2023 Barging France Saint-Martin, Canal

Finishing in Paris (20/10 – 25/10)

Migennes – Paris – Delhi – Melbourne

With Catharina Elisabeth back in the water where she belongs, and all wrapped up for winter, we left her in Simon’s capable hands and hopped on the train to Paris. We were delighted to spend our last few days in Paris, on our good friends’ beautiful boat, Aleau, and would leave from there for the airport and home. Jonathan had suggested we exit the train at Gare de Lyon where he and Jeannie met us and we strolled back to the Arsenal and Aleau.

Photo courtesy of Aleau.

It was a month later than we would normally leave for home, so the weather was a little cooler, and wet, but that did not deter us from enjoying more Paris time. It may sound twee but Paris is my absolute favourite city. No matter how many times we visit, and revisit places we love, there is always something new to discover. And this was certainly true on this occasion. Jonathan and Jeannie had come up with some wonderful ideas for parts of Paris they wanted to share with us, so soon after depositing our bags in their barge, and a delicious lunch Jeannie had prepared, we all took off on foot to explore.

We strolled towards the nearby Le Viaduc des Arts, where we were amazed to find the most exquisite workshops.

This was once an elevated train line that closed in the late 1950s and between 1980 and 2000 was converted to house some 41 arts and crafts workshops underneath a garden walkway that replaced the rail line.

The workshops produce ridiculously beautiful jewellery, garments, musical instruments and more.

We tasted and bought jams from the only confiserie (confectioner) that operates in Paris.

Once we had satisfied our curiosity, although I could have spent many hours wandering these halls of excellence, we climbed a set of stairs up to the path that sits above the workshops.

It forms part of the 4.5 km Promenade Plantée. This is a walking route through Parisienne gardens and across this viaduct which is loved by Parisians and tourists – but at its best during a sunny day. For a short time, we enjoyed the wonderful promenade of greenery. There are plenty of benches so one could sit and while away some time just enjoy the ambience. People were strolling along, pushing prams, riding bikes and of course, plenty of joggers. Because it was quite late by now, a security guard came past on his bike warning us the gates would be locked soon and we had to descend to street level. The place is only open during daylight hours.

Dinner was back on Aleau with the backdrop of the boats in the Arsenal.

Aleau was rafted outside Wanderlust, so over the coming days we were often met by Gig, who stood guard for David and Becky. The next morning, Ian and I took off on foot to visit Shakespeare’s bookshop, situated at kilometre zero, and the site of my shopping run every time we are in Paris, choosing books to take home for the grandchildren. With a successful outcome, we took the time to view the giant displays of Notre Dame rebuild progress which were very detailed and covered all aspects of the work.

Jonathan and Jeannie had arranged a special treat for us that evening. Knowing that we are ‘duck tragics’, they took us to a restaurant that specialised in duck – nothing else!

The weather was rather wet, but we made our way via the Metro, to be delighted with our surprise.

Dinner at La Grange aux Canards was superb and memorable.

Replete with duck and good wine, it was back to the Aleau for bed.

On the Sunday, Jonathan and Jeannie made good with their promise to take us on a cruise along the Canal Saint-Martin through the tunnel and up to La Villette for lunch. The weather was very kind, holding off rain and we had the most wonderful experience. So we took off, passing all the lovely boats in the Arsenal, including our Aussie friends, Deb and Howard on Moondance, and entered the tunnel.

Jonathan had booked our passage to and from, and it was the most wonderful experience. Although we have spent a little time in the Arsenal with Catharina, we have not travelled the tunnel ourselves. The tunnel experience is one of France’s waterway highlights. Cruising quietly along the wide waterway through the gently lit space

with the regular ventilation vents in the roof

that provide an exquisite reminder that Parisien life in the Bastile continues above us.

A unique experience. Exiting the 2 km long tunnel we found ourselves entering the first of four double locks. A fee is required to allow passage and the printed pass was checked by one of the éclusiers at the first set of locks.

Each lock is about 3 m deep, and as we rose in the first, the second of the pair came into view, the gates opened into that one, and we rose another 3 m. Although Jonathan and Jeannie are very competent, Ian was keen to help with ropes in each of the locks. What we did find was the flow of water into the basin was extremely fast and powerful. He commented that Catharina would struggle against that pressure if we were making the journey on our own boat – good strong ropes would be essential.

Between the pairs of locks, we were met with scenes of Sunday leisure and people crossing over the canal using the frequent pedestrian bridges.

It was as though each new level was its own little village. Parisians were out in force, and everywhere there were families and children and dogs. Beside one of the locks was a set of gym equipment and there was some very serious exercising taking place. Beside another of the locks I saw what I am pretty sure was a meeting between a young woman and a man she did not know. As he approached, she introduced herself, there was a brief discussion, she took out her phone, checked an entry and once satisfied, walked away with the man. I know what I think was happening 😉. After completing passage through the last two locks we emerged in the basin of La Villette.

It’s the only other marina in central Paris and a popular place for other water recreation activities. We moored and then Jeannie and Jonathan took us for déjeuner at their favourite Villette restaurant. The burger meal was delicious, plentiful and inexpensive. Anyone who wants to eat well in Paris would do well to buddy up with Jonathan and Jeannie!

On our return journey to the Arsenal, in sunnier weather, we found the usual frenzy of spectators enjoying the passing of our beautiful barge.

The only swing bridge on the canal.

There was a young boy with one family who waved frantically as we entered one of the locks. At the next pair of locks, he showed up again. In fact, he followed us from lock to lock until we entered the tunnel again and disappeared from his view. He loved that we acknowledged his attention.

Back in the Arsenal, tied up once again to Wanderlust, it would be our last night on board. Tomorrow we would begin our long journey home.

In the morning, they had another treat for us – to fortify us for the long journey home, and to start weaning us of croissants,

breakfast at the Breakfast in America cafe. It was a serious meal!

Afterwards, we had another walk around – looking in shop windows and just meandering. Jeannie and I took the opportunity to check out the Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis.

Apparently, this was the first church in Paris to break away from the Gothic style and was instead built in the Baroque form. Inside, the vault was perhaps the most spectacular I’ve ever seen.

and, as Ian wasn’t there, my Jehanne d’Arc find puts me one up on him. Yes!

As we walked in the rain, we found one familiar place – Au Pied de Cochon where we had celebrated our 35th Wedding Anniversary, (13 years previously, and our very first time in Paris) with my sister, Gill and some American friends.

Lisette in her borrowed jacket.

Chilled as we were, Jonathan suggested we warm up by going to a restaurant that serves the richest hot chocolate he had ever had, so thick a spoon stands up – but the cafe informed us that the winter version would not be added to the menu until the following week. Apparently a seasonal addition.

Sure enough, when November arrived a week later, so did Jonathan’s special hot chocolate.

When it was time to leave, Jonathan walked with us back to Gare de Lyon, with instructions on where to make a change for the line that would take us into Charles de Gaulle airport, and our journey home. This was an expensive, one-way flight with Air India. It was not particularly good with problems with entertainment systems and indifferent service, so not an airline we would pick again – but it was the cheapest available at the time. However, we made it back intact, on time and with all our luggage.

Only seven months to go and we’ll be off again.

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    One Response

  1. Wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing!

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