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Travel tips: Picturing Paris

By Kregg P.J. Jorgenson


One of the best sightseeing bargains in Paris just happens to be one of the best floating photography platforms as well. And in these times when your vacation dollar isn’t going as far as it used to the Seine River boat tours can keep your budget comfortably afloat.

  The hour-long trips in the heart of the French capital offer postcard quality views of the city’s most memorable monuments for your most memorable moments, and all at a surprisingly reasonable price.

   For roughly seven to ten dollars, depending upon the daily exchange rate, this petite voyage allows you to save yourself long hikes between the major landmarks, especially when you consider that it’s approximately two miles just from the Notre Dame Cathedral to the Eiffel Tower.

  Add in your camera, coat, maps, tour book, assorted souvenirs and the wrong shoes and the hike soon becomes a long haul. Vacations don’t have to be work, so save yourself from the marathon walks and inevitable blisters.

  While there are a handful of tour boat companies that offer these cruises, the Bateaux Mouche, based at the Pont Alma Bridge, is the largest with indoor or outdoor open seating offering ‘reasonable’ comfort. ‘Reasonable’ here means rows of plastic, fold-down seats but with plenty of open rail space to get you within clicking distance and unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and d’Orsay museums, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Statue of Liberty.

  Well, a Statue of Liberty anyway because it was France who gave the United States the ‘other’ statue that rests in New York harbor a 21-ton copy donated by Americans citizens in 1899 to celebrate the French Revolution marks the eastern turnaround point of the river tour.

  The French and particularly the Parisians are proud of their monuments, not to mention the historical bridges that you’ll cruise under beginning with the Pont Alma, which was built to commemorate the Franco-British victory in the Crimera in 1854.

  Further down there’s the more ornate Pont Alexander III bridge built in 1900 for the World Exhibition to honor Russia’s Czar Nicholas II’s father with its grand columns, laurel-wreath scrollwork, and gilded and wrought iron street lamps, and hand-scrawled magic marker graffiti that read: ‘Keep Paris Beautiful. Tourists go home. Merci. Adieu.

  It’s probably not the official stance of the city’s Board of Tourism but it does counter the notion that the French are always rude. The scrawler did at least offer a thank you.

  Another bit of irony is the Pont Neuf, which means ‘the new bridge.’ The Pont Neuf dates from the 16th century and it is the city’s oldest bridge linking the right and left banks with the Ile de la Cite- the island in the city. The Ile de la Cite is the true center of the capital and the sight of the ancient Parisii and Roman settlements that date back over 2,000 years.

  This bit of history and information you get from the recorded program guide that offers a brief history of the city and sights in a number of different languages and keeps you from wondering what you’re looking at and photographing. Another advantage of the leisurely boat rides is that the riverboat views often hides the long lines of visitors, army of street vendors, and tour buses that surround the popular Left or Right Bank attractions.

  The boats leave every thirty minutes and during the evening hours when they turn on their running lights the ‘City of Light’ has even more luster and yet one more photo opportunity!

  Keep in mind if you book the hour-long boat cruise from your hotel you may find yourself paying a ‘service fee.’ This can range anywhere from three to four times the cost of the boat tour as one group of Chinese tourists soon discovered after paying close to $30 for a three-block bus ride from their hotel that was visible from the dock and within a ten minute or so walk.

  “We always pay for what we don’t know,” said one of the frustrated Chinese tourists.

  “Often,” I said, commiserating. Tour books only go so far. The rest you get from experience.

  If you’re within walking distance from your hotel then put on a comfortable pair of walking shoes and take a leisurely stroll to the boat tour. What’s reasonable? That depends upon you and your walking limits but you’ll not only save money, you’ll also be able to take in some of the ambiance of the quays and river and your own scenic shots, which is enough to make you smile.

  Now say frommage

Kregg P.J. Jorgenson is a freelance writer and a frequent visitor to Europe





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