All posts by savethepariscafeteam

My Favorite Café Is…La Belle Hortense

by Filly di Somma

I used to organize a literary evening at La Belle Hortense with an international writers group—a mixer for new authors where we’d discuss books and drink wine. Where better to host such an event than La Belle Hortense, because it’s not just a café; it’s a book store, too.

©Lisa Anselmo

Since 1997, this café, with its facade of electric blue, in the heart of the Marais on rue Vieille du Temple, is a literary oasis for all who pass in this trendy Paris neighborhood. On the facade is posted: Cave-Librairie-Bar Littéraire (Wine Shop-Book Shop-Literary Bar), and La Belle Hortense is all this, and more.

Every day from 17h to 2h (5pm-2am) you can stop by for a drink (there’s a good selection of French wines by the glass, or bottle), buy or browse something from their stock of beautiful novels and other books then sit, either at the bar or comfortably installed in the well-lit room at the back. The hours pass quickly in this timeless place— the sort you can only find in Paris.

The old zinc bar where you can have a glass and a read. There are tables, too. And if you’re hungry, they’ll order in from one of their cafés across the street. ©Lisa Anselmo
View toward the back room. Lots of little nooks where you can sit and read. ©Lisa Anselmo

From time to time, La Belle Hortense also offers readings associated with wine tastings . The wine producer and the author of the book are both present, and you can chat with these knowledgable people. What could be more Parisian? And if you’re hungry, you can visit, or order in from, one of their three other cafés across the street, all owned by restaurateur, Xavier Denamur: Les Philosophes, Au Petit Fer à Cheval, and L’Etoile Manquante. Xavier is a fascinating man, and has a few books of his own, which are also on sale at the café.

Books and booze happily reside together on the bar. ©Lisa Anselmo
The hostess pauses from serving her clients to stock the bookshelves. ©Lisa Anselmo

At this magical literary café you’re encouraged to consume both wine and books “without moderation,” either to stay, or to take away. But why not stay? La Belle Hortense is a beautiful combination of my two most favorite things: literature and oenology, and I highly recommend you explore it.

The eclectic selection of books, just across from the zinc-top bar. ©Lisa Anselmo
A whimsical chandelier hangs overhead while you read and sip. ©Lisa Anselmo
Detail of the back room. The building dates from the 17th Century. ©Lisa Anselmo

La Belle Hortense, 31, Rue Vieille du Temple, 4ème.
Métro: Saint Paul or Pont Marie, 01.48.04.71.60

FILLY di SOMMA is a hospitality professional who lives between Rome and Paris. She grew up in her family’s hotel business in Castellammare di Stabia, in Italy, and hospitality is in her blood. She has dedicated her career to bringing people of different cultures together via tourism, and organizes cultural events such as Paris Hospitality, Discovering Japan in Paris, Social Writing, and Paris Italian culture. Filly speaks five languages including Japanese, and is also a travel journalist, contributing regularly to Where Rome, among others. Discover her blog.

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To Each His Own Café

by L. John Harris, excerpted from his new book Café French: A Flâneur’s Guide to the Language, Lore and Food of the Paris Café

I was trying to connect with my friend Leonard Pitt, the Berkeley-based author of Walks Through Lost Paris: A Journey Into the Heart of Historic Paris. I wanted to know Lenny’s views of Parisian café culture then—when he lived in Paris in the 1960s—and now. He was to respond from his computer at the café in Berkeley’s French Hotel (now the SenS Hotel).

Working from my computer at the dreaded Starbucks Odéon, the setup seemed a bit surreal. Conversing with Lenny via computer at an American-based French Hotel café, and me in Paris at an American-owned chain outlet (I just cannot label Starbucks a café) gave the exchange an absurd gravitas that makes me smile to this day.

Lenny is a passionate proponent of a café-centric lifestyle he posits against the Protestant work-ethic routines of a Puritanized America. He is also passionate about the almost eternal beauty of Paris and works closely with the International Coalition for the Preservation of Paris, an organization whose mission is to resist new developments that would dwarf the incomparable and relatively low Paris skyline with a ring of giant skyscrapers around the picturesque centre of Paris—the heart of Paris that gave rise to café culture in the first place, and to the flâneurs who have strolled there ever since.

Lenny emailed me that “Nothing better symbolizes the congeniality, the rhythm and sheer joie de vivre we ache to recapture in life than the café.” Well put, Pitt! But one man’s joie de vivre is another man’s (or woman’s) morning coffee ritual, writing or art studio, afternoon or evening gathering spot for conversation and nourishment, or flâneur’s solo observation post. And often, all the above and more. The traditional Parisian café is more than the sum of its parts.

SOME OF ITS PARTS

Café napping is a bit of a stretch, but imagine cafés with cots paid for by the hour! Maybe there is a profit incentive for café owners. To my friends at Save The Paris Café, are you listening? Illustration: ©L. John Harris. Reprinted by permission.

WAKE UP (SE RÉVEILLER) AND SMELL THE COFFEE

When I go to a Paris café to wake up with a café crème, the least important criteria for me are the coffee’s origin, quality or even, I confess, taste. But at 7a.m. I don’t really care. My legs may get me to the café, but my critic’s brain is still on snooze. This particular summer I began most days at my café du coin (neighborhood café), Café Madame. There is nothing exceptional about Café Madame—they serve a typical petit déjeuner (passable coffee, acceptable croissant or buttered tartine, reasonably fresh orange juice)—except for its convenient proximity to my apartment and the Luxembourg Gardens nearby, a flaneur’s dreamscape.

WORKING (TRAVAILLER): READING (LIRE), WRITING (ÉCRIRE), SKETCHING (FAIRE DES CROQUIS)

Any café can be a working café, depending on one’s personal requirements. Kaaren Kitchell, an expat novelist, poet and blogger (Paris Play), combines her daily one-hour walk with her writing and editing projects, so her café must be at least a thirty-minute walk from home. Her other criteria include a quiet ambiance and, ergo, few tourists. “The French know how to modulate their voices,” says Kitchell.

On the other hand, expat author (Paris Par Hasard: From Bagels to Brioche), tour guide, and bon vivant Terrance Gelenter, prefers to work in crowded and noisy icons like Les Deux Magots and Café Montorgueil. Every Sunday from 11AM to 1PM, Gelenter holds “office hours” for his tour clients and visiting Anglophone writers, artists, filmmakers, and the like. It may not seem like work when you meet with him at his usual outdoor table, but he is definitely working the terrace.

CONVERSATION (PARLER, DISCUTER, LA CONVERSATION)

Where better than at a café to have a conversation? Dating back to its origins in the late 17th century, the Paris café has inhabited a middle world between public and private space where, unlike at more food-focused bistros and brasseries, spirited inter-table discourse is welcome, if not required. This “free speech movement” was not invented in Berkeley in 1964. For 18th-century dramatists and philosophers and 19th-century Impressionists who broke with the stifling constraints of the Academy, the café became a salon where artists could engage freely in debates over aesthetic issues–with the help, of course, of sufficient, if not addictive, amounts of coffee, wine and, more euphorically, absinthe and even opium. Talk about Happy Hour (pronounced app-ee ower), which these days begins in cafés as early as mid-afternoon.

WATCHING (OBSERVER) AND RESTING/NAPPING (SE REPOSER/FAIRE LA SIESTE)

The café, invented in 16th-century Istanbul, was destined for “… the eminently Parisian compromise between laziness and activity known as flânerie!” This drollery by Victorien Sardou, quoted in Edmund White’s book, The Flâneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris (Writer and the City), sums up the high regard for lounging and loafing in a bygone era before commercial productivity became Western civilization’s highest value.

As for the café’s function as an urban resting place, it is a tourist’s necessity after days filled with shopping and sight-seeing. The café’s napping function is, I admit, a conceptual stretch. And although traditional café owners accept long patron visits and minimal consumption, I don’t think they would tolerate napping. Certainly not the high-end cafés, which drive off flâneurs as early as 11 a.m. under the pretext that the tables must be set for luncheon.

À CHACUN SON CAFÉ

Summing up the functions of the Parisian café, and depending on one’s needs—whether tourist, artist, working professional, student studying for exams, mother with hungry children, or first-date flirters—the café is a home away from home, an office away from the office, a study hall, a restaurant for nourishment and celebration, a bar for drinks and flirtation, or just an observation post for thinking, dreaming, and resting. Napping is optional. À chacun son café!

© L. John Harris. Excerpted and reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Get your copy of Cafe French at Shakespeare and Company (37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 5ème), and The Red Wheelbarrow Bookshop (9 Rue de Médicis, 6ème), or online, here.

L. JOHN HARRIS is an artist, food writer, publisher and filmmaker working in and around Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. While attending art school at UC Berkeley Harris enlisted in the California cuisine revolution of the 1970s, clerking at the Cheese Board and waiting tables at Chez Panisse. His The Book of Garlic (1974) launched another food revolution—the garlic revolution—and his organization, Lovers of the Stinking Rose, sponsored garlic festivals all across the United States, including the legendary Gilroy Garlic Festival. In the 1980s Harris’s Aris Books published cookbooks by many of the finest Bay Area cooks and food writers, including the legendary M.F.K. Fisher. Exploring the medium of documentary film in 1990s, Harris wrote and co-produced Divine Food: One Hundred Years in the Kosher Delicatessen Trade, which was featured on PBS and at Jewish film festivals internationally. Harris’s last book, Foodoodles: From the Museum of Culinary History (2010) features over 90 of his food cartoons and a foreword by the renowned chef, Jeremiah Tower. Harris lives in Berkeley and Paris and is the curator of the Harris Guitar Collection at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

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Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

Photobombed at Chez Camille, by Gabrielle Luthy

©Gabrielle Luthy

You might think his antics ruined a good shot. Just the opposite. Accidents are what make life happen. Captured at Chez Camille on Place d’Aligre, by writer Gabrielle Luthy.

Follow Gabrielle here: Web | Paris Writing Retreats | Instagram

Chez Camille, 8 Place d’Aligre, 12ème

This Chez Camille calls itself a “bar” on social media to distinguish itself from the other Camilles in Paris. But it serves food and keeps café hours, like any other. A favorite place of market vendors for taking a break during the hectic market day.

Want to submit a photo for our weekly column,
Café Photo of the Week? Click here for submission rules.
If we like it, we’ll publish it with a photo credit!
Submission does not guarantee publication. Accepted photos will run in the order they are received. When you submit a photo, you give Save the Paris Café non-exclusive rights to publish it, free of charge, on our website and in social media, in perpetuity.

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Edith’s Café Spotlight: La Tartine

[Trouvez ci-dessous la version française]
Dorothy and her suitcase are waiting for me at La Tartine. Dorothy just arrived from Seattle. Once a year she makes her pilgrimage to Paris because “Paris is my only home in the world,” she says. She didn’t have to tell me where La Tartine is, because it’s a café I’ve known forever. What is a tartine? It’s a piece of bread with a bit of butter that most French people, like me, eat for breakfast. (Don’t assume I eat croissants full of butter every morning. If I did, my clothes would not fit me anymore.)

I greet my friend with a bonjour as I arrive. “Happy to see you again!” I say. “How are you ?” I give her a kiss (faire la bise) on both cheeks. 

Bonjour, ma chérie!” Dorothy is funny; she always calls me ma chérie (my darling). “I’m very happy to be in Paris, but I’m exhausted.”

The warm interior of La Tartine ©Edith de Belleville

I laugh as I point out that we’re wearing the same exact outfit: a black dress with white polka dots.

“It’s my travel uniform when I come to Paris,” she says. Then she tells me to order what I want. “It’s my treat.”

It’s almost lunchtime, but Dorothy orders only a café-crème (coffee with milk). It’s two o’clock in the morning for her, so she’s not in the mood to eat, even though there are many different tartines on the menu: goat cheese, ham, duck. I’m in the mood for something exotic, so I choose the Scottish tartine with smoked salmon.

Everything in this café reminds the 1920s, from the gold, geometric Art Déco engravings on the wood bar, and on the wall to the old posters and the lamps that give off an amber glow.

Art Deco details at La Tartine ©Edith de Belleville

Sitting next to us, an old bearded man is writing. He closes his note book and takes a sip of his beverage, something topped with sweet whipped cream, or crème chantilly as we call it in French. It looks good. I ask what he’s drinking.

Un chocolat viennois,” he tells me, winking.

I explain that I was tempted to order one, but decided not to because the decadent Viennese hot chocolate would not go with my Scottish salmon. The gentleman agrees, nodding his head.

Our young waiter arrives with our orders, and I ask him how long the café has been around. “I like it very much.”

“Since 1924 ,” he answers with a smile. “We’re not allowed to move anything. The bar hasn’t changed since then.”

The bar at La Tartine hasn’t changed since 1924. ©Edith de Belleville

“Incredible! 1924!” I say.  “The same year as my perfume!”

I explain to Dorothy that the law forbids altering historic landmarks, like certain old buildings, even showcases of historic boutiques—and fortunately, vintage cafés like La Tartine.

I ask Dorothy if we should order dessert.

“Good idea!” She tells me to choose what I want.

But it takes me fifteen minutes to decide so I ask the waiter to help me make up my mind. Jérôme (I asked his name) recommends the homemade French toast. I tell Dorothy that in France we call French toast “pain perdu” (lost bread), because we use day-old bread in order not to waste—or “lose”—it.

Pain perdu at La Tartine. ©Edith de Belleville

Since Dorothy has to wait to check in to her hotel, we stay a long time in this charming café. The atmosphere is perfect for staying all day: no blaring TV, no radio with awful music—nothing too modern here. Just silence like in the good old days. We swap stores about what’s new in our lives since last year.

“You know, Edith, when I’m in Paris, I am reborn,” Dorothy tells me. “I become more feminine, more myself. I like everything here: the fabulous clothes of the Parisian women, the light, the smell of the food. And I really like the old cafés like this one.” Then she adds, “And this pain perdu.”

She’s right. The pain perdu (which I ate all by myself) was delicious. I thank Jérôme for his good advice, then point out that he has the same name as Napoléon’s youngest brother: Jerôme Bonaparte. (I can’t resist a teaching moment.)

But now it’s time to go; Dorothy needs to rest.  I apologize for talking too much with the waiter and the old man. “But when I’m in a café,” I say, “I like to learn about the lives of my fellow Parisians.” I thank her for inviting me to this lovely place.

“Oh you’re welcome, ma chérie!” she says. “I’m glad you chatted with the waiter. My hotel is just next door, so I know where I’ll be having my breakfast every day for the next two weeks.” She shoots me a big smile. “I’m so glad I invited you to lunch because, thanks to you, the waiter won’t treat me like a tourist. You gave me credibility here. You’re my credibility lunch date!”

I laugh, and faire la bise with Dorothy, bidding her “Au revoir.

As I walk away, I wonder if Dorothy was onto something. Maybe this could be my new career: Credibility Lunch Date for visitors to Paris. I’m available! —Edith de Belleville

  • Where? 24 Rue de Rivoli, Paris 4ème
  • When? Monday to Saturday, 8:00am-11:30pm; Sunday : 11am – 11pm
  • What to drink? Happy hour 4:00-9:00pm; Beer Pils : 4 euros; Cocktails: 5 euros; Coffee (100% arabica): 2.50 euros; Café crème: 4 euros; Hot chocolate : 4 euros; Viennese  coffee or Viennese hot chocolate: 5.50 euros; Tea: 4.50 euros; Fruit juice: 4.50 euros
  • What to eat ? A tartine with a small salad (ham, goat cheese, smoked salmon ) from 10 to 12 euros; French fries: 4 euros; Desserts: brownie, French toast, apple pie, crêpes: from 7 to 8 euros
  • How to go?  Métro Saint Paul, line 1

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EDITH DE BELLEVILLE is a licensed tour guide in Paris, and the author of Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes (Éditions Erick Bonnier) available in French at Fnac.fr Amazon.fr and Amazon.ca

__________________________

VERSION FRANÇAISE

La Tartine ©Edith de Belleville

Dorothy et sa valise m’attendent à La Tartine. Dorothy vient juste d’arriver de  Seattle. Une fois par an elle fait un pèlerinage à Paris car Paris est ma seule maison au monde dit-elle. Elle n’a pas eu besoin de me dire où se trouve La Tartine car c’est un café que je connais depuis toujours. Qu’est ce qu’une tartine? C’est un morceau de pain avec un peu de beurre que je mange, comme la plupart des Français, au petit-déjeuner. N’imaginez pas que je mange un croissant plein de beurre chaque matin. Si je faisais cela je ne pourrais plus rentrer dans mes vêtements. 

Bonjour Dorothy ! Je suis contente de te revoir. Comment vas-tu?  Bienvenue à la maison! lui dis- je tout en l’embrassant chaleureusement sur les deux joues pour lui faire la bise.

Bonjour ma chérie !  Dorothy est drôle, elle m’appelle tout le temps ma chérie. Je vais bien, très heureuse d’être à Paris mais je suis épuisée.

Regarde nous sommes habillées pareil ! lui dis-je en riant. Elle et moi portons la même robe noire à pois blancs.

C’est ma robe parisienne quand je voyage à Paris. Prends ce que tu veux c’est moi qui invite.

C’est presque l’heure du déjeuner mais Dorothy ne prend qu’un café-crème. Il est 2 heures du matin pour elle et elle n’est pas d’humeur à manger. Il y a plusieurs tartines différentes sur le menu:  Avec du fromage de chèvre, avec du jambon ou avec du canard. Comme je suis d’humeur exotique je choisis la tartine écossaise avec du saumon fumé écossais. Tout dans ce café rappelle les années 20 :  Les gravures dorées géométriques Art déco sur la bar en bois et sur le mur, les anciennes affiches et les lampes qui diffusent une lumière couleur d’ambre. Près de nous est assis un vieil homme avec une barbe qui écrit. Il ferme son cahier puis déguste sa boisson qui déborde de crème chantilly. Ça a l’air bon. Je lui demande ce qu’il boit: 

Un chocolat viennois me répond-il avec un clin d’oeil.

©Edith de Belleville

 Je lui explique que j’hésite à en prendre un. Finalement je lui dis que j’ai changé d’avis. Le chocolat chaud décadent autrichien se marie mal avec le saumon écossais. Le vieux monsieur m’approuve en faisant oui de la tête.

 —J’aime beaucoup ce café, depuis quand existe t-il? je demande au jeune serveur qui nous apporte nos commandes.

1924 me répond-il avec un sourire. Nous n’avons pas l’autorisation de bouger quoique ce soit ici. Le bar n’a pas changé vous savez.

Incroyable! 1924! La même année que mon parfum!

J’explique à Dorothy que la loi interdit de détruire le patrimoine parisien comme certains immeubles anciens, les devantures des vieilles boutiques et heureusement pour nous, les cafés vintage comme La Tartine. 

Un détail du bar. ©Edith de Belleville

 —On partage un dessert Dorothy?
Bonne idée! Choisis ce que tu veux.

Je prends quinze minutes pour décider ce que je veux. Je demande au gentil serveur de m’aider à faire mon choix. Jérôme (je lui ai demandé son prénom) me conseille de prendre le pain perdu maison. Je dis à Dorothy qu’en anglais on appelle cela le toast français mais qu’en France on l’appelle le pain perdu car on utilise le pain de la veille pour ne pas le perdre.

Dorothy doit attendre que sa chambre soit prête alors nous restons un long moment dans ce charmant café. L’ambiance est parfaite pour rester toute la journée:  pas de télé, pas de radio avec une musique horrible, rien de trop moderne ici, juste le silence comme au bon vieux temps. Nous échangeons des confidences sur ce qui est arrivé de nouveau dans nos vies depuis un an.

Tu sais Edith, quand je suis à Paris je revis. Je deviens plus féminine, plus moi-même. J’aime tout ici : Les fabuleux vêtements des Parisiennes, la lumière, l’odeur de la nourriture. Et surtout j’aime les vieux cafés comme celui-ci et ce pain perdu ajoute t-elle. 

Le pain perdu que j’ai mangé à moi à toute seule était délicieux. Je remercie Jérôme pour son choix judicieux et je lui apprend qu’il porte le même prénom que le plus jeune frère de Napoléon, Jérôme Bonaparte. C’est l’heure de partir maintenant, Dorothy doit se reposer. 

Désolée si j’ai tellement parlé à notre voisin et au serveur.  Quand je suis dans un café j’aime bien savoir comment les Parisiens vivent à Paris. Merci pour l’invitation. 

©Edith de Belleville

—Oh je t’en prie ma chérie. Au contraire, je suis contente que tu aies beaucoup parlé avec Jérôme. Mon hôtel est juste à coté de La Tartine alors je sais maintenant où je vais prendre mes petits-déjeuners chaque matin pendant deux semaines me dit -elle avec un grand sourire. Grâce à toi le serveur ne me verra pas comme une touriste. Tu es mon invitée car tu m’as aidée à obtenir de la crédibilité. Mon invitée en crédibilité. Cela valait la peine de t’inviter !

C’est peut-être une nouvelle carrière pour moi : Invitée en crédibilité pour les visiteurs à Paris je réponds en riant à Dorothy tout en l’embrassant sur les joues pour lui dire au-revoir. —Edith de Belleville

  • Où ? 24, rue de Rivoli Metro Saint-Paul ligne 1.
  • Quand ? du lundi au dimanche: 8h-23h30 ; dimanche: 11h – 23h
  • Que boire? Happy hour 16h-21h ; Beer Pils : 4 euros; Cocktails 5 euros ; Café  100% arabicca : 2,50 euros ; Café crème: 4 euros ; Chocolat chaud : 4 euros ; Café et chocolat viennois : 5,50 euros  ; Thé: 4,50 euros ; Jus de fruits : 4,50 euros
  • Que manger? Tartine avec une salade (jambon, fromage de chèvre ou saumon fumé ) de  10 à 12 euros ; Frites : 4 euros ; Désserts: brownie, pain perdu, tarte, crêpe: de 7 à 8 euros
  • Comment s’y rendre?  Métro Saint Paul, ligne 1

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Guide-conférencière à Paris, EDITH DE BELLEVILLE est également l’auteure de Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes ( Éditions Erick Bonnier ) un livre disponible à la Fnac.fr Amazon.fr et Amazon.ca

Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

Le Select, by Janice MacLeod

©Janice MacLeod

This classic café moment was captured by Janice MacLeod, and is from her book, A Paris Year. Reprinted by permission.

Follow Janice at janicemacleod.com

Le Select, 99 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 6ème

Want to submit a photo for our weekly column,
Café Photo of the Week? Click here for submission rules.
If we like it, we’ll publish it with a photo credit!
Submission does not guarantee publication. Accepted photos will run in the order they are received. When you submit a photo, you give Save the Paris Café non-exclusive rights to publish it, free of charge, on our website and in social media, in perpetuity.

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My Favorite Café Is…Café Charlot

by Adrian Leeds

Everyone who knows me knows that my favorite café is Café Charlot on Rue de Bretagne. When it first opened, it bothered me that it was a bit more expensive than the other cafés in my neighborhood. After ignoring it for a long time, I finally gave in to its popularity, and walked in. I discovered it was way more than a café. It’s a way of life. Let me explain.

Café Charlot is owned by a restaurateur that has other cafés around town (La Favorite, Le St. Regis, for example), and like their other cafés, it looks like a New York idea of a French café, a sort of stylized retro: walls in white Métro tiles, dark wood tables and chairs, the zinc top bar, ceiling fans, indirect lighting — a sophisticated urban feel without being too stuffy.

It’s a gold mine. Café Charlot is always packed for lunch, apéro, dinner—and after. ©Lisa Anselmo

The café also behaves more like a New York restaurant than a Parisian café because the menu and approach to service is more international in style, as is the clientele. The wait staff speaks English, if not a variety of other languages, and they don’t treat you as if they are doing you a favor to wait on you. If you ask for slight changes to your order, they don’t balk; they just ask the chef if it’s possible. I’m the queen of making changes to the dish in order to satisfy my strict diet, and the chef happily goes above and beyond my request to make me not just happy, but elated. In fact, he knows I love his cooking and often rewards me with an extra special something, like a small bowl of the soupe du jour.

A typical plat du jour, but this one is customized, like the side of haricots verts. Special orders don’t upset them so you CAN have it your way. ©Lisa Anselmo

The quality of the food at Café Charlot is way beyond any other typical café I’ve ever known, and I’d put its chef up against the best bistro in the neighborhood. There is almost always at least one plat du jour apart from the usual menu, so I can have lunch there every single day and never get bored. My favorite over the years might be their lamb chops which, when they have them, are lean, tender, juicy, and ridiculously delicious. When they do beef, they do beef! You’ll get a big thick slab cooked to perfection and to go with it, you won’t want to miss their thin, crispy French fries—les frites. If you like salads, you absolutely must try their salade d’haricots verts, a mountain of crispy fresh-cooked green beans topped with a copious amount of pine nuts. The burgers are tall—beautiful totem poles of delight, impossible to eat with your hands (although I once sat next to the actor Jean Dujardin who did just that!). But, I almost never order off the menu when I can have their plat du jour. (I recently learned that my nickname among the wait staff is “Madame Plat du Jour.”)

Why order off the menu when the plat du jour is always exceptional? ©Lisa Anselmo

Café Charlot is the café of choice of many of the fashionistas who invade the neighborhood during Fashion Week. Celebrities abound, not to be “seen,” but to be circumspect. There is every sort of Parisian, part-time Parisian, and even tourists who have heard about the café, but it still feels local because everyone seems so comfortable and at home in this casual place.

I’m truly a regular at Café Charlot and take the same table whenever possible. It’s the second from the left against the back wall. From that vantage point I can see all the goings-on, of which there are plenty. People know they might find me in my usual spot, and often stop in to say hello. And after so many years of coming here, the waiters know me and treat me with tremendous care, which I love, naturally. On top of it all, the WiFi works, and what could be more perfect than its location just a block away from home? I am truly grateful for Café Charlot. It’s my office-away-from-the office and it’s become my way of life. So I pay a bit more, but it sure is worth it!

©Lisa Anselmo

Café Charlot, 38 Rue de Bretagne, 3ème arr.

ADRIAN LEEDS is a French property expert and HGTV personality. She has created a variety of businesses devoted to assisting other expats in their quest to fulfill their dream of living in France. Her company, the Adrian Leeds Group, is a licensed real estate agency offering complete property consultation services primarily for North Americans wanting to live and/or invest in France.
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Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

Sunday Afternoon at Café de Paris, by Peter Schlipf

©Peter Schlipf

Every picture tells a story. In this case, half a dozen. Or maybe just the one: a young woman walking across the frame, and her many admirers. Ah, Paris. Captured at Café de Paris, before its makeover.

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Cafe de Paris, 10 Rue de Buci, 6ème

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Photo Essay: Café Comrades

By Janice MacLeod, excerpted from her book, A Paris Year, page 109, “May 30: Café Saint Médard”

People don’t always take each other’s phone numbers in Paris. They just keep going to the same café at the same time as the same people. Old-school style. They could have friendships that span years without ever knowing each other’s phone number or even last name.

As for me, I arrived very early to get in a good writing session. My waiter hands me my café crème and we both get down to the writing for the day. 

Le Café Saint-Médard, 53 Rue Censier, 5ème

Reprinted by permission from A Paris Year, My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World, St. Martin’s Griffin. ©2017 Janice MacLeod, all rights reserved.

JANICE MacLEOD is the illustrator and author of the New York Times best-selling book Paris Letters, and her latest book, A Paris Year, part memoir / part visual journey through the streets of Paris.
Discover her world at janicemacleod.com
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All photos this page: ©Janice MacLeod

Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

Le P’tit-Déj, by Lisa Anselmo

©Lisa Anselmo

Breakfast at my local. Damn good coffee.

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Café Lino, 81 Boulevard de Charonne, 11ème

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Edith’s Café Spotlight: A La Place Saint Georges

[Trouvez ci-dessous la version française]
A La Place Saint-George has something very hard to find in most other Paris cafés these days: sugar cubes. France, along with Belgium, is one of the few countries in the world where you can find sugar cubes. This café also has an incredible view of the romantic Place Saint-Georges, which is fitting because you are in the district of the 19th-Century Romantics.

The painter Eugéne Delacroix once had his art studio around the corner, and a passionate, young Victor Hugo wrote his poetry not far away. The renown female writer George Sand (George, like the square but without the S) used to organize terrific pot-luck parties nearby with her chéri, musician Frederic Chopin. Of course, the two lovers never forgot to invite their neighbor Honoré de Balzac.

The view from the terrace of A la Place Saint Georges. ©Edith de Belleville

While you’re stirring your spoon in your coffee to dissolve that sugar cube, you’ll be able to admire, just in front of you, the elegant private mansion of the marquise de Paiva, the famous courtesan. A man would pay one hundred times the price of your coffee to spend just half an hour with her. You’ll spend that same half hour in this cafe, contemplating the flamboyant artists and poets who used to live in this district—their voices whispering to you. And overcome with inspiration, you’ll compose a poem on the back of your bill, a passionate verse in the style of Alfred de Musset, tragic Romantic poet. Don’t forget to keep the bill. —Edith de Belleville

  • Where? 60 Rue Saint-Georges, tel: 01.42.80.39.32
  • When? Monday-Saturday, 8am-midnight; Sunday 8am-6pm
  • How to get there? Métro Saint-Georges, line 12
  • What to drink? Coffee: 2.40 euros, hot chocolate: 4.60 euros
  • What to eat? Planches de charcuterie or fromage d’Auvergne to share, from 18 euros
  • Credit card minimum: 10 euros

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EDITH DE BELLEVILLE is a licensed tour guide in Paris, and the author of Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes (Éditions Erick Bonnier) available in French at Fnac.fr Amazon.fr and Amazon.ca


VERSION FRANÇAISE

©Edith de Belleville

Le café A la place Saint-George a quelque chose que l’on trouve de moins en moins dans les cafés à Paris: du sucre en morceaux. La France est avec la Belgique un des seuls pays au monde où l’on trouve du sucre en morceaux.

Ce café a aussi une vue imprenable sur la romantique place Saint-Georges car vous êtes dans le quartier des Romantiques du 19ème siècle. Le ténébreux peintre Eugène Delacroix avait son atelier au coin de la rue et le jeune et passionné Victor Hugo écrivait ses poèmes pas loin. La scandaleuse écrivaine George Sand (George comme la place mais sans la lettre s) organisait des fêtes d’enfer juste à côté avec son cher et tendre musicien Frederic Chopin. Bien sûr les deux amoureux n’oubliaient jamais d’inviter leur ami et voisin Honoré de Balzac.

Pendant que vous tournerez votre cuillère dans votre café afin de dissoudre votre sucre en morceau, vous pourrez aussi admirer juste en face de vous l’élégant hôtel particulier de la marquise de Paiva la célèbre courtisane. Alors vous penserez que les temps ont bien changé. Quel homme aujourd’hui se sentirait privilégié de payer cent fois le prix de votre café juste pour passer une demi-heure avec une femme ? Une demi-heure c’est exactement le temps qu’il vous faut pour vous rendre sur les traces de ces artistes flamboyants qui vécurent dans cet endroit poétique. Les voix de fantômes littéraires venus d’un passé onirique vous murmureront des vers délicieux. Alors, attablé au café de la place Saint-Georges et soudainement mû par une violente inspiration, vous composerez au dos de l’addition un poème que vous déclamerez avec flamme à votre dulcinée imitant le poète maudit et romantique Alfred de Musset. N’oubliez pas de conserver l’addition. —Edith de Belleville

  • Où ? 60 rue Saint-Georges, tel: 01.42.80.39.32
  • Quand ? Monday-Saturday, 8am-midnight; Sunday 8am-6pm
  • Comment y aller ? Métro Saint-Georges, line 12
  • Que boire ? Coffee 2.40 euros, hot chocolate 4.60 euros
  • Que manger ? Planches de charcuterie d’Auvergne à partager ; Planche de fromages d’Auvergne entre 18 et 19 euros
    Carte bleue minimum 10 euros

Guide-conférencière à Paris, EDITH DE BELLEVILLE est également l’auteure de Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes ( Éditions Erick Bonnier ) un livre disponible à la Fnac.fr Amazon.fr et Amazon.ca

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Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

Ma Bourgogne, by Virginia Jones

©Virginia Jones

The lunch service at Ma Bourgogne, a lovely café situated on the Place des Vosges, which boasts historic painted ceilings and an enviable terrace. Captured by reader and photographer, Virginia Jones.

Find Virginia on her photography website, Blogspot, and on Instagram as @vjonesphoto

Ma Bourgogne, 19 Place des Vosges, 4ème

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Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

Cocktails Maison, by Patty Sadauskas

©Patty Sadauskas

Our staff photographer, Patty Sadauskas, has that eye that sees the magic other’s might miss, like Rue François Miron reflected in the window of Café B.B.O., in the Marais.

If you love this image you can get it on a set of coasters or as a cute canvas print for your kitchen or bar, on Redbubble.

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Café B.B.O., 19 Rue François Miron, 4ème

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Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

Aux Folies, by Shauna Hankoff

©Shauna Hankoff

This popular cafe in Belleville is funky old dive—all welcome, no pretense. Plus, that classic red neon sign? What’s not to love?

Aux Folies de Belleville, 8 Rue de Belleville, 20ème arr.

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Edith’s Café Spotlight: Au Général Lafayette

[Trouvez ci-dessous la version française]
There are cafés in Paris give you perspective. And after a castrophic job interview with a woman half my age who was speaking an incomprehensible techical language, I really needed some perspective. Depressed, I was wandering the streets when suddenly I saw him: General Lafayette. Or more precisely, Café Au General Lafayette, located on the corner of a street by the same name.

I immediately recognized this café where I used to spend time during my lost youth. It’s funny how a familiar place can bring comfort when you need it. As soon as I entered this magical café, I remembered why I used to like to drink my coffee here in the morning. In this place, you are immediately transported to 1900, the year the café opened. The Art Nouveau interior remains untouched, created during a time that, to me, was more beautiful—La Belle Epoque, or beautiful era. The same magnificent aged wood bar, the same lamps giving off their golden light, and the same leather banquettes, which resemble those in the first Métro cars. Adjoining the salon du café is still the same 1900-style dining room where you can have a languid lunch.

Au Général Lafayette. ©Edith de Belleville

As I reflected on the disastrous job interview I failed, I tried to chase my dark thoughts. To banish my blues I eavesdropped on the conversation between a waitress and her customer, a young hipster who was also taking his morning coffee here:

“I wish I could go to the Venice Carnaval,” the waitress said to the young man. “It has to be like being in another era!”

Like this café I thought. This café is a kind of time travel, too. 

As I sipped my café crème, I thought again about my interview with that young woman who made me feel old. I am like this place, I thought. This café is not an old café, stuck in the past; it’s charming and vibrant. And me, I’m not old and clueless about the new technologies, I’m a mature and charming woman—une femme d’un certain âge as we say in French.

While the the waitress and the young man were chatting, I could see his eyes dart in my direction a few times. Before he left, he addressed me with a big smile and an “Au revoir, Madame!” I smiled back and returned his goodbye. Charming, indeed.

Au Général Lafayette. ©Edith de Belleville

Paris cafés are like people. Some are very modern, with a minimalist design, a WiFi connection, and solitary young customers who stare at their computer screens. And then there are cafés like Au Général Lafayette—out of date, maybe, but where people look at each other. And sometimes, there is a mix: trendy and retro, like the young clients in this historic place.

I promised myself I would come back to this old-fashioned café where a charming, young Parisian man took his morning coffee. Like me when I was younger, like me who is still yet young.
—Edith de Belleville

  • Where? 52 Rue Lafayette, 9th arr.
  • When? From 7pm to 2am
  • How to get there? Métro Le Pelletier, line 7
  • What to eat & drink? Classic bistro cuisine. Price fixed lunch: 22 euros (starter + main, or main + dessert); Croque monsieur: 12 euros

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EDITH DE BELLEVILLE is a licensed tour guide in Paris, and the author of Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes (Éditions Erick Bonnier) available in French at Fnac.fr Amazon.fr and Amazon.ca


VERSION FRANÇAISE

Au Général Lafayette. ©Edith de Belleville

Il y a des cafés à Paris qui vous aident à relativiser. Après un catastrophique entretien d’embauche devant une femme de la moitié de mon âge qui me parlait un langage technologique incompréhensible, j’avais bien besoin de relativiser. Déprimée et errant dans la rue c’est alors que je l’aperçus: Le général Lafayette. Ou plutôt le café au général Lafayette au coin de la rue du même nom.

Je l’ai immédiatement reconnu ce café que je fréquentais autrefois, du temps de ma jeunesse perdue. C’est drôle comme un lieu familier peut soudain vous réconforter. Dès que je suis rentrée dans ce lieu magique je me suis rappelée pourquoi j’aimais tant y boire un café le matin. Je me suis à nouveau retrouvée plongée en 1900, date de sa création. Toujours le même décor art-nouveau d’une époque plus belle, celle que l’on appelait la Belle Epoque. Le même magnifique comptoir en bois patiné par le temps, les lampes identiques qui diffusaient une lumière sépia et les banquettes rouges qui ressemblaient encore à celle du premier métro parisien. Jouxtant la salle du café il y avait la même salle à manger de style 1900 pour déjeuner.

Repensant au calamiteux entretien professionnel auquel je venais d’échouer, j’essayai en vain de chasser mes idées noires. Afin de trouver une diversion à mon cafard, je me suis mise à écouter la conversation animée de la serveuse avec son client.

-J’aimerais bien assister au Carnaval de Venise dit la serveuse au jeune homme accoudé au comptoir, cela doit faire l’effet d’être dans une autre époque!.

Comme ce café me dis-je en moi-même , ce café aussi c’est un vrai voyage dans le temps c’est incroyable!

Au Général Lafayette. ©Edith de Belleville

Devant mon café crème, admirant ce décor vintage , je me suis alors remémorée l’entretien que j’avais eu avec cette jeune femme qui m’avait fait me sentir vieille. Finalement je suis comme cet endroit. Ce café n’est pas du tout un vieux café, c’est juste un charmant café rétro. Et moi je ne suis pas du tout vieille et dépassée par les nouvelles technologies, je suis juste une charmante femme d’âge mûr. Une femme d’un certain âge comme on dit galamment en français

Pendant qu’ils discutaient je voyais bien que le jeune hipster me lançait des regards à la dérobée. L’heure du déjeuner approchant, l’homme a payé son café et avant de partir s’est tourné vers moi et m’a dit avec un grand sourire «au revoir Madame!». Je l’ai salué à mon tour avec un sourire et j’ai pensé: Finalement les cafés de Paris sont comme les humains. Il y en a de très modernes, avec un décor minimaliste à la dernière mode, une connexion Wifi et des jeunes consommateurs rivés sur leurs écrans qui ne se parlent pas. Et puis il y a les cafés comme le café Au général Lafayette, hors du temps, pas très modernes mais où les gens se regardent. Et des fois tout se mélange, les « à la dernière mode» avec les looks rétro. Je me suis alors promis de revenir dans le café suranné où un charmant et jeune parisien vient y prendre son café chaque matin. Comme moi lorsque j’étais plus jeune, comme moi qui suis encore jeune…finalement. —Edith de Belleville

  • Où? 52, rue Lafayette, 75009 Paris 
  • Quand? de 7 h à 2h
  • Comment y aller ? Métro Le Pelletier, ligne 7
  • Que manger, que boire? Boissons traditionnelles, Bistrot le midi et le soir, cuisine classique formule le midi à 22 euros (une entrée + un plat ou un plat ) un dessert) ; Croque monsieur: 12 euros

Guide-conférencière à Paris, EDITH DE BELLEVILLE est également l’auteure de Belles et Rebelles, à l’ombre des Grandes Parisiennes ( Éditions Erick Bonnier ) un livre disponible à la Fnac.fr Amazon.fr et Amazon.ca

Rester au courant avec Edith et ses cafés preferés ! Abonnez-vous à notre newsletter, ici.

Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

Parisian Waiter, by Claude Corbin

©Claude Corbin

White shirt, black pants, white apron—and a perfectly balanced tray: the iconic Parisian waiter. Captured at the charming Le Square Trousseau.

Follow Claude on Blogspot.

Le Square Trousseau, 1 Rue Antoine Vollon, Paris 12ème

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My Favorite Café Is…Le Nemours

Story and photography by Richard Nahem

I’m not sure exactly when Le Nemours became my favorite café but I think it’s when I moved here in 2005. Before that it was Café de Flore, when Saint Germain des Pres was my go-to neighborhood when I first started visiting Paris in the late 1970s.

I think part of the reason why I like Les Nemours so much is because it’s the gateway to my favorite place in Paris, the Palais Royal. Beyond the terrace of Le Nemours is a hidden world not known to most tourists, with magical gardens and almost infinity rows of symmetrically planted trees plus limestone passageways with mosaic tile floors inhabited by the chicest fashion and vintage shops in Paris.

Le Nemours sits on a plaza behind the Louvre, Place Colette, named after the infamous author Colette, who lived in the Palais Royal in the 1950s.

Waiters at Café Nemours still wear the classic uniform of a black vest and pants, white shirt, and a long, white apron.   ©Richard Nahem
The café enjoys a prime location in the elegant Galerie de Nemours. ©Richard Nahem

I had to do some preliminary research for this article, so, on a warm summer morning at about 11a.m., I planted myself on a French café chair of white rattan with a pattern of pale blue squares on the terrace of Le Nemours. My immediate view to my left was the Palais Royal Métro kiosk designed by artist Jean Michel Othoniel in 2000, a whimsical kaleidoscope made of gorgeous colored Murano glass spheres and brushed aluminum. On my right were the handsome limestone columns of La Comédie Francaise, a theater institution steeped in history from the time of France’s greatest playwright, Molière. What better view can one have at a Parisian café?

My view of La Comédie Française.  ©Richard Nahem
Classic rattan café chairs made by Maison Gatti, which has been making  café chairs for generations.  ©Richard Nahem
The whimsical Palais Royale-Musée du Louvre Métro kiosk by artist Jean Michel Othoniel. ©Richard Nahem

Waiters still wear the classic uniform of a black vest and pants, white shirt, and a starched white apron rolled at the waist, hanging down about mid-calf. I ordered a café noisette and a few moments later the waiter placed my coffee on the table with a glass of water. The coffee was typical Paris café coffee, at best on the lower scale of mediocre but that’s not the point. In case you didn’t know, it’s not about the actual coffee at French cafés; it’s about the ambience and the experience.

The ambiance at Le Nemours. ©Richard Nahem

While slowly sipping my noisette, I perused the crowd. It was unusually crowded for that time of the day considering the off hour—too early for lunch and too late for a morning croissant. It was an odd potpourri of businessmen in close-fitting summer suits; tourists wearing shorts, tank tops, and sandals having a late breakfast probably because of their jet lag; a punk-like couple looking hung over, donning all black with partially shaved heads and maroon-colored Doc Marten boots; a middle aged Parisian women in casual chic. Any student studying sociology could have written a graduate thesis by just observing.

It then suddenly dawned on me that there’s an unwritten democracy at a French café: Anyone can sit at a table as long as you can afford a mere 2.50€ for a noisette; no one will bother you.

There’s an unwritten democracy at a French café: Anyone can sit at a table as long as you can afford a mere 2.50€ for a noisette. ©Richard Nahem

Upon leaving, I stood up and took one last look at the bold gold letters spelling L-E-N-E-M-O-U-R-S, the tall columns with elegant lanterns hanging in between, and the white and pearl gray striped awnings, all which again confirmed why Le Nemours is my favorite Paris café.

©Richard Nahem

One last thing: a little movie trivia. Does anyone remember the opening scene from The Tourist, a silly, trifle of a film from 2010? It’s a shot of Angelina Jolie sitting at Le Nemours, while Johnny Depp is spying on her.

©Richard Nahem

Le Nemours, Galerie de Nemours, 2 Place Colette, 1st arr.

All photos this page: ©Richard Nahem

RICHARD NAHEM is the creator of the popular blog Eye Prefer Paris, with three weekly posts about art, history, fashion, food, shopping, architecture, and restaurant reviews. He also writes about Paris and European travel and his articles and photos have appeared in The Guardian, Romantic Paris, Passport Magazine, Travel Agent Central, Luxury Travel Advisor, France Today Magazine, and Bonjour Paris. He recently edited the National Geographic Walking Tours of Paris Guidebook. Richard also leads private insider tours of Paris via Eye Prefer Paris Tours, showing clients the Paris they never usually see on their own.

Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

Le Cinquante Huit, by Deanie Houghtaling

©Deanie Houghtaling

Follow Deanie on Instagram @focusonfrance

Le Cinquante Huit, 58 Rue Montorgueil, 2ème

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Return to the Saint-Régis

by Janice MacLeod

September in Paris is called “la rentrée“—or “the return.” It’s a return from a month-long vacation most Parisians take over August, as well as a return to school. September is like January in other places—when we launch it, enroll in it, and begin it. Having a long vacation seems to do what vacations are designed to do—first relax us, then reinvigorate us for the year ahead.

Photo: Janice MacLeod from her book, A Paris Year

Early in the mornings of September, I walk to the Saint-Régis Café on Île Saint-Louis—the island in the middle of the Seine and of Paris. I sit among the bronzed locals who are revisiting projects previously abandoned for the beach. We sit together in silence, staring at our screens or notepads. One gentleman is refining a menu, another is writing an essay, another is working out math problems, which doesn’t seem like a romantic notion until you see his numbers. They are so ornate that I want to frame the page. As for me, I sit with my journal and work out the next quarter—articles to be written, correspondence to organize, chapters to complete, and of course, dreams to pursue. It’s a full but quiet room. The most conversation you’ll get is a friendly nod of recognition. It’s like a library but with clinking glasses and a buzzing espresso machine. As the brunch crowd filters in, we filter out.

I saunter down the main street of this small island town and do some window-shopping. The French call this “lèche-vitrines,” or window licking, which is exactly what you want to do at the chocolatier, boulangerie, and at Berthillon—the ice-cream shop. I end my stroll at the tip of the island. Here, the river splits, giving you the illusion that you are steering your own ship, which is, I suppose how September itself feels. Summer is gone and you’re happy about it, delighted to get back to work.

As I turn to go, I notice the tops of the trees have begun to turn yellow. A new season has begun and I could not be more pleased. Let it begin!

Café Saint-Régis, 6 rue Jean du Bellay, 4th arr., 01.43.54.59.41

Photos this page by Janice MacLeod, from her book, A Paris Year.

JANICE MacLEOD is the illustrator and author of the New York Times best-selling book Paris Letters, and her latest book, A Paris Year, part memoir / part visual journey through the streets of Paris.
Discover her world at janicemacleod.com
Visit her Etsy shop
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Café Photo of the Week

Café Photo of the Week is published every Wednesday, and showcases photography from our staff, contributors, and readers.

After My Rendez-Vous, by Patty Sadauskas

©Patty Sadauskas

Rewarding myself at Les Deux Palais, after a stressful appointment at the Prefecture. Wouldn’t you?

Discover Patty’s world at genuinefrance.com
Follow her on Instagram: @geniunefrance and @parisonadime

Les Deux Palais, 3 Boulevard du Palais, 4ème

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