17.5 C
Byron Shire
September 28, 2021

From Byron to Paris, history comes alive

Latest News

New COVID-19 cases in Byron and Kyogle

Two new cases of COVID-19 have been identified on the North Coast of NSW casting doubt over Byron Shire coming out of lockdown at midnight.

Other News

A matter of choice

I have chosen to receive a vaccination. Others have chosen not to. Unless we are living in some totalitarian state, that...

Organic Forrest

Pioneers of the organic food movement, David Forrest and Sue Mangan have been farming in Federal since 1978.

Why are there so many vaccinated people in hospital?

It may be confronting to hear there are more vaccinated people than unvaccinated people in hospital – but it’s actually a good thing.

Large Wilsons Creek Community Title given green light

Plans for a 15-lot housing development in Wilsons Creek will proceed to the next stage of the planning process, without further amendment, despite the community expressing concerns around flooding and traffic safety.

Ring of steel called for as Byron and Tweed locked down – again

Councillors and members of parliament from across the region are calling for greater restrictions on who can come to the Northern Rivers and other vulnerable regional areas from COVID hotspots in NSW.

Murwillumbah TAFE offers new course to meet pharmacy skills shortage

Murwillumbah TAFE has introduced a new course to meet the growing demand for local pharmacy services brought about by COVID-19.

Photo supplied.
Photo supplied.

From Byron Bay to Notre Dame, Paris! At the entrance, police openly tout heavy machine guns, casually monitoring the swarm of idle visitors and devout churchgoers in the great stone plaza. The metropolitan tension rises with the arrival of another group of thirty tourists. Moving against this flow of people, my husband Jim and I make our way to the far end where solitary steps lead into the dark underground museum.

At the bottom, we arrive 2,000 years back in time. It seems strangely familiar. Archaeological diggings reveal that this place on the Seine River was once an extensive swamp. In 300 BC, the Parisii tribe settled here to fish and farm. Who would have expected such a parallel between this place and the Bundjalung people of subtropical Cavanbah?

As we make our way through the crypt museum, the plot thickens. The history comes alive with the evocative light show. Digital reconstructions shimmer over the stone remains of buildings, archways and roads. During the 1 st century, Romans invade and overwhelm the Celt Parisii, as would the British centuries later in Byron Bay. The Latin conquerors build a town in their usual style, complete with a civic forum, bath houses and amphitheatre. Their temple to Jupiter, now under the Cathedral, is built in the Celts’ sacred grove. The population is under 10,000 people.

The business side of town is dominated by all the trappings of a busy port: piers, docks and warehouses. This is a variant of the British and Australian works familiar in Byron Bay’s history. In the shadows, the archaeologists mark the old shoreline, metres inland from the present day river. Thanks to the evocative use of sound technology, the calls of the boatmen and the clamour of the workday still haunt the ruins of this dock.

The French history now diverges from the Australian one. The Roman power declined, followed by French monarchies, revolutions and five different Republics. All the while, Paris grows as a city. By 2008, the port has developed into a network with 34 locations from central city out to the sea, 780 kilometres away. In 2016, Ile-de- France Ports handle 20 million tons of goods and transport 7 million visitors.

For centuries, the Seine was known as an open sewer. Since 1990, its water quality has changed for the better. Guided by the European Framework Directive, the French government invested heavily in sewage and storm-water treatment. According to researchers Azimi and Rocher, the water quality has improved so much that the numbers of once rare fish are growing. Unfortunately, the concentrations of heavy metal pollutants in the water are still high and show up in fish tissues.

‘What about the shellfish of the Seine in Paris?’ Jim asks. He shares my passion for freshwater clams and mussels. They filter water, process toxins and nutrients as well as create habitat for fish. The staff hadn’t heard about any shellfish restoration but the idea catches their imagination.

New York City has several shellfish restorations projects under way. The French could install gabion baskets of clean shells and live animals at strategic points along the banks of the metropolitan Seine. Around Notre Dame, these river banks are steep rock walls with broad quays near the water level. In some spots, barges tie up. In others, small parks offer garden havens.

Since 2002, every summer some of the quays and roads along the Seine are transformed with truckloads of sand. Millions of people with their towels and swimsuits visit to sunbathe at these Paris-Plages (pop-up beaches). They dance, enjoy concerts and even swim in floating pools.

When we emerge from below, we are hit with a full sun and a mid-day temperature of 30°C. Paris in May is typically only 20°C and rainy. When we meet with new friends, all scientists, they agree that the seasons are greatly changed in the past couple of years.

Barely a year ago, the Seine flooded and thousands were evacuated. Its peak at 6.7 metres above normal was the worst for three decades. The new Chief Resilience Officer Sebastien Maire is preparing the city now for the anticipated flood at the 1910 level of 8 metres. ‘What happened recently shows we are not entirely ready. If we are to become resilient the first thing we need to do is to recognise we are not.’

I look back at the Cathedral. Half dreaming, I picture the trees in the gardens around it as part of an ever-resilient sacred grove. I gaze over what the Romans called Lutetia (‘luto-’ meaning swamp). On floodplains, the fates of Paris and Byron Bay converge.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. So evocative of past and the present too as nature/ our earthy-planet adapts and delivers…….what’s possible, shellfish in regenerating waterways of Paris sewers!!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The circular economy in action

Life Cykel is a versatile, forward thinking and high ethos company that focuses on harnessing the circular economy and the great potential that mushrooms possess to create quality products for human, and planetary, health.

Entertainment in the Byron Shire for the week beginning 29 September, 2021

Byron Writers Festival co-presents a special online event with acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen. 

Organic local Koala Tea

Koala Tea has won several awards over the years and has been inducted into the ACO Organic Hall of Fame.

Organic Forrest

Pioneers of the organic food movement, David Forrest and Sue Mangan have been farming in Federal since 1978.