Monday 2 August 2021

Week 31: the Bateaux-Mouches are back!

100 years ago this week: Week 31

World War One didn't have many direct impacts on Paris, but the indirect effects were deep and long-lasting. Beyond the terrible human suffering and financial shock, many more unexpected parts of city life were interrupted. This was the case with Paris's passenger boats, which in the summer of 2021 were finally getting back on the water.

Take a trip down the Seine here.

Passengers board one of the two boats

Like before the war, the squadron of bateaux-mouches, reduced to two units, sailed up and down the Seine yesterday between the Louvre and Maisons-Alfort. Few passengers, incidentally, but the lucky few who profited from this new system of locomotion agreed that they found the boats far more comfortable than seven years ago. The price of a ticket has more than doubled. From 20 cents, it is now 50, and even 80 on a Sunday.


The bateaux-mouches - fly boats - originally took their name from a boat-building district in Lyon (La Mouche), where this type of vessel originated from. They first appeared in Paris during the 1867 Universal Exhibition, and remained popular as a form of transport until the arrival of the city's Metro system at the beginning of the 20th century. The bateaux-mouche died out, and did not reappear in Paris until the 1950s, when it took on the form we know today. 

This is the generally accepted version of the story that is repeated in almost all online sources. If this were the case, why were the boats running up until the outbreak of WW1 with this identity, and why did they make a comeback in 1921? It seems that this rather succinct and mundane news item actually reveals a little-known part of the bateaux-mouche adventure. We can imagine that the reappearance of the boats - with few passengers and higher prices - was not a great success, but it seems a shame that this version of the boat should be forgotten to history completely!


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