Owning, maintaining and piloting a beautiful 1922 hotel barge in France takes great teamwork and a lot of laughter! There's never a shortage of lively banter aboard the good barge Nilaya and topical conversation blended with liberal dashes of typically British and Belgian humour are but one of the magical ingredients making Nilaya such an outstandingly happy ship.
We have a huge passion for life, entertaining, travel, cooking and enjoying everything this amazing world offers. Cruising all over France with guests old and new during the summer months compliments a healthy mix of restoring our old farmhouse and managing as much global travel as we can squeeze in to the remainder of the year. It's certainly a life less ordinary!
We look forward to welcoming you aboard, introducing you to our take on barge cruising in France and confident that you'll leave us more relaxed, heavier, happier and with a renewed joie de vivre! Lets drink to that....
After mooring under a bridge in central Nancy, France to spend a winter pulling apart and rebuilding Nilaya's 1955 Mercedes engine, at possibly the oiliest moment in my entire life, more resembling a Troll under that bridge than the loveable (?) barge captain I am, a French speaking Wallonian Belgian named Isabelle decided to join an international online dating site.
It just so happened that after a little too much wine during dinner aboard a friends barge a couple of nights earlier, I had been persuaded that joining that very same dating website was a very good idea. I parted with the necessary fee, created a profile that clearly wasn't me and added a picture of my best impression of Richard Gere.
Bear in mind that I'd joined an international website, spoke no French, I put my message out there before falling asleep and promptly forgetting the whole thing.
Isabelle however hadn't forgotten her subscription and somehow stumbled upon the rather sexy profile of 'moi'. Whilst out in town, still unbeknown to me, Isabelle spotted a guy looking just like the sexy 'moi' buying a camembert in Monoprix. More surprisingly, she then went home and sent me a message in her best French.
Rather surprised that anyone had liked my profile, I wrote the reply in English, used Google Translate to bugger it up completely turning it into 'French', before clicking send.
A couple of emails later, finally spotting that my ticked 'Speaks French' check box was possibly a lie, Isabelle wrote me in English and a new era of Anglo French communication dawned. Thank goodness!
We agreed to meet and I explained that I lived in Nancy, under the tram bridge in the centre of town. She said she knew where that was and that she'd see me soon.
Less than five minutes later in fact! I heard a knock at the door, opened it wide and was astonished to find Isabelle standing outside. After inviting her into the wheelhouse, she gestured towards the first building north of the bridge explaining that this was where she lived. Isabelle then turned 180 degrees, pointing towards the first building on the opposite side of the same bridge and letting me know that this was where she worked. It had taken an International website and miracle to bring us together, but all the time we virtually lived in the same place. I call it fate.
Anyway, to cut a long long story short, I came to know and adore my Belgian Isabelle and after three long years of her warmth, awesome cooking and companionship, invited her to give up a full time job and join me aboard Nilaya as liveaboard crew! Two years after that, love had blossomed and in true nautical style, I dragged her across the Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary 2 and proposed in New York on Christmas Eve 2012.
We were married aboard the world's first propeller driven iron steamship, the SS Great Britain in my hometown near Bristol, England in 2013. Isabelle's not only my wife, but the soul mate I'd been missing all of my life. Her passion for entertaining, cooking, food and fine wines added the well needed touch of class that further improves guests experience aboard Nilaya. She still can't cook better curry's than me however :-)