4-40-400: 4th of July-40 Years of Friendship-400 Years Old
When was the last time you took a boat ride on the Seine? If you’re not a resident, but a regular visitor to Paris, then likely not all that long ago. But for a resident? It’s like going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It just isn’t done anymore. But, guess what? It’s fun, even for jaded Parisians (such as myself)!
A friend of 40 years (we hate to admit!) came to Paris with her 40 students from Florida State University who are studying Retail Merchandising and Product Development. She and I worked together in the early ’70s for Levi Strauss & Company’s chain of outlet stores (that no longer exist) called “Goofs,” “Boo Boo’s” (Canada) and “It’s.” Amazingly, we have stayed in touch all these years along with a few others from the same team who were held together like glue by our charismatic, energetic and wildly innovative boss, whom we still see every now and then.
The girls from Florida State University were beautiful! Dressed to kill and made up almost theatrically (French girls never wear so much make-up!), they glowed in that ‘all American’ way with their long clean coiffed blonde hair, tan clear skin, sparkling white perfectly straight teeth and bright smiles. Americans are easy to spot for these reasons — no other nationality takes such good care of their personal selves.
Dinner with my old friend the night before was aborted by one of the student’s emergency health problem rendering them both in the emergency room of one of the city’s hospitals till the wee hours of the morning. To make up for that loss of our time together, I joined them on a cruise of one of the many Bateaux Parisiens — something I hadn’t done in at least 15 years!
Bateaux Parisiens is just one of the several companies that cruise the Seine carrying tourists. As the boat takes its one hour glide down river, turning around the Ile Saint-Louis and mooring back near the Eiffel Tower, one passes dozens of others, including elegant parties on private yachts, dinner cruise boats, police patrol boats, barges and houseboats.
The perspective of Paris from the water is quite different than from the quays or bridges. Besides the fact that you are looking UP at the buildings you normally see from a distance, there is life along the river’s edge of which you don’t normally get a glimpse. Friends are picnicking, lovers are kissing, homeless are camped and people are living in and dining atop the the houseboats moored along the quays.
The boat passes under many of the bridges crossing the Seine. As we slid under “Pont Neuf,” we couldn’t help but recall that while it’s called the “New Bridge,” it’s actually more than 400 years old and is the OLDEST bridge in the city. (Visit this fun site about the bridges of Paris)
The tourists that filled the Bateaux Parisien to capacity were from every conceivable country. No telling how many different languages were spoken on board. Cameras were snapping right and left. Two women directly behind us (speaking a Slavic language) made no effort to curb their enthusiasm for picture-taking, leaning well onto our necks and over the edges of our seats to achieve just the right shots…without once apologizing or even acknowledging our presence. We just lightly chuckled, shrugged our shoulders and moved aside for them.
While the Bateaux Mouches is the most well-known, Bateaux Parisiens runs a public service called “Batobus.” This is a fleet of eight vessels designed for passenger transport along the Seine in Paris much like a city bus. It makes stops at the Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Notre Dame, Jardin des Plantes, Hôtel de Ville, Musée du Louvre and the Champs-Elysées every 30 minutes (15 minutes in peak season) from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. November through March, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. March to November, but during July and August the service is extended to 7:30 p.m. You can buy a pass for a day, or several days starting at €15 and the tickets give you access to the OpenTour buses and their 50 stops.
To celebrate the Fourth of July later this evening, we won’t be cruising the Seine, but we will be picnicking along the edge and watching the boats and all the happy cruising tourists (and a few Parisians) go by.
For more information, visit the following sites:
Happy Independence Day! And coming next week…Les Bals des Pompiers and Bastille Day!
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
(with Friend of 40 Years, Judy Miler)
P.S. Don’t miss Parler Paris Après Midi Tuesday, July 10th from 3 to 5 p.m. Upstairs at La Pierre du Marais (corner of rue des Archives and rue de Bretagne, 3rd) when guest speaker, Timothy Smith, author and screenwriter discusses “Real life experiences that made a book.” Visit Parler Paris Après Midi for more information.