May 19, 2014

5 Oh-So-French Features of the River Seine

The Seine River, Paris

1. The Boats

Numerous glass-topped boats cruise the Seine River, offering visitors unique views of the City of Light. The Bateaux-Mouches are excursion boats providing commentary on passing sights. The Batobus is a riverboat shuttle service which allows passengers to hop on and off at eight stops along the route, including the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre-Dame.

Excursion Boats on the Seine River and the Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The Batobus Champs-Elysée Stop

2.  The Bridges

The bridges of Paris are iconic, from the pedestrian Pont des Arts where lovers inscribe padlocks with their names, attach them to the railing and then toss the key into the Seine; to the art nouveau Pont Alexandre III, named for a Russian Tsar, with its fanciful cherubs, nymphs and gilded statues; and the Pont Neuf (New Bridge) which is actually the oldest standing bridge in Paris.

Love Locks on the Pont des Arts

Pont Alexandre III

3.  The Quays

Both Parisians and visitors gather on the banks of the river to practice the art of the flaneur (stroller), browse the Left Bank bouquinistes (book stalls) or stake out a beach chair during Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) when 2,000 tons of sand and dozens of palms trees are trucked into the city each summer, creating an artificial beach along the Seine.

View of the Quays along the Seine River from Notre Dame Cathedral

Left Bank Bouquiniste, or Book Stall

4.  The Islands

Ile de la Cité, one of two natural islands in the Seine, is considered the birthplace of Paris. The island is home to Notre Dame Cathedral with its gargoyles and fictional hunchback; the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned until meeting her fate on the guillotine; and Sainte-Chapelle with its luminous stained glass windows.

Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame Cathedral

Stained Glass Windows of Sainte-Chapelle

5. The Right and Left Banks

The city has a split personality. The Right Bank was once the domain of royalty in a palace which is now the Louvre. Now the area caters to the wealthy with luxe hotels like the Ritz and George V and haute couture shopping on avenue Montaigne and Champs-Elysées. The Left Bank is where you'll find bohemian cafes in the Latin Quarter; radical art at the Musée d’Orsay or Musée Rodin; and the city’s family-friendly public gardens, the Jardins du Luxembourg.

The Louvre and its Pyramid on the Right Bank

The Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank

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