In the spring and summer, locals flock in droves to the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin to picnic and strum guitars. Cafés and quirky boutiques flank the water and iron footbridges. On Sundays, two streets running parallel to the canal, Quai de Valmy and Quai de Jemmapes, are reserved for pedestrians and cyclists—perfect for renting a bike and seeing the city from a fresh angle.
Canal Saint Martin has inspired the arts.
- The canal inspired painters such as Alfred Sisley.
- The canal is shown in the 1938 film Hôtel du Nord, directed by Marcel Carné.
- The canal appears in the 2001 film Amélie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, in which the title character enjoys skipping stones at the locks of the canal.
- The canal was also the setting in part for Jean Vigo’s film L’Atalante in 1934.
- In Les Malheurs d’Alfred (1972), Pierre Richard and Anny Duperey meet each other at the beginning of the film, thinking of committing suicide in the canal.
- Édith Piaf sings about the canal in the song “Les mômes de la cloche”, written by Vincent Scotto and Decaye, music by Médinger, in 1936
View of the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris (Alfred Sisley, Musee d’Orsay, 1870)
Perhaps the most charming movie of all time, Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (English Title: Amelie) is certainly one of the top 10. The title character (the bashful and impish Audrey Tautou) is a single waitress who decides to help other lonely people fix their lives. Her widowed father yearns to travel but won’t, so to inspire the old man she sends his garden gnome on a tour of the world; with whispered gossip, she brings together two cranky regulars at her café; she reverses the doorknobs and reprograms the speed dial of a grocer who’s mean to his assistant. Gradually she realizes her own life needs fixing, and a chance meeting leads to her most elaborate stratagem of all. This is a deeply wonderful movie, an illuminating mix of magic and pragmatism.
If you would like to walk in the footsteps of Amelie, click here to check out some of the filming locations in Paris. Click here for a map you can follow yourself. Perhaps you want to start a photo booth project, or have a gnome fetish, or like tossing stones into the canal, all can be found in Paris.