May 19, 2012
A sunny Saturday morning greeted us as we set off for our triumphant entry into the French capital. There were a handful of working péniches about on the river but as we approached the outskirts we found ourselves practically alone. The long, sweeping meanders of the Seine took us past many fine riverside properties and a remarkable collection of converted péniches forming a motley array of homes, from rustic cottage style to modernistic steel and glass designs, many with delightful potted plant gardens. The previous day we’d shared our pontoon with a French artist in his own DIY floating studio, showing that all shades of life can secure a place on the river if they really want to.
After several hours of steady motoring we swept past the Bois de Boulogne and the pinnacle of the Eifel Tower hove into sight! From being the only boat on the river, the water suddenly became alive with large bateaux mouches (sight-seeing tourist boats) swerving and veering haphazardly from one side of the river to the other. Passing under vast, impressive bridges best viewed from water-level, the original Statue of Liberté glinted in the sallow sunlight, whilst tthe Eifel loomed above us and the river banks surged thick with people. This was a great way to see the city!
A nervous moment as we waited for the one-way system around the Isle de la Cité to turn in our favour, and then we were passing through the historic quarters, dominated on the southern bank by the huge Musée d’Orsay. Then, there, looming behind us was Notre Dame, looking grey and mossy as the light faded and rain threatened. Within minutes we were entering the locked entrance to the Paris Arsenal marina, located where the Canal St Martin meets the Seine. A perfect location on the edge of the vieille cité, just a stone’s throw from the Place de la Bastille, the Paris Arsenal has a good reputation as a friendly place to spend a few days.