I no longer live in Paris but I still have a lot of pictures of Paris to share, including those from a cruise on the Canal St Martin!
Even though I am a born and raised Parisian, from the north of Paris (the 18th arrondissement), I have rarely set foot around the Canal St Martin growing up. The place had a bad reputation and was a little neglected when I was younger. But since, the area has grown and is now very trendy.
I have my favorite places in Paris, and stuck in my habits I tend to always go to my favorites rather than discovering new things. I tried to change that during the almost year I spent in Paris between two expatriations between the summer 2016 and the spring 2017.
My mother had found cheap tickets on the Internet for a cruise on the Canal St Martin (to be clear, this is not a sponsored post).
After much hesitation about which day to pick, the amount of sunshine we wanted and the direction of the cruise (Villette – Bastille or Bastille – Villette) we finally chose a Saturday, with lots of sun, and to go from Villette to Bastille to follow the logical direction of the canal. The photos are super sunny because the cruise happened in August!
The first part of the cruise: the Canal de la Villette
The meeting point for the Canal St Martin cruise is at the Jaurès metro station, which made the news quite a few times as its aerial metro bridge was a refuge for migrants. That summer, the atmosphere was a bit strange there, crossing the crossroads is like going from one world to another. We choose the side of life, walkers, Paris Plage and the colorful banks. The inscriptions on the front of the MK2 cinema take on another dimension.
We were early: I’m having fun with my new camera before going to exchange our electronic vouchers for paper tickets. We got in line early enough to get a good seat on the deck. The boat leaves on time, to the rhythm of the explanations of a guide who distills jokes and cultural anecdotes.
The Canal de la Villette is the one that runs along the 19th arrondissement to the Cité des Sciences – Parisian kids do a LOT of school trips there.
The quays of the Canal de la Villette have a life of their own, the district is developing to the rhythm of gentrification. I don’t quite know what to think of it. Putting statues will definitely attract Sunday walkers, but Paris is not developing at the same pace and in the same way everywhere.
The Canal St Martin
After this cruise, I went back to spend some time on the St Martin canal, on foot this time. I photographed the murals, had a few drinks there, found a Paris that I really liked.
The Canal St Martin cruise goes through four locks, which is why we spend 2h30 on the water: this system takes time! The canal is in fact leveled, the boat enters a sort of closed basin with doors, the water empties so it goes down with the current. It’s like a boat lift.
The cruise is pleasant, the boat passes in front emblematic places (including the Hôtel du Nord) and it’s slow enough to allow you to observe passers-by, quietly living their lives.
Towards the Quai de l’Arsenal
There, the cruise of the Canal St Martin suddenly changes and the boat goes under an underground passage. The end of the canal which leads to the Bastille and the Quai de l’Arsenal is actually a tunnel two kilometers long!
There are natural skylights, the streets are above our heads, it’s a bit surreal, I didn’t think such a development existed in Paris. We can even see a crypt, which was used to bury the dead of the revolutions of 1830 and 1848.
Since then, this underground has been made famous by the latest Mission Impossible film with Tom Cruise.
It was a fascinating outing, a cruise as interesting as it was instructive, thanks to a guide who comments on the route.
Tickets cost around twenty euros (but they are often on sale on various sites, including the official Canauxrama site) and it’s a good way to discover an unusual Paris!