I haven’t seen my cousin Geraldine in about 50 years and it’s her first time in Paris. I advised her to try and get accommodation in the 1st arrondissement because it’s so central. I’ve been following her adventures in Lucca in Italy on Facebook and am stunned when I see her first photos of Paris.
She is staying on a péniche – a barge – on the Seine, right in the middle of Paris. What a location! “I knew that this would be good but not THIS good”, she comments.
We meet up at one of my favourite lunch spots, Café Diane in the Tuileries Gardens, where you can always get a shady table and eat an excellent quiche Lorraine accompanied by a glass of cold rosé. We deserve it – it’s over 30°C!
“Do you still want to see the barge?” asks Geraldine at the end of the meal. Well, of course I do! I’ve dreamed of living on a barge since my high school days when I followed the adventures of a French family on a barge on TV. She thought that having lived in Paris so long, I would be completely jaded. Not so!
“Oh no!” says Geraldine, when we reach the barge. “They’ve all gone out and I don’t have my key. It’s in my other bag”. When she left to meet me, her husband Ian, and their daughter and her partner were watching a State of Origin football match but either the match is over or the wrong team won.
Geraldine is very apologetic as she rummages desperately through her bag, but I don’t care. I am already sitting on the deck watching the world go by. It is sheer magic. It’s amazing how actually being on the river makes you suddenly a part of Paris.
Geraldine tells me that the day they arrived, they couldn’t tear themselves away from the deck, even with the Louvre so close. I can understand that perfectly!
There are not only tourist boats (Vedettes du Pont Neuf, Bateaux Mouches, Vedettes de Paris) plying the Seine, but also the Batobus, a police boat and numerous working barges. There’s even a bullet-proof government boat taking VIPS to the Finance Ministry!
We text Ian and drag him back from the Louvre. He opens the hatch and I’m close on his heels, eager to see the inside. He good naturedly makes me coffee in the well-equipped kitchen. He and Geraldine opt for a cold beer.
The interior is surprisingly big, with an attractive open-plan galley and living room and dining area although they usually eat up on the deck. Can you blame them?
After they bought the barge in the 1970s, the owners loving restored it in perfect respect of its original style – a Dutch tjalk built in 1902. That is why the only furniture on the deck is a teak table and chairs.
There is a double bedroom down one end with a bathroom and separate toilet and two single bedrooms down the other. I see there are heaters for winter and a pot-belly stove which must make it nice and cosy. There’s also wifi and a flat-screen TV.
I have a peek into the engine room as well. I know Jean Michel will want to know what it’s like.
Downstairs is a bit hot (but no more than any other Paris apartment in a heat wave) so we take our drinks up on the deck where I sip my coffee and eat macaroons from Ladurée. This is the life!
Sadly, Geraldine has to go back to Australia tomorrow, flying via Dubai with Emirates. “But I’m coming back”, she says. “And definitely staying here if it’s available.”
You can find house boats on the airbnb.com website from 250 euro a night. Type Paris, then enter “barge” in keywords.