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Paris Sur Seine: from the old docks to Paris Plages

From the old docks to "Paris Plage"

Tue 14 Nov to Fri 01 Dec 2017
Alliance Francaise Eildon Gallery, 51 Grey St, ST KILDA

OPENING NIGHT: Wed 22 November, 6.30pm-8pm
Complimentary drinks on arrival.

The exhibition “Paris Sur Seine: from the old docks to Paris Plages” highlights the special relationship between Parisians and the Seine River with many fascinating historic images and photographs.

The exhibition "Paris Sur Seine: from the old docks to Paris Plages" invites you to discover the many faces of the river and its banks from the 18th century to today.

Until the 18th century, thanks to its commercial and recreational value, the Seine and its banks were the place to be in Paris. At that time, the Seine was a place of partying and pleasure.

Royal celebrations were organized along the Seine and citizens headed down to the banks to wash themselves and their clothes. But commerce was important and these frequent gatherings along the river hindered boat dockings. With the increasing needs of the city, there was a delicate balance between recreation and commerce.

In the past, the Seine and its banks…

In the 18th century, it was unimaginable to live in Paris without heading to the banks of the Seine. Commercial goods arrived by the river and were sold directly to the people since the boats often had to wait over a month to travel to the outskirts of Paris.

It was also a place that attracted laundry boats, water carriers, and many artisans. Stalls set up everywhere also enlivened the river. And of course, at any time of day or night, there were onlookers who arrived simply to soak up the spectacles that occurred on the water.

The Seine today

Beginning in 1970, construction of roads along the river banks started to create a distance between the Seine and Parisians who used to enjoy the tranquility of the river. Parisians soon found other entertainment and distractions, like the television. After World War II the leisure class grew and Parisian society discovered the possibility of leaving Paris for vacation.

Today, strolling along the river is now widely enjoyed by all, especially during the special events like Paris-Plages and Paris-Respire held annually in Paris.

While most areas related to economic activity on the river traffic are in transition back to recreational areas, like the Docks en Seine complex on the Quai d'Austerlitz, the exhibit also demonstrates the return of the river’s greater commercial importance, and how to meet the growing demand while respecting the environment. The Seine still plays, and has yet to play, many roles in Paris, beyond a dizzying waltz in the Square Tino Rossi or a swim in the Josephine Baker swimming pool barge.

Some Fun Historical Facts

The first swim across the Seine
The first official swim across the Seine was held in 1905. Eight swimmers participated in this first edition, a race measuring 11 km. The success was so huge that Paris sponsored the event every August until 1936

The baths of the Samaritan
The water pump of the Samaritan was demolished in 1813. Ernest Cognacq, founder of the department store of the same name, opened up his shop by the Pont Neuf on the site of the old pump. During the Second Empire, a sort of bath house opened up as well. Designed to offer special cabins with all the comforts for body care, the facility was rebuilt in the inter-war years as a swimming pool designed primarily for leisure.

The Deligny Swimming Pool
Sir Turquin Deligny partnered with his son in 1808 for a special project. At that time, Paris had only two swimming schools, one in the Quai de Bethune on the Ile Saint-Louis and at the Deligny Pool by the Quai d'Orsay, near the Concorde. While the school of the Ile Saint-Louis is designed for students of the Latin Quarter, Deligny was the meeting place for the most elegant swimmers. The cigar was the indispensable accessory to accompany the pleasure of a cold bath. In 1919, owners installed a filtration system to address the muddy pollution that hindered swimmers. The Deligny pool suddenly sunk one night in 1993, taking with it the memory of the aquatic antics of Parisian society.

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