As reader Port Moresby guessed correctly, Gumbo’s Where in the World photo shows one of the cast-iron bridges crossing the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris—a popular attraction with a fascinating past, and familiar to millions through its movie roles (most famously in Amelie (2001) and 1938’s Hotel du Nord).
Today the canal is traveled almost only by tour boats, and its banks are lined with small cafes and shops, but in its youth, it was a hard-working waterway, paid for by a tax on wine.
It’s been seen in many movies (remember Amelie?) Napoleon ordered it built in 1802 to bring water from the Ourcq river canal to Paris; it’s still provides non-drinking water for street cleaning. And it carried grain, building materials and more into the heart of Paris, avoiding the Seine, which was not yet dammed and tamed. Even today, together with the Canal Saint-Denis, it allows shipping to continue when water is too high under the Seine bridges.
Alfred Sisley painted the Canal in 1870; this picture is in Musee d'Orsay
The 4.5km-long canal runs from the Seine at Porte de l’Arsenal to the Bassin de la Villette, in an industrial area turned park and museum venue. The route includes nine sets of locks and a tunnel nearly 2km long. Some say the tunnel was intended to keep revolting workers from using the canal as a defense against troops.
By the 1960s, traffic on the canal had reached a low point, and the government even proposed to fill it and use the route for a highway. Fortunately, nothing came of that!
If you’re planning to visit, these metro stations are nearby: Stalingrad, RÉpublique, Goncourt, JaurÈs, Oberkampf, Richard-Lenoir, Bastille, and Quai de la RapÉe. And if you’re there on Thursday or Sunday, the Marche Richard Lenoir (also known as Marche Bastille) stretches over blocks of the street above the tunnel, with food from all over the region, and on Sunday quite a bit of housewares and clothing.
At the Marche Bastille
Information on canal cruises HERE