(52) The Rivers Marne, Seine, Oise and Paris with Kate – Early August 2013.

We spent the next few days at Vaires-sur-Marne enjoying our peaceful mooring in the weir stream and the slightly cooler temperatures.

We took the opportunity to recce the next part of our travels in the car, unsure of what (if any) moorings lay ahead. Our friends Louise and Alex (Riccall), and Sally and Mike (Chouette) had highlighted possible spots for us, but ‘forewarned is forearmed’ and we weren’t sure how busy they would be.

Vaires-sur-Marne is only twenty minutes by train from Paris, so I took a day trip while Peter stayed on board repairing the generator’s expensive water hose which had sprung another leak and the front loo which had stopped working (again!)

The old station clock.

 Looking over Paris through the clock at the other end of the station.

The train took me into Paris Est from where I caught the metro to The Louvre and walked to the Musee d’Orsay on the Left Bank. I enjoyed the morning there – especially the Impressionist galleries on the 5th floor.

I had decided on an itinerary for the day rather than wandering around as I usually do. Another metro ride took me to the oddly named ‘Stalingrad’ and a pleasant walk along the Canal St Martin from the trendy looking Villette Basin to the tunnel in the south. I bought a filled baguette for lunch and enjoyed a ‘busman’s holiday’ while I ate it at a lock. Several attractive iron bridges crossed the canal and it was busy with picnickers.

Canal St. Martin and Villette Basin.

Unfortunately, at this point, I decided to walk to my next ‘sight’- The Pere Lachaise Cemetery, instead of taking the metro. By now it was very hot and although not too far away, I had failed to consider the size of the cemetery when I eventually arrived there.

A cemetery may seem like a strange place to visit, but this one has several famous people buried there as well as many of the past Paris Bourgeoisie. I also vaguely remembered reading about it in my distant A’ Level French Lit days (shudder!!). I entered the nearest gate and was immediately surprised by the number of visitors surrounding the large map. A brief look at the map made me realise that my quest might be slightly harder than I had anticipated as the cemetery is huge and the plots numerous. However, my Paris guide inferred that the ‘famous’ plots were easy to find and I ventured forth. Chopin’s plot was out of bounds owing to a tree having come down in the wind. Sarah Bernhardt’s was somewhere in a section of about fifty. I even asked French couple to help as they had a large plan of the cemetery and all its plots and they waved me in the right direction. After several more minutes I gave up – my guide book wasn’t up to the task.

Oscar Wilde.

Edith Piaf.

Increasingly thirsty, my water bottle having dried up long since, I was just about to leave when I spotted a group of people heading purposefully along the path. I followed them and found Oscar Wilde’s grave which was surrounded by ‘lipstick kiss’ covered glass. They also led me to that of Edith Piaf. Honore de Balzac’s and Jim Morrison’s remained elusive and my increasing thirst led me to the nearest bar where I asked for a beer and a glass of water. The beer was expensive and the water scarce…..only a thimble full….well it was Paris I suppose.

Suitably refreshed and rested, I returned to the barge where Peter was fishing having successfully made the necessary repairs.

The next morning, we decided to return the short distance to Lagny-sur-Marne with its electrics, to await the arrival of my sister Kate later that day. We were surprised that there was only one cruiser on the pontoon when we moored up, although later three traditional wooden sailing dinghies arrived containing several young Germans who had ‘sailed’ down the river together.

The temperature soared again (38C on a Pharmacy sign in the town) and it was still hot and sunny when Kate arrived just after 9pm. We enjoyed a late supper on deck and sat up until 2am enjoying the cool night air as we chatted and drank ice cold rose wine.

We relaxed the next day it being too hot to do much. Kate and I walked up to the market and she bought some more of the giant prawns we had enjoyed previously.

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Kate at Lagny-sur-Marne market.

A slightly cooler day was welcome as we left Lagny-sur-Marne and cruised down to the pontoon just below the lock at Vaires-sur-Marne. Kate and I did a Lidl shop before dropping the car up to the station and walking back to the barge.

The rest of the day was spent cruising along the Marne, through the tunnel at Joinville and along to Creteil. The pontoon we had chosen was free of boats but busy with fishermen who took some persuading to move their rods. ‘Might’ was right in this instance and we were soon moored up and having a late lunch.

 The tunnel at Joinville

Kate and I then cycled off to explore the nearby Bois de Vincennes (huge and once a royal hunting park) leaving Peter to befriend the fishermen. Neither bicycle was in tip top condition as we have neglected them rather so far this year. Peter’s gears slip and mine got a flat tyre just as we were returning- within walking distance of the barge, fortunately.

Early evening, Peter caught a reasonable catfish which excited the fishermen as they had only caught a small bream so far. They were delighted when he gave it to them and were soon enjoying it for their supper! It turned out that they were Rumanian builders who had been working nearby and were now on holiday. They were relaxing by the river and catching their food. Later on, one of them went in for a swim and kept making weird ‘Flipper-like’ squawks before joining us on deck for a one-sided ‘Pigeon–French’ conversation.

All smiles now I’ve provided their evening meal !

During the night the buzzing of their rod alarms awoke me several times and when all four went off together, Peter went out to investigate and just saved them from losing the lot!

Despite our disturbed night, we were up and away quite early for our cruise through Paris on the River Seine. We passed the now empty mooring opposite the huge Pagoda Hotel and Restaurant where the Rivers Marne and Seine meet.

Entering the River Seine.

Soon after, we arrived outside the entrance to the ‘Arsenal’ and the Pont de Sully which is controlled by traffic lights. Unfortunately, our timing was not great as we had to wait at least twenty minutes for the green one. Meanwhile, several huge Bateaux Mouches swept past us in various directions as Peter fought to keep us in position and out of harm’s way.

Eventually, the lights changed and we headed off once again. Cruising through Paris was a great experience for us all, although Peter missed many of the sights as he was busy concentrating on the traffic and numerous bridges. Kate and I (clad in compulsory life jackets) stayed on deck taking lots of photos. All too soon we were passing the Eiffel Tower and the small Statue of Liberty as we left central Paris behind us.

Towards Notre Dame Cathedral.

A fine day to go through Paris.

Not that I had much time to take in the scenery as I was too busy dodging bridges and Bateaux Mouches !

Illuminations !

We had been warned that it would take a good day’s cruising to get through Paris to a possible mooring, so we were pleased to arrive at the pretty quay at Croissy-sur-Seine late afternoon. Soon afterwards we were enjoying a jug of Pimms on deck in the evening sunshine and reflecting on all we had seen.

 

An Impressionist’s view, Croissy-sur-Seine and Pimms o’clock !

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Captain needs a rest.

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 Cheers !

Croissy-sur-Seine is a lovely spot on the right bank, famed for being popular with the Impressionist artists (as much of the Seine and Oise seem to have been). It also had an RER station which Kate would need for her return to Charles de Gaulle Airport two days later. As we were so close to Paris, we took a day trip in, enjoying coffee in Montmartre and lunch on the Isle de la Cite near Notre Dame Cathedral. We then took the train back to Vaires-sur –Marne, picked up the car and drove back to the barge. Our trip had taken us from the NE of Paris to the SE Paris and back by various means of transport with a spot of sightseeing en route.

Girls day out in Paris.

 Enjoying a stroll to Montmartre.

The tourist trail.

 Foot relief !

We had thoroughly enjoyed our few days together and managed to fit in quite a bit. Our experience of cruising through Paris was superb, but made us realise that the plan to return and do the same with the rest of the family was not really viable.

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