France gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States 125 years ago as a symbol of friendship. Next year it will make a similar overture to China by building what looks like a floating white palace on the expo site to kick the 21st century into gear.
"We are spending a lot of money and energy on the pavilion (because we see) the Shanghai World Expo as the real starter of the 21st century, not the global financial crisis," said Franck Serrano, director of the French Pavilion.
The structure will stand as a stunning 50-million-euro ($70.9 million) centerpiece of the European power's commitment to the 2010 Expo, making it France's most expensive contribution to a World Fair to date.
Covering 6,000 sq m, the France Pavilion combines beauty and modernity. Dubbed "Sensual City", the cube-shaped structure will be covered in plants to appear as though it is floating beyond the horizon.
"It will showcase the sights, smells, tastes, sounds, feel and glamor of France," Serrano said, adding that the outer shell should be finished by this year.
An escalator will take visitors to the rooftop garden where the tour starts, he said. They will be able to admire French gardens and paintings, specially designed perfumes, local cuisine, water fountains and clips from classic European movies. Other attractions include historic artworks from Auguste Rodin and Vincent Van Gogh.
Inside the pavilion, visitors will be able to interact with veteran movie star Alain Delon and pavilion mascot Leon, a seven-year-old cat.
Parfum de fleurs
To celebrate the occasion, the country has created two special scents for men and women. In bottles resembling the shape of the new pavilion, both feature variations of the white magnolia, which is considered the flower of Shanghai.
The perfumes blend several aromas, with jasmine, peony, lilac, rose and musk included in the women's version, while cardamom, mandarin, lotus and sandal help constitute the men's cologne. They will go on sale soon in selected department stores in Shanghai.
Couples can apply to tie the knot inside classical French-style gardens, with a total of 2,010 marriages to be conducted at the French structure under the aegis of the mayor of Tours, a city that has become famous among Chinese newlyweds in recent years as a group-wedding destination.
Up to 10 group weddings will be held throughout the expo, French officials said. All couples are entitled to enter a lucky draw, about 10 percent of whom will win huge discounts on unforgettable honeymoons at castles in the Loire Valley of France, Switzerland or Italy.
Newly-weds or engaged couples who are interested in an exotic wedding ceremony can find more information at www.tours.fr or www.51hahua.com.
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