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La Seine a de la chance03/07/2015 - par Mark Tungate
Dernière chronique de la saison pour Mark Tungate. Cet été, notre journaliste anglais préféré a décidé d'explorer la Seine en dehors de Paris. Histoire de vérifier si cette marque qu'est le fleuve ne perd pas de sa consistance quand elle s'éloigne de la capitale...
Is the Seine a brand? A ridiculous question, I know – and people like me should probably stop insisting that anything can be branded. But let’s think about this for a moment. I was having lunch with a couple of friends of mine the other day, both keen sailors, and they started comparing some of their favourite places along the Seine.
In my mind – and in popular culture too – the Seine is so closely associated with Paris that it’s almost hard to imagine the river flowing anywhere else. Sometimes it feels more like a lake, devoted exclusively to shuttling tourists through Paris. And yet Rouen is on the Seine too. I began to wonder why the Seine did not have the same mythical status as the Danube.
I’m well aware that the Seine is a river of many different moods. One of my lunch companions lives on a peniche moored just below Puteaux, and sitting on the deck on a summer evening, with a glass of rosé in your hand and insect-humming greenery all around, you feel a long way from Paris.
On a more prosaic note, I live in Clichy, and a stroll along the river here gives you an impressive view of La Défense, as well as a glimpse of a spooky 19th century riverside house that is said to have belonged to Gustave Eiffel. Ownership of the place is disputed, so it is drifting slowly and sadly into ruins.
Still, I’m convinced that for many people around the world, the Seine means Paris. I began looking into cultural references to the Seine, and almost all of them focus on Paris: “Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine” (Apollinaire); “En passant par Paris, la Seine a de la chance” (Prévert). The Seine as a brand is crushed beneath the larger legend of Paris. As far as I can tell, there is nothing like The Thames Path (nationaltrail.co.uk), an online guide that enables you to walk beside “the greatest river in England” for 184 miles (296 km) from its source to the sea.
This summer, I’ve made it my mission to explore some different perspectives of the Seine. After a bit of research, I came across an initiative called Balades en Seine, which enables you to embark on a boat at Sèvres or Reuil-Malmaison and discover “The Seine of the Impressionists”, a more bucolic look at the river. These activities are organised by Hauts-de-Seine Tourisme. I actually live in Hauts-de-Seine, so I’m going to turn my back on the city, and embrace my local river as a brand in its own right.