PARIS - City of contrasts


To greet the Spring in Paris – a magical teenage dream you´d never think would come true … and here we are.  Quite fantastic! The feeling when we chugged past the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower in our own boat is indescribable. Everything we have seen and experienced in Paris during these months will always be with us.

 The journey here reminds me of the story about the race between the hare and the tortoise. It was a sprint race where the hare thought himself sure of winning. The tortoise took it in his stride and accepted the challenge. Who do you think won? The tortoise, of course. The hare rushed along, stopped and panted and carried on until he collapsed just in front of the finishing line. The tortoise caught up and calmly crossed the line.

 The hare can be compared to the rat-race we have been in before and after we left Sweden and eventually reached Paris. The tortoise can be compared to our souls finally catching up with us. What a wonderful place to settle down in and feeling balance in your lives! And spending this time in a boat in the middle of Paris – what could be better?

 Below we are describing a little of what we have seen and experienced from our point of view. The very best thing you could do, if you have the opportunity, is to see and experience Paris yourselves. We can thoroughly recommend it!



The city of love and romance


Can you find love and romance anywhere else? Well yes, we would like to say that. Even in Alingsås and Southwick – our respective home towns. But here in Paris you can sense the feeling all the time and you see it everywhere. When the French people greet each other it is all about physical contact – you kiss each other on the cheeks.




There is a lot of kissing everywhere and people are not afraid of showing their feelings. An example: We were buying anti-freeze at a superstore and were looking for the right department. I went around a corner and encountered a couple in a passionate embrace kissing each other as if there were no tomorrow. A bit embarrassed I said “Pardon”, but they took no notice. “How wonderful!”, I thought as the lady readjusted her grey hair and clothing. The couple were in their 70-ies I would say…


No picture as I do not see myself as a paparazzi!!


Paris has been a cultural centre through the centuries within different fields, e.g. art, theatre, literature, etc. Works of all kinds have been created to describe love in its´ different shapes. The structure of the city, with all the parks and different paths, create opportunities for romantic walks in harmonious environments. I am now describing the centre of Paris – not the high-rise ghettoes of the suburbs. The conditions are somewhat different there…



   Batignolles Park


There are a lot of flower shops in Paris and a lot of flowers are sold.  There are also a lot of shops with perfume, etc., but more of this below.



   Flower shop




Have we been affected by all this? Hmm, we have to admit that we have become more romantic. On one hand we have more time and on the other you get affected by the environment. I am not complaining, mind you! J





  Raija & Mike in front of the Louvre



What about the love and concern of our fellow man? Now we are talking politics, which we were not going to do, but the fact is there are a lot of homeless people around. They sleep under the bridges, along the pavements, on the ventilation systems where the hot air is blowing. People seem to accept this. They just walk past them or occasionally give them some change. There are a lot of beggars here as well, but these seem more organized in their “work”.






When we first got here there were violent riots in the suburbs. We haven´t seen any ourselves. In fact we have not seen any violence at all during our visit – on the contrary we have felt quite safe during our strolls around the place.






   Police station- not hotel

Magnificent buildings/monuments


And we have strolled a lot. Several hours every day. It has been most interesting to see the buildings (we have naturally not seen all of them) and we have also ventured into some of them.

We have, of course, seen the most famous ones, i.e. the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Arch the Triumph, Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur.


   Sacre Coeur




We  went into Victor Hugo´s home at the Place des Vosges. Free to go in, but the audio guide cost €5. Well worth the money for a very interesting personal history and a description of the times when he lived.





   Place de Vosges

We also recommend a visit to the Bibliothéque National de France Francois Mitterand. A very exclusive building with a forest in the middle of it. Inside there was an exhibition of Coronellis fantastic globes from the 17th century. They were created for Louis XIV, 384 cm in diameter and weighed 2 ton.  Amazing!



  Coronellis globes

We visited Versailles built for Louis XIII as a hunting lodge, but renovated by Louis XIV, the Sun King, into a grand palace. We were in awe of the grandeur and riches. No wonder the people revolted.


No picture - unfortunately!


The railway stations are  magnificent buildings and were built as “temples” where the train was a sign of modern times. Here a picture of “Gare de Lyon”. 

Museum D ´ Orsay (art, e.g. Monet) has previously been a railway station.




  Gare de Lyon




You could generally say that the architecture is magnificent with a lot of statues and decorations. The thoughts go to all who have built all this beauty… See pictures in the picture gallery.





  The Opera

In the cemetery “Pere Lachaise” there are a lot of famous people buried such as Victor Hugo, Edith Piaff, Bellini, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, and several more. There are about 100 000 graves. According to a guide it costs €8000 for a place, which is only yours for 100 years. Then it is off to the “barbecue”, as he said. If you are famous you will get a permanent place as, for example Marcel Marceau, who passed away a couple of weeks ago.





  Chopin´s grave - always a lot of flowers

The architecture in the cemetery is also fascinating with its´ crypts and different decorations. From the most simple grave to the most magnificent.




  Crossroads at the cemetary





The whole of Paris is full of contrasts! The Pompidou Culture Centre looks like a building site and caused a stir in 1977 when it was completed. Here you can find culture on 7 500 m2 and in front of the centre people gather to watch street theatre and other artists exhibiting their skills. As a contrast there is The Louvre (the world´s  largest museum), where we walked around for six hours and still didn´t  see everything, with its´ 35 000 exhibits in a very traditional building. In conclusion we can say that in Paris you will find everything!


  The Pompidou centre





Here comes a few reflections from the capital of fashion. This is not going to be a fashion report on the Spring fashions for 2008, but purely very personal thoughts and speculations.

 Is there a difference between fashions in different countries and why would that be?

You will find all the big fashion designers here in Paris, which  can be seen in their shop windows. Here you can also find, for example, H&M and C&A, clothes chains from Sweden and previously England. There is in other words an opportunity to buy clothes at different prices.

How do people dress in Paris? The answer is: Very individually. This individualism you can also see in the different hair styles.  Generally I get the impression that Parisian women dress and move in a more feminine manner than, for example, the Scandinavian women.

The men dress very individually and very tastefully. During the five months we have been here I have only seen one black beret!

Mike sometimes says that “there goes a Swedish woman”. My answer is:  “How do you know that?” “Look at the hairdo, the  glasses, the clothes and how they move” – he says. I must admit that I agree. We realize we might be out of our depths now…

Has it got to do with the fight for equality? Here in France they do not abide by the principle “same pay for the same job”. Women do not earn as much as men for doing the same job. Has it got to do with femininity?    In Sweden women do not earn as much as the men either, only 80% of the man´s wage.  I am not going to claim that women in Sweden are not feminine, but there are more and more reports about unclear roles and about men in crisis situations as the women are behaving more “masculine”. Right or wrong?  Feel free to decide…

My thought on the subject is that it does not matter how you behave (masculine/feminine) when it comes to questions of equality, as it is always a question of people, i.e. men and women. What seems a bit tragic is that, in Sweden, people have lost the magic of romance as the men feel threatened in their roll as men.


In Paris there are a lot of “smell-nice-shops” with perfumes, after shaves and so on. Here we have to kill a tall tale that Frenchmen do not know what a bar of soap is used for. Completely wrong! Everybody seems to be very particular about  appearances and take good care of themselves. It isn´t often you see fat Frenchmen or -women.  Somebody declared this was due to people smoking a packet of cigarettes a day… But there was a famous fashion designer who stated that there are no ugly women – only lazy ones. You may interpret this as you wish.


Some thoughts from a middle aged couple who only really have spoken to people in the same age group! The young people seem to follow the trends spanning the whole world…







The transport system

We really have to praise the public transport system in Paris! The Metro, or the underground, is a brilliant and simple system. Furthermore it is cheap. Compared to London, where a trip between two underground stations today costs £4, it only costs €1,50 in the central parts of Paris. The local trains, RER, are also excellent.  Paris is in this case far superior. We have mainly used the underground or walked when we have been out and about.






Poster for exhibition by the brothers Lumiéres and Martin Parr.
                             Mona Lisa

We have seen the Parisians in cars, on Vespas, bikes, mopeds, rollerblades and scooters. You often see middle aged people going to work on their rollerblades. We have seen the police using the above named transport as well. We can also add horses. Other means of transport are of course buses and taxis.




  Bikes are hired and left at special collection places

We haven´t  had any problems whatsoever to get to different destinations. When we have looked lost, there has always been somebody there to ask if they could help.






Every conceivable means of transport can be found here! We even saw rickshaws outside Notre Dame…




   Notre Dame

French food


Most of the time we have cooked our own food and only gone to restaurants when our friends and family have visited (Thank you for coming! It has been fun!). In restaurants we have eaten heavenly onion soup with cheese croutons, snails (Mike) and chicken dishes (ex. Coq au Vin). We are at the moment learning more about Mediterranean cooking.







The most important thing is to have fresh ingredients and these we buy at the big market by the Place de la Bastille on Thursdays and Sundays. It is a fantastic market with stallholders shouting out their wares and a lot of things happening with people milling around. Here we have bought fish we have never seen and cooked dishes we have never tried – very nice too. Other ingredients we use more of are olive oil, garlic, herbs, etc. Fruit of all descriptions end up in the shopping basket and more of it is exotic fruits. Our waistlines have actually started to shrink…



   All kinds of fish at the market

Where people are gathering there are also different kinds of entertainment, e.g. musicians and jugglers as in this picture.



  Juggler with gold fish bowl

There are a lot of different cheeses to choose from. The French people tend to buy smaller amounts of cheese, but several different kinds. Not a big piece of cheddar that lasts a whole week like the English do. Naturally with some wine to accompany it…


  Cheese counter


Who cooks in our little household? We take it in turns, of course, as we are very equal in our relationship!  J







You can find food and ingredients from the whole world here - all you have to do is choose.





There is a lot of history in Paris which you sense in different ways. You see this in the buildings and the monuments for example. The span from a Roman Amphitheatre to the modern National Library and the Pompidou centre shows that there is a lot to explore.



  Roman Amphi- theatre

The memorials at Pere Lachaise remind us of the wars and the bad times – as is the purpose lest we forget.



The history of France and Paris is most interesting and if you want to learn more there is an abundance of literature to read.






We have been out on outings of some description everyday finding out about some interesting place. But an outing with a picnic with us has only happened twice.





  The forest of Vincennes


The first was to Bois(forest) de Vincennes. We started off walking along the “Promenade des Plantes”, which is an old railway viaduct converted to a walkway. A very restful and harmonious walk for 4,5 km to a very beautiful park.

 It was a lovely day with brilliant sunshine and a lot of people were out enjoying themselves in the park. They were jogging, cycling, walking and rowing boats on the artificial lake.


  Promenade des Plantes

The second outing was to Bois de Bologne. It was  +16oC , with brilliant sunshine and  birdsong. This forest contained more trees than Vincennes with meandering paths between them. After a lovely walk we found a nice place by the lake where we had a cup of coffee and admired the view, thinking “this is the life”.




   Bois de Bologne




Depending on what you would like to experience you could find most things here. Peace and quiet you can find in the parks and the churches, picturesque little squares where you can have a cup of coffee can be found in the historical quarters and if you would like to be more grand there is Champs Elysées with its´ shops and LIDO, just to mention a few places.




   Butte de la Montmartre

Boating people


During our visit here we have met a lot of nice people from different countries.



From Denmark/Norway we have met Troels & Anne Kirk on their catamaran “Tango”. Troels is a very accomplished artist who exhibited his paintings in a hall on Ile St. Louis, which turned out to be a very nice gathering indeed. We have linked Troels´ website to ours and if we´d had a wall somewhere we would have bought several of his paintings. Anne was writing a book, which we are looking forward to reading when it is published!


  Mike and Troels in front of my favourite


From Canada we have got to know Wallie & Lorrie with their Finnsailer “The Doolittles”.  They crossed the Atlantic with their dogs Dubonnet and Merlot.  The cat Alzheimer joined them as well. They told us very interesting things about their Atlantic crossing. We also met Holly and Alan from the USA and New Zealand traveling in Europe with their boat.



  Lorrie & Wallie from the "Doolittles"

Sandra and Don from England with their narrowboat, were a colorful feature in the harbour.  Sandra is from Yorkshire and Don from Lancashire. Very important with these differences. Think of the “War of the Roses”!


  Don - the proud owner of a narrowboat



One day we saw a Swedish boat coming through the lock and it was Stefan & Sofie with their children Olivia 3,5 and Hedvig 1,5 years old. Their boat is an Albin Vega 28 ft long. They stayed in the harbour for two weeks and then left for their journey back to Sweden.  Two days later they were back in the harbour again with engine trouble. It took a while to repair but about a week later they were on their way again. Their visit fitted in nicely with our grandchildren being here and Elizabeth´s birthday. We arranged a birthday party on our boat and had 10 people around the table! We wish Stefan & Sofie with family all the best for their journey and for the future.


  Stefan, Olivia, Hedvig and Sofie


Other people we have mainly greeted in the showers or on the quay and chatted for a while. There are a lot of French boats here with people living on them all year round and using them as permanent dwellings. They are both young and more mature people. Sometimes it has been most frustrating not knowing the language properly and being able to converse in an adequate way. You get a long way with body language, but it would have been nice to have a more in-depth talk.


  The quay

We are swapping e-mail addresses with each other, but we will see how it will work out with the contact.



The boat



We have built a new frame for the mast as we wanted to lift it up more. This way we could store more underneath the mast and also cover the boat with a tarpaulin. After almost five months, we have now removed the tarpaulin and could establish that it was black with soot and pollution which otherwise would have ended up on the canopy and deck. A good maneuver in other words.


  Mike Springcleaning

The first months we were doing a lot of insulation work. We do not have a lot of condensation problems anymore, but nonetheless we are going to look over the boat again before next winter.





As we had noticed that the engine was running a bit cold we thought this to be an excellent time to get a new thermostat. We were going to England to spend Christmas with family. This seemed to be an ideal time to pop into the marina in Brighton and buy a new thermostat. Back in Paris we found out that it did not fit. We thought this strange, sent it back and got our money back too. We were looking for a Volvo Penta dealer in Paris and after talking to the harbour master, Bruno, it transpired that he knew one. He fixed a thermostat that fitted the engine perfectly. Thank you!




   Christmas lights

The guest harbour Paris-Arsenal


Our experience of this harbour is very positive. Remarkably nice service and nothing seems too difficult to sort out for the staff. The relationship between the permanent boat dwellers and us canal travelers is very amicable.


  Guest harbour Paris-Arsenal




In January the Bastille Yacht Club organized a “Gallette”-evening for all the boats in the harbour. Gallette is a kind of pastry with a porcelain figure baked into it and the person who gets it becomes the king or queen of the evening. A lot of Gallettes were needed and there were several kings and queens. To this we drank sangria. This evening we had the opportunity to get to know other boat owners and also get more information about the harbour. The harbour changed ownership at the beginning of the year and you can see the difference already. Many improvements have started to happen, e.g. more lights on the stairs, etc.



  Gallette evening/BYC

Included in the price for the boat place is access to toilets and showers.  There are also washing machines and dryers in the shower area. Tokens can be bought at the harbour office for these. There is also an informal library where we exchange books with each other. If you stay for, say one week, electricity is included in the price.  But if you, like us, stay the winter and have a contract, you have an electricity meter which is read once a month. In the night the harbour is guarded by a dog patrol and the gates close automatically at 21.00. You get a code and a magnet key which opens the gate if you have been out.

The same key unlocks the shower area.



           The lock into the guest harbour


Big thanks and praise go to Bruno and his staff for making our stay comfortable and for helping us with all sorts of strange questions.




  Entrance to the guest harbour




Summing up

It has been very comfortable mooring in the middle of Paris, at a reasonable price, and having everything the city has to offer within easy reach. We have explored Paris, created a new social network and also learnt a lot of new things. We would love to come back here! But now, we have to admit, we feel that it is time to move on and look forward to new adventures on our way down to the Mediterranean.


Until the next time – have a wonderful Spring! J



   Place de la Bastille and plane tree

(P.S. We are still in Paris as the rivers are flooded and we cannot leave until they calm down.)