OFF is housed in a large floating barge covered in slatted horizontal strips of wood, in a slightly unprepossessing position between the Gare de Lyon and Gare d’Austerlitz. Inside it is light and if one ignores the large copper reception desk and the faux suede chairs, it is, if not exactly tasteful, then not objectionable, either. An excited young woman clad in a white polo shirt and looking more like a physiotherapist than a receptionist led us downstairs into a long central corridor in which wooden benches and gold beanbags were arranged in alternating rows. No one sat there, and I doubt if they ever will.
Our room, which opened off the central space, was almost entirely filled with a bed and a shower, which the girl proudly explained could be lit in any colour you like. Outside, through a picture window filling a whole wall, was the Seine, with a commanding view of the SNCF office block opposite. Still, the reflected light from the water - no longer dirty and full of small brown fish - dappled the walls, the boat swayed a little and we lay happily on the bed and read.
There was none of that guilty feeling that says you should be queueing at the Musée d’Orsay. Instead, we stirred ourselves only to go upstairs and sit by the pool with a glass of rosé before getting off OFF and rejoining Paris. There, we strolled through the lovely Jardin des Plantes and ended up in the Latin Quarter, which was every bit as tawdry as last time I visited. Too footsore to try to find the perfect restaurant, we dumped ourselves down at one on a corner, where, as if in repayment for all the bad meals I’ve had in Paris, I was given a delicious one. Afterwards, my daughter felt sufficiently on holiday to buy a packet of cigarettes, and instead of chastising her I was filled with such gay abandon I sat on the pavement and smoked half of one myself.