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Travel:Paris, Sailing via the Saint Martin Canal - Nov 2/2019

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

Place : Paris - Sailing via the Saint Martin Canal

Date: Saturday Nov. 2 /2019

We are almost at the end of our prolonged 6 weeks stay in Paris.

After cruising the city by public Bus and Metro rides, we couldn't depart without a Boat transportation experience .

Thus we headed early morning, toward the Seine, embarking a tourist boat, on the de Orsey's museum side, sailing off on the Seine, toward Port Arsenal entry, (now a leisure port where yachts and pleasure boats are docked) and into and through the St Martin famous canal, all the way upward toward Port Villette - to the Villette Park -our disembarking end point.

The combined length of the 3 canalized waterways is 120km.

(Canal Saint-Martin Canal Saint-Denis Canal de l’Ourcq,)

This cruise lasting 2.5 hours, was by far, not the shortest one, but definitely the romantic way, to reach the Philharmonic building at park Villette, where the Charlie Chaplin special exhibit, which Ora and I came to see, was held.

Ora and I

There are 27m difference in height, between the Seine river at Port Arsenal entry location, and the Bassin de la Villette Port, by park Villette location, through canal Saint Mratin and Canal de l'Ourcq, which connects to the river Ourcq, 100 km northeast of Paris . Route map

Navigating through the 4.6 m long, underground Saint Martin Canal and tunnel, and all the way to our destination, passes through a series of 9 water double staircase locks (the boat is raised by the flooded water by 3 m each lock) and 2 swing bridges, as to make this link between the River Seine with the northeastern parts of Paris, possible..

The Ourcq, among the earliest canalised rivers in Europe, was surveyed by Leonardo da Vinci, and some work was undertaken in the 16th century.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Invention of the miter canal lock, was one of his most enduring achievements. It is still in use today at almost any canal or waterway

The company to reserve such a cruise is: 33 (0) 142409697

The very interesting and enjoyable sail operated by this navigation company which transports on quite basic boats with uncomfortable chairs, offering explanations both in French and English, is very recommended, especially on a pleasant warm sunny day, which we weren't lucky to have.

Saint Martin Canal/Tunnel

The Saint Martin Canal is a popular destination for Parisians and tourists alike, who are using passenger boats, being loaded and unloaded between the 2 ports created on the canal : Port de l'Arsenal and the Basin de la Villette. port.

While others on land, enjoy watch the passing boats navigate the series of locks, from the attractive cast-iron footbridges above..

Bridge overlooking Saint Martin Canal

The boat travel through the 10th district which contains a large portion of the Canal Saint-Martin, and via the 8m wide Bastille underground vault/tunnel (under the colon crypt can be seen) which benefits from natural lighting, due to a series of carved 37 skylights onto the vault's arched ceiling. It continues under and through:

Place de la Republic, - ( a central square named after the French Republic, was called the Place du Château-d'Eau until 1879, and contains a monument which includes a statue of the personification of France, Marianne.

Basin de Recollect (former convent hotel site)

and Basin de combat.

The municipal Canal Saint-Martin was originally carved as to supply the city's growing population with fresh water from the distanced much cleaner Ourcq river in the north, and to help avoid diseases such as dysentery and cholera, by using the extra water for cleaning the streets.

Construction of the canal, funded by a new tax on wine, was ordered by Napoleon I in 1802 and only inaugurated in 1825, after his death.

The canal was also used for commercial navigation to supply Paris with grain, building materials and other goods, carried on canal barges.

Over nearly half the canal length between the Rue du Faubourg du Temple and the Place de la Bastille, was covered by a tunnel to facilitate army movement towards the insurrection-prone suburb of Saint-Antoine, and later in the mid-19th c to create wide boulevards and public spaces on the outer surface.

The declining commercial traffic by the 1960s had dwindled to a trickle and the canal narrowly escaped being filled in and paved over for a highway. Yet, the boom in pleasure cruising throughout France in the 1980s prompted the Paris city council to remove most of the earlier constraints, and open up the entire system for recreational navigation.

The canal has been drained and cleaned every 10–15 years, and it is always a source of fascination for Parisians to discover curiosities and even some treasures among the hundreds of tonnes of discarded things, including hundreds of bikes and sometimes more gruesome


The canal was an inspiration to works of painters such as Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), , film makers- 1938 film "Hôtel du Nord", directed by Marcel Carné

and singers - Édith Piaf song - the canal "Les mômes de la cloche", 1936 written by Vincent Scotto & Decaye, music by Médinger,

Once off the boat at port Villette we were most entertained by the fantastic Charlie Chaplin exhibit, laughing our heart out, and enjoying every bit of what was on display.

"The Sounds of Charlie Chaplin" at the Paris Philharmonic

Oct 11-Jan 26/2019

The exhibit aim was to shine a spotlight on the work of the master of silent film, from a musical vantage point, and on the intertwine synergy between dance, rhythm and the illusion of speech and sound,

The cinematographic segments from Chaplin's known films, paintings of him and promotional posters exposed us to the sounds (noise making machines and music) as well as visions (pantomime, gesture and rhythm and acting) on the spectrum from the avant-garde to popular culture.

Another great lunch at "au boeuf couronne" Bistro Traditional and then walking off the excessive food we consumed, through one of my favorite park "des Buttes Chaumont" was a great finalle for the day, before we reverted to the Bus and Metro back home.

To be continued


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