The Seine approaching Paris that afternoon was fairly busy with commercial ships. I am always surprised at just how many ships and barges load and discharge along the city's quays. Paris is still a thriving working port which is good to see. We shared a couple of the huge Seine locks with some large vessels but that was no problem. They are just in a hurry to be on their way and our rule of thumb on commercial waterways is to keep out of the way. The nearer you get to the city centre the more narrow and congested the river becomes and if you can't keep out of the way you have to try to keep up. Things start to become interesting at the Eiffel Tower which is where the many Bateaux Mouches (the trip boats) are based. The Bateaux Mouches need to turn over as many paying passengers as possible, of course, so they go at top speed. Mid afternoon, which is when we pitched up, is one of their busiest times. It is also a busy time for commercial ships.
The rule is keep to the right and the slower you are the righter you keep. Generally speaking the bridge hole on your side of the river is one way only and the one in the middle is 2 way. So there we were, passing the Musee d'Orsay going as fast as safely possible with a large, orange commercial ship close behind us and gaining. Behind him were a couple of Bateaux Mouches.The bridge arch on the right that we were heading for has 2 diamonds which means it's one way in our direction. The middle arch has one diamond meaning it can be used by either up or downstream craft and the one on the left has a no entry sign because it is reserved for traffic coming the other way. As the orange ship drew level with us we assumed he'd hold course for the middle arch but inexplicably, a paddle steamer coming in the other direction decided he was doing the same. The orange ship changed course at high speed at the last minute, passing within inches of us. Because everyone was going so fast and the banks are high stone quays there was lots of turbulent water and we were thrown about quite frighteningly. I don't now how we managed to avoid being dashed against the wall which would certainly have given all the tourists lining the bank and following in the bateaux mouches some interesting pictures. (and yes, we did have our VHF switched on to the correct channel)
We spent only a couple of days in Paris this time. The port was full but mainly with boats left for the winter. There were only a couple of visiting cruisers. Having 'done' most of the major tourist sights previously I did lots of walking instead.
|Galerie Lafayette cupola (dept store)|
There are huge numbers of homeless people in Paris. At the tourist sites there are numerous groups of men (always) selling little Eiffel Towers, bottles of water, doing 3 card tricks, attempting to tie your wrist with thread and then demanding money to release you. Children sit at the side of the road playing accordians and violins. Groups of young girls hang around the stations hassling for money for food. Pickpockets work their way through the metro. Women lie completely prostrate on the pavement, their heads covered, hands outstretched, begging. Each evening families carrying their possessions and a mattress set up home for the night on pavements metres from Parisians and tourists dining at street cafes.
|from the roof of Galerie Lafayette, Paris|
and finally, quality buskers in the Bastille Metro station.