When you have been confined in 265 square feet with no social interaction for several months, you want that first weekend out of town to be a special one. I was lucky: More than 100 days after my last adventure (a birthday celebration in Bourges,) I headed out to meet a friend north of Paris. Better yet, that friend lives on a houseboat.
L’Oise: Paris’s backyard
Technically, the Oise département (one of 96 administrative divisions crisscrossing Metropolitan France,) is not in the Ile de France (the Paris region.) L’Oise and its namesake, the Oise river, a tributary of the Seine, belong to les Hauts de France region, the northernmost area in France. Does it matter? Not really. To most visitors, l’Oise feels close to Paris and can easily be reached with the RER (regional trains) in under an hour.
Paris on the water: the boating life
During my Seattle years, I have been lucky to spend a lot on time on the water. On powerboats and on sailboats, my family explored the magnificent Puget Sound region. I had forgotten how relaxing living on the water can be, how peaceful nights are on a boat, as you drift off to sleep, or wake up to the sound of birds chirping early in the morning. Not all boats are created equal. My friend and fellow Rick Steves Europe tour guide, Arnaud, is a generous host. He lives on a comfortable and tastefully decorated wooden houseboat, Actarus. I fell instantly at home chez Arnaud.
Paris on the water: Making friends
I had also forgotten boating communities (especially in smaller marinas,) are closely knit. During the weekend, I met some of Arnaud’s friends. The two-legged kind were only a small part of the group. Arnaud’s best friend is cuddly Indy. I have not had a dog in years, and loved taking her on walks. Choupette the cat is also a regular on the dock. She would not mind jumping on board, but Indy stands guard.
A marina as homebase
Cergy is a town with a personality disorder that ranges from ultra-modern architecture and grands ensembles (large developments) to the quaint and peaceful village and port de Cergy, the harbor where Arnaud’s boat is docked. Enjoying the slow-paced life of the harbor and the village for a couple of days suited me just fine.
Tour guides play tourists
On Sunday morning, Arnaud and I rode bikes around the Cergy-Pontoise Ile de Loisirs. From water sports to picnic areas, an accrobranche (tree climbing) course, miles of scenic trails along local ponds or the Oise river, there’s plenty there to keep locals entertained in the great outdoors.
When I was on my own, I loved exploring Cergy-Village. There, I had another one of my “I-am-back-in-France” moments: The main square is named “Place de la République.” The Café-Tabac faces the memorial honoring locals fallen during WW1. Nearby, Saint Christophe church and its magnificent Renaissance gate greeted me on my way to the local boulangerie.
Peaceful streets are lined with former farms, village houses or more affluent homes telling stories of a (not so) recent past.
Paris on the water: addictive
By Monday afternoon, it was hard to pack my bag; leave Arnaud, Indy, and the beautiful scenery that had become so familiar. Can you blame me?
A bientôt Arnaud, et merci!
One last thing…
Want to join the fun?
When you return to the Paris region, you, too, can stay on Arnaud’s beautiful “Actarus.” Spend a few nights on board or better yet, hire Arnaud to be your skipper and tour guide along the Oise. You won’t regret it! Click here for details.
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