Seine, the hectic life of Paris and Normandy in France

In its publication; “The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the 21st Century” (Princeton University Press, 2018), Helena Rosenblatt boldly speaks of liberalism for individual rights to promote civic virtue and secularized morality.

During my recent visit to France for the 19and ISF Gymnasiade Games, I couldn’t stop thinking about publishing Rosenblatt when I saw, for the first time in my life, the gigantic river Seine.

The Seine flows freely and gracefully from the capital Paris to the North-West in the Normandy region (Langres plateau), Rouen, Le Havre, Haropa to the mouth of the emblematic Manche (La Manche).

For starters, the Seine covers an enviable 777 km with a basin of 79,000 km (31,000 sq mi).

Yacht moored in a shipyard in Normandy, France. (David Isabirye)

From local residents, I learned that Paris’ rich history is inextricably linked to the Seine as the city was first established on the Ile de la Cité before rapidly expanding to the left and right banks.

First hand I witnessed ‘real life’ on this unique river with people from all walks of life freely using their rights to enjoy the benefits that come with it.

Being on athletic duty, I endured the car trip from Paris to Beauville, Normandy, where the games would take place.

The beautiful sunset over the English Channel in Normandy, France (Credit: David Isabirye)

We were more than 4000 people from at least 63 countries doing sports business for these U-18 World High School Games where Uganda won 7 medals (2 gold, 1 silver and 4 bronze).

Along the way, I discovered that the Seine has 37 bridges in Paris alone with the Pont Alexandre III, the Pont Neuf (the oldest built in the 16and century) and the very last Charles-de-Gaulle Bridge (1996) among the most popular.

I also noticed the Pont de Normandie, ranked 9and the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world that connects Le Havre and Honfleur as I connected to the town of Montvielliers where table tennis was held.

The city of Beauville, a tourist destination is the center where I will stay for the next 10 days.

It is a quiet enclosure with many pleasure and excursion boats that dock on the Seine, hosts sumptuous apartments for the elderly as well as hotels and a public market twice a week.

A sumptuous old house in Beauville, France (Credit: David Isabirye)

During the exciting 19and ISF Gymnasiade Games, the vast sand on the banks of the English Channel where the Seine pours its water was used as a facility for Beach Volleyball.

Beach volleyball was one of the 20 sports disciplines in the Games which was well watched by different people from all walks of life.

A dozen courts were built on the sand as the action unfolded at breakneck speed.

Young girls enjoy a manual ride on a unique bicycle along the Seine. (David Isabirye)

As we watched beach volleyball at the Games, hundreds of tourists flocked to relax on the beach, sailed in their boats as many came and dined in the budding hotels as well as the decimated casinos.

It was indeed a kind of festival, all precipitated by the Games, the beautiful summer weather and definitely the Seine.

The wide attractive sandy beaches in addition to England Channell where beach volleyball at the 2022 ISF Games took place. (David Isabirye)

Around the weekend days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday), the number of visitors proper doubled.

Older couples, 50-somethings and teenagers flock to Beauville to enjoy life proper.

Being a summer season, it was the perfect time to sunbathe and sail along the Seine in the nautical clubs established at the gates of the city.

The other pillar is the captivating Cliffs of Etretat in Upper Normandy.

Returning to Paris, I found this iconic Seine to be pedestrianized as people relax on the quirky floating constructions, cultural and leisure spaces that have indeed changed the way people look at life along the river from the capital.

The Seine is also home to the L’Adamant floating psychiatric hospital near Bercy, the OFF Seine Hotel, the Cabaret Electro, L’Arche (aquatic, sports and leisure complex) and the Fluctuart street art museum.

A common feature in the heart of Paris is the Eiffel Tower.

The author (David Isabirye) in front of the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

It was history in the making for me when I reached the Eiffel Tower. Hundreds of visitors (domestic and foreign) were at this historic feature.

Tourists freely took pictures while others climbed to reach the top.

Business as usual is booming at the Eiffel Tower with documentaries being produced, literary publications being sold as well as fine art also being purchased.

A gentleman sells artifacts to Ugandan sports officials Chris Mugisa and Dr Bernard Patrick Ogwel next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. (David Isabirye)

Facing the Eiffel Tower is a gourmet restaurant on the Seine initiated by the famous chef Alain Ducasse.

It is an all-electric boat moored in front of the gigantic Tower with Chef Frederic Anton offering gastronomic cruises on the Don Juan II.

Around the Eiffel Tower, it’s a hive of activity. (Credit: David Isabirye)
Hotels and apartments are planted along the banks of the Seine. (Credit: David Isabirye)

I also learned that the Seine, whose name comes from the Celtic “Gallo-Roman” (goddess of the river) is a confine for artistic and cultural activities such as theaters and concerts with the famous firefighters of Paris and divers on this magical Seine at the Quai de la Monnaie.

People from different walks of life also come together to have a drink, dance and listen to live music.

I have also been warned that it is strictly forbidden to swim, sail or kayak on the Seine without authorization.

Gérald Ronzatti, the founder of the Seine Design agency, which has built several projects on this river, notes that “every time the riverbank lanes were closed to car traffic, people invaded them”.

According to Ronzatti, in 1996, part of the banks between the Tuileries tunnel and the Quai Henri IV (in the Georges – Pompidou section) was dedicated to pedestrianization by the then mayor of the city of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe.

This opened the Seine to the public and saw a complete turnaround.

“It was like Liberation. No one anticipated such a change, Ronzatti revealed as I linked this freedom to Helena Rosenblatt’s post.

Deep in my heart, I keep thinking; how Paris and France in general would have been without the phenomenal Seine, a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO in 1991 (Rive Gauche & Rive Droite).

Another UNESCO declared site is Mont Saint Michel and its bay where at least three million people visit each year.

En route to Paris International Airport, I have the privilege of getting one last glimpse of the meandering Seine, the St Denis stadium (under renovation) and the magnificent home of PSG, venue for the UEFA Champions League League this season.

I look forward to my early return for unfinished business in Paris as the 2024 Summer Olympics are also fast approaching.

To my dearest guides and friends in France, I say Thank You Very Much and to my dear readers around the world; Goodbye, until we meet again

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