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Having a bit of a book problem combined with a regular hankering for caffeine, I have always dreamed of owning my own bookstore-cum-café. Alas, so far, it hasn’t happened, so I live vicariously through others who have managed to run a little enterprise that combines the two. L’Eau et les rêves, Water and Dreams, does one better: this small bookshop and café is located on a large houseboat moored in a canal in Paris. Perfection in my mind.
Moored just by the bridge of Rue de l’Ourcq, which is decorated with colorful street art, the giant old canal boat is an imposing sight. A little plank from the quayside leads up to its high deck, where you’ll find plenty of tables and chairs, often taken over by private functions and people enjoying a drink in a watery setting. But take the small spiral staircase down below deck and you’ll find the books.
The space in the belly of the ship is astonishingly spacious, accommodating not only books and their readers, but also a space for author meetings, regular art exhibitions, conferences, and indoor seating for the café, just in case the weather doesn’t play ball.
The books are mostly travel and environment themed, with some pretty coffee table books as well, and an aisle reserved for children’s books.
In recent years, since I first discovered the péniche, the number of books on display has reduced dramatically. Not long ago every corner was filled with books, now, sadly, most of the money seems to come from the café and private functions.
I would like for you to go and have a look, have a coffee, but also maybe buy a book? Yes, they are in French, but especially the children’s ones are so cute, that it really doesn’t matter if your French – or that of your offspring – isn’t perfect. Let’s hope that supporting a local, lovely bookseller makes a difference, and that there will soon be more books on the shelves again.
Whether you’re looking for a photography tome for yourself or a lovingly illustrated book about sea monsters and pirates for your kids, a weekend stop at this little gem is a must. I’m sure you’ll find something to inspire you!
Already finished reading the books you bought on the boat? Here are a few other great Paris bookshops I recommend.