The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                               PAGE THREE
                                                                                                                                          by Arthur Gillette

Many years ago I lived with an English sailing companion on the Seine.  Our boat was tied up to a quay and attracted the attention of many riverside strollers who thronged by when the weather was clement.

Our mooring was apparently not entirely legal on a long-term basis, and we had to change the site from time to time to avoid river police reprimands.  One day, my pal was on land hauling us, sturdy rope in hand, toward a new berth, while I was on the foredeck fending off the quay with a boathook.  My eyes were on his hand signals, and I didn't notice that my boathook was just about to slip onto a quayside steel plate.  Suddenly, skreek!  Slip it did, and I flipped head-over-heels into the river.  Yuck!  It was disgustingly filthy!

No wonder, we later mused, that in something like a year as floating Seine residents we had never seen anybody take a dip in the river - where, in any event, swimming was interdit.

That has not always been the case, however.  Here, for example, is a postcard of a Seine-side beach in 1903:

Paris Beach at Bercy 1903.  Photo courtesy of

Our jobs took my friend and me away from Paris soon afterwards, and the boat was sold.  We were thus (happily) absent when the strollers' Seine quays were converted into roaring, heavily trafficked and quite polluted motorways.  Okay, no swimming was missed, but many Parisians - not to forget visitors - felt deprived of and nostalgic for Seine-side strolls and relaxation.

Time passed and an ecology-oriented municipal government was elected in 2001.  An early project, brought to fruition in 2002, was the July-August conversion of at least some of those highways into a Paris Plage - a Paris Beach.

Paris Plage 2012.   Photo credit Mairie de Paris / Sophie Robichon
Over the years this annual project has offered more and more varied facilities and activities.  Just a few (car-free and thus carefree) mileposts: during the horrendous 2003 heat wave, many huge 'fog showers' sprayed welcome relief; in 2005, rowing initiation courses were begun; 2006 saw the installation of a floating swimming pool, where, for decency's sake and as for all riverside sun-bathers, topless bathing suits were forbidden; in 2007 bars opened, some as guinguettes with live music to dance to; and 2011 saw the installation of a kilometer-long beach of real sand, not to forget the possibilities of practicing tai-chi, beach volleyball, pedal boating and kayaking.

No wonder that fully two-thirds of Trip Advisor reactions to Paris Plage rate the operation 'good' or 'excellent'!

Child's play on Paris Plage.  Photo credit: stumbleabroad.netMisting on the Paris Plage - Photo credit:

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Children love to play in the sand                                            Misting provides welcome relief               

Given its increasing variety, the operation has become 'Paris Plages - Paris Beaches'.  And this year they will be open from July 20 until August 17, aiming to attract and please ever-growing numbers of French and foreign visitors as well as Parisians who, for one reason or another, are not leaving town for the summer

Something on the order of three million people are expected, of whom perhaps as many as a quarter will take part in organized activities.  The rest will content themselves - and how! - with a pleasant, traffic-free riverside stroll.

Contact Arthur Gillette to take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris
(and France) by enjoying one or more of his Paris Through the Ages Strolls. 
Visit our Marketplace page for a complete list of strolls and information about Arthur.

Editor's note:  If you've wondered, as we have, where all that sand comes from, 
about 5,000 tons of sand is barged into Paris from Normandy each year!


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THE BOOKSHELF:   Solitary Desire by Kim Defforge

Cover of Solitary Desire by Kim DefforgeThere are those books about which people say, "It was so good that couldn't put it down!"  Kim Defforge has written one of those books, Solitary Desire, the story of her early dream of living in France and the circuitous route her life took to make her dream come true - eventually.

It isn't a very big book; in fact, it was one that I read from beginning to end in one afternoon.  But, it is well written and filled with real life experiences, both good and bad.  Her story is that of a young, divorced mother with a career in the medical field followed by her first trip to France which came came when her daughter went off to college - what she calls a whirlwind itinerary with a tour group that included Normandy, the Loire, Versailles and a short stay in Paris.  But, on that first visit she experienced the feeling many of us have in France - that we are so comfortable and have a connection to France - and most of all, that we would return.

Kim remarried several years later, and she and her husband had a very good life living on a horse farm.  But, France was always on her mind, and although she had taken French classes early on, she decided it was time to enroll in classes at the local university - she graduated cum laude three years later. With her husband's blessing she went to France for just under three months - the length of time you are permitted to stay without a visa.

Her book tells of her experiences for that brief time in France and returning to Atlanta to happily get a job with a French company's regional office.  On a subsequent visit to France on vacation with her husband, they bought a small apartment to use during their visits.  It had finally happened!  She was going to be living in France, if only part time. 

Without telling too much of what transpired next, sadness entered her life, but she recovered to finally make the move to France permanent. She now lives on the French Riviera with her French husband and is writing her fourth book.  Her blog 24/7 in France is at http://twentyfourseveninfrance.comSolitary Desire can be purchased as an e-book or paperback.  Enjoy!


Click here to buy Solitary Desire

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