Canal Saint-Martin

The Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees, the Jardin des Tuileries and the Arc de Triomphe, whew! It’s time for my husband and me to catch our breath, time to enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Canal Saint-Martin from Parc de la Villette to Port de L’Arsenal.
In the 19th century, Napoleon planned an 81-mile waterway that would supply the citizens of Paris with fresh drinking water and Saint-Martin is one part of the system; the canal runs underground for one-and-a-half miles between Bastille and Republique and ends in the 19th arrondissement where it joins Canais Ourcq and Saint-Denis.
The cruise takes us through the canal’s four double locks and two swing bridges; our boat slowly rises, the gates open and our canal boat glides though the water. We steal a look at young Parisian lovers strolling across a foot bridge, who stop to share a kiss under a chestnut tree on the quay while the rest of the world drifts by.
The Marcel Carnes film Hotel du Nord, filmed in 1938 and starring Arletty, Jean Pierre Aumont and Annabella, replicated the canal. The original hotel can be seen at 102 Quai de Jemmapes. A bit more recent is Amelie, a motion picture where the star, Audrey Tatou, portrays a shy and mischievous sprite who skims stones across the water.
Our boat drifts past the tenth arrondissement, a few metro stops from the center of Paris and once the exclusive home of the working class; today the arrondissement attracts the artistic, creative and imaginative who have succumbed to the canal’s charm and lower rents. Boutiques, cafes, bars and the fashionable have followed the trend-setting artists.
Bikers follow a path that ends near Claye Souilly just outside Paris while ramblers breath in the air along the canal side path that extends from Republique to Parc de la Villette where the Cite des Sciences et de l’industrie is located. Walking encourages the appetite and picnickers often pause for a light repast along the quay. Lunch and a refreshing drink may also be enjoyed in one of the many cafes or bars close to the canal.
As I glanced at the sides of the passage, petite mussels spit streams of water in our direction; a comment perhaps. We had enjoyed huge bowls of mussels and frites the evening before at Leon de Bruxelles, a chain of moderately priced seafood restaurants who specialize in succulent mussels cooked in a variety of styles. Internet address:
The Canauxrama boat may be boarded at 8:45 am and 2:30 pm at the Arsenal Marina -50 Boulevard de la Bastille (Public transportation to the Arsenal – by tube to Station Bastille, by bus – lines 20, 29, 65, 86, 87, 91) or from the Bassin de la Villette at 13, Quai de la Loire at 9:45 am and 2:45 pm (Public transportation to the Bassin – by tube to Station Jaures, by bus – lines 26, 48, 2, 5, 7.) The cost is 13 euros for adults, 8 euros for children under 12 and free for children under six. Reservations are necessary. The narrated cruise takes approximately three hours. Canauxrama, Basin del la Villette, 12 Quai de la Loire, 57019 Paris, telephone 01 42391500
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