April in Paris
Tuesday, 01 April 2008 00:00


April is here and the sun just came out. Of course, it went away before I could finish writing this sentence, as the weather has been nothing but bad news lately.

The good news is that our kitchen, which Eddy, le gendre of our port neighbors, started remodeling for us in October, is finally finished.

Eddie working on our kitchenThe delay wasn't Eddy's fault. He put in a new hardwood floor and installed new cabinets and counter tops just as he promised, and we have been enjoying our new kitchen for months. But it was still an unfinished project because, after Eddy finish his work, we decided that we needed a hood over the stove. Having an extractor installed sounded simple, but this is one of the things that make living on a boat so "interesting". With our low ceilings, most extractor fans made for houses just wouldn't work, and we needed to find a solution.

Shopping for something unusual like une hotte in Paris, means that you discover new neighborhoods, and learn new French words at the same time. We spent several days wandering in an out of shops, asking questions and looking at options. We were losing hope, when one day, while we were out doing another errand, we stopped in at Cap Bastille, a kitchen store on rue Lacuée, just across from the port. There we met François, who immediately took an interest in our project. Whereas everyone else that we questioned in other kitchen stores was polite, no one jumped right on the problem like François did; he was bound and determined to find a solution for us.

He walked back to the boat with us to take measurements in the kitchen, and he climbed up on the front deck to look at the kitchen roof to see how the exhaust pipe should be placed to protect our air draft. He took lots of notes, and then shook our hands with a promise to call us as soon as he had found something for us.

He called a week or so later to say that he had found just the right product, and he came by the boat with the man who would be doing the installation. They had a plan that would guard our air draft and make la hotte flush with the ceiling. Just one small problem. La hotte itself only cost a bit over 200 euros, but with the installation, le devis came to over 3000 euros. After we recovered from the shock and explained how many dollars that would be for us right now, François said that he could sell us la hotte, and that we would just need to find someone else who could figure out how to do the job in a way that would be less expensive. We needed someone who understood boats.
superhenkWe looked at each other with knowing smiles, and reading each others minds, we knew that the solution to our problem was to call on Super Henk.

Henk Hÿdra is Dutch, has built 35 barges himself, and even though he may look mild mannered in this photo, he is an action hero. When barge owners have a problem that they just can't solve, they call on Henk.

Henk has been trying to retire for the last five years, but boaters keep finding jobs that only he can do. He sold his shipyard, and he and his wife Jacqueline, who is an artist, live on the last barge that he built, a 22 meter masterpiece that other boaters have labeled a "one meter" barge. (That means that Henk's barge is so perfect that even when you are standing just one meter away, you don't see any flaws.) Henk's reputation proceeds him wherever he travels, and in the floating village of barge owners, that means that he is often called on to solve an unsolvable problem. Because Henk and Jacqueline are as nice as they are talented, they made a detour to come to the Paris-Arsenal on their trip from Roanne to Amsterdam, just to help us.

The Seine was flowing so fast with all of the recent rain, that even though Henk and Jacqueline said that they would arrive at 11 on Sunday, they called us at 9am to say that they were already in the Arsenal lock. It must have been a wild ride to get them from St. Mammes to Paris so quickly, but we weren't too surprised because, superheros know how to fly.

When Henk works for you, he shows up for work at 9 sharp dressed in his special blue jump suit, takes a half hour for lunch, and finishes at 4pm. Like other superheros, he attacks the job to be done forcefully. He moves at the speed of light, bends steel, and with his amazing skills, he creates something out of nothing. People who watch Henk in action can only stand there bouche bée.

Now that Henk has come to our rescue, we no longer have to open the doors and windows everytime we want to grill something on the stove. Thank you Super Henk.

Yacht Club Paris Bastille
Thursday, 03 April 2008 00:00
The yacht club had elections recently and one of us was voted onto the board of directors to be in charge of international relations, with the knowledge that both of us would be doing the jobs that will be assigned to us. We are feeling rather proud to be the first foreign members on the board.

The first meeting of the board was held before the barbecue on April 3rd, and all went well. No problems understanding the rapid fire French, and the newly elected board is full of enthusiasm and plans to improve the port.
Spring is Here
Friday, 04 April 2008 00:00
This is what happens in the barging community when Spring arrives and boats start moving again.

Monday - We had an apéritif dînatoire for 14 people on our boat. This happened a bit by accident. Roger and Kathleen on "Water Lily" were getting ready to leave, and they had not yet met Jerry and Suzanne on "La Lavande". We wanted to get them together, but they both had company. No problem bring them along. Henk and Jacqueline were here to install our kitchen extractor. Then Bob, our neighbor from Cornwall, is too much fun not to invite, and the English couple who were staying on Mike and Jane's barge while they were back in Australia stopped by the day before to ask a question, so we invited them, and the party just kept growing..........

Tuesday - We invited nearby neighbors over to help us finished all of the food that we had left over from the night before. We always err on the side of having too much food for any given party.

Wednesday - Dinner with Henk and Jacqueline at one of our favorite local places, Chez Janou, and even though it rained most of the day, it was a beautiful evening. After dinner, we walked through the neighborhood, stopped at an outdoor café for a nightcap, and headed home throAlain giving Henk a yacht club flagugh Place des Vosge, where we could admire the art galleries. It was a perfect evening with good food, good conversation and great friends.

Thursday - First Yacht Club Paris Bastille barbecue after the new board of directors was elected. There was a huge turnout, and it was a great evening that almost ended at about 11pm when people started going home...that was until Henk invited everyone onto his boat.

Alain, the president of the yacht club presented Henk with an Arsenal burgee, wine corks popped and then the music started. There's a piano on "Elizabeth" and soon guitars and harmonicas appeared and the music began.

Friday - We took a day off, before our busy weekend with the carnival and the marathon.
Venetian Carnival
Saturday, 05 April 2008 00:00
After taking part in a mini Venetian Carnival on the Île Saint-Louis yesterday, (look at photos #13 and #28) we went along with all of theCarnival mask other participants to a party hosted by the neighborhood merchants.

Between dinner and dessert, someone at one of the tables in the back of the room started singing, in fact, it was Marcel, the waiter from La Cavetière, our neighborhood bistro. He loves to sing, and does do so often.

This was the invitation for others to start singing "their" song. In Europe, people sing more that they do in the States, and everyone seems to have a song that they sing reasonable well. When someone starts singing, everyone else joins in and sings along all the way to the end. They all know the words, and for the most part, everyone carries the tune.

The songs danced in the air, and we felt as though we were in the middle of a French film. Conversations and laughter filled the room and were only silenced by a new round of songs. We knew that we were lucky to be the only foreigners, and we had smiles on our faces thinking that life doesn't get any better than this, when the owners of Bertillon arrived with their world famous sorbet for dessert.

A cheer rang out from the crowd, and everyone got up to form the French version of a line, (something free form, like a glob of mercury), while the couple scooped up double cones for the crowd. The Carnaval Vénetian had been a big success with crowds of people taking photos of the beautiful costumes against the back drop of the Île Saint-Louis and Notre Dame, and as everyone sat back down at their tables enjoying their Bertillon sorbet, we thought that this day was so amazing that we may be dreaming.

Suddenly, someone started singing La Marseillaise, and everyone stood up raising their cones in the air, and sang their national anthem with passion, only stopping occasionally to lick their cones to keep them from dripping. It was spontaneous and pure, and it was the highlight of the party.

When the evening was over, we opened the door to find a warm spring night, and crossing over the Seine, we smiled our way home.
Paris Marathon
Sunday, 06 April 2008 18:00

Valerie's kids holding a sign to cheer on their father


The Paris Marathon came by the Bastille twice today and finished up on Avenue Foch.

We were at the Bastille with our French teacher, Valerie and her children to cheer on her husband, Olivier. After Oliver ran past us on rue Henry IV, we came back to the boat to relax and have a cup of coffee, and then we took the métro over to the finish line, all the while Olivier was running.

Valerie's daughters had fun cheering on the crowd, and handing out bananas to the runners as they passed the food stand.




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