Winter 2007

Winter in Paris was not what we expected.  We thought that it would be cold, at least during January and February, and we imagined that we would spend cold gray days wandering around museums or department stores in order to escape the freezing temperatures that would chase us off the streets.

Barging legends, Bill and Francis, who have wintered in the Arsenal, told us how they shopped for supplies during the dead of winter without having to spend more than a few minutes out in the cold. Having learned over the years to trust their advice, we made a trial run in the fall, taking line #1 at the Bastille to La Defense, where there is an underground shopping mall. We went back once, but only because we wanted to shop there. We never needed to return because of the cold, and were able to shop all winter in comfort on rue Saint-Antoine, where we had the pleasure of getting to know our local merchants.

Since Paris is North, and Roanne is South, we never dreamed that this winter would be so full of California blue sky days, that it would be warm enough for us to walk happily along the streets of Paris making new discoveries around every corner, or that we would be able to join our port neighbors for pot luck dinners out on the quay without having to eat wearing hats and gloves.

In Roanne, our winter habits during January and February were more closely associated with those of hibernating bears. We were used to settling in during the coldest months, spending days cuddled up with blankets and good books, our slippers suspended in mid air as our recliners were in the full back position. During short cold days and longer, colder nights, we occasionally watched movies in the evening with our next door barge neighbors Karen and Barry, who would run over for dinner and a movie wearing their comfy clothes, and carrying their fuzzy, warm slippers in a bag along with a bottle of wine and a treat for dessert.

We knew that winter in Paris would be different than winter in Roanne, but we never realized that any winter could come and go so quickly. We found ourselves in the fast lane for the first time in years, and we loved the pace. The only books that we read this winter were for homework assignments, and chairs and slippers only happened at the end of long and interesting days. We met people from all over the world, and we found that Paris is a friendlier city than we would have thought. Our friends from Roanne came to visit, but with the mild climate this year, we all left our slippers in the closet and spent most of our time outside under blue Paris skies.

Life at the port was not what we expected either. Because most of our barge neighbors are French and work in Paris, we did not anticipate having a social life here in the port. But we did. There were pot lucks, for one of which we were told to bring a dish, and a poem or a song that was about food. We selected simple verses by Ogden Nash, being a bit timid and not knowing what to expect from our neighbors, while Karen and Barry, our Roanne neighbors from barge "Eleanor", who were staying with us, were more daring and wrote a song and a limerick respectively. The weather was amazingly mild, and under the clear evening sky, the good food and wine inspired some great poetry readings and songs.

On what happened to be one of the few rainy days of the winter, we joined our port neighbors in an assembly line set up under a tent in front of the Capitainerie to bottle our own Château Bastille. Twenty five people working together, when not talking or taking a break to eat something fresh off the barbecue, filled, corked, and labeled 700 bottles of wine. It was an all day operation that finished with dinner in the Yacht Club, where together we managed to empty a few of the freshly filled bottles.



The last weekend in March, we participated in the "Carnaval Vénitien de Paris", an event created by one of our French neighbors.

Eight years ago, Michelle Santi organized the first carnival, using her artistic talent and passion to created fabulous costumes and masks. Michelle and her group of dedicated volunteers continue creating new costumes, and the event, which has grown over the years, now attracts people who travel to Paris with their own costumes from other cities in France and from other countries in Europe. On Sunday they estimated that 15,000-20,0000 people came to our port to enjoy the carnival and to take photos of the beautiful costumes.

The work started for us in early March, when back in port "club house" using the tables as a work space, Michelle gave a group of us very specific instructions on how to cut the material that would eventually cover the mooring posts in order to give them a Venetian appearance. She handed us rulers and scissors, and left the room after telling us that every measurement had to be exactly right before we started cutting. We measured and re-measured and no one dared cut into the material for a long time. We all decided to work on the same project together, so that blame would be shared if we made a mistake. She clearly wanted everything to be perfect, and we did not want to disappoint.

Michelle had a vision of what she wanted, and we were there to bring that vision to life. She amazed everyone when she placed a piece of yellow fabric on a work table, and guided us along step by step, as we changed it into a larger version of the Venetian flag that she used as the model. It took a few days and many hands working together, but in the end it was a beautiful Venetian Flag. Our group became known as the contingent international as we were English, Danish and American neighbors working together to make the decorations for the carnival.

Saturday morning everyone was on duty early setting up tents that would be used as dressing rooms for the visiting costumed foreigners, and decorating the port. That afternoon some of the volunteers dressed in costumes, others helped out with security or helped costumed people on and off of the boats that cruised around the port. Saturday was a gray day with some drizzle that chased the costumed people under the tents. The day went by quickly and we all stayed up late on Saturday night enjoying a dinner dance at the restaurant here in the port that Michelle organized for everyone participating in the carnival. Sunday was a beautiful spring day that brought huge crowds to the port, and our English neighbors David and Jackie, who were not working on the event, helped us by taking most of the photographs in the loop below.

Saturday night at the party, we learned that there is a carnival circuit in Europe, and that groups of costume loving people travel from one carnival to another just to dress up, put on their masks and have fun. This is something that you might think is strange before you experience dressing up and being part of a carnival.

Once you are inside the costume, you understand their motives. Looking out at the crowd from behind your mask, you see nothing but paparazzi snapping photos, asking you for just one more pose, and you get a small sense of what it must be like to be famous. While it is a little disturbing at first, you soon settled into the role of being a star. Everyone loves you and wants to have their picture taken with you. Crowds part, just to stand by and let you pass, and photographers beg you to stand here or there in order to get a perfect picture. People are amazed by your beauty, and before long you are feeling right at home with your newly found fame. You begin flirting with small children and old folks, and everyone smiles at you. Friends are surprised when you find them in the crowd and speak to them by name, and because you are a star you get to take them on a boat ride with you, something that is not open to "the public". While posing for photos with your fellow costumed friends, you speak to each other from behind your masks, wondering what life will be like when you have to return back to the reality of being just another person in the port. You worry that this may be a difficult adjustment, but knowing that the carnival is not over and that you still have time left to be special, you continue to enjoy the rest of the day, and flirt often with your own husband as he is holding back the crowds and helping you step into a gondola for another spin around the port. The crowds grow as the day goes on, and opera singers serenade from a cruising barge. You might think that you are dreaming, but you are not. You are living in Michelle's imagination, and you find it a lovely place to be. You understand now why people love to dress up at carnivals.

Late Sunday evening, uncostumed and back in the real world, we helped Vicki and Lee, English neighbors who were the real movers and shakers of the contingent international , take down the decorations. We finished just before dark, and too tired to cook, we dragged ourselves up the stairs, and out to the Bastille to settle into our favorite café, where we enjoyed our meal while Parisians and tourists strolled passed.

Paris est trop cool!!

Spring 2007

In Paris, last fall was summer, winter was fall, and spring was winter.

April announced itself with rain and cold winds, and after a two week heat wave at the end of the month, where everyone worried about global warming, the cold weather returned. People who live in Paris dug into the back of their closets to bring out their winter clothes, and the poor tourists had to layer everything that they had packed just to keep warm. The souvenir shops were selling more umbrellas and rain ponchos than T-shirts and sun hats. It was cold, it rained most of the time, and we felt sorry for the soaked and shivering tourists who, we imagine, had planned their trips picturing romantic strolls along the Seine under a blue sky with warm spring breezes.

In our old home port of Roanne, the constant rain kept everyone from finishing spring boat work, and many boats were still in Roanne when the rain caused a canal bank to collapse. The Canal Roanne à Digoin runs right next to its source, the Loire River, and a breach in the bank not far from Roanne dumped all of the water out of the canal and back into the Loire. The 18 kilometer stretch between locks lost some 500,000 cubic meters of water overnight, and the people in the port of Briennon and along the canal found their boats and their lives on tilt when the woke up the next morning sitting on the muddy bottom.

Friends in Roanne, being boaters who are used to changing plans at the drop of an Avis à la batellerie, just made a slight mental adjustment and started looking at their boats as homes. Instead of cruising along the canals, they are relaxing in Roanne, or taking other types of trips, and everyone seems quite content with the forced change of plans. It is funny to think of the question that boaters are frequently asked by friends who are thinking of visiting during the summer, "Where will you be in June (or July or August)? It just goes to prove that life on the canals is full of surprises, and surely no one in the port would have answered "Roanne" to that question a few months ago. Until the breach is repaired, the boats in the port of Roanne are not going anywhere. The word is that the canal is scheduled to reopened on the 15th of August.........on verra!

rainyday crowd waiting behind barriers for the parade to begin




OnMay 8th, wearing our Gortex rain jackets and Gortex pants, très à la mode this spring in Paris, we went to the Champs-Elysées near the Arc de Triomphe to watch the annual parade to remember of the end of WWII in Europe.




camera crew ready to film



We were not alone.  Crowds and TV news cameras were out in force. After the election, everyone was interested in seeing Jacques Chirac for the last time, and maybe even catching a glimpse of Nicholas Sarkozy.






Waiting for the parade to start, the soldiers spoke quietly, and the horse smiled.


Soldiers in full dress uniform
Soldiers on horseback

Parade ready to start



The Republican Guard has their stables are on Boulevard Henry IV, near the port, and we love seeing the horses as they pass through our neighborhood on their way to special events.

closeup of two white horses

parade starts

band on horseback







The Republican Guard has a horseback band that is thrilling to see and to hear.    








Soldiers saluting







Jacques Chirac passed by in a black sedan with a police motorcycle escort. He waved goodbye to the crowd, and everyone tried to take his picture.




parade marcher
marching  band

guest in bathrobe looking over the balcony of her room to see what the noise is all about

Some of the tourists staying at the Marriott on the Champs-Elysées must have all been out late the night before because they were still in their PJ's at 10am, and it looks as though they were wondering who was making all of that noise.                 Man in nightshirt on his balcony












Paris creates one dazzling event after the other, and each one is more impressive than the last. The city leaders are very imaginative.

On May 13th, to celebrate the new world speed record of 574 kilometers per hour, set by the TGV that runs between Paris and Strasbourg, the SNCF, the French National Railway System, ran the train through the center of Paris, on the Seine River!

There were bands on all of the foot bridges that it passed under, and we went to see Jackie, our French teacher, whose band was playing on the Passerelle Solférino, near the Musée d'Orsay.

Just as we arrived on the bridge a dark cloud passed over and dumped buckets of rain on the band as they were in the middle playing a sunny little tune. A small crowed had gathered, and everyone scattered, eventually regrouping under the bridge. The music started up again after the band dried off their instruments, and blotted the water off of their sheet music, and after awhile, their happy music coaxed the sun out again.

A brand new TGV train floating along on the Seine same train on the river
TGV going under the bridge pusher barge behind the train


Jackie's band, Afreybo, is made up of people, most of whom, work in the fields of medicine and science. They relax away from work by being playful with their music and their band uniforms, which are lab coats with self mocking cartoons drawn on the back. For this occasion they were also wearing caps celebrating the "SNCF World Record 2007".

man playing tuba

close up of a young man playing the clarinet

the band band leader conducting


To announce that spring was here, Paris transformed the plaza in front of the Hotel de Ville, where the skating rink had been during winter, into a whimsical garden.

a hedge cut to look like a lounge chair
giant watering can
arch leading into city hall view

When it started raining on market day, as it often did this spring, we found a comfortable place to wait out the storm at Le Baron Rouge. You can taste by the glass, or you can buy a bottle and a plate of cheeses and pâtés to share with friends while waiting for the rain to stop. In fact, with its ambiance bon enfant, this little wine bar is not only a warm refuge on a cold or rainy day, but also because of its stone walls, it is a cool hideout on hot days too. We know this because the first time that English friends from the port brought us here, it was one of those hot "summer" days that we had last fall.


chalk board menu of wines

Sun setting over the arch de triomph


On June 21, the longest day of the year, it was warm and although there were clouds in the sky, it didn't rain.

It was "La Fête de la Musique", and we walked from the Arc de Triomphe back to the Bastille, stopping to listen to different musicians along the way. Near the Louvre, we found some comfortable chairs near a fountain and we stayed for awhile to listen to the music and to watch the people strolling by, hand in hand, enjoying Paris on one of the best nights of the year.



evening at the pyramid


Even if the seasons seem a bit out of sync, Paris is still a great place to be.
Summer 2007


Eight years ago, when we bought our barge, we moved into a village that we back deck picnicnever knew existed until after we had been living there for several months.

Being a member of the international barging community means that you live in a "moving village" with different neighborhoods that appear wherever there are boats, water and something to throw a rope around.

This summer, for the 15th anniversary of the DBA-Barge Association, a new neighborhood formed in the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. By the end of June, barges started arriving in Paris from Holland, Belgium, and France, with many others coming from England, crossing the channel to arrive at the basin for a long weekend celebration.

Either by the canal St. Denis or by the canal St. Martin, boats cruised through the streets of Paris, passing through the locks one barge at a time, and entering the basin at the rate of 15 a day. By the weekend the basin, which is usually home to a few 38 meter barges and a couple of day trip boats, was transformed into a village of well cared for barges, each one decorated with code flags and pennants, and it was a beautiful sight.


(Photo - Barge neighbors Gail and Walt from "Les Vieux Papillions" and Pauline from "Peppa")
smiling friends
The rally brought together 60 barges, and there were planned events, but the highlight of the rally was, as always, spending time with other boaters. It was a chance to catch up with old friends, and to meet boaters whose paths you had not yet crossed along the waterways.

After the rally, barges that wanted to stay in Paris either came here to the Arsenal or they moored near the Eiffel Tower at the other port in Paris that used to be called Port Grenelle. This immediately increased the number of people that we knew in Paris, and we were lucky enough to be invited to a couple of great parties on some spectacular barges, with friends that are gifted in the kitchen.

While shopping for dinner at the morning market at Place d'Aligre on the 13th of July, we drifted into Le Baron Rouge with friends and began what turned out to be a spectacular day. From the Baron we moved directly to lunch on "Libertijn's" deck, and the lunch lasted long enough that dinner became irrelevant, and we just moved down the street to the local firehouse for the Firemen's Ball.

France's national holiday is July 14th and because the French love to have a good time, the celebrationtwo firemen starts the night before with different firehouses hosting dances.

It was a warm summer night, the dance was under the stars in one of the firehouse courtyards, and the crowd was a mix of young girls there to flirt with the firemen, families with kids and people of all ages just out to enjoy one of the few warm summer evenings.

We danced with friends and friendly French people, talked with the firemen, met other Americans who live in Paris, and enjoyed the party until well after midnight. When we were walking out, there was still a long line of people waiting to get in, and the real party was just warming up.

Eiffel TowerThe good weather held up for the next night, the 14th, and we went across town with friends who were staying in the Arsenal to enjoy a pre-fireworks pot luck dinner at Port Tour Eiffel. Many of our winter port neighbors were staying on this side of town during their required 21 day absence from the Arsenal, and several others had cruised over just for the day so that they could moor close to the Eiffel Tower and enjoy a great view of the fireworks that were set off from the Trocadero.

Our friends on "Les Vieux Papillons" had pulled out all of the stops and made enough Cajun food to feed everyone in the port, and anyone else who happened by. We ate well, drank Champagne and watched the fireworks in comfort from Papillion's deck. The evening was perfect, and when it was over we headed for home.

Even though we had not planned to return to our barges on the other side of Paris on foot, the fact that they had closed all of the metro stations near the Eiffel Tower for crowd control, meant that we had to start out that way. By the time that we had walked far enough away to be able to find an open metro station, we were enthralled by the beauty of the moon shining on the Seine, and we all decided to walk back to the Bastille. We left at just after midnight and didn't get back to our boats until after 2am, but no one was complaining, because Paris on a warm summer night is a magical place.

At the end of July we went to the captain's office to tell them the date and time that we were going to leave for our required absence from the port. At the appointed time, we entered the lock, they let the water out and when the gates opened onto the Seine, we turned left and headed up to the Marne towards Epernay. We love the Marne with all of it's wonderful Champagne villages, and we planned to cruise along and stop wherever and whenever nice moorings presented themselves.

We didn't get very far. Instead of cruising down to Epernay, we stopped in Meaux for one night and ended up staying there for a couple of weeks.

When we arrived the port was full, and friends from Roanne on "Peppa" let us moor on them. In the morning, when boats left, we were able to move over to an empty pontoon, and after that the days just flowed along like the river current.

Boats came, stayed for a day or for several, and we got into the rhythm of the place. It was peaceful.Boats moored in the port of Meaux

Meaux has a nice Saturday market, but aside from that, there isn't much to do, so after being very busy in Paris, it was nice to find a place where we were not tempted to leave the boat everyday.

We read. We worked on projects. We did nothing and enjoyed it immensely. The biggest event of the day was the arrival of a new boat. With the strong river current, neighbors would go out to catch the lines for the newcomers, and sometimes this resulted in conversations that started on the pontoon and ended on someone's deck. Joie de Vivre, a New Zealand boat from Roanne pulled up on our pontoon one day and stayed just like we did. Then we all did nothing together, and several times we discussed the joys of being lazy during dinner on our deck.

We met new people and spent time with old friends. We realized that even though we live in Paris, we still haven't moved out of the village. The port would empty out in the morning and be full again by noon. Some days we didn't know anyone and other days, we knew everyone on the block. Most neighborhoods change over the years, but in Meaux, we sat back, relaxed and watched our neighborhood change twice a day.
barges in the Arsenal
Back in our Arsenal mooring, we felt right at home as our winter neighbors returned to port. Our winter life doesn't start until our French classes resume in October, so September was the time for us to enjoy Paris.

Our family came to visit and we play tourists walking all over Paris together, stopping for a meal or a snack as the mood struck. Friends that we had made through our website, but had only met through email, were able to stop by and introduce themselves, and we had the pleasure of meeting them in person. Weback deck lunch lunch, brunched and dined with new friends that live in Paris, and old barge neighbors and French friends passing through Paris came to stay at what we are now calling "Hotel Eclaircie".

One glorious Sunday, while we had our friends the chefs on board, we shopped for lunch at the Bastille market. Another San Francisco fireman and his wife were in town and lunch on the back deck was the plan.

Our guests arrived at 1pm and left at 8pm in proper French Sunday lunch style. They lived in Paris last year, so they already knew how to relax at the table.

The sky was clear blue, and the sun was warm. There were people out enjoying themselves in the park across from our back deck, music drifting down from the steets above, and more boats than usual cruising by our "table with a view". It was a beautiful day on our back deck, and the perfect end to our summer.

Summer Photos         

Our bargefiremen shouting a stream of water across the port





Everyone leaves Paris in August - except us










Firemen come to the port to train





guy with his laundry spread out on the grass




This guy came to the park on the other side of the port to do his laundry. He saw us taking his photo from our back deck, so he took one of us.





back deck lunch



Second course of our Sunday Lunch





Vélib station


Velib, Paris'newest transportation system meant that we no longer have to carry our bikes off the boat and up 50 stairs to ride through the streets of Paris. We couldn't wait for our annual pass to arrive in the mail.




metro sign




Now we hop on a bike more often than taking the metro.











cruising away from Paris






There are so many things to do in Paris in the Summer, that we reluctantly left the port at the end of July for our required 3 week cruise.









passing a barge called Elvis




We had an Elvis sighting along the Marne canal. The sister commmerical barge named "Graceland" passed us just before Elvis appeared.

Fall 2007

Three days before Christmas





It was 10:30 when we hopped on Vélib bikes at the Bastille, and rode down rue St. Antoine. We were bundled up for a cold winter's day, but the sun was working hard to keep us comfortable. On rue de Rivoli we passed the Hôtel de Ville, with it's skating rink out in front, and we turned right on Boulevard de Sébastopol to return our bikes to a Vélib station near the Centre Georges Pompidou. We were going to our French/English conversation group for a little Christmas party, and then to a nearby bistro for their plat du jour.



Seine view

It was a perfect winter day in Paris. The sky was blue and the air crisp as we crossed over the Seine after lunch.

Seine view

church tower against a blue sky


Christmas tree in a shop
All of the shops were dressed for the holiday season, and street artists were helping Santa to spread his Christmas cheer.
Singing Santas accordian playing Santa

We walked for hours, wandering in and out of shops, going to outdoor Christmas markets, enjoying the sights, and joining the crowds in front of the department store windows. Everywhere we went people were wishing each other "Joyeux Noël" or "Bonnes Fêtes".

After we walked through the Marché de Noel in front of l'église Saint-Sulpice, we went into the church to see La crèche de Caltagirone. At l'église Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the organ was playing during a service, and we stopped to listen for a moment before going across the street for an expresso at Les Deux Magots.
les deux magots

As night fell, Notre Dame was magnificent under a full moon. We stopped to try to capture that beauty on film, and surrounded by tourists, we enjoyed hearing so many different languages being spoken in such a peaceful setting. As we headed home across l'île Saint-Louis, we felt pleased for ourselves and for all of the visitors to Paris who were blessed with such a beautiful day.

Night view of Notre Dame


The gift of love The gift of peace The gift of happiness

May all these be yours at Christmas

Bonne Fête de Noël dans la paix et la sérénité

The last night of the year at Le Café du Commerce

New Years Eve at le Café du Commerce

more NYE


Champagne glasses full and ready to toast


On vous présente tous nos voeux de bonheur pour l'année 2008

We wish you a happy and prosperous 2008