Under the Bridges of Paris, Part 1

3 May 2011

We moved on up the Seine in the a.m., and what a trip it was! The day was grey to begin with, but the sun came out for the last leg in through the centre under the well-known buildings and bridges. The Seine meanders a lot, taking huge loops, so we had quite a distance to go through the suburbs, a lot of them industrial. There were all sorts of combinations and permutations of river craft and dwellings, many made from old barges, cut up, patched together, with huts, sheds, attractive adaptations and goodness knows what else. I was kept busy taking photos all the way. Then coming around a corner, we spotted an IWAI defaced ensign along with a Dutch Barge Association burgee flying on a nice looking Dutch barge, so of course had to pull in and enquire! She belongs to an Irish guy from Kinsale, an IWAI member, Patrick(?) James, who was at work, and his Austrian wife, to whom we spoke briefly. They bought the barge a couple of years ago and are slowly converting her. They also own a very pretty and well-kept Dutch Tjalk – sailing barge – that they live on at present. There was quite a little community of boats and barges there, not far from the Eiffel Tower. The river was busy & choppy enough, but we were lucky as it was much quieter than it would be in the summer. Thankfully, a lot of the trip boats were not running for they can cause problems as they dart all over the place and pay scant attention to small craft. It is indeed a wonderful experience to be on one’s own boat moving through such famous waters, and the Seine is the very best place from which to view the city. Poor Mike was kept busy with the steering and navigating through the correct arches of the bridges, so I just kept the camera going like the worst of tourists hoping that I would manage to catch something of it all. We turned and waited then outside the Port at the Arsenal, where we called up the Capitainerie on the radio to ask them to open the lock for us, which they duly did, and we were up and into the most central, calm and secure moorings in Paris, where we stayed for the next four days. Reggie Redmond, a friend from both the Shannon and motor sport days was over in Paris for a FIA court case, as he is one of the international judges, and came to join us for a few days, which was very pleasant. We decided while there to take Aquarelle for a trip on the 4.5 km Canal St Martin, up the 2069 metre tunnel under Bastille from the Arsenal, through 4 double locks to the confluence with the Canal St Denis and the Canal de l’Ourq. Lee and Vicki from Ruda came along too, and made a party out of it, so we had a lovely day out. We were lucky with the weather, which was sunny and breezy, as the following day was quite wet and miserable. We had to leave Mike’s passport with the Capitainerie, so that they would keep our slot for us, and that we wouldn’t continue on and escape without paying! There is a toll payable on the St Martin locks, of €0.67/lock; we had to get the lockkeeper at each lock to fill in the form, and then we paid our dues on our return. It is an attractive canal, through and under the heart of Paris, with many folk watching and waving from the banks and the pretty little wrought iron pedestrian bridges overhead. The tunnel is one way, controlled by lights, but is wide, quite high and airy with towpaths and big air vents overhead, some with greenery hanging down through them. We visited an ethnic market up at the Porte de Villette, went for a walk up around the confluence by a big leisure centre/park, had a relaxed, chatty lunch aboard, and it was time to head back before the trip boats.


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