Some gardens, but mostly boats

Paris, 9 October, 2012

I unexpectedly found some wonderful gardens today, had a conversation about crabapple tart (I think), enjoyed my first pastis on this Paris visit, and practised my French on A., the very patient friend of M-from-London. Other than that, it was a quiet day.

It’s become our habit to start the day late and today was no exception. We managed to use the washing machine to get towels washed and dried without any major mishaps, had lunch and, later in the afternoon, met M-from-London (here on a work-related conference).

Mission for the afternoon was to book tickets, if possible, for the Canal St Martin cruise from Port de L’Arsenal to Bassin de la Villette. This is a trip that has come highly recommended (thank you E.) and we are keen to do it. But it seems that, because the ‘season’ is over, this particular trip is not on offer until Friday, so we’re crossing our fingers that I’ve understood the French correctly or we may miss out.

The walk to Port de L’Arsenal, along the Seine, gave Navman many opportunities to exclaim ‘Oh look at that . . . ’ One example: a double barge, in tandem and not parallel (makes them very long, I’m told) carrying so much golden sand it looked like it was sinking. As M-from-London said, it would take just one seagull landing to sink it. (It was much lower in the water than it looks from this pic.)

Later on, at the Port de l’Arsenal, more boats: Navman estimates there were about 200 privately owned launches, peniches and other vessels of various sorts. This collection included a small fibre-glass keel boat similar to a Reactor. Its mast was nowhere in sight. There was also a Krogen 54 (an American-designed passage maker) we’d seen in St Malo a few days ago.

We also liked a white Dutch double-ended inland sea sailing barge (you can tell this is being dictated, can’t you). More than 100 years old, it was a lapstrake steel/iron construction from which the leeboards had been removed. We were discussing what a great boat it was when along came the owners. Turns out they’re permanent live-aboards from Australia, recently arrived from the Netherlands to winter over in Paris.

But for me, it wasn’t the boats that caught my interest, but the gardens along the basin. This included a row of what I think were crab apple trees. My admiration of these led to a conversation (in French) with a boat owner about how beautiful the trees were in spring with their blossom and how the ‘miniscule pommes’ were edible. I believe he said they made a tasty tart, but I may well have that wrong.

We finished the day by having an apero with M. and her friend A. (a pastis for me, love that aniseed flavour), and the opportunity to speak a little French – a most enjoyable end to what’s been a relaxed and relaxing day.

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