Lined up along the east bank of the Rhône river in Lyon France is a “Barge Subdivision.” Immediately a burning question sprang to mind: Exactly how different would that lifestyle really be and what does it take to be a “Barge-r?”
A friend in San Francisco grew up on a converted barge in Sausalito. He’s an independent thinker and a real hoot to be around. Maybe the water-life is the font of untethered creativity and individuality. In any case, it seems to have served him well. And no matter what you think about it, some people see that lifestyle as the “catch” of the century. As Ed, another one of our excentric friends often said with roaring enthusiasm, “Hell . . . it’s a choice!” After all, it’s always good to keep options open because—you just never know.
With each step along the beautiful green banks, I ticked off an equally long list of pros and cons without much difficulty: fewer neighbors; taking the house out for a spin once in a while; no property tax; catching dinner out the bedroom window; no cracks in the foundation, termites, and stuff like that. But on the other hand: hard to heat; constant river winds; strong currents; clanging and banging of loose parts; tight quarters; no backyard; and what about the conveniences of modern plumbing? But whatever the drawbacks, what really got my attention was the allure of freedom and creativity that flows along with the choice of living on the “open sea.”
There didn’t seem to be any particular standards, or building codes that I could see. Pretty much anything goes, or at least anything within reason. Why? Because it’s there . . . but not really there. Nothing is really permanent. Everything is subject to change at the whim of a strong wind or an unexpected shift in the current. You might even call it unreal estate, with no long-lasting consequence. It’s definitely a different aesthetic, which lends itself to freestyle and makeshift solutions. Everyone’s home is his castle, whether floating or stationary. That said, what I really liked were the front doors.
Other than the fact that you have to enter your house on a gangplank, the rest of the look and feel is totally up to you. Each “homeowner” apparently started thinking outside of the box and made it their own. Every door I passed was wildly different, and carried the personal signature of its resident. Even though the “walk-in mailbox design” was a tough act to follow, I was equally intrigued with the “giant director’s chair” motif. Both have their own aesthetic niche, and presented one another with some stiff competition.
So, even though I’m not going to suggest to Cheryl that we take the plunge and buy one, just day-dreaming about the possibility of having our very own romantic riverside respite was enough to set me daydreaming for an entire Friday afternoon. I imagined myself in the galley, slicing tomatoes for a salad—cutting them quickly before they rolled onto the floor. Life on a barge would definitely present a whole new world of excitement, challenge and new techniques.
Maybe it would be fun. Maybe it would get old quickly. Who knows? The important thing is to decide. To determine one’s own destiny. Ultimately, to follow your own instincts. I hear Ed again, “Hell . . . it’s a choice!!!!”
Note: You may also be interested in some of our other stories about Lyon.