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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Tour Paris by Boat - Seine River Cruise

Paris is a dreamy city.  Actually, it's a gilded, ornate, historic, romantic, beautiful, river bound dreamy city.  

You hear about it all the time, about just how beautiful and magical of a city it is.   And then you step off the plane and onto the train and after about 40 minutes, you are there - walking along with this iconic city that pulses along the river.  

During the day it's blue skies and sidewalk cafes and statues.  But at night - it comes alive - the River Seine being the epicenter.  People pack picnics and drink wine with their legs dangling over the riverbank; they dance, they walk hand in hand and they kiss.  It's the kind of city you need to experience for yourself, walking over symbolic bridges, strolling with a baguette past historic buildings many of which now house beautiful museums, and sipping wine along one of the thousand street cafes.  Baguettes, historic buildings, and ornate bridges - welcome to Paris.  

Walking over one of Paris' 37 bridges

One of my unexpected favorite parts about Paris was the bridges.  Lucky for me, there was no shortage of bridges to gawk over.  Thirty-seven to be exact.  Some are gilded while some are decorated with ornate sculptures, but they all have interesting names and a story behind their construction.  Some of the bridges were built for World Fairs, some were built to symbolize relations with other countries, and some were built for the people themselves.  Walk over the bridges and along the river Seine and it's easy to imagine Paris back in the day of World Fairs and War.  It may be obvious but one of the best ways to see these bridges is by boat.  So how did I start my stay in Paris? With a trip down the Seine of course.  

Thankfully, I have a few friends who love Paris and they gave me some favorites for this trip to France. With so many boat tours along the Seine, I was happy to have some guidance in the boat tour department. And so, today's recommendation (and now mine) is from Jill.

Vedettes du Pont Neuf

So before I get into everything I loved about Paris, what you should see, and what you need to eat, we are going to talk about this boat cruise because it was good.  So good, we went back to do it again at night.  Because Paris during the day is lovely, but it is something special at night. 

W h i c h   C r u i s e   C o m p a n y ?
There are many, and I mean many options for Seine River Cruises in Paris.  Thankfully, Jill saved me from a lot of research and recommended a tour company to me, Vedettes du Pont Neuf.   We went with the one-hour tour, purchasing tickets online to save a few euros.  If you don't like to plan, you can just show up at the dock and hop on the next tour, offered every half hour.  There is a guide pointing out all the famous sights and offering tidbits on some of Paris' famous sights along the Seine.

After taking the tour twice because we liked it so much (once during the day, and once at night) I can see why this tour comes highly recommended.  It is an easy location to get to, has an amazing price, convenient times, smaller boats that are NOT swamped with people, and great guides.  I can't compare this to other guides on the river, but again, we loved it so much we went twice.

There are bathrooms right at the port, as well as a bar and option to purchase a beverage for your tour.  Picture Paris by night on a Seine River Cruise with a glass of champagne...

G e t  T h e r e 
The cruise departs from Paris’ oldest bridge, the Pont-Neuf
Vedettes du Pont Neuf, Square du Vert Galant 75001 Paris

By RER: get off at the Châtelet ou St-Michel stop
By Metro : get off at the Pont Neuf (M°7), Louvre (M°1) or Cité (M°4) stops
By Bus : N° 27, 72, 74, 75, 58, 67, 70
By Car/Parking: Palais de Justice ou Louvre

T i c k e t s / P r i c e s 

There are various tours available with this company and the price for the one-hour guided tour I am recommending depends on how you purchase your tickets. The prices below are for the standard one-hour tour.

Online Open Ticket (bought online for any time): 12 euros ($13 dollars)
Online Advantage Ticket (bought online for a specific time): 10 euros
Ticket at the gate (bought on-site for the next tour): 14 euros

T h e   T o u r 

The tour group has an excellent mobile app and also offers an e-guide where excerpts are included below. 

Louvre - The largest museum in Paris, originally used as a fortress in the 12th century and was turned into a museum in 1973.  It is now the second-largest museum in the world after the Hermitage. Its collections consist of 35,000 works of art, which are displayed in about 16 kilometers (about 10-miles) of galleries.  Inside the museum, you can admire the Mona Lisa, the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Venus of Milo, the Victory of Samothrace and many others. Even if you only spent three seconds looking at each work of art, it would take you three months to see everything in the museum.

Invalides Hotel - at the end of the esplanade, you will find the gilded dome of the Hotel des Invalides.  It houses the tomb of the Emperor Napoleon.

Royal Bridge - one of the oldest bridges in the city - the Royal Bridge. It is called the Royal Bridge because it was a gift to the people from the Sun King, Louis the 14th, as he wanted to make up for the expensive building work of Versailles.

Passing Musée d'Orsay, Orsay Museum

Orsay Museum - it is actually the old Orsay train station, which was built for the world fair in 1900 (there was also a worlds fair 1n 1855 and 1889).  You can read the letters P and O, which stand for Paris and Orléans, the name of the train company which built the former station in 1900. It was turned into a museum in the 1980’s in order to house works of 19th century art. Inside the museum you can admire works by impressionists such as Renoir, Gauguin, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh and numerous others.

Traveling under Pont Alexandre III - the Alexander the Third Bridge 

Alexander the Third bridge - often considered as the most beautiful bridge in Paris. It was built for the World Fair in 1900.  It celebrates FrancoRussian friendship, which is why you can see in the middle the gilded coat of arms of St Petersburg, flanked by two statues symbolizing the Russian river, the Neva.

Concorde Bridge - a symbolic bridge because it was built with the stones from the Bastille prison after it was destroyed during the French Revolution in 1789.  It leads on the left to the Bourbon Palace, which houses the French Parliament, and on the right is the Place de la Concorde. 

Pont Neuf Bridge 

Pont Neuf - the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine, built between 1578 and 1607.  Some 381 sculptures of "mascarons" (heads of forest and field divinities from the Antique mythology, various libertines and woodlanders) decorate each stone bracket of the bridge.

Invalides Bridge  - celebrates the victories and the battles of Napoleon; the boat represents victories on the seas, the cannon victories on land.  The bridge was started in 1821, however, cracks started to appear in parts of the bridge as it was settling, and the project was totally abandoned even before the Pont des Invalides bridge was opened to traffic.  A completely new designed suspension bridge was built and moved further along the channel.

Modern Bridge of Alma - This bridge was rebuilt in the 1970’s, which is why it is now called the modern Bridge of Alma.  On its right-hand side the famous sculpture called the Zouave can still be seen. Parisians used to measure the level of the river by this statue; in 1910 (during the great floods) the water reached its neck, while in June 2016 it came up to its belt.

France's Famous Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower - the most famous monument in Paris.  It was presented at the world fair in 1889 to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution.  We owe this work of art to Gustave Eiffel. It is 1,000 feet high and weighs 10,000 tons. For a long time it was the highest monument in the world.  You can visit the Eiffel Tower every day, all year round, until 11:00 at night, and till midnight during summer.  It is repainted every seven years - about 60 tons of paint are required and the restoration lasts for three years.  An interesting fact is that Parisians didn’t like it at all when it was built. They found it really ugly, and they were afraid the tower would collapse.  Originally, the Eiffel Tower was built for 20 years but it was saved from demolition in 1906 when they put a radio and television antenna on the top. Classified as a historical monument, the Eiffel tower is now the best-known French symbol around the world.  You must, and I mean must see it at night, sparkling on the hour.  

Tokyo Palace - which was built for the world fair in 1937.  It now houses the Modern Art Museum, with fantastic exhibition rooms and a night club.

The Flame of Liberty (Flamme de la Liberté)

The Flame of Liberty / Gilded Flame - an exact copy of the flame from the Statue of Liberty in New York.  It was a gift from the United States to France, symbolizing friendship between the two countries. But since the death of Lady Diana, most people think it’s a memorial dedicated to her.

American Church - the first one built outside of the United States, in 1931. Its stained glass windows were created by Tiffany, the famous jeweler. 

Grand Palace - was built for the world fair in 1900. Don’t miss its impressive glass roof - it weighs 8,500 tons, almost as much as the whole Eiffel Tower, which if you remember weighs 10,000 tons. They used to organize car and horse races inside; today they still organize horse races, together with major exhibitions and some of the shows in the fashion week.

 Paris Bridges at Night

Paris is a city packed full of so much history.  From Wars to World Fairs, there is so much to learn about this city and a Seine River Cruise is where you should start.  While the tour was lovely by day, it was surreal at night.  All the bridges and buildings are lit up and the river Seine comes to life at night.  Dancers, bands, parties and food trucks can all be found here bringing life to the riverbanks of Paris.  There is a lot to see in Paris and a boat tour is a perfect way to rest your feet after all that city walking, learn about the history of the city, and get your bearings in France's capital city.  

So much more Paris fun coming your way. 

Happy Cruising,

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