Paris. We’re finally in Paris. We arrived Wednesday, May 28 at Bassin la Villette for the Dutch Barge Association (DBA) rally with 35 other barges. The entry to Paris could hardly have been more dramatic. After a month traveling down the River Marne we went through a giant lock, holding four barges at the same time with room to spare, and joined the River Seine just upriver from the city. Each day for the past few travel days we’ve shared the water with larger and larger commercial vessels. On the Seine we were passed by what looked like ocean-going ships unloading cargoes at terminals on both sides of the river and then, as we entered the city proper, tourist boats – called bateau mouches – roared past us on both sides. together with the Batobus, large passenger carrying boat-buses filled with tourists. But we motored on, looking for a small lock on the side of the river that would lead into the primary Paris marina, the Arsenal. We were intent on the right river bank, looking for the lock, when Sandra looked forward and shouted: “Notre Dame.” There, just in front of the Ipswich Bay Yacht Club burgee at our bow (most likely the only IBYC burgee flying at that moment on the entire continent), was Notre Dame Cathedral. We were most certainly in Paris.
— That’s Notre Dame Cathedral behind the Ipswich Bay Yacht Club burgee.
Working our way through the lock and then through the Arsenal marina, we motored into a long, partially-lit tunnel that marked the beginning of the Canal St. Martin. Talk about the French Underground. This canal took us underneath the streets of Paris. Above us was the Bastille. Sunlight streamed through round openings in the ceiling of the tunnel. We could hear traffic above us. A few birds flew through the openings and back out into the sunlight. Eighteen minutes later we reached the end of the tunnel, went through a lock and there we were in the 19th Arondisement of Paris, busy streets on both sides, cars whizzing past us, the canal banks filled with people having lunch, shops on both sides and a barrage of food smells from restaurants and bakeries.We motored on. Bridges opened for us, Lock doors swung opened and we were lifted higher and higher into Paris. All in all, we went through nine locks in the middle of urban Paris. It was like driving a 70-foot boat down State Street in Boston. People waved and shouted, taking photos. Sandra chatted with watchers at every lock. Cars drove past on both sides of the boat.
After an hour we reached the Bassin la Villette, a wide area at the convergence of two canals in the middle of a Paris neighborhood of shops, apartments, restaurants and parks. We found our place with the other barges and completed the transition from being the only boat on the River Meuse for week after week in April, to one of 36 barges, and far from the largest, tied up four deep in the middle of Paris. Its mostly Brits on the other boats; we’re the only Americans so far. We’re getting loads of advice and hints about places to go and how to get there, and how to keep the boat afloat while doing so. Hoop Doet Leven is decorated with dozens of flags and she’s looking sharp, with most of our battle scars from banging into locks and docks painted over.
We’ll write more about Paris in a few days. We’ve lots to do, from the DBA wine and cheese reception to our morning at the Louvre yesterday. And we apologize for the recent gap in blog postings. It turns out that some unidentified member of our crew (but HE knows who HE is) went through our 3 gigabyte monthly Internet allotment in ten days and our provider has shut us down until our next billing cycle begins June 11 (if you’re reading this it means we found a McDonalds, which in France attract customers with free wifi access since Big Macs lack a certain savoir faire.)
But first we’re off to this morning’s mission: finding a motorcycle shop at which we can procure a couple of worn out tires to add to our fender collection, a run-of-the-mill Paris tourist shopping expeditio