When I planned my trip to Europe, Paris, for me, was a must-visit, on-top-of-my-bucket-list destination. I was raring to get there and discover all that my French textbooks talked of. Another bit was of course, the curiosity aroused by the Da Vinci Code ;-). With its amazing history and culture, this city did charm me but if there is one thing that would be on top of list of things to do in Paris, it is spending time along the River Seine.
Like most medieval history cities, Paris is built along a river- in this case, River Seine. The river was always a centerpoint for a lot of activities in the past – one of them being that the ashes of Joan of Arc were scattered in this river. You will find all your main tourist destinations on the Right and Left Banks of this river. There are over 37 bridges across Paris connecting these two banks and each bridge is a piece of art. Somewhere in the 1990s, both the Rive Gauche and Rive Droite (Left bank and right bank – yes, it is me showing off my French prowess ;-P) were converted into UNESCO heritage sites owing to the rich history that exists along this bank.
Given this background, it is no wonder that one of the most recommended things to do in Paris is to take a cruise along the River Seine. There are numerous cruise options in Paris, including some that allow you to spend a day, have a meal or two and take a tour of Paris. Owing to our schedule, we took the one that just allowed us to glide along the river for around an hour, without any option of hopping off. The cruise had an audio tour and that really helped us enjoy the lovely sights along the way.
While the cruise did add to the lovely experience of discovering the Banks of River Seine but it just wasn’t the cruise that makes me want to go back and experience the River Seine. There were lots of other reasons why I love the experience and some of them are just hard to explain. Among the ones that I can pin-point, here are 5 –
I did not get to see all the 37 bridges but among the ones I saw, I can assure you that if you are a connoisseur of art, you would be in raptures.
Each bridge has a different look and architecture. The sculptures on some of them are just so perfect, so much that as our boat passed below them, you could actually see the intricate details of the body structure of the sculptures,
We even saw the famous lock bridge, but I was so busy spotting the locks that before I could click the picture, our boat had already crossed to the other side 😀
Here is a bit of trivia for those who are curious about the Lock Bridge. the tradition of Love Locks is quite famous in Europe and is said to have originated in Serbia. Young lovers scribe their names on a lock and affix them to a fence or a gate. After they have affixed the lock, they throw away the key into a water body to signify their unbreakable love. Pont des Arts is the bridge in Paris where you will find these love locks in plenty.
I was quite amazed to see the barrage of locks that were on the Lock Bridge – so much that I wonder if one layer of the bed of the river was possibly laid with all the keys.;-)
Nonetheless, I found it quite romantic and cute. In India, we tie threads around different objects with the hope that our wishes come true, out here I guess, it is all about the locks.
2. Historic buildings
The famed Louvre that hosts the Mona Lisa, the Notre Dame and the lovely Orsay Museum are the three famous buildings that can be spotted along the cruise. Add a few more historic ones like the Grand library or La Grande Bibliotheque de la France and the Grande Palais, there is no way that you will not have an urge to stop the boat and get off to explore them.
This was that one time, when I wished the boat would just dock for a few minutes owing to technical difficulties, just enough so that I could run up the bridge to the Notre Dame and take a peek in 😉
I did not mention the Eiffel tower in the beginning as this is the start and stop point for every cruise. However, I do have to mention this – the Eiffel tower does look a lot more impressive when you see it from the middle of River Seine. Actually, come to think of it, all these historic buildings that I mention, do look impressive and inviting from the River Seine.
3. Experiencing a the culture of Paris
The artistic culture of Paris is so eminent when you cruise or walk along the river. You see some gorgeous paintings hung out by artists, some working on the pavements with their chalks and crayons and some just observing and capturing it through a sketch.
Remember to watch out for some well sculptured statues that suddenly spring to life as you walk past them. They can really startle you and actually, make you miss a heart beat.
The entire experience is quite heart-warming, especially for busy rats like us – who rarely pursue such forms of art and living as we don’t have time for it ! It is here you feel that sometimes, you just need to do what you want to do.
4. Entertainment and Food
Along the banks, there are a few bridges and dock points that have small cafes and entertainment centers for you. From open-air concerts to fun merry-go-rounds for kids, there is entertainment for everyone. I am also, told that there is an artificial beach that is rolled out later in Summer for people to have fun – lie around, lounge around on deck chairs and just build some sand castles. 🙂
Me? I experienced some lovely French wine along with Churros and French Fries (I know they are not from France, but I still love ’em.
I was there just at the beginning of summer season, early May and there was still some bit of chill around – enough for a person like me to still keep the coat on. However, with the bright sun taking away some bit of that chill, it was just fun to sit along those steps that lead to the river and bask in the warm sunlight. You can just sit there and literally do nothing and feel the time go past. And trust me, we weren’t the only ones to do so.
Tons of people – couples, groups of friends, children, sit around these banks doing exactly what we did and like I said, there are somethings that can never be explained. The feeling I got here – the calm, the serenity and the amusement is just something that I will always remember Paris for. What is more is that it isn’t weird to lie there and bask away – no one questions you, no one cares about why you are sleeping on the steps – though in those drowsy moments, just remember to keep your valuables safe 😉
I hope to do Paris again and if and when I do, spending some time on the banks of the River Seine would be on top of my things to do in Paris. This time, I would like to take a hop on and hop off cruise so that I get to experience the other dock points and actually explore those historic buildings that I saw along the way.
- Paris is accessible from all major cities of the world. Being a part of the EU, one needs a Schengen Visa to enter into Paris.
- Getting to River Seine is quite easy. You can opt for the buses that take you to the start point of a cruise – Eiffel tower or take an underground that comes up straight near the Eiffel tower. The latter is the most convenient. Here is a link to all possible transport options in Paris, along with their indicative rates.
- The best time to visit Paris is between May to September, when the weather is quite pleasant.
- Dress as per the weather. Early May may need light woolens. Wear comfortable shoes as there is plenty of walking around to be done.
- Greeting Parisiens with a Bonjour or a Bonsoir would actually be appreciated. It isn’t compulsory but it does speak well.
- Do not buy off the hawkers on the road – I mean the ones, who come up to you with painting or keychains and other knick knacks. Any hawker who does not have a stall is not permitted to sell and buying from them is considered to be illegal too.
- Keep your valuables safe – there are instances of pick-pocketing around. Take care of all your official documents and carry them with you.
- Check out the various cruise options on the net before finalizing and booking one. There are plenty of deals online and so, make the best of it. Plan and book the one that fits into your time schedule.
- Check out this option of a Paris Pass that offers you a free Seine cruise as well. This will work out well for you if you have enough days in Paris and plan to do museums and other attractions on your own.
- They say Paris by the night is a must-do. Unfortunately for me, the sun was up till midnight when I was in Paris 🙂 . However, if you do get an opportunity, you might want to consider a cruise on the river at night. 🙂
Well, what did you think of this cultural tour along the River Seine? Comment in below and let me know.