3,500 people all dressed in white descended on David Lam park in downtown Vancouver and proceeded to set up white tables and chairs in neat rows for a mass picnic. It’s called Diner en Blanc and it’s an evolution of a picnic in the park that was hosted 26 years ago in Paris by Francois Pasquier. These al fresco dinners now take place in locations all over the world and in the case of Vancouver invitations are much coveted. In fact this year, which is the third annual for Vancouver, there were more than 30,000 people on the waiting list.
So how did we get an invite? By kissing up to my best friends of 25 years of course! Craig had been sponsored for last years Diner en Blanc and had taken me as a guest because his wife Sylvia had been invited by another friend. This gave Craig two guaranteed tickets for this year since the previous years registrants get first dibs. They also get to sponsor one other person so he sponsored Sylvia. When her sponsorship went through it allowed them each to invite a guest. I guess our sucking up worked because they invited Nathan and I…yay!
Once we knew we were in (which was about three weeks ago) the planning began. It’s actually quite a bit of work as there are very specific requirements of all attendees. First of all you must be dressed all in white and your clothing must be somewhat formal. No shorts or flip flops allowed. You have to bring your own table, chairs, table settings and centerpieces which also must be white. Finally you have to pack an elegant picnic meal for two. There is an option to purchase a meal from Diner en Blanc which was catered by Hawksworth restaurant but many people opt to bring their own food. Alcohol cannot be brought in but bottles of wine can be purchased on site.
Since the Diner en Blanc location is top secret you have no idea where you’re going until a few days before when you’re given a check in point. As there are 3500 people to organize there are many check in points strategically located within walking or transit distance to the ultimate site. Once everyone is checked in and has their wristbands the groups are then led by group leaders to their final destination. The logistics of the whole thing is amazing. Our friends had arranged for a limo to take us and since we had discovered the secret location an hour earlier we were able to arrive in style.
Last year the location was in a park next to Science World which was beautiful as night fell and the sphere shaped attraction lit up as did the city in the background. This year it was David Lam park which sits on the seawall in Yaletown and is an equally beautiful spot. But then this is Vancouver so beautiful scenery is abundant. As a side note, for me it was also a little nostalgic. David Lam park is just down the seawall from my old apartment and I used to walk my dog Roxy past it every day. It really hit home how much I have given up to embark on this new journey of travel life. However it also reinforced how much I really want to continue it. No regrets, only gratitude for everything I had then and everything I have now.
Back to the party. The park was starting to fill up when we arrived and there were two stages for entertainment. One stage was off to the side and would be where the band would play. The second was dead center and would eventually be surrounded by tables. This stage held a white baby grand and a trapeze and was contained within tall arches. There were also large white balls with the word LOVE scattered around the park and a white vintage car for photo ops.
Watching 3500 people stream into the park and set up their tables in such an organized (for the most part) and civilized manner was pretty amazing. There were lavish table centerpieces and elaborate outfits and a pretty impressive display of food but one of the coolest sights was when 3500 people all waved white napkins to signal the start of the party. The rest of the night was a white blur of food, wine, music, acrobatics, sparklers, Chinese lanterns and of course socializing and picture taking. I haven’t yet read any reviews but I can say for myself and my friends it was definitely a brilliant success and I think these photos are testament to that.