When the great city is celebrating to welcome its guests, the ever-faithful companion of old Paris should also make it a point of honour to show herself hospitable, - to adorn herself in her most beautiful finery and give them a warm welcome.
On these solemn days, the Seine, thanks to the active assistance of the regatta society and its indefatigable president, M. Benoît-Champy, so well assisted by M. A. Fleuret and M. G. Viard, will not fail in any of its duties. Viard, will not fail in any of its duties, and, since it is necessary to use the somewhat severe terms in use at the Exhibition, the classes 49, 66 and 66 bis installed in part on the bank of the river have come to lend each other fraternal assistance, to give a new attraction to the grandiose spectacle presented by the Champ de Mars, or rather the new city, the Iron City rising in the midst of flowers and greenery, and floating in the air the banners of the peaceful tournament, the flags of all the peoples of the universe.
If, from the top of the immense staircase which stretches across the gently sloping hills where the steep hill of Trocadero stood only a few days ago, the eye descends towards the Exhibition Palace, it is first of all stopped by the elegant buildings which line the bank on both sides of the Iéna bridge. There, not far from the restaurant where tired walkers will come to recover their strength and seek the coolness of the water, are already installed the fishing instruments and devices for breathing and working under water of the 49th class, - the navigation and rescue equipment of the 66th class, - the colossal machines of the ships Marengo and Friedland, enormous cranes, other boilers and other machines of a strength that can be counted in thousands of horses, and that the Imperial establishment of Indret, the forges and yards of the Mediterranean, the forges and yards of the Ocean, the Fraissinet, the Berendorf, and on the other side of the port, on the same bank, the English builders seem to want to show to the inhabitants of the mainland, as a pledge of confidence and safety, if ever a fatal destiny condemned them to cross the sea, while not far away the boats and machines of the salvage company remind us of the perils of storms and shipwrecks Next to the landing stage, against the steel bridge, we see an iron turret topped by a harbour light, and in the Seine, opposite a graceful wooden pavilion containing models and various products, the buoys of the basin reserved for pleasure boating, that class 66 bis which will be the movement and life, the elegance and gaiety of the river.
For the first time, in fact, water sports is taking its rightful place among us, and has been able to conquer it by the progress of all kinds which it has been the origin and source of for several years. - Feeding an important industry, yachting, since we had to start by borrowing from England the very term which designates it, while spreading the habit of physical exercises, makes penetrate in the well-to-do classes the taste for navigation; and indirect but active agent, attracts the attention of the capitalists of our cities of the interior towards the investments and the maritime business - 4696 boats registered in the maritime districts - 5776 amateurs or classified sailors - more than eight thousand pleasure boats on the rivers, testify enough to the importance acquired by what it is allowed to call the new institution which knew how to deserve the so flattering and so invaluable patronage of S. M. the Empress. By deigning to register among the exhibitors and to send a caïc and a gondola, which will be admired in a few days' time under an elegant tent erected in front of the central pavilion, Her Majesty the Empress has given a testimony of her high benevolence and shown all the interest she takes in the work accomplished by the navigation society.
The useful inventions, the curious results obtained, the products even collected by pleasure craft in distant explorations, such as those of Captain Girard going up the Niger in Africa on his twenty-eight ton sloop, the Joseph-Léon, will form the subject of a special study, and we shall also speak of the comparative experiments of rescue with the devices of all countries, which a commission, presided over by M. Benoît-Champy, is to pursue. But now the port is afloat, and the struggles, the excitement and the spectacle that the Seine will present, demand our attention. Let us therefore leave aside the hangars of the dry boats, the graceful and charming specimens of naval architecture which they contain, the caiques of the Sultan and of H. H. Prince Mustapha, which will be there in all their splendour, and let us descend to the reserved harbour by these narrow paths cut along the flower-covered embankments. Already the waters are returning to their usual level and will allow the sailing and steam flotilla to moor on the buoys. - The steamboat La Mouche, belonging to Prince Napoleon, and his sailing cutter L'Epervier, will be there in the front row, ahead of seven or eight foreign steamers or yachts, next to the Dutch boats of the Société royale du sport nautique de la Meuse in Liège, not far from La Sirène, a charming schooner belonging to M. Lafond of Rouen; from L'Epreuve, a pleasure sloop belonging to M. Lahure of Le Havre; from L'Africaine, belonging to M. Languille, and many others among which will pass and repass the thousand boats of all shapes and sizes: yawls, whaleboats, gigs, outreiggers, skiffs, which barely exceed the edge of the water, slender and fast, which fly under the impulse of a single oarsman; perissons, pirogues, canoes of all races and all countries, from the modest family boat, made unsinkable by air boxes which allow children to be carried in it without fear of accidents, to the savage's pirogue which the slightest wobble makes capsize. It will thus be the aquatic spectacle of the whole world, and, to make it even more lively, the steamers, loaded with passengers, the Mouches, elegant and fast, will run from one end of Paris to the other; from Bercy to the Pont d'Iéna and to Billancourt. On beautiful spring evenings or the warm hours of a summer night, it will be delightful to let oneself fly on the river flooded with lights; to make a voyage of discovery in Paris or on a hot afternoon, sitting in the shade of a thick tent, to witness without fatigue this feverish activity and the new spectacle presented by the hitherto so quiet waters of the Seine Certainly, for the Parisians themselves, it will not be one of the less curious surprises that the splendours of the Exhibition of 1867 are preparing.
On certain days the river will take on an even more animated aspect. - In the month of May the sailing wrestlers will be summoned to international regattas, - other rowing regattas, in which all countries will take part, will also be held at various intervals, and wonderful parties are to be given during the beautiful summer evenings.
Since this is the case, let us take it easy on the water. It is the wisest course; let us abandon ourselves in all confidence to the direction of M. Benoît-Champy, the intelligent and active president of the Société des régates and of the Class 66 bis, who is providing us with many surprises and more than one spectacle, of which the Paris of yesteryear had little idea. - There is already talk of a nautical meeting in honour of Her Majesty the Empress. On the day when these boats would come to take possession of their magnificent tent, all the sailing and steam yachts, the whole flotilla, the boats and canoes of all kinds, decked out in flags and in celebration, would parade one by one, greeting the august Sovereign, whose active spirit and energetic goodness are passionately concerned with all the works which can, in whatever form, contribute to the greatness and glory of the Emperor and of France.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée