Posted by: reecejharley | January 3, 2010

The Louvre, The Seine & Pont Neuf

The Seine

The Seine is the main feature among all those that compose the multiple and complex life of Paris. It intervenes conspicuously in the landscape. It is at the city’s origin, was the primeval element in its food supplies up to the introduction of railways and remains one of the principal factors in its development. Moreover no waterway is more loaded with history. (pge 78)

From the little apartment I’m staying in to the Seine is a 20 minute stroll down one of Paris’s grand promenades (rue la Fayette), past the opera, through the financial and business heart of the city and finally through the Jardin de Tuileries (the gardens of the Louvre). A ride on the metro is much quicker and direct, but glossy tiles and bad posters flashing by in a zoom is not as interesting as the hustle and bustle of daily life on the streets.

The famous glass pyramid

The Louvre again

To my delight, my first ever experience of snow falling from the skies was yesterday standing in the forecourt of the Louvre… just tiny little specks of it, but snow nonetheless. I surveyed the que into the famous glass pyramid, and decided the Louvre might be best left for another day… I walked through the archway formed by the Denon wing and along the Quai Francois Mitterand named after the former President of France (1981-1995).

Archways of the Denon wing of the Louvre

Crossing the Pont des Arts onto the Left Bank (the half of the city south of the river) and along the Quai de Conti to the Pont Neuf (the bridge in the photo below) I pass a few booksellers and merchants peddling, postcards, posters, little paintings of the main sights and tourist junk who set up shop from little green boxes attached the the wall.

This area is unique: particularly the book boxes, bolted to the parapets, provide one of the most striking sights of Paris, “The only town with its library in the open air” (Hanotaux). Book finds however, become more and more rare, and it looks as if the quays are on the decline since the great days when Sardou, Heredica, France, Barres, used to come hunting among the boxes.

Between the Pont-Neuf and the Pont des Arts, the Quai de Conti has taken the name of the old Hotel de Conti, replaced in 1767  by the Monnaie and the Palais de l’Institut. Opposite the latter, the Pont des Arts joins the place de l’Institut to the Quai de Louvre: raised a few steps above street level, it is reserved for pedestrians.

View across the Pont des Arts

A metal bridge, it marks the debut of iron construction at the beginning of the 19th century. Its name comes from Palais des Arts (title of the Louvre under the 1st Empire). At first it was lined with boxed orange trees and chairs, and still keeps its peaceful character, as it is only used by pedestrians. From the bridge there is an incomparable view over the west point of the Ile de la Cite… (page 83)

The Pont Neuf

The Pont Neuf is a busy thoroughfare with buses and taxis back and forth and over-dressed  tourists seemingly prepared for a stroll in the artic packing the side walks. The view of the Louvre and down the Seine toward the Eiffel Tower is incomparable. Nagel’s guide has this to offer the traveler:

The two arms of the river, on both sides of the island, are crossed by a single bridge, the most famous in Paris, and the most popular, sung by Hugo, and painted, engraved or sketched by artists of every period, the Pont Neuf, a double bridge, with its base on the west point of the Ile de la Cite.

In spite of its name (Neuf = new), it is the oldest in Paris. Henri III laid the first stone on may 31st 1578. The assassination of Henri III (1589) interrupted the work, which was restarted by Henri the IV in 1598 and completed in 1606 in a style more classical than Renaissance. The equestrian statue of Henri IV by Jean Bologne, the first statue to be erected in a public way in the Roman manner, was destroyed on August 13th 1792, and replaced by a statue by Lemot in 1818.

The bridge with its supporting square had a tremendous vogue, for it had the first footpaths in Paris and was the one and only not lined by houses. It became the scene of perpetual and swarming fair: booths, flower girls, strolling peddlers, booksellers, and a thousand picturesque scenes. It has its name in the history of the theatre, for it was the chosen scene of the farce-actors… Finally nits most exhaustive historian, Fr. Boucher, thinks it is not too much to say that the Revolution was born on the Pont Neuf. (pge 82)

Pont Neuf

Tomorrow i’ll be visiting the Ile de la Cite, Place Dauphine, Notre Dame, and Ile Saint-Louis…

Spending my days traversing bridges and walking through little squares filled with pigeons and prams is yet to lose its sheen. The vibrancy is palpable and the history is unavoidable. Almost every building in the oldest parts of Paris displays a small plaque proclaiming a famous former resident or monumentous event which happened within its walls.  This is a city I would gladly live out my days in.



  1. You say you could live out the rest of your days there. Do I interpret that to mean you wont be returning home. I will certainly be able to save a mint with the greatly reduced cost of the electricity and gas. It may even be worth my while to subsidise your staying there. Perhaps you may be able to rent a small garret and become a great writer churning out tour guide books.
    Love Pop

    • Always happy to accept donations! 🙂

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