River cruises along the Seine – magnifique! The only word to describe the experience which has got to be on every ‘must do’ list on the planet! For there can be no better way to absorb the scenic grandeur, the culture, the romance, the glory that is France than by cruising gently along this historic river.
Millions of words have been written about the River Seine, especially when combined with Paris, France’s capital city, extolling its seductive charms and virtues and praising its timeless beauty. It’s been sung about for centuries. It’s been filmed thousands of times. Yet, there seems no end to the fascination and magical qualities the river and it’s capital weave within the subconscious minds of millions of people across the world.
Strange, really, given the river is not huge in terms of its size. When compared to the mighty River Amazon, the River Nile, or even rivers closer to home like the Rhine or Danube, the River Seine is a rather modest affair. But, in terms of the oft-quoted saying, size isn’t everything!
The Seine rises in the Burgundy region of France near to the beautiful town of Dijon, famed for its mustard and wines and liqueurs. The countryside around this historic town of around 150,000 inhabitants is a rich tapestry of medieval churches, vineyards, rivers and forests. The Palace of the Dukes and Estates of Burgundy – the Ducal Palace – which goes back to the 14th century, is a ‘must see’ attraction not to be missed.
The river flows north-west through the charming town of Troyes, an important centre of trade during medieval times. The use of the troy weight system for precious metals and gemstones, such as gold and diamonds, originates from here. The town also boasts a fine cathedral and many churches and museums, all well worth visiting.
From Troyes, the river enters the Paris suburbs via Melun, once situated on an island in the Seine and a place where Roman couriers once changed tired horses for fresh mounts while carrying important messages to and fro across the empire.
Then into Paris proper, a city known the world over and a magnet for tens of millions of travellers from all across the planet. What can you see and do in Paris? Literally, everything. It’s got the lot! Top ten list, anyone? How about the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Orsay Museum, Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Moulin Rouge, the Sorbonne, and Disneyland Paris.
And, yes, a few dreaded facts or two! Did you know that more than 40 million people visit Paris and surrounding area every year, making it the most visited city in the world? Paris and its surroundings generate 25% of France’s gross domestic product. Man first started settling in the area some 6,000 years ago. The name Paris comes from the Parisii, a sub-tribe of the Celtic Senones. The city has no fewer than 37 bridges crossing the River Seine.
And the Eiffel Tower, the symbol of Paris, was never meant to be a permanent feature of the skyline when it was built by Gustave Eiffel for the World Fair of 1889. When the fair finished, it was supposed to be dismantled. Somehow, the Parisians never quite got around to it! Just as well. After all, what’s Paris without its Eiffel Tower.