Taking on the French canals in a trawler yacht: Part two

In the second part of his French canals odyssey, Howard Walker cruises up the lazy River Seine and explores the suburbs of Paris

Entering the Paris suburbs

From here, ever so gradually, the river begins changing character. The rolling farmland and thick forests are replaced by fancy homes.

We’re easing into the Paris ’burbs. At Conflans, where the River Oise peels off to port, the landscape suddenly becomes filled with commercial péniche barges moored two, three, four deep along the town wall.

31.Conflans---barge-capital-of-FranceThis is France’s barge capital with a small local industry built around them. At St-Denis and Clichy, the skyscrapers start sprouting, while at Neuilly magnificent apartment buildings, new and old, jostle for position to get the best water view.

36.Eiffel-Tower-1jpgAnd then there it is. Paris. Up ahead, the Eiffel Tower glows in the afternoon sun. Breathtaking. Magnificent. Okay, slow down for just one more photo.

Oops, watch out for that crazy tour boat turning right in front of us. And where did that gravel-laden péniche come from?

We cruise in awe, drinking in the sights of this great city, viewing it from the best vantage point possible, our flybridge.

At the Île de la Cité, we take the narrow starboard channel that sweeps us past Notre-Dame cathedral and the Île St-Louis. Fantastic.

But there’s one more surprise left. There, almost hidden away, entered by literally a hole in the wall, is the Canal Saint-Martin and the Port de Paris l’Arsenal Marina.

Like some secret passageway, you wait for the eclusier to prepare the lock, open the gates and give you the green light to welcome you in.

45.Locking-into-the-Arsenal-basinThe 170-place marina itself is one very special place. It sits well below street level, so feels secret. And right there, at the far end, is the Place de la Bastille and its famous column.

The metro is just a few paces away and with a ten-minute walk you’re in the Marais. Talk about location!

We stay for two weeks, using Nomade as a floating Parisian apartment, playing tourists, seeing the sights, walking everywhere, and never failing to be awed.

49.Nomade-in-the-Arsenal-2And just as we started this grand adventure by locking out of St. Katharine’s into the Thames, we’ll soon start the next part – taking the Marne to Champagne country – by locking out of the Arsenal basin into the Seine. Think of it as a tale of two cities. Dickens would be flattered.

Next time: The River Marne through Champagne country

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