I met Gael Escribe, a charming and warm Frenchman, at my friend Craig Hanna’s art opening a few weeks ago. He told me besides his full time job, his hobby and new business was renting out The Romantic Refuge, a barge he recently refurbished for small, private dinners and Seine cruises. We spoke for a while and I told him about my blog and tour business and he said I must come and checkout the boat sometime. When I got home, I looked at his website and was very impressed with not only the quality of the site but with the experience they promised. I emailed Gael to tell him what I thought and he invited me to come for a cruise and dinner last Friday night.I arrived at 8:45PM at the Port des Champs Elysees on the Seine by the Place Concorde. It was a cool, blustery evening and twilight was just starting to set in. The light coming off the blue gray sky was so beautiful hitting the Eiffel Tower and the gold statues on the Pont Alexandre III glistened. On the deck of immaculate looking modern boat was a rustic but elegant table made out of twigs with matching stools and pink roses in water glasses adorned the table. I could already see the refined and understated taste the boat was done in. Gael asked me right away if I wanted a glass of Champagne, which even added more class. He told me that it took two painstaking years to refurbish the boat, changing the whole infrastructure first and then he and his wife, the lovely Celine, did a customized design of the interior. It was completed about six months ago and Gael started to invite friends to show off his new pet project. They were so impressed, they starting asking if they could use the boat to entertain friends and clients. One thing lead to another, and voila! He decided to rent it out for small dinners for up to eight people and special occasions. Of course he did it with taste and style, hiring a top chef and a butler. Three course lunches and dinners are served using only organic ingredients and the organic wine comes from a small French vineyard.
Gael took me on a tour of the inside and there was an airy, modern open kitchen with a table next to it set for eight. In the back was a dark, cozy room with walls covered in a sumptuous red & pink striped silk and a brass Moroccan tea table with votive candles. It had a Scheherazade feel to it, almost like an opium den. Gael put on a CD of Astrid Gilberto’s Brazilian samba song Corcovado and the room felt so sexy. I can see why he called it the Romantic Refuge.
Gael had invited Craig’s gallery owner Laurence Esnol, her husband, stepson, his girlfriend, and their cousin from New York with his friend. It was nice to talk to another native New Yorker, and Jeremy gave me the full update from the big apple. Celine made a delicious dinner of a goat cheese terrine with roasted eggplant & tomatoes, followed by poached salmon with a tomato and cheese gratin, new potato salad, and a killer chocolate mousse that was so rich, I, the chocoholic, couldn’t even finish. We sailed up the Seine, seeing all the famous monuments and buildings dramatically lit and even the native Parisians who had seen them hundreds of times were exclaiming how beautiful they were. Everyone was so warm and friendly and I had engaging conversations with all of them, finding many things in common.
By the end of the night I had made seven wonderful, new friends. We all kissed and hugged each other goodbye and promised to be in touch soon. In fact, when we discovered that we were all Jewish, we laughed, and Laurence’s husband insisted I come over for Shabbat dinner next Friday. This was another unforgettable evening and again, I feel blessed to be living here.
Visit the Romantic Refuge website and make plans to for your own unforgettable evening.