“We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught –
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”
– Percy Bysshe Shelley, To A Skylark (1820)
This was Paris.
In a surprising, burning heat (that even more surprisingly became a cold wind in the shade), we were not sure whether we should be taking clothes off or putting more layers on. We passed the masses, crossed a bridge, and found the booth for the 1 hour cruise on the Seine…But before…we snacked on French Fries 🙂
We sat on the very top of this flat boat. I am sure there is a more suiting name for these, but I will call them “flat boats on the Seine.” The bridges are very low, and so these boats are big in width, but never in height. It was a lovely ride, with wind blowing our hair, and a magnificent quietude. The silence on the Seine was blissful, and the scene was breathtaking. Now, THIS is Paris. In my view from the Seine, Paris was not a showy city of glamour, class, and high fashion. It was more like a broken heart. Contrary to what I expected, “Paris is not the city where one comes to find love. It is a place for mourning the loss of love. Don’t you feel a melancholic air? Paris is where the broken hearted poet loses love instead of finding it.” This is what I told my best friend on that lovely flat boat sliding across the Seine like a silent shadow. We were gliding on somebody’s painting of a river, we were the extras in an independent film, we were a part of this lovely poem.
Meanwhile, my best friend was expanding her French. Her Bonjour! was well welcomed, and often replied to as if she was Belle in the intro musical number of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Of course, it was not 100% Beauty and the Beast until I saw a lady carrying a full size baguette under the Eiffel Tower. But back on the Seine, the unfortunate event of an iPhone dropping at the edge of the boat is enough to bring crisis to a Mademoiselle. However, my best friend remained graceful, and made sure to ask the guy next to her, “How do you say oh my God in French?” Not even the near death of her iPhone would make this girl lose her class. “Oh mon Dieu!” was his reply. Yes, she brought the back of her hand to her forehead and repeated it in damoiselle grace.
A cruise on the Seine is something I would recommend more than a tour bus in Paris (I should also mention that part of the Seine has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the early 90’s). It is a classic, artsy, scenic rich Parisian experience that will really help you grasp the poetry of this city. Watching the people walking along the Seine, you see all kinds of stories: the couple making out passionately, the elderly feeding birds, and well dress ladies having lunch. And us, the travelers, outsiders hoping to taste what their lives here might be like. Maybe I am making it sound cheesy, but then again, quite literally, we were all on the same boat 😉
Travel Tip – for more cruise details, please visit http://www.bateauxparisiens.com . Their tours are around 14 euro. We left from the Eiffel Tower, but they also depart from Notre Dame. Check out http://www.groupon.com for discounts (we got train tickets and cruise ride on a great groupon deal).
p.s. if you cannot go to Paris at the moment (but want to experience some of this melancholic, poetic side to it) I recommend the film Last Love from 2013 (currently streaming on netflix).