La Grisette is a charming sculpture in Jardin Jules Ferry, which is one of the string of parks which overlie the tunnel linking Canal St Martin with Place de la Bastille.
If the poodle hairdo and raised skirt look like an illustration by Toulouse-Lautrec, then that's because that's exactly the era she's evoking. A 'grisette' is a term for an independent, working class woman who often engaged in liaisons with artists and other bohemian types. This statue was sculpted by Jean Descomps in 1909, and was placed in the area that would historically have been frequented by the original grisettes.
Paris Arsenal - also known as Bassin de l'Arsenal - is a port at the southern end of Place de la Bastille which links Canal St Martin to the canal to the Seine. Originally designed as a commercial port facility, it fell into decline in the 20th century and has since been redeveloped as a marina, housing both pleasure boats and permanently moored houseboats.
It is a very pleasant spot to loiter on a sunny day, watching people at play on their boats.
Canal Saint-Martin is a 4.5 km long canal in the eastern suburbs of central Paris that links Canal de l'Ourcq to the Seine. It was constructed in the early 19th century by order of Napoleon (the one who didn't need a number) with the intention of providing a transport link and additional freshwater source for a burgeoning Paris. The lower reaches of the canal (at Port de l'Arsenal and Bassin de la Villette) were constructed as port facilities to offload goods transported from upstream.
In these days of high speed travel, we tend to discount canals as anachronistic modes of transport whose main significance is as backdrops for tourist photo opportunities. Yet we forget that canals were one of the keys that served to unleash the Industrial Revolution in a pre-engine era, and hugely significant to the evolution of Europe as we now know it.
The advent of the 20th century, when the rise of rail, road and ultimately air travel eclipsed other more traditional forms of transport did not bode well for canals, and Canal St Martin slipped into inner city decay. At one point, the possibility of infilling the canal to construct a highway was seriously mooted, and it was not until the turn of the millenium that a renewed focus on urban upliftment lead to the 'gentrification' of what had become a sadly neglected and rundown area.
Today's Canal St Martin is a far cry from its former dilapidated self. Lined with slightly bohemian cafes, bars and restaurant, it is laid back and vibey, cosmopolitan and slightly edgy, its cool credentials endorsed by its inclusion as a location for the movie 'Amélie'. The canal is flanked by pedestrian paths (which sometimes incorporate cycle paths) and the lower reaches are punctuated by a series of well maintained public spaces incorporating small parks, playground and recreational facilities (see my sports tips on petanque and table tennis). And whilst it doesn't quite have the same picturesque quality or venerable antiquity of, for example, the canals of Amsterdam, it is somewhere that offers something for virtually everyone and a place where you'd have to try very hard not to have a good time.
And finally, a word of practicality. Much of the canal path - particularly the upper reaches - is cobbled rather than smoothly paved, so walking or pushing a pram or pushchair (stroller) is not quite the relaxing experience you may be anticipating!
There are a series of five locks (about one a kilometre) along the Canal St Martin, which were built to allow barges to negotiate the height difference between Canal de l'Ourcq in the north and the Seine in the south.
Locks are effectively small compartments along the canal which are isolated by gates. Once the gates have been closed, water can be pumped into (or can be released from) the lock in order to equalise water levels with the surrounding canal, thus allowing barges to gain or lose altitude along the canal in a series of 'steps'.
Lock operation takes some time - usually about 15 minutes from entering to leaving - which makes barge travel on this section of canal a leisurely (some would say 'slow') process.
One of the pleasant walks in Paris, especially at the weekend when you're not stifled or agressed by the pollution of the traffic, as the canal does follow a very busy thoroughfare. The quai de Valmy and quai de Jemmapes are reserved for pedestrian traffic on Sundays.
The canal was originally constructed in the early 1800's as a link with the Canal de l'Ourq to bring fresh water into the city, now running into the Seine after passing under the place de la Bastille.
Consider taking a cruise on the canal as an alternative. See website below for cruises. Site is in French or English.
Good starting points for the walk are the Jaures at the north end or Republique in the south, metro stations
The canal dates from 1825. Barge traffic has almost disappeared, but the canal is still a very pleasant location for a stroll (it is about 2 miles long).
The canal narrowly escaped being turned into a boulevard during the barbaric modernization of Paris in the 1960s.
Two famous movies take place near the canal, Hotel du Nord, and Amélie.
Easy, romantic and comfortable half-day, covering just 4.5 km (3 miles). There are two boat-providers: canauxrama (with modern, plush boats) go from the Arsenal (09.45 and 14.30); pariscanal leave from Musée d'Orsay (09.30 , 14.30). Both boats finish (and return from) at le Parc de la Villette. Both have commentaries in French and English.
We chose pariscanal because it starts on the Seine and passes several landmarks en route to the Canal St Martin. On the canal, you go through 19th century locks and swing-bridges; and also through a 1 km long tunnel, directly under the Place de la Bastille; arriving just 26 m higher than from where you started. The commentary described the many local areas (Parisians' Paris) through which we passed (lots of popular history): some neat stories in the English version, and jokey ones in the French! We passed folks strolling on the canalside under the chestnut trees, pretty boutiques and retro-style cafés; plus a bit of Paris-plage (deck-chairs and sand!).
The kids found the first few locks exciting (but got bored with them afterwards!) but thought the tunnel was the best bit. They got interested again when we arrived at the Parc de la Villette (Musée des Sciences, la Cité de la Musique, cafés, and modernist play-area). We grown-ups just enjoyed the intimate peacefulness of it all.
Most of tourists don't visit this part of the city but it is a wonderful walk along the Canals (St Martin and La Villete) with some colorfoul houses, nice cafes, tematic shops and you are on the way to the "City of the Science" - La Villete.
This is very lovely especially in the spring when the trees are in full leaf. There are steel bridges which cross the canal and places to sit along side it. You can find some cute shops and restaurants on the streets that run along side the canal.
Scenes from a famous French movie, Hotel du Nord, were shot in the Hotel du Nord, which is located at 102 quai de Jemmapes.
CORRECTION 4/21/07 from Beatchic@vt.com: "Hôtel du Nord was not filmed at the actual hotel, it was all studio. :( I'm writing a book about film sites in Paris and came across that tidbit myself. However, you have to admit they did a great job of making it look like the original!" Thanks for that info, Mary.---Forestqueennyc
Website for the hotel is http://www.hoteldunord.org/.
It's a very cute website, even if you don't want to stay there.
For barge trip and informations about the movie see the weblinks.
Located very near the canal St Martin in Paris, the Baxo is a unique lounge bar restaurant which will make you discover in a very original “bobo“ and cozy environment sumptuous authentic dishes. The Baxo also welcomes you to share a glass with friends in a trendy and warm ambience.
From the Roman times on Paris was provided with water by a well that was found by the Romans, at the Left Bank of the Seine. For many centuries that was sufficient to supply the people of Paris with water. In the Medievals though, a growing shortage of water became a big problem. The solution to get more fresh water into the centre, was the Canal Saint Martin, dug during the regime of Napoleon Bonaparte, and opened in 1825.
It has a length of 5 kilometers, starting in the Bassin de la Villette in the Northeast of the city, and ending up in the Seine, close to the Place de la Bastille. The part of the canal that is visible is only half of the complete length, because the part between Place de la République and Place de la Bastille is covered by roads. The part that ís still visible is an absolutely gorgeous part of Paris.
The difference between the highest point of the canal and the lowest point is 25 metres. This is the reason why 9 locks were built in the canal, all with huge wooden doors. All along the canal there are very tall, rough trees surrounding it. And every hundred metres there are beautiful little pedestrian bridges.
The area is a very quiet one compared to the rest of the city. This makes it a great place to relax by walking along the canal, or by sitting at the waterside.
We could have skipped this long walk from la Bastille area, stepped down at métro République, entered the gate, taken pictures of the locks, the Quais. Then, we would have missed a lot.
From la Bastille to the first locks, while skirting Bd Richard Lenoir, we passed through 4-5 metro stations. Not tiring, just done with inappropriate shoes. lol At first, when we took this boulevard, we saw a marketplace with only the bars of the tents. It was passed 4pm. The market was over. Here and there, some drunken bums, soaking up the sun, telling nasty jokes, many teeth were missing. [Was just told that Thur. & Sat. mornings is a traditional food market: w/ a range of regional produce]
We followed our way, skirting the roofed canal. Regularly, we could see a stripe of sheer glass on the rooftop that let some light out. Arched footbridges also remind of the water flowing underground.
Along our way, we saw an unusual Parisian scenery of French leisure. Men gathered either to play cards, boules ! I thought it was left to the provinciaux. Still, we were in Paris, between Bastille & République.
Far away from Paris... At least, that was my impression at the entry gate to the Quais.
We walked a bit and heard a noise of waterfall. We looked at the direction where this noise came from and saw the first locks. The place was crowded but no other noise could overcome the waterfall.
In the canals of two-meter depth: ducks. On the quays, ducks again, pigeons. And benches where to sit in the shade and relax a bit. Pictures are a tad dark since we were under the shadow.
It took the riverains to stand against a government project to roof the canal. From Bassin de l'arsenal to Quai de Jemappes, it has been roofed already. Now, it turns out to be a lively place, with restaurants, bars, art galleries. But what I appreciated most there was, as I said, the "quietness" due to that no other noise could come over the sound of the "waterfall".