Paris and its canals
Starting point: M° République (10th & 19th districts)
The quai de Jemmapes, on the charming St. Martin Canal, can be reached from rue de la Douane. The editorial offices of "La Vie Ouvrière" used to be at no. 96, together with the "Librairie du Travail" (Labour Bookshop). During the First World War, Trotskij and all the other revolutionaries living in exile in Paris would come here on a regular basis.
It is very pleasant to stroll in the shade of the plane-trees, towards the revolving bridge of rue Dieu, one of the remaining two in the city (the other one is in rue de la Grange-aux-Belles).
At no. 80, avenue Richerand, a trompe-l'oeil recalls Venice; at no. 84, the Schweitzer crystal factory is still in operation, remnant of the neighbourhood's artisan past.
Whoever saw the well-known Marcel Carné's film, "Hôtel du Nord", will recognize the above-mentioned revolving bridge in rue de la Grange-aux-Belles. The scene was actually shot in the Boulogne-Billancourt studios. The Café Le Pont Tournant (formerly Café Laur) is featured in the final shots of Jean Vigo's "L'Atalante".
Walk down the Bassin des Récollets, return to the quai de Jemmapes and cross rue des Ecluses Saint-Martin. On the opposite side of the canal, take the quai de Valmy, then rue Louis-Blanc and finally boulevard de la Villette. Turn left, cross the boulevard, avenue Secrétan and avenue Jean-Jaurès, until you reach place de la Bataille de Stalingrad. Take the quai de la Loire, along the Bassin de la Villette. The former warehouses where, until 1974, sugar, cereals and spirits were stocked, have been used on several occasions as movie sets. Jean-Jacques Beneix, for example, shot a few scenes of his movie "Diva" here.
Cross the canal and turn right onto the quai de l'Oise. From the footbridge of the movable bridge of rue de Crimée (1884), you can enjoy an exceptional view over the Villette Rotunda, on one side, the Ourcq Canal and the roofs of the Pantin Great Mills on the other.
Cross the canal again on the railway bridge and turn left onto the quai de la Marne. Where the St-Denis and Ourcq canals meet, Marcel Carné shot "Les Portes de la Nuit" in 1945.
Walk down the quai until you get to the Villette Park (136 acres), where the slaughter-houses once stood (1867-1974). The Cité des Sciences has since taken their place.
To go back, you can choose between two Métro stations: Porte de la Villette or Porte de Pantin.
Additional note: mid-March through mid-November, you can go on a charming boat-ride and discover the canals and unusual aspects of the city from a different angle.
Paris Canal: for reservations call 01 42 40 96 97, www.pariscanal.com/sommaire.php3
Canauxrama: for reservations call 01 42 39 15 00, www.canauxrama.com