Paris vs. London…What Say You? (Part 3)

(See Part 1 and Part 2 for infographic and backstory.)

The Seine in Paris and the Thames in London

The Seine in Paris and the Thames in London

The Seine vs. The Thames…

  • Strolling along the banks of the Seine was one of my favorite experiences while in Paris.  The pedestrian walkways (quays) are fantastic and were surprisingly uncrowded—especially for summertime.  We easily transitioned from river level to street level (and back again) via staircases attached to the many bridges spanning the Seine.  There were a number of interesting activities and exhibits along the river including an outdoor art expo entitled Les Stars et La Seine, which showcased rare photos from the archives of Paris Match magazine. Among the famous personalities included in the black-and-white collection are Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Rudolf Noureev, Natalie Wood, Alain Delon and Romy Schneider—all photographed in close proximity to the Seine.  Another attraction along the famous waterway is “Paris Beach,” a half-mile stretch that is converted into a makeshift beach during the months of July and August.  Sand is hauled in and put in place—around 5,000 tons of it—accompanied by chaise lounges, umbrellas, live music, and sidewalk cafes.  Though there is no ocean to swim in, Parisians and tourists alike can bask in the sun and watch the river drift by.  I was expecting a lot more boat traffic on the Seine; there was actually very little, which adds to an overall sense of tranquility.  Several companies offer riverboat cruises on the Seine; we chose the evening “illumination” cruise that begins at dusk.  We traveled upriver as far as Île de la Cité before turning around, at which point the sun was setting and the buildings along the Seine were beautifully lit.  It was THE highlight of our time in Paris—primarily because the tour concluded in front of the Eiffel Tower, which was blazing in all of its nighttime splendor.  Add to that, the spectacular “twinkling” light show for five minutes at the top of the hour.  It was truly a memorable experience!
  • Mention of the Thames River evokes instant mental images of Queen Elizabeth I regally setting forth from Whitehall aboard her royal barge, gliding down the river, and imperiously disembarking at The Tower.  (I confess…I am a history buff and an avid reader of historical fiction.) Though we didn’t bump into the queen (past or present), we did acquaint ourselves with the river to some degree by walking along the South Bank.  It was quite crowded, however, and detracted from our enjoyment of the river itself.   The views from the Millenium Bridge and the Golden Jubliee Bridges were great and offered nice panoramic photo opportunities.  There was also a decent view from The Tower—although more interesting than the view of the Thames from there was the view of Tower Bridge.  We took a riverboat cruise from the London Eye to the Tower, but were not terribly impressed with the experience.  While the narration was interesting and entertaining, we were trapped at a table at dead center inside the boat and could see almost nothing.  Add to that the fact that the concession stand was out of basically all snacks and drinks, and it was a less-than-stellar experience.  There was a fair amount of boat traffic which steadily increased as we approached The Tower.  The Thames, with its imposing size and rich history, is impressive for sure…but it lacks the “personal” feel of the Seine.

My pick: The Seine  (Interesting fact: The stone walls along the quays have been declared world heritage sites by UNESCO.  To learn more about the River Seine, go to http://www.aparisguide.com/seine/ or http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24520146.)

Check back tomorrow for my comparison of The Tower of London and Les Invalides

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