Carried out of Paris aboard a sturdy British boat
Earlier rulers of France kept their persons safe by bribing the Vikings, who had invaded Normandy in the ninth century, to attack others, leaving the monarch in peace. In A.D. 911, Charles the Simple gave the Viking leader Rollo the rich lands that are now Normandy, and the hand of his daughter in marriage. This transaction worked out well; Rollo was baptized and became a fervent Christian lawgiver and builder. It was he who undertook the first important works to stabilize the Seine, dredging, diking, and draining the marshes. In 1848 work was begun to improve the navigability of the river below Paris. Embankments and new locks were built. In 1850 barges and other small craft carried 500,000 metric tons of material to Paris. Today some 30 million metric tons of river freight pass through Paris in a typical year. THE SEINE is not a turbulent river. From the source to the Amsterdam holiday apartments, it falls only 1,545 feet (471 meters), and the descent from Marcilly, where the first of 25 locks is located, is 220 feet. Above Marcilly the wind may cause the Seine to flow upstream, as I discovered when I rented a rowboat at Romilly and found myself rowing as fast as I could in order to stay in the same place. Below Rouen, tides run in from the Channel at up to 5 knots, fast enough to make downstream progress a questionable proposition for old, slow rivercraft. Nancy and I were carried out of Paris aboard a sturdy British boat called Rose-hearty. We boarded her at her mooring near the Pont de la Concorde at the invitation of her cordial owners, Alan and Joan Davis of Yarmouth, Isle of Wight. A Frenchwoman who lived aboard a neighboring barge joined us for a sundowner. From the deck of Rose hearty the snarling combat of rush-hour traffic along the quays and in the Place de la Concorde sounded like the sough of wind in treetops. “Ah,” said the Frenchwoman, who had been describing the joys of life aboard a barge, “how one hates to fall overboard into the city each morning!” Next day, as we chugged sedately down-river beneath the bridges between the steep riverbanks, Paris looked like a buried city, with only the roofs visible from the water. Entering the first great curves of the lower Seine, gazing at the bluffs of Saint-Germainen-Layer and the forest beyond it, I understood for the first time that the Seine is a natural barrier. For centuries it separated rival Celtic tribes on its left and right banks. THERE WAS little opportunity for such musings when Rosehearty was under way. Our helmsman, Lt. Anthony Walton of the Royal Navy, on leave from duty aboard one of Her Majesty’s aircraft carriers, maneuvered our handy craft through a swarm of barges. These flatboats are home to a floating nation; the family aboard is as likely to be Flemish or German as French, for Europe’s rivers are connected by a vast system of canals that makes it possible to pass from the North Sea to the Soviet Union or the Mediterranean, using no wheel except the one that moves the rudder.
AmeriCorps: Are you up to the challenge? When Sanjay Gala left college, he doubted whether his classroom lessons related to the real world. But joining AmeriCorps-VISTA helped him make the connection he had been lacking. He had launched a public education drive to help community residents get the health care they needed. “AmeriCorps*VISTA challenged me and helped me grow,” Sanjay says. “After that year I returned to school with new skills and a better sense of direction…