bridge, as if it were the club Faust that resides just below. Paris has officially transformed into a playground for adults.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Yoann Morin 

Not everything about Nuit Blanche is awe-inspiring. With thousands of people running around all night, searching for hundreds of events, there’s bound to be a downside. Long lines, crowds, and simply the confusion of where to go, all take some of the romanticism away from the concept. The idea of running around freely all night long while casually popping into museums, events, and shows can easily be corrupted by the logistical issues of Nuit Blanche. However, this ultimately didn't matter.

Being in such a big city, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the community. Nuit Blanche brings people together. Walking down the Seine at four in the morning, surrounded by thousands of strangers, promotes an energy of interconnectedness that can be rare to find in Paris. As Nuit Blanche dims its lights on 2016, and Parisians retreat to their separate lives, the city will take its memories with it through all of les nuits noirs.


For more Peacock Plume coverage of Nuit Blanche, check this out: