Paris: 21/08 – 28/08

Rueil-Malmaison – Paris (Arsenal)

Paris

Our final run into Paris on Catharina Elisabeth was entrancing. The approach took us past a fascinating and seemingly never-ending array of residential and moored boats

of every shape,

size,

and condition

until, eventually, we caught our first glimpse of her in the distance – La Tour Eiffel.

The Bucket List is a little less weighty now, following that cruise.

Passing the Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame and the tower itself,

cruising under some of the most beautiful bridges. We had been to Paris before and seen much of her famous beauty, but to cruise past in your own barge – well, that is rather special. Ian was fortunate that Graham offered to take the wheel for a few minutes so that Ian could also experience the sights from the foredeck. (Bragging done.)

However, we will always be grateful that we have experienced the sight that is and was Notre Dame, from any direction, and devastated to learn of the loss of so much art and history in the recent (as we write this) fire.

The actual cruising was not difficult – but perhaps we’ve learnt a bit since our last venture into a major city, Amsterdam, which was on our third day ever of cruising. Moving along the Seine was no more alarming than much of the recent cruising we have done, in the company of other vessels, large and small, commercial and pleasure boats. We just kept our eyes roving forward, backwards and to the side watching the sightseeing barges, the Bateaux Mouches, dart quickly from one side of the river to the other, rushing past to beat us to the bridges, then turning on a sixpence to dash back up when they reached the limit of their cruise. There was no shortage of peniches, either, but they generally behave perfectly well, and it wasn’t too challenging to navigate our way around, past and through the other water traffic.

Port de Plaisance de Paris-Arsenal

As we approached the Arsenal we contacted them again so they could prepare the lock for our entry. We held position opposite the opening to the lock and the marina, until there was a suitable gap in traffic in both directions, then crossed the river to enter.

Our spot in the Arsenal was right up near the opening to the tunnel that takes the Canal St Martin under the streets of Paris and Ian executed an admirable stern entry into our allocated mooring.

Catharina nearby the entrance to the subterranean part of the Canal St Denis, and the July Column in the centre of the Bastille peeking over the trees.

Beside us was a lovely Dutch barge, Madura, and onboard, a French fellow and his wife, who, it turns out, have a permanent mooring in the Arsenal. The first evening we were treated to the strains of his guitar playing and quiet singing. Chatting to him the following morning, we learnt that he, Eric Vincent, had toured worldwide, including Australia and was just about to embark on a concert tour in the US.

A photo of Eric striding down the quayside in the Arsenal, from his website.

Along with a very competent saxophonist who practised each afternoon directly across from us on the quay, there was a pleasant, musical atmosphere to our end of the Port.

The port was well run, well organised and well managed by the English-speaking Capitainerie. While the port was fully open during the day, each evening, gates were closed for security although we never felt unsafe or threatened at any time during our stay in the port, or Paris generally.

Detail of the top of the July Column.

Over the next week, we made excellent use of the trains (and our legs) to get us around Paris. There is far too much to cover with our usual intensity so just a brief summary and a few photos will have to suffice. Only to say, that we fell even more in love with Paris during our week here – and can’t imagine a better way to experience it than moored in the middle of the city on Catharina.

From a return visit to the Musée Rodin,

At ‘The Gates of Hell’

the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur,

Sainte-Chapelle,

Les Invalides,

the Musée Gourmand du Chocolat, (where you could eat as much chocolate as you like so long as you didn’t stuff any in your pockets to take with you – as if!)

Paris fashion in entirely in chocolate.

the Aerospace Museum,

rooftop bars,

summer dancing along the banks of the Seine and more,

several memorable restaurants,

Le Train Bleu

La Petit Chaise,

Auberge Nicolas Flamel

it was not hard to pass the time. We took the train and bus one evening to Versailles to experience the summer fireworks and fountain displays.

Breathtaking.

With our picnic of cold chicken, baguettes, cheese and wine, we strolled around the gardens as night fell, totally entranced by the music and movement.

Musee d’Orsay

Well, perhaps more detail on one visit – to the Musee D’Orsay.

We had lodged across the street from the Orsay in 2013 but had only managed a visit of just over an hour. This time we spent the full day. This was still not enough because we were literally racing around exhibits as the bells were ringing for closing.

However, what was a revelation was how much more the artworks meant to us on this visit. Both from the places we had visited recently and the anticipation of those we were heading for, we appreciated and related to the artworks and the artist’s endeavours with so much more intensity than when we were mere casual tourists. This is one of the tremendous benefits of travelling close and inside France, rather than just travelling through. The gallery below features several works of art that had special meaning for us.

Cézanne - whose paintings we saw at Auvers-sur-Oise.
Monet - the Seine near Giverny.
Sisley - about Moret-sur-Loing where we were headed in a few days.
Van Gogh - his room at Arles, high on our bucket list, perhaps we'll get there in 2020.
Renoir - Alphonsine Fournaise, the last owner of Maison Fournaise.
Cézanne - whose paintings we saw at Auvers-sur-Oise.

On one of the last days we spent in the Arsenal, we had a stream of visitors join us for lunch. A Kiwi friend we had met the previous summer (and cruised with this season) and some Aussie friends who were in Paris for a couple of days also met up with us. When Daniël, (the lithium battery guy from the Netherlands) also arrived to update some of the software for the lithium battery and associated new equipment, we had quite the party on board with eight of us on the aft deck.

Just above us, the Parisians continued to gather most evenings to relish in their summer lifestyle. How we envy them!

Eventually, it was time for Gill and Graham to return to Australia, and, a day after they left, it was time for us to continue our voyage up the Seine towards its navigable limit at Nogent-sur-Seine.

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