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Paddle to the Seine islands and enjoy a sunset cocktail

Listen to the lapping waves and recharge your batteries in this protected natural area. By kayak or paddle, contemplate the cliffs illuminated by the rays of the setting sun, its islands, its surrounding wildlife and its troglodyte chapel. Stop off at the Estival (or Moulin Rose for the indoor part) for a cocktail and an aperitif board.



It’s 7pm, we arrive as agreed at the base de loisirs de Belbeuf: Pagaies en Seine. We meet up with our guide for the day Hugo, a qualified instructor in charge of taking us on a discovery of the islands of the Seine. It’s an opportunity for us to get together with friends and spend a friendly moment around a shared activity. After a few safety instructions, everyone chooses their boat. We meet up with the other participants and ten or so of us head for the water to follow the final recommendations. For another couple and for me, it’s paddle, while the others opt for two-seater canoes.

The sun starts to slowly decline and we take our places in our boats for the first strokes of the paddles. The group is fairly heterogeneous, while some move forward to make way for those embarking, others start zigzagging to get back to the starting point. Then the group sets off to climb the Seine under the watchful eye of our supervisor.



The excursion is total just a few meters from the base. A moment out of time, wild, amid verdant trees and lush vegetation. Before long, the noise of the city is a distant memory, giving way to the chirping of birds and the lapping of water. A soothing silence settles in, and everyone concentrates on finding their own pace for the first few meters. Hugo moves from boat to boat, distilling his advice. As time goes by, the pressure eases and small groups begin to form and exchange ideas. We don’t know each other, but the fact that we’re all in “the same boat” very quickly leads to conversation.

A few hundred meters more before the finish and reflection gives way to contemplation. Amid the weeping willows, a multitude of small insects: dragonflies, water spiders, larvae and other beetles frolic on the water’s surface. A glance back, and the leisure base is already starting to look like a small dot in the distance.

The advantage of being on a paddle is having a high view. A few onlookers on the towpath greet us with a nod or a wave. We watch the islands go by, and a few start to tire. Hugo, armed with a tow rope, ties them to his own boat and pulls them along without any effort.

Navigate and discover

the treasures of the Seine

On the shore, scroll the chalk cliffs and in the middle overlooking the Seine, the chapelle Saint-Adrien de Belbeuf. This dates back to the 18th century and is the origin of the famous legend of the two hermits: Onumphe and Pancrate. To help a young girl get married, they decided to stick a needle into their own flesh, and the girl found a husband. Following this event and for several centuries, the chapel was a place of pilgrimage for young girls in search of a husband.

Just a few more meters and after an hour’s navigation, we’ve arrived at the goal of our journey: L’Estival. This restaurant-bar boasts a sand beach, an outdoor bar and palm trees. It’s in this setting, and standing on my paddle originally created to sail between Polynesian islands, that I suddenly feel like I’ve arrived at the end of the world. The working day already seems a long way off, and this experience seems to have erased all everyday worries.



The night continues quietly to settle in, the lanterns and restaurant lights reflected on the waves of the Seine. We take turns disembarking on the pontoon, our eyes still sparkling from the thousands and one natural wonders we’ve just observed. A multitude of information jostles in our heads, which our brains struggle to register. We’re already on our way to enjoy the restaurant’s covered terrace, with a drink in hand.

To complete the picture, superb boards arrive garnished with all sorts of cheeses and charcuterie to satisfy the hunger that’s beginning to make itself felt. That strange feeling of meeting up with an old gang of pals, each exchanging his little experience of sailing and telling his life story, as if we’d known each other forever whereas 2h00 earlier we were still complete strangers to each other. To a rousing pop tune, intoned by a live singer, heads start bobbing to the beat. Then, just as a dream always ends, it’s already time to leave.

In the footsteps

of the great explorers

The temperature has dropped and night has set in for good. We return to the pontoon amidst the lights lit for the occasion. Hugo helps us each in turn to board, and here we are drifting in the middle of the night with the moon as our only light towards the starting point. Arms quietly recover from the numbness of the break and we paddle in silence. A few laughs begin to fly. Strangely, our vision becomes accustomed to the darkness and we begin to make out the shapes of the islands around us.

In just 20 minutes and carried by the current, we return to the leisure base to finalize our epic journey with the impression of having walked in the footsteps of the great explorers. Last exchanges and hugs, promising us to repeat the experience soon, before returning, without a certain nostalgia, to our vehicles.

Next outings will have from May 2024, two dates per month until September.