Peter Cumberlidge explores the French inland waterways from Paris to Auxerre as part of a delivery trip for a new Linssen Grand Sturdy 40.9
We were sipping real French coffee in the heart of Paris, moored in the restful Port de l’Arsenal near Place de la Bastille.
Paris in the spring aboard a comfortable motor yacht was a delicious sensation, heightened still further when James – our old cruising friend and trusty crew – hopped aboard with a bag of warm croissants and pains au chocolat.
We were delivering Alboran up the Seine and Yonne rivers to Auxerre, a magnificent old waterways port in north-west Burgundy.
Here she would join the hire fleet run by France Afloat, whose English owners we have known for many years. Experienced hirers will be able to savour these majestic French rivers in style and even cruise to Paris if time allows.
Later we strolled down the right bank to the famous Paris islands – Île St Louis with its chic shops and bistros, and Île de la Cité, the capital’s medieval heart adorned by Notre-Dame cathedral.
Soaking up the atmosphere we watched tourist barges circling the islands and gliding under bridges. We dallied in the grand cathedral cloisters and lunched at L’Ilot Vache, my favourite on St Louis. A little pampering would do no harm before we continued inland.
Port aux Cerises
Locking out of Arsenal next morning, we squeezed under the low entrance bridge and emerged into a spectacular open stretch of the Seine, with views down to Notre Dame (pictured below) and a shy glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.
We reached our first lock at Port à l’Anglais and slipped in behind a massive barge. The large Seine locks are controlled from on high by invisible lock-keepers, but you can chat to them on VHF and we found everyone helpful, giving clear guidance on when to enter if barges were also going through.
These huge river ships are daunting at first, especially if you are already in a lock when they arrive, but their skippers were always considerate to the minnow in the pool.
About 20km from Arsenal, opposite Juvisy suburb, we saw a buoyed gap leading to a peaceful marina at Port aux Cerises (pictured below), which I’d heard was a practical alternative base for visiting Paris.
Cerises was delightful, surrounded by trees and a soothing park. The staff and neighbouring berth-holders were most welcoming.
It was only 10mins walk across the Seine bridge to Juvisy station, a kind of French Surbiton from where fast trains can whisk you into Gare de Lyon for a day’s sightseeing.