St Martin Canal

A boat trip from Quai d’Orsay to La Villette was the schedule for today – nearly scuppered by taking a gauche instead of a droit, but I made it with five minutes to spare.

We travelled along the Seine with the usual sights. That green mass on top of a building in the centre is someone’s very ambitious roof garden, Italian cypresses and all.

The first lock took us up to the level of the St Martin Canal. At the marina at this point a number of smart motor boats had people on the deck working on laptops. Are they on holiday, or working from home? There was a houseboat with a turf roof, which brought back memories of Scandinavia.

There were nine locks so the trip was leisurely and picturesque. Am I becoming so acclimatised that I find even the graffiti interesting?

We went through a very long tunnel with holes in the roof letting in light and trailing plants and letting out the boat’s exhaust fumes.

Then we were back into the light, with more locks and folding bridges for vehicles, and overhead pedestrian bridges. Here you can see the vehicle bridge moving back into place after we had passed through.

You may recognise this Canal from the delightful French movie “Amelie”.

This lock house features graffiti congratulating “Les Bleus” on their World Cup final win.

Here, a colourful blanket shelters some homeless people:

At La Villette the canal widens into a basin with marinas, swimming pools, the entrance to the St Denis Canal, restaurants, cultural complexes, a theatre on a barge and a bookshop barge.

I walked through the old and ethnically diverse area nearby to Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Inside the entrance, I identified silver beet looking delectable and glamorous in a flower bed.

I sat in the shade and ate a smoked salmon wrap I’d bought in a Monoprix on the way. I shared a bit (big mistake) with a very cute sandy version of Hairy Maclary. Its owner had to carry it away. This was my view:

The park reflects the character of the time it was established, La Belle Epoque (late 19th to early 20th centuries) with a folly, rustic bridges, stone arches, grottoes, a lake and waterfalls. The trees are old and huge. Here is a painting group:

There was a grey heron on the lake, and ducklings. A turtle on a rock didn’t move so I suspect it was either pining for the tropics or glued there.

The streets nearby are stacked with Belle Époque apartment buildings with grand views of the park. Higher up the hill, I could look out over a vineyard to Montmartre.

A community garden is next door to the vineyard.

Happy sounds of a busy household drifted from the open windows of the ivy-covered house opposite.

I headed downhill via a little side street of steps, named for a violinist, back to St Martin Canal for a refreshing limoncello in a cafe with books:

and a bookshop with a captivating collection of pop-up books (and air conditioning).

There was a boat on the canal doing the return trip, and I retraced the tunnel part – over ground this time – through the park running the length of it to the Place de la Bastille. It features play and fitness equipment, table tennis tables, a band rotunda and pétanque among the gardens, fountains (enjoyed by pigeons and dogs, and a man washing a bike) and park benches – and the homeless. This is the top side of one of the holes we passed under on the canal.

Along the park were metro stations with the art nouveau signs:

From the end of this long park, I looked for the Viaduct des Artes which, like the High Line in New York, is a garden on a disused viaduct.

It goes for miles. You can walk all the way to the Bois des Vincennes. There are lovely gardens with roses, arches and art.

How do they grow such big trees up here?

This sign helps to explain how the gardens are cared for:

Great views down to the streets and apartments.

If you look closely, you might see a cat painted on the wall:

The heat was intense, so I resorted to the metro before I melted.

At the lovely Jardin du Luxembourg on my way home, there was another surprise in a flower bed. Red chard this time:

I had walked 15km according to my health app. It was into the shower for me and all the clothes I had been wearing went into the sink!

Contemplative Sunday

Saint Sulpice’s organist, Daniel Roth, popped his head over the edge of the organ loft to take three bows for his appreciative audience. I didn’t recognise the pieces he played but the sound filling this cavernous space was magnificent and meditative at once.

This frame of mind was perfect for contemplating the tapestries at the Cluny Museum. I was grateful for the thoughtful guide we’d had at Angers when we considered the messages in the revelation tapestries there.

At the Cluny, this tapestry is in the Treasures section. I photographed part of it because of the dog on the woman’s lap and the kitten playing with the spindle of wool.

What could the weaving represent? Is a letter being read? What is the symbolism behind the particular animals, birds, plants and fruit? It’s a puzzle.

The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in six panels, five representing the five senses, are the most intriguing. The woman in each one is the same. Was she real or is she allegorical? A lion and a unicorn appear as prominently in each, as does a lady in waiting.

As with the Monet panels in L’Orangerie, these six huge tapestries are hung in a large space with benches in the centre so you can sit and look closely. The room was dimly lit and no flash photography allowed, so I didn’t risk a photo.

An ante room displayed illuminated books about unicorns, so you could consider their meanings.

There was also a room with modern representations, including a black and white unicorn floor rug with massive hooves attached – and head and horn.

I bought a book about the tapestries to discover more about them. They were rescued just in time, and more may have been lost, even cut up and used for cart blankets and floor rugs.

Out into the sunshine again, and Gibert Joseph bookshop on Boulevard St Michel was giving away Panama hats with its summer reading.

It was time for refreshments in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Ulverstone Victoria High School (Cumbria) Swing Band entertained nearby.

It was a beautiful day to be in my favourite place in Paris.

Meanwhile, at the end of my street, crowds were gathering at bars to watch the World Cup final.