The Seine – A River that Divides Paris:
The Seine River divides Paris into two distinct areas, the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) and Rive Droite (Right Bank) – the Left Bank on the south side and the Right Bank on the north side of the Seine. But more than just dividing the capital into two, it also defines the character of the city depending on which side of the river an area sits.
Whether seen by a long, leisurely walk or from one of the many excellent Seine River tour boats, the view along the Seine in Paris is a delight.
The river flows nearly 800 km (480mi) from Dijon through Paris and into the English Channel. But even the short section through the city provides enough sights to satisfy the most discerning traveller.
La Tour Eiffel can be seen changing shades from cocoa to gold as dusk fades to dark. The lights along its four pillars melding into the spire are only one of the many sights not to be missed.
Joining the left and right banks along this ancient river are bridges themselves no stranger to time.
The oldest extant is Pont Neuf, ironically called ‘the new bridge’, whose first stone was laid by Henry III in 1578. Continued during the reign of his successor Henry IV in 1598, the construction was an enormous undertaking for the time. Finally completed in 1607, the bridge itself is, in a sense, older than France. At the time, the country was still split into fairly independent regions, such as Burgundy, Champagne and Normandy.
One of its newer cousins is the Pont d’Austerlitz constructed from 1854 to 1885. Comprised of five cast iron arches with a span of 32m (105ft), it rests on four piers and two stone abutments – the supports for the ends of a bridge. The bridge has been widened twice from its original 13m (43ft) to the present 30m (98ft).
But not only youth and age are represented along these shores. Elegant beauty, in the form of the Pont Alexander III, is also here. Opened in 1900, the bridge connects the Grand Palais on the right bank to the Invalides on the left. With pillars decorated by a gilded bronze Pegasus and large lampposts encircled by cherubs and nymphs, the Alexander III is among Paris’ most artistic public works.
The many Seine River tours provide another way to see the sights. Some are small, others larger, but they all offer a relaxed way to see the bridges and parts of Paris from another point of view.
The visitor can enjoy a glass of wine as the lights come on along the Montparnasse. The larger boats even offer lunch or dinner. From the uncovered flat boats tours are given in English and French. Several glide as far as past the Eiffel Tower and back past Notre Dame to Quai Henri IV.
Accessible from the centre of the Pont Neuf, just walk down to the tip of the island, to Square du Vert Galant.
Once you’ve completed the boat tour, don’t forget about the other attractions. From the exit it’s just a short walk to many other things to do and see.
Just down the bank is one of the finest art museums in the world, the Musée d’Orsay. And there are several small galleries and shops along the way. Be sure to walk down the stone steps to the river itself and see the bridges from underneath as well.
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