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Canal Saint Martin in Paris a delightful surprise

A couple of years ago some friends of ours visited Paris, enjoying  a long weekend with some friends of theirs who were living in the City of Light and attending the Cordon Bleu.  They returned with tales of taking a canal ride in Paris.

Hmmm.  This had me a intriqued.  Yes, I think of water—the beautiful Seine—when I think of Paris, but not canals.  One goes to Venice or Brugge to see them.  So, this trip we made a point of visiting the Saint Martin Canal and checking it out.

It’s a delightful surprise and a different view of Paris.

The canal was built by Napoleon in the early 1800s to provide water to a city and, of course, for  transportation.  It runs from the Bastille area that  connects to the Seine out to the outskirts of the city.

The two and a half hour tour takes you through an interesting park—Park of la Villette –the largest green space in Paris with long boardwalks, bike paths, Science Museum  and interesting red sculptural looking structures.   I understand the bike paths extend for 100 miles away from the city and are planned to eventually take one to Prague and then on to Moscow.

The boat tour also goes through almost series of 19th century locks, making the trip very leisurely.  If you’ve never gone through a lock, it is really interesting.  What I enjoyed was most watching the tourists watch us, daily life going on besides the canal in working class neighborhoods and the slow pace of life around us.

We saw old swing bridges and even one bridge that raises and lowers like an elevator.  Abundant horse chestnut trees line the sides of the canal making for a lovely ride

 

The most interesting part o f the trip, however, was underground through a very long tunnel that took us about 20 minutes to traverse.  It was spooky and eerie….and amazing to think that a bustling city life was going on over head. The tunnel took us under the Bastille.

As an effort to entertain, the tour boat company projected a sound and light show on the tunnel walls. Unfortunately the angle of the video and the distortion of the sound made the presentation of the history of the tunnel almost unintelligible but the idea was a good one.  I think they need to consult with Disney to get the execution right.

After the long tunnel, we came out into the light at a small harbor.  It was fun to see the boats tied up and ready for cruising.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

Comments

7 Comments
  1. posted by
    Shirley Hubers
    May 20, 2010 Reply

    Hi Susan – I’m enjoying your trip! Seriously. I’m catching every blogg. Hearing the morning news today I’m wondering if you’ll be writing anything you’re hearing or seeing about today’s big art robbery??

    Talk to you soon.
    Shirley

  2. posted by
    Margaret Cheff
    May 20, 2010 Reply

    Hi Susan,
    I have good memories of the canal ride but I don’t remember the video…must be new. I think in your next life, you should come back as a Parisian tour guide for Americans…I’d hire you in a minute!

  3. posted by
    smithsj
    May 20, 2010 Reply

    We have left Paris and learned about the art theft in a small town in Ireland. The TV was on in the little sandwich shop where we had lunch. We are in the dark as much as you. So, no scoops on this front.

    Too bad actually. It would be interesting to hear the reaction first hand.

    I am glad both of your are enjoying my posts about my time in Paris. It is great fun for me to write about my experiences here and I’ll be your tour guide any time…….just remember, I don’t speak French. Need Jack for that.

  4. posted by
    Barb
    May 22, 2010 Reply

    Another city one rarely considers when speaking of canals is Birmingham, England. Once used for transport during the industrial era, they are now used primarily for leisure. Reportedly, this city has more canals than Venice. We helped our British friend celebrate a very significant birthday on one of these charming boats….it was a “smashing” event!

  5. posted by
    smithsj
    May 22, 2010 Reply

    How interesting. I would never think of Birmingham and canals. Actually I’ve never been to Birmingham. Sounds like you had a wonderful time.

  6. posted by
    My “Favorite Five” things to do in Paris « DesignDestinations
    Jun 21, 2010 Reply

    […] but magical moment when the Eiffel Tower Twinkles.  On this last trip we spent a morning on the Canal Saint Martin.  I’d do that […]

  7. posted by
    Ex-pat shares Paris Favs « DesignDestinations
    Jun 24, 2010 Reply

    […] the trendiest artist is encumbered by toddlers. That, too, seems to be cool.  Sundays up along the St. Martin Canal you will find massive impromptu picnics of friends gathering along the quai, playing guitars, […]

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