In summer, when the days are longer and the weather in Paris is nice, locals from East Paris crowd the city canals for waterside pétanque, drinks along their bar-terraces or casual Paris picnics dangling their feet over the water. This is an area that we know well and we like to enjoy it from time to time with an apéro’ in hand and some friends.
How about enjoying the Paris Canals by doing something different? Last week, we decided to explore them in a different way and we rented an electric boat at Canal de la Villette. We wanted to navigate Paris slowly, with picnic on-board and rosé : -)
This is possible thanks to Marin d Eau Douce (=river sailor in English), a young company proposing a fleet of 22 electric self-drive boats for 5, 7 or 11 people. These electric canal boats do not require any kind of boating license and they are very easy to use.
In 1802, Napoleon 1st ordered the creation of a river network in Paris to supply the city with drinking water and with wood and cereals. The Paris canals cross five departments and represent nearly 130 km of waterways. The main Parisian canals are Canal de l Ourcq, Canal Saint-Martin and Canal Saint-Denis.
MARIN D EAU DOUCE – CHECK IN AND BRIEFING
Léa welcomed us at Marin d Eau Douce ’s office, located on the Bassin de la Villette. The check-in process was straightforward (more or less like renting a bike) and after 10 minutes we were already onboard. We booked the Scoop, a canal boat for 7 people with a speed of 9 km/h. It was on the Scoop where Léa showed us how to drive a boat and taught us the basic navigation rules and safety measures. Renting a boat without license in Paris could not be easier and 5 minutes after leaving the dock we were navigating Paris in our own way.
OUR ITINERARY – BASSIN DE LA VILLETTE
Before leaving the dock we got a brochure with the itinerary and estimated times. Having 2 hours of navigation ahead of us, we were allowed to sail out of the Bassin de la Villette and reach the Canal de l Ourcq up to Centre Nationale de la Danse. On the way, we had to cross a lift bridge and a spinning footbridge so it was important to keep in mind their opening schedules to avoid wasting time.
After some maneuvers to test our navigation skills, we floated up the canal to the first bridge. The boat was clean, silent and very easy to use. It was still “Paris Plages” time so the banks were full of deck chairs, parasols and summer activities for kids. The afternoon was warm but the light was horrible because it had been raining hard earlier in the day. That could only mean fewer pictures and more rosé which did not sound that bad ; -)
BASSIN DE LA VILLETTE – CANAL DE L OURCQ
Canal de l Ourcq is a pleasant waterway with a cool atmosphere and an interesting industrial heritage. We had already visited this area by bike but everything looks cooler from the water. The walls and bridges have new street art and, surprise! , after our last visit, a canal bridge turned into a disco-bridge. Oh la la . . .
We had to wait a little bit to cross the spinning footbridge so we started to uncork the rosé and prepare our onboard picnic in style (after all, we are Parisians!). Every 15 minutes two men block the people traffic and move the footbridge with the help of a little engine. It was funny to see this a couple of times.
After leaving the footbridge behind we navigated through Parc de la Villette with its Géode and Museum of Science and Industry in Paris. We could also see the Great Pantin Flour Mills and the Former Customs House, two buildings with an interesting architecture. Unfortunately, when we reached the trees area, it was time to turn around and go back to the dock.
MARIN D EAU DOUCE – FINAL THOUGHTS
We had a great time! The canal cruise was pleasant, with some funny anecdotes that we prefer to keep for ourselves ; -) Sometimes we wished our canal boat was faster but maybe this is the speed limit along the Paris canals. Marin d Eau Douce ’s electric boats are a cool and original way to discover a less known area of Paris, away from the hustle and bustle of the Seine and its Bateaux Mouches. We sailed through the Paris canals in our own way, without tourist explanations shouted through a megaphone AND far from the crowds. I loved the sense of freedom at the back of our boat, with the French flag waved in the breeze and my glass of rosé. Marin d Eau Douce ‘s self-drive boats are definitely a great way to explore Paris off the beaten track.
OUR BEST TIPS
» Marin d Eau Douce has electric boats for 5, 7 and 11 people. Have in mind that the smallest boats are slower (5 km/h) and it can be a little bit boring. We recommend the Scoop boat, with a speed of 9 km /h.
» You can rent a canal boat for 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, half day (4 hours) and full day (6 hours). We recommend a minimum of 3 hours. This is because with one hour you can only turn around the Bassin de la Villette and with 2 hours you will miss the best part of Canal de l Ourcq.
» Book your electric boat 2-3 weeks in advance, especially on weekends or during the summer months.
» On longer trips, you have the option to stop along the way (there are two mooring points) to enjoy the canal’s banks. You can bring your own picnic and drinks or if you want to treat yourself well, order a beautiful Paris picnic basket full of fresh products. The company proposes other supplements like pétanque or molkki games.
» If you want to have a picnic on-board, we recommend booking the removable table to avoid holding your glass all the time. The table is available only for Scoop and Most boats.
» During your canal cruise, have in mind the bridges’ opening schedules to avoid wasting your time. The lift bridge at the end of Bassin de la Villette opens every hour, at 15 minutes and 45 minutes while the footbridge at Canal de l Ourcq opens each quarter of an hour.
MARIN D EAU DOUCE – BASIC INFO
Marin d Eau Douce is located at 37 Quai de la Villette, between the MK2 quai de Seine cinema and the Passerelle de Moselle. They open every day, from 9.30am to 10 pm. You can reach Quai de la Villette by the Paris metro. Metro station Stalingrad (line 5 or line 2), or station Riquet (line 7).
Arrive at the company’s office at least 15 minutes in advance. You need this time to sign the hiring agreement and pay the deposit.
Children are welcome from 6 months of age and life jackets ensure that everyone stays safe.
Best of all, you can check availability & book instantly online on their website.
Are you ready to be the captain of your own boat and explore Paris in a different way?
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Disclaimer: we would like to thank Marin d Eau Douce for providing us the “Scoop” boat to sail Canal de la Villette and Canal de l Ourcq. As always, all opinions remain our own. Cover picture courtesy of Marin d Eau Douce ©
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