Paris Sightseeing – Seine River Cruise
Pictures and visuals of the River Seine bursting its banks and inundating the streets of Paris grabbed my attention earlier this year. News reports indicated that mercifully the rains had stopped short of another disaster, evoking memories of the floods of 1910.
My mind flew back in time to a rainy evening in Paris. The rain-washed roads glistened as the sun peeped out timidly from behind dark clouds. We turned and craned our necks upwards to take another look at ‘La dame de fer‘, the iron lady. We had just emerged from a lift that had taken us all the way up the Eiffel Tower and then brought us back to the ground, after a feasting on the breathtaking panoramic views of Paris.
We now made our way towards a nearby pier from where we would board a boat that would take us on a cruise of the river Seine. A cruise on the Seine was one of the things that we simply wanted to experience, the other was a road trip to explore the beauty of the French countryside.
We clambered onto the boat with hardly any waiting and soon we were off. We took vantage window seats near the door to experience the river as closely as possible. Each seat was equipped with a headphone and commentaries in English, French, and other languages were available. The commentary was very effective in bringing alive the history and romance of the various buildings and structures that dotted both sides of the river.
We watched in awe the beautiful Parisian landscape as we gently glided in the tranquil waters of the Seine.
It was thrilling to glide under the bridges that span the river. There is a total of 32 bridges across the river. Many of this bridges are masterpieces of sheer artistry. They are adorned with magnificent statues and sculptures.
We looked back and saw the Eiffel Tower looming iconically in the Parisian skyline. As the water of the Seine gently flowed beneath our boat, we glided past the Musée d’Orsay which lay majestically on the left bank of the Seine. The Museum stretched so long across the left bank, it looked like the exterior of a European railway station. We later found out that the Musée d’Orsay was indeed originally a railway station, Gare d’Orsay. In fact, it had been a terminus for Southwestern railways till 1939. The people in the railway station those days could not have imagined in their wildest dreams, that the station would one day house the masterpieces of great artists.Today the museum is a treasure trove of French art and includes paintings, sculptures, furniture and photography. Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin are some of the masters whose work adorn the museum.
The boat gently weaved its way past the Musée d’OrsayMusée .We peered at the waters of the Seine that had assumed a golden sheen reflecting the colors of twilight. What a setting for the products of the imaginative genius of extraordinary men and women, we thought.
The Conciergerie had assumed a benign hue and looked serene and elegant, bathed by the colors of the setting sun. The commentary painted a different picture as it took us through the history of this building. The Conciergerie which currently housed law courts was once a prison. From this very building prisoner in hundreds were shepherded to the guillotines across various parts of Paris. The building that looked so serene and elegant housed dingy dungeons underneath which was once packed with humanity who were a few steps away from a horrible death. Some of the famous prisoners who had stayed in the Conciergerie when it was a prison included the likes of Marie Antoinette, Charlotte Corday, and Madame Du Barry among others.
The boat sailed past the Conciergerie and as we turned around to take one more look at this elegant building we could almost hear the desperate wails and shrieks as men and women were herded to the guillotines like lambs to the slaughter. We involuntarily pulled our jackets closer as a shiver ran through our bodies.
The boat then moved on its course and soon we set our eyes on the southern facade of one of the most well-known church buildings in the world, the Notre-Dame. The Notre-Dame is ranked among the best examples of French Gothic architecture, and it looked ethereal in the soft fading light of the evening. The mere sight of the Notre-Dame evoked a strange calm in our minds and we stared at this hallowed building which housed treasures like the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and the Holy Nails.
We looked at a couple sitting on a bench on the banks of the Seine, drowned in the unfathomable depths of each others’ eyes, another couple walked hand in hand, gazing at the flowing Seine. We looked at each other and smiled. We were sure that those magical moments would be frozen in time and memory for those couples as well as for us.
The boat took a turn and we headed back towards the Eiffel Tower. We again passed below gilded bridges now brightly lit up and shining like necklaces caressing beautiful necks. Soon the Eiffel Tower came into sight and we let off a collective sigh at the beauty that was framed in the horizon. The Eiffel Tower was illuminated and it shone with the radiance of a bride all made up and ready for her wedding. The Eiffel Tower stood erect, bright and resplendent, an icon of romance, peace, liberty and fraternity. An icon to all that is beautiful and lovely in the World.
Do check out our short video of Seine River Cruise:
We got off the boat, our minds still relieving the serene experience of the Seine and we knew that this experience was something unique and something that had really touched our hearts.
We were now ready for our next adventure in France and eager to plan our French road trip.
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