When you take a river boat tour in Paris you find yourself looking up at buildings rather than directly at them. My boat tour took me between the French Statue of Liberty in the west to the Jardin des Plantes in the east. There were nine stopping off points with landing stages during a complete rotation. Passengers could disembark and join the vessel at any of these locations.
The French Statue of Liberty is on the little know Ile aux Cygnes, the statue is a smaller version of the original that stands in New York harbour in the United States. This was a gift to the American people from the French people. It is a national symbol of shared freedom.
I joined the river vessel at a landing stage close to the Eiffel Tower. Off we went with pretty much a full deck of passengers. We ‘steamed’ along the Seine at a gentle pace on the south side of the river towards the Musée D’Orsay. It was a beautiful clear day and the views were fabulous. The trip took in Saint German Des Pres and the Isle de la Cité and Notre Dame Cathedral. Beyond, we came to the Jardin des Plantes and then crossed over to the other bank.
Taking in the major sites from the River Seine
The cruise continued past the Hotel de Ville towards the Royal Palaces and the enigmatic Pie pyramids located right at the eastern edge of the arrow straight Triumphal Route. Progress continued past the Place de la Concorde and the Grand Palais provided views of the Trocadero and back to the Statue of Liberty. The boat then crossed once more to the southern side of the Seine to complete a further rotation. Passengers were able to continue as long as they liked.
The boat was flat bottomed, shielded from the elements by wide open panels of clear Perspex that provide an excellent, undistorted view of the world outside. The boats are heated in the winter months and bicycle storage is available on board. The rear deck of the bateau was wide open to view the features of the City from the open air.
The cruise for me gave a glimmer of Paris life as well as a tour of city highlights. There were many groups of people along the river banks relaxing in their deck chairs. They were drinking wine, eating ice cream and taking in the sunshine. Parts of the Seine embankments had been converted into artificial sandy beaches. The trip presented an impression of an evolving Paris on almost an hourly basis that would not normally be obvious from the ground.
The commercial side of City life was also very apparent from the river. The seine is a major commercial thoroughfare for France and we shared the river with many commercial vessels.
I’d definitely recommend a river boat ride as a great way to see Paris from a different angle.
Bob Lyons is an ex pilot turned travel writer in love with France.