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  • Shelley Dark

26. from St Martin to Saint Chapelle

I have so much to tell you tonight I don’t know where to start. Because my head is still full of music soaring to the roof of Saint Chapelle. But let me go back to this morning.

Today we planned to go on the boat trip along the Canal St Martin. Paris had always had a very poor supply of drinking water, which became worse during the ancien régime. There were frequent outbreaks of dysentery and cholera. Napoleon ordered three canals to be dug to help solve the problem. Haussmann later improved their appearance. St Martin with its 9 locks is now used mainly for tourism and a little commercial traffic.

No sign of our 9.30am boat at the Quay Anatole in front of the Musée d’Orsay. As you can see.

Only a few people exercising on gym equipment. A jogger helped us find Thomas, a company employee. Thomas said that the first lock of the canal is having its 10-yearly maintenance, so we will have to walk across the river, catch the métro to Bastille, and then walk to the quay to join the boat after the lock. Paris seems to be specialising in modern sculptural installations everywhere like this one in the Tuileries garden. The shocking is no longer shocking.

This abandoned chair was on the quay where we boarded our boat. It didn’t look very different from some of the art installations.

We really enjoyed our trip on Le Martin Pecheur. A very long dark tunnel to begin with, with lovely round holes in the ceiling casting pools of light on the water every few hundred metres.

The locks were amazing. They filled with water so quickly, the huge water gates opening and closing on someone’s command.

There were three university students on board - Zoe, Luca, and Lucas. They were sketching the architecture of the canal. This is one of Zoe’s sketches.

Lucas asked if I would have my photo taken with them and if I could email it to them.

There was quite a bit of graffiti in some areas, the whole sides of buildings covered.

It was really very picturesque.

The terminus is at La Villette, a scientific area and playground which looked interesting for children. We passed a hot waffle and crèpe street stall and we couldn’t resist. With chantilly cream. I’m embarrassed to say I ate every crumb. It actually was very light. I know. I know. As the comment said on Instagram, never eat anything bigger than your head.

We visited Le Comptoir Générale, which had been recommended to me. When Cally asked me what it was, I said I wasn’t sure. A shop? A bar? It turned out that it is a bar or nightclub frequented by the young, and stays open until 2am. The fitout is quite extraordinary. It looks a little as if Harrison Ford should swing through a huge glass window on a rope in jungle greens. It has a mezzanine. A large-leafed climber twines through wooden beams, under a glass roof, and along rafters, clinging where it wants. There is a thatched hawaiian bar, skulls, books, retro items, vintage clothes, old sofas. Sound odd? It certainly was. I wouldn't make a special trip for it, but if you're in the area, have a look.

From there we walked to the Picasso Museum. We have museum passes, but are we plain tickets, or adhesions? Cally decided we were adhesions and she was right.

I love what Picasso represents, at least to me - the total shift in art to something that expresses emotion rather than the exact physical form. I find his art funny and outrageous, and somewhat whimsical.

The development of the way he expressed his feelings about his wife Olga in his art absolutely fascinating. It reflected the path their marriage took. At first he drew her with fine lines and graceful curves. As the marriage deteriorated and his style changed, the paintings of her and women in general became grotesque.

Olga was a ballet dancer. Her photo makes me want to read more about her.

I particularly liked his self-portrait of the young painter. Doesn’t he look so ingenuous, which I suppose he felt.

These took my eye too, realism, cubism, surrealism etc....

We wandered the shops a little after that. This shop had great cotton nighties, pjs and towels.