One would think that, having never been to the Louvre or the Georges Pompidou Centre, they might be on the top of my list of things to do on a weekend in Paris. One would be mistaken.
The Catacombs? The Moulin Rouge? Wrong.
The one thing that I have always wanted to do in Paris yet hadn’t been able to accomplish? Watch my children push tiny boats with a stick.
When your children grow up with a French speaker for a father, you tend to accumulate French language picture books. Often, those books tell of children wandering the streets of Paris with a baguette over one shoulder and a red balloon in their hand, with knee socks pulled up high and friendly nun by their side, leading the way. And you can’t make it through a children’s book about Paris without a mention of the boats of Luxembourg Gardens.
Les voiliers du Jardin du Luxembourg are a fleet of small wooden sailboats that children can rent by the half hour to float in the grand bassin, an octagonal pond in front of the Palais de Luxembourg. The handmade boats have been floating since 1927, their only means of movement the wind or the kids who push them with a bamboo stick out into the water, then chase them around the pond, pushing them back out after they bump into the side.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, every boat is in the water, the edges of the pond filled with a constant stream of children running back and forth and back again, keeping an eye and a stick on their given sailboat. Each boat is marked with a different country and proudly flies its flag, ensuring you always know which ship is yours.
And so, this past Saturday, after many times trying, we finally made it to the Luxembourg Gardens when the boat man was actually there. My technology loving kids, unexpectedly, had a really good time and were sad when their time was up and they had to turn in their boats.
Thank you, Ben, for taking us back to Paris one more time, so that I could finally see the kids (before they get too old) play with the boats of the Luxembourg Gardens.