When spring has sprung in Paris, the Parisians make like migrating birds and head for the Seine’s quaysides, the perfect place for a gentle stroll. Armed with a baguette, cheese, saucisson (dry, cured sausage), and bottle of wine, the only thought on their minds is to chill out on the banks of the river, which snakes through the city like a living, breathing behemoth. For years, Paris has been sprucing up the Seine riverside for citizens looking to take time out from their hectic daily lives.
You begin your walk at the Pont de l’Alma on the left bank, where there are floating gardens. The five islands are bursting with plants and bushes, laid out like meadows and orchards. You spot sunbathers between the apple trees. Between here and the Musée d’Orsay, the riverside serves as a sporting ground, with a large gym class on Sundays, and boxing and yoga sessions for exercise buffs.
Further along, the riverbanks take a romantic turn, and as you walk hand in hand with your love. At Quai Saint Bernard, you break into a dance with Notre Dame behind, shining in the limelight like a film star, the spotlights of the bateaux mouches (excursion boats) lighting your way for a split second. Everyone has gathered here to revel in an unforgettable evening of dancing from every corner of the world, and every style, from tango, salsa, and Breton dance, to folk and rock ‘n’ roll. Some are waltzing, others are whirling, and others still are stamping their feet in the different amphitheatres on the quayside. In the center of each amphitheater, couples glide intertwined, smiling at each other, waggling their hips, and suddenly standing tall in a tango as sensual as the summer evening. On the steps, groups of spectators sit and watch. A laugh rings out, a glass of wine sparkles in the reddish light of a street lamp, and a couple fall in love. Paris has stars in its eyes, and the Seine’s quaysides are buzzing.
Eventually, you break off and get on your bike to pedal to the François Mitterrand Library. Its shadow embraces with the summer evening revelers taking over Quai François Mauriac a few meters below. There’s laughter, singing, and dancing. The barges, moored on the riverside like aquatic plants, spill out their joyful contents in response to the laughter drifting across from the open-air cafes. People lounge on the quayside terraces and stare out at the boats. Some have become Parisian institutions, like the Batofar night club and Dame de Canton dance boat. In between, the swimmers in the Josephine Baker floating pool swim to the rhythm of the music and laughter. And in the warm night air, friendships and love affairs begin, spurred on by the magic of the Seine, her waters rolling sensuously like the sway of a woman’s hips.