What could be more relaxing of a hot summer’s evening in Paris than a stroll along the Canal Saint-Martin? After a couple of days working in the French capital last week, I was keen to get away from it all and wander along the canal.
The temperature had hit 29° during the day and I needed some fresh air – and some shade.
Opened in 1825, the Canal Saint-Martin stretches some 4.5 km through the 10th and 11th arrondissements. It connects the Canal de l’Ourcq, in the north of the city, to the Seine.
It was built to help speed up the delivery of food and other goods to the capital, by allowing boats to avoid the twists and turns of the Seine. It remained heavily used for more a century, but by the 1960s the ease of air and road transport meant that it had fallen out of favour with tradesmen.
In the 1970s, there was even talk of covering over the canal to make way for a motorway through the capital. Mercifully, that plan fell through. (The canal is covered between Rue du Faubourg du Temple, near République, and La Place de la Bastille, though.)
Today, the stretch of water has regained its popularity – though no longer with tradesmen.
Instead, holidaymakers enjoy travelling along its length in their pretty canal boats, navigating its locks. Young people also spend their evenings by its banks, swapping stories and singing songs.
“In the 1970s, there was talk of covering over the canal to make way for a motorway through the capital”
The areas that surround the canal have visibly undergone gentrification in recent decades. There are now plenty of places to stop and enjoy a drink or a meal – which made it ideal for the tired office worker like me.