The Seine runs through the very centre of Paris, with the most beautiful and historic buildings lining the banks. This means that one of the best ways to enjoy the grand architecture and the night time skyline of the City of Lights is by boat and, with Bateaux Parisiens, you can have a three course dinner at the same time.
Boarding just beside the Eiffel Tower allows you to see that impressive landmark at dusk and we made the most of the last natural light to take some photos from the Tower’s feet. On the exclusive pier, you are handed onto your boat by immaculately presented staff and shown to your seat. Some of the seats for tables of two or four result in half the party facing inwards; you can see some of the sights through the other side but the boat makes a circuit so you can swap seats halfway. We were fortunate that the table beside us was empty and staff were very accommodating in allowing us to sit beside one another, facing outwards.
The dinner began with nibbles and a glass of champagne as soon as the boat began to move. Piped music hides the sound of the engines and there was evidence, in the form of musical instruments, to suggest that there would also be live music. We drifted past Le Grand Palais, La Place de la Concord and the Louvre on the north bank while our starters were served. I had chosen green asparagus soup, which bright green in colour and flavour with meaty langoustines. Charlotte selected the confit duck foie gras with tangy fig and toasted brioche. This was washed down with a couple of glasses of Pays d’Oc IGP Chardonnay and accompanied by the sight of a French couple dining in a very similar, if less formal, manner on the houseboat that we passed.
We moved on to a Minervois Château Laville Bertrou with the mains; fillet of beef Rossini with rich Périgeux sauce for Charlotte and juicy loin of veal with truffle and sage sauce for me, both served with a selection of seasonal sides. There was an optional cheese course and then the final course, for which we selected crispy chocolate and praline cake. This dessert was smooth, more ganache than cake, and finished off the meal very nicely.
Of course, the main attraction of the voyage is the illuminations. Once night fell, the glittering lights along the banks of the Seine were quite enchanting. On the side of the Musée d’Orsay, two enormous clock faces were softly glowing and the impressive Gothic architecture of the Notre Dame looked all the more imposing when brightly lit against the black sky. For the last hour of the circular journey, there was a band playing and even some tentative dancing. However, the real showstopper was passing the Eiffel Tower just before the end of the journey at precisely the time that the hourly light show started. The many lights are reflected in the black water and it worth venturing outside, to see Paris at its sparkly best, from the open air viewing platform on the back of the boat. After this illuminating experience, you disembark once more at the foot of the Eiffel Tower while the night is still young and the whole City of Lights awaits you.
Bateaux Parisiens operate several different river cruises on a daily basis, for more information you can visit their website.
Port de la Bourdonnais