A river for a great city, the Seine!

And on another rainy gray day in my lovely Morbihan Breton let me tell you about another wonderful river of our world and the river of Paris. As often the case for me, I have written before in my blog on it but never in detail. I decided it is time to give it its due credit to the Seine river of Paris.

This is the best most glamorous river of France, and not just because it passes by Paris. In Paris is it just romantic, wonderful, great, gorgeous well you get it right! It has 37 bridges passing over it, and I have written a piece on the bridges of Paris and the Seine in general . Today Paris has 34 bridges over the Seine and 4 pedestrian walkways. The Charles-de-Gaulle bridge (1996) and the Léopold-Sedar-Senghor (1999) and Simone-de-Beauvoir (2006) footbridges are the last works built. In 2017, more than 10.5 million passengers were transported on sightseeing boats in France, 60% of which were in Ile-de-France (the region of Paris) , i.e. almost 7.5 million passengers. One in two customers is a foreigner.

More into Paris proper, the Seine cuts Paris in its midst even if the right bank(rive droite)  occupies a space more important than the left bank( rive gauche). In Paris, its length occupies nearly 13 km, with a depth varying between 3.40 and 5.70 meters. Its width varies from 30 to 200 meters. The normal holding of the reach of Paris, i.e. the altitude of the surface in relation to the sea level, is about 27 meters.


In Paris, the floods are measured since 1876 by a hydrometric scale installed at the Pont d’Austerlitz  (Austerlitz Bridge) , nevertheless it is the statue of the Zouave of the Pont d’Alma (Alma bridge) which remains the most popular. This indicator during the flood of January 1910, water reached on this scale the record height of 8.68 meters ( I guess an ecological disaster but we never heard anything much of it ::)) . Since 1870, the height is taken at the train station Austerlitz. Although there have been no larger floods in the last sixty years, five large floods occurred in the 20C: in 1910, 1920, 1924, 1945 and 1955. The oldest known floods of the Seine were narrated by Julien (358AD) and Grégoire de Tours (582AD ). The next  modern one in May to June 2016, the Seine experienced an important flood. The water level peaks at 6.10 meters on the night of June 3 to 4. It’s the biggest flood in Paris for over 30 years. However, it does not exceed the 6.18 meters of the 1982 flood.  The last one of 2018 recorded 5,86 m on January 28 at 22h30.  And certain transport infrastructures, in particular the RER C are submersible in the event of a major flood.


A bit of history I like

The Seine river would have captured the old course of the Bièvre river from the Pont d’Austerlitz to the Pont de l’Alma. The two rivers would have swept the silts that separated them between the current train stations of Lyon and Austerlitz and the arm of the Seine east of the current Marais district was gradually filled. The current confluence of the Bièvre and the Seine was thus formed east of the Sainte-Geneviève hill in a delta marsh between two arms of the Bièvre leading to the location of the current bridges of the l’Archevêché and Austerlitz . After having wandered, the confluence would have established itself upstream from the Pont d’Austerlitz.

The pillar of the Nautes, kept at the Musée national du Moyen Âge des Thermes de Cluny in Paris, reminds us that navigation on the Seine was already intensive in the first years of the Roman conquest. In 1170 the corporation of water merchants received from King Louis VII the monopoly of commerce on the Seine. On their seal is the boat which is still in the coat of arms of the city of Paris.   In August 9, 1803, experimentation of Robert Fulton’s steamboat was done on the Seine. The first bateaux-lavoirs or laundrymat boats were anchored in the Seine in 1851, and quickly reached the hundred. The arrival of running water in Parisian buildings led to their gradual disappearance until 1937. The Line 4 of the metro was the first to cross the Seine underground, in 1908.

The Seine river in Paris today has only two real islands: the Ile de la Cité and the Ile Saint-Louis. The Ile de la Cité did not take on its present appearance until the beginning of the 17C, during the construction of the Pont Neuf, on the occasion of which the Islets of the Gourdaine, aux Juifs, and des Vaches. Île Saint-Louis was originally called Notre-Dame when it was cut in half by a canal in the middle of the 14C. As a result, the upstream islet took the name of Ile aux Vaches and the downstream islet kept the name of Notre-Dame. The two islands only regained their unity in the first years of the 17C, and then became a new residential area. The name of Saint-Louis was given to it in 1725, replaced by that of Fraternity during the French revolution.


Today, the Seine river no longer provides drinking water to Parisians, since the surface water used comes from Evry and Orly, far upstream. About 240  bouquinistes ( booksellers)  have settled on the banks of the Seine, right bank as left bank, since the 17C with varying fortunes depending on the period. Fixed barges or péniches are also the place of residence of certain Parisians. On the banks of the Seine, there are many walks, as well as, on certain portions of both the right bank and the left bank, a expressway for motor vehicles. In the fall of 2012, the right bank lane was redeveloped to make the waterfront accessible to pedestrians. Since the spring of 2013, the lower track on the left bank from the Musée d’Orsay to the Pont de l’Alma has been redeveloped into a pedestrian zone equipped with various facilities such as benches, game tables, restaurants, floating gardens, pools, etc.   Since the summer of 2002, for a little over a month each year, the Paris Plages operation has hosted various events in the middle of sandy beaches and potted trees.

Some webpages to help you understand and plan your trip to the Seine river of Paris, of course!

Calculation of fluvial itinerary in France including the Seine. Par exemple Paris 7éme to Rouen Normandy the traject will be 239,29 km done in 16 hours 13 minutes passing by 6 écluses or levies. More info here in French: http://www.vnf.fr/calculitinerairefluvial/app/Main.html

The Seine in the city of Paris: https://www.paris.fr/pages/la-seine-2406

Several boat companies running trips in Paris: https://en.parisinfo.com/discovering-paris/major-events/love-in-paris-romantic/romantic-getaway/cruise-on-the-seine

The Seine river is a Parisian and many visitors passion. Just coming over to see the water flows from the bridges and banks is sublime me think. Angling is a great pleasure, watching those who fish is still a Parisian satisfaction. And one big hint, do you know the Seine helps you drive in Paris even without a GPS?

One big reason Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, a movable feast indeed. Hope you enjoy the post as I did.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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