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Could there possibly be a crocodile in Canal Saint-Martin in Paris? Who would ever imagine that there would be a crocodile in the Paris waterways?
But, stories abound. There was a crocodile found in the sewers of Paris in 1984 that was captured and taken to the city of Vannes in Brittany. Living in an aquarium I am sure that Eleanore, the darling name of this crocodile, would have many a tale to share about life in the Parisian sewers.
Update 2022: Unfortunately the aquarium in Vannes closed in December 2020 and Eleanore was moved to a tropical reserve in the Drôme department of France. She died on June 8, 2021 at age 38 years old.
But what about a crocodile in Canal Saint-Martin? Or two. I’ve spent a lot of my Parisian days this year alongside the Canal Saint-Martin initially brushing up against the hipster crowd, riding along the bike lanes and delighting in the spring flowering of the chestnut trees.
During confinement my days were spent walking by the Canal Saint-Martin social distancing and trying to avoid the plethora of runners.
When deconfinement started, I got restaurant takeouts several times and ate by the canal on the steps of the bridges. I feel rather intimate with this part of Paris and had plain forgotten about the possibility of a crocodile in Canal Saint-Martin.
Last winter when I was still dreaming of applying for a VISA to live in Paris, I discovered the Earful Tower’s blog and podcast. It was there that I first heard of the elderly lady who claimed to have set two small crocodiles free into Canal Saint-Martin in 2016.
Of course, one ends Oliver’s podcast thinking that this Parisian dame is completely and utterly delusional.
But truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Perhaps she had been raising exotic pets and tired of their needs.
Perhaps she was looking after them for someone and felt they needed more freedom.
Perhaps she thought they would have a better diet in the Canal Saint-Martin. Besides fish, there are bicycles and tires and a myriad of other fascinating things that have been dumped in the canal only to be discovered every ten years when Canal Saint-Martin is drained.
Perhaps it was a provocation or a mere tall tale.
Strolling up the Quai de Valmy one summer evening, I heard a shriek. There, much to my amazement, on the sidewalk, no less, was a crocodile. This crocodile of the Canal Saint-Martin moved its head and snapped.
This crocodile of the Canal Saint-Martin moved its tail. Exactly like a crocodile would…
This crocodile of the Canal Saint-Martin moved all its feet.
Unsuspecting joggers and strollers let out a cry as they passed by this crocodile.
My thoughts went like this… “Holy ****!”
“That lady wasn’t crazy after all. One of her small crocodiles has grown immensely and still lives on.”
“Only in Paris!”
One has to linger to figure things out and with a little sleuthing, I found the brains behind the crocodile casually hovering across the street. There, nonchalantly was a man operating the lifelike crocodile.
I chatted to him and found out this… he has electronically rigged this crocodile with electrodes so that it moves and acts like a real crocodile. Did I ask him where he got the body? NO! I have gone back to find him several times but to no avail.
But the juiciest piece of info was this….. his crocodile is waterproof and he pops the crocodile in Canal Saint-Martin in the summer. Aha!
Are the crocodile stories related? Did the Parisienne by the canal see this croc and create a story around it? Did she see two?
You be the judge. But don’t be surprised one day if you are enjoying a picnic under the chestnut trees and the crocodile(s) in Canal Saint-Martin casually swim past.
Me? I just wouldn’t recommend taking a swim in the Canal Saint-Martin.
If crocodiles are your thing why not try eating at Le Croco du Marais. I walk by this restaurant all the time and since deconfinement, it is always bumping! I need to line up one day and give it a try!
There is also a cocktail bar called Le Crocodile. I wonder how many people have a real-live Paris crocodile story to share?
If you are looking to have a bite by the Canal Saint-Martin, look no further than this awesome list of restaurants.
More Paris Info…
If you love that village feel in Paris, like Canal Saint-Martin, these areas might interest you:
Montmartre feels like a small village. This post on Montmartre leads you to the most popular sites as well as some lesser-known places on the hill.
La Butte aux Cailles, tucked away in the 13th arrondissement, is another place in Paris that has retained its village-like charm. My article on La Butte aux Cailles will lead you to discover the area and its visually enticing street art.
Le Marais is a “not to be missed area” of Paris. Here is a great guide on what to see and do in Le Marais.
It’s always great fun to track down the secrets of Paris. Here is your guide to 21 fabulous hidden gems.
If you are looking for food suggestions, read about where to find the best croissants in Paris. There are also plenty of café suggestions for the Marais area in this post: Tips from a Local. And if you are exploring the area around Canal Saint-Martin, here are the best places to stop for a bite or to find the fixings for a picnic.
Travelling to Paris alone? This article on navigating Paris alone is full of tips and tricks for the solo traveller.
This page has all my articles on Paris that will help you plan out your trip, including day trips from Paris. I hope you subscribed to my newsletter to get my free download.
If you are going further afield in France, make sure to check out my page on France.
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I would be shrieking too if I saw that thing coming for me!!! I hope you find him again one day! He looks so real!
Alison Browne says
Yes, although I talked to the man who the crocodile belongs to, I wish I had asked him more specific questions. I’ll have to go looking for him! The crocodile elicits many a shriek from the people passing by!