Flâneries in Paris: A Riverside Loop from Châtelet

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Flâneries in Paris: A Riverside Loop from Châtelet
This is the 22nd in a series of walking tours highlighting the sites and stories of diverse districts of Paris. Four sphinx statues greeted me at exit 16 of the enormous Châtelet metro station. They gazed wisely down from around the fountain on the little square, referencing both ancient culture in faraway Egypt and the 19th-century emperor who seeps into everything in Paris, Napoleon. For it was he who commissioned the fountain, a gift of eau potable to Parisians, wrapped up in a reminder of the country where he’d recently been on a campaign. I realized later that the mingling of historical eras was to become a major theme of this walk, a circular route starting at Châtelet. Sphinx at Place du Châtelet. Photo credit: Marian Jones The Place du Châtelet leads straight to the Pont au Change, one of the city’s lesser-known bridges, but one which affords wonderful views. Just downriver is the Pont Neuf, the city’s oldest bridge, whose stone arches stretch across the Seine, connecting the Île de la Cité to both the right and left banks. And, ahead of me on the opposite bank, the Conciergerie, aesthetically perhaps my favorite building in the whole of Paris, despite its terrifying past. The former royal palace stretches along the riverbank, its cream stone facades interrupted by turreted towers with slate-grey pointy hats, a unified whole of understated Parisian elegance.  Palais de Justice, Conciergerie and Pont au Change around 1900. Public domain When I turned right at the end of the bridge, I found the Quai de l’Horloge was full of people, seemingly from all corners of the globe and all talking at once. Groups of excited teenagers thronged past parties of elderly tourists, all following various tour guide symbols: flags, a bright orange beret, an Eiffel Tower logo. I went down the steps to the riverside path where it was much quieter. Pleasure boats floated by and so did a barge, piled high with Franprix loading boxes, a reminder that the Seine is a working river. I smiled at the shoe shop on the riverbank, called not Père et Fils (Father and Son), but Paire et Fils. I do love a wordplay, especially in a foreign language!    View of Pont Neuf. Photo credit: Marian Jones
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Lead photo credit : The Quai de l'Horloge in the 1st Arrondissement of Paris, Photo: DXR/Wikimedia Commons

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.