My cycling map showed a bicycle route along the right bank of the Seine River leading southeast out of Paris towards the place where the Seine is joined by its tributary the Marne.
For some reason I wanted to go there (even though this is not exactly the most picturesque part of the Seine Valley), and I tried to get down to the bicycle route from the bridge called the Pont National. Later I learned from other cyclists that this is not possible (you can have access from other bridges, but not from this one), so it wasn’t just that I took a wrong turn somewhere. In any case, I didn’t reach that bicycle route but found myself in a suburb called Charenton-le-Pont.
My first stop in Charenton-le-Pont was this commercial center called Bercy 2 — Bercy being the adjoining district of Paris, in the 12th arrondissement.
The words le Pont in the name Charenton-le-Pont mean ‘the bridge’, referring to a bridge that was built in ancient Roman times across the Marne River. According to the town’s website Charenton.fr, this bridge was mentioned in the memoirs of Julius Caesar in the first century BC, and has been re-built eighteen times since then.
The bridge is included in the town’s name to avoid confusion with Charenton-du-Cher, a smaller town some 232 km to the south.
As you might be able to tell from this map, most of Charenton-le-Pont is cut off from the Seine and the Marne Rivers by a huge motorway, the A4. But as soon as you get out of earshot of the motorway the town starts getting quite pleasant.
They even have a theatre. It is called the Théâtre des Deux Rives or Theater of the Two Riverbanks. Presumably this refers to the banks of the Seine and the Marne, which is somewhat ironic considering that these riverbanks are mostly blocked by the motorway, so the people have no access to them.
As far as I can tell from their website, the Théâtre des Deux Rives (T2R) seems to have survived the covid-pandemic and is slowly resuming operations. At the beginning of the website is a text signed by the mayor and deputy mayor of Charenton-le-Pont. It reads in part:
Over the past few months, we have all been gripped by the amazement and dread of a health crisis that one would have thought imagined by a delusional-minded novelist. And yet, this crazy pandemic was very real and froze many industries.
Time has stood still for the world of entertainment and culture. While it seemed inconceivable, the theaters have lowered the curtain and it was with deep sadness that we put the T2R programming on hold. […] We sincerely hope that cultural facilities will return to normal activity in the coming months. […]
At the town center is the Métro station called Charenton Écoles which has a direct connection to Paris via line number 8.
My photos in this post are from 2007. I revised the text in 2021.
See also: the adjoining Bois de Vincennes.