The Paris Meridian is getting more attention than ever these days, as the focus of one of France's most creative millennium projects, the Meridienne Verte.
It started last November, when armies of schoolchildren helped plant thousands of young trees, the first of a series of plantings that will form a straight line of indigenous oaks, hornbeams, cedars, and olive trees along the meridian's 576-mile route through France.
In early summer, 20 sites along this green meridian were planted with flowers - fields of poppies, scarlet flax, and other red flowers - that will blossom for Bastille Day and the event all of France is calling "L'Incroyable Pique-Nique."
On July 14, more than 3 million people will celebrate Bastille Day by coming together for one colossal djeuner sur l'herbe under the young trees of the living meridian. The party will stretch from Dunkirk in the north to Prats-de-Mollo in the south, and through all 337 cities, towns, and villages in between.
Special tablecloths, about a mile long, will stretch through each site, and everyone is invited to bring a picnic or to purchase local specialties on the spot.
A special radio station will announce the festivities, a nationwide air show will provide fly-by entertainment, and bikers, swimmers, in-line skaters, and ultra-light fliers will pass picnic-themed "batons" hand to hand from north and south in a relay race.
Festivities are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and details are available at the Mission 2000 Web site, www.2000enfrance.com.
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