Life in France can be sweet – if pricey – on houseboat

Trish and Tony on Anneke, their converted houseboat

Living on a converted barge moored on the Seine was at one time probably the cheapest address in the Paris area.

With living space of around 100m2 and, in the 1980s, low mooring fees, life on the converted péniche houseboats was sweet.

Especially for those who moored along the Seine inside the city walls, or close to the RER suburban train system.

Many boats were converted by their owners, after being bought for prices that rarely exceeded around €50,000 in modern money.

Most have steel hulls – although there are some built of oak – which are simple to insulate and partition.

In the 1990s, prices rocketed as the secret of living on the water got out, regulations about where you could tie up became stricter, and charges for services grew higher.

These days, houseboats in Paris can command asking prices of more than €1million, and the slightly homemade look of the early boats’ interiors has usually been replaced by professional carpentry and joinery.

In theory, you can moor your boat anywhere along the canal or river as long as you do not tie up to a tree. In practice, things are more complicated, especially with stays of more than 21 days in one place.

Contracts to live in a boat in the public space are assigned to owners by the local authority, be it Voies Navi­gables de France, Compagnie Nationale du Rhône, the local chamber of commerce, communal port, or a private port.

Known ...

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