Café Photo of the Week

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

Café Chair, by Richard Nahem

©Richard Nahem

Like Paris cafés themselves, their chairs are each different in their own way. Most rattan bistro chairs have been handcrafted by the same company since 1920, Maison Gatti. Next time you’re seated at a terrace table, look for the telltale gold name plate on the back of your chair.

Maison Gatti Paris, (+33) 1.64.29.11.84; USA: 212.219.0447

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Edith’s Café Spotlight: Le Vrai Paris

[Trouvez ci-dessous la version française]

There are cafés in Paris that draw your attention just because of their names. Each time I take the Métro to Montmartre, I pass Café Au Vrai Paris. And each time, I ask the same question: Why it called ‘At the True Paris’?Is there an At the Fake Paris? Maybe there was a fight between this café’s owner and a rival, who stole his café’s name?

One morning, I decided it was time for me to solve this mystery. So I went to have a true coffee at this “true” Paris café. The terrasse is agreable with its flowers and stylish chairs, but since it was raining, I went inside. But the moment I entered, I saw something that made me want to leave immediately: a big-screen TV showing rugby.

The bar at Le Vrai Paris. ©Edith de Belleville

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against rubgy. But I’m not keen on cafés with TVs.  If I want to watch TV, I stay home. So I decided to sit at the back of the café, far away from the TV, on one of their comfortable couches. If you go to the back of this café, you will find a relaxing lounge-style space, but unlike most lounges, the music is not too loud. And everything is yellow: the chairs, the walls, the quotations from famous writers on the walls. Even the soft light is yellow.

A friendly waiter came to me to asked what I wanted. “A coffee, please,” I answered. “But first, I would like to know why this café is called Au Vrai Paris. With a big smile, he explained that this “true” Paris name was just a marketing strategy.

Writing in my cozy spot at the back of the café. ©Edith de Belleville

A bit disappointed by this prosaic answer, I started to observe my neighbors, a young Japanese couple who were drinking Champagne. I suppose for them this is what the true Parisian lifestyle is about: savoring a glass of Champagne with your lover in a charming and romantic café in Montmartre.

While I was drinking my coffee, I pondered another mystery: what is a true Parisian? Do you have to be born and raised in Paris? Can’t you feel Parisian just because you live here? Was this idea of being “a true Parisian” merely a marketing scheme? As I was  standing to leave my cozy couch, my eyes fell on a quotation written on the wall. It was from Sasha Guitry, the celebrated French playwright, who was born in St. Petersburg. I waved au revoir to my friendly Parisian waiter and left.

As I walked to the Métro, I thought about Guitry’s quote, how it perfecting answered my mystery: “Being a Parisian is not about being born in Paris, it is about being reborn there.”

©Edith de Belleville
  • Where? 33, rue des Abbesses, 18ème arr.
  • When? 7am – 2am, 7 days
  • How to get there? Métro Abbesse, line 12
  • What to drink? Expresso Ville de Paris: 2.40 euros; hot chocolate 4.90 euros; hot mulled wine: 7 euros; organic cider: 7 euros
  • What to eat? Croque-monsieur and salad: 13 euros; traditional onion soup: 9.50 euros; Roasted Camembert with honey, rosemary, and walnuts: 9.50 euros; French toast with salted butter and hazelnut ice cream: 9 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

Il y a des cafés à Paris qui attirent votre attention juste par leurs noms. A chaque fois que je prends mon métro à Montmartre je passe toujours près du café Au vrai Paris. Et  à chaque fois je me pose la même question  Pourquoi ce café s’appelle t’-il  Au Vrai Paris?  Est-ce qu’il y a un café Au faux Paris? Peut-être y a-t-il un litige entre le propriétaire de ce café et un rival qui lui a volé le nom de son café?

Un matin je décidai qu’il était temps pour moi de résoudre ce mystère. Alors je décidai de prendre un vrai café au vrai Paris. La terrasse de ce café est agréable avec ses chaises stylées et ses fleurs mais comme il pleuvait je pris la décision d’aller plutôt à l’intérieur. Mais quand j’ai vu ce que j’ai vu, j’ai  immédiatement songé à quitter cet endroit:  Un énorme écran de télé montrant des joueurs de rugby était placé à l’entrée du café.

Ne vous méprenez pas, je n’ai rien contre le rugby. Mais je n’aime pas les cafés avec la télé. SI je veux regarder la télé je la regarde chez moi. Alors je me suis installée au fond du café le plus loin possible de la télévision et je me suis assise sur l’une des confortables banquettes. Si vous allez au fond du café vous constaterez que c’est un endroit relaxant avec une musique d’ambiance pas trop forte. Et tout est jaune: Les chaises, les murs et les citations inscrites sur les murs. Même la lumière tamisée est jaune.

Un sympathique serveur est venu me demander ce que je souhaitais. Un café s’il vous-plaît  lui ai-je répondu mais d’abord je voudrais savoir pourquoi ce café s’appelle Au vrai Paris?. Avec un sourire il m’expliqué que ce nom d’ Au vrai Paris était juste une idée marketing.

©Edith de Belleville

Un peu déçue par cette réponse prosaïque, je me suis mise à observer mes voisins, un  jeune couple de Japonais buvant du Champagne. Je suppose que pour eux voilà ce qu’est le vrai style de vie parisien: Savourer une coupe de Champagne avec son amoureux dans un charmant et romantique café à Montmartre.

©Edith de Belleville

Pendant que j’étais en train de boire mon café j’essayai de résoudre un autre mystère: Qu’est-ce que cela veut dire être un vrai Parisien?  Est-ce qu’il faut être né et avoir été élevé à Paris pour être un vrai Parisien? Est-ce que vous ne pouvez pas vous sentir un vrai Parisien juste parce que vous vivez à Paris? Et si toute cette idée d’être «un vrai Parisien»  n’était qu’un pur produit de consommation? Comme je me levais pour quitter ma confortable banquette et partir, je vis sur le mur une citation de Sasha Guitry, l’auteur bien connu des pièces de théâtre.

En partant je pris soin de faire un signe de la main vers mon gentil serveur pour lui dire au-revoir et je quittai le café. Et alors que je me dirigeais vers mon métro je me dis que Sasha Guitry, l’écrivain français né à Saint-Petersbourg avait raison. Etre Parisien ce n’est pas être né à Paris…..c’est y renaître

  • Où ? 33, rue des Abbesses, 18ème arr.
  • Quand ? 7h à 2h, tous les jours
  • Comment y aller ? Métro Abbesses, ligne 12
  • Que boire ? Expresso Ville de Paris : 2,40 euros ; chocolat chaud  4,90 euros ; vin chaud  : 7 euros ; cidre biologique : 7 euros
  • Que manger ? Croque-monsieur et sa salade : 13 euros ; soupe à l’oignon traditionnelle : 9,5 euros ; Camembert rôti au miel et aux noix  : 9,5 euros ; brioche façon pain perdu au caramel au beurre salé et glace : 9 euros; café ou thé gourmand : 9, 5 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.

Rise and Shine, by April Pett

©April Pett

The life of a tour guide finds you up ahead of the sun, especially during the strikes in France when you need to walk to your destination. This image captures Le Nemours on Place Colette, in the quiet dawn hours, preparing to receive its morning customers.

Café Le Nemours, 2 Place Colette, 1ère

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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.

Le Dôme, by Edith de Belleville

©Edith de Belleville

The classic Le Dôme Café in Montparnasse, on this New Year’s Day.

Café Le Dôme, 108 Boulevard du Montparnasse

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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.

A Festive Terrace, by Lisa Anselmo

©Lisa Anselmo

Café Colette, in the 11th arrondissement, really takes the holidays seriously. This is just one of two trees (the other is inside) and the windows are painted by an artist. Despite the cold, this festive terrace is very inviting.

Cafe Colette, 96 Avenue Philippe-Auguste, 11ème

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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.

Café Shadows, by Richard Nahem

©Richard Nahem

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Café Photo of the Week? Click here for submission rules.
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Edith’s Café Spotlight: Bar Edith Piaf

[Trouvez ci-dessous la version française]

There are cafés in Paris you are attracted to just because of the name. This is why I went to Bar Edith Piaf (aka Bar de la Place Edith Piaf). I guess I don’t have to introduce you to Edith Piaf. This neighborhood place is located in Square Edith Piaf in the working class district in the 20th arrondissement where Piaf once lived. It’s also not far from the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery where she is buried.

When I do my Edith Piaf tour, this place is a must to have coffee or lunch.  Here, you find only locals, not one tourist. This bar, which is also a café and restaurant, is dedicated to the singer. You will feel like you’re having your coffee with Edith because she is everywhere.

You are surrounded by images of Piaf and her life. ©Edith de Belleville

It’s not trendy or chic, and not really historical, either. It’s just an ordinary—but authentic—café with real Parisians who share their daily lives together. And a very important detail: the toilets are clean, which is always a good sign.

Since I was hungry after my coffee, I ordered duck à l’orange with roasted garlicky potatoes, for a mere 10 euros. The bread was excellent, which is another good sign. I talked to my amiable table neighbors, a young Parisian couple who were with their adorable three-week-old baby, Martin. It’s not surprising that cafés are in the Parisian DNA since they start going to them from the day they’re born, evidently. The couple chose a vegetarian lentil salad, and the Norwegian salad, with smoked salmon, both which looked very tasty.

Canard à l’orange, 10 euros. ©Edith de Belleville

When my friendly waiter heard my name was also Edith, he asked me if I was a singer. “Only in the shower,” was my reply.

He told me that on Saturday evenings they organize musical soirées where the customers can sing French songs. “It’s really fun,” he said. “You should come!” 

I promised him I would come back, and complemented him on the delicious duck I’d had, as well as the friendly ambiance.

“You did Edith proud,” I said as I left.

Then I started singing the street as I walked away. Hold me close and hold me fast, this magic spell you cast, this is la vie en rose…

  • Where? Place Edith Piaf (22 rue de la Py), Paris 20ème
  • When? Monday-Saturday, 8am-midnight. Check for their Saturday night music soirées.
  • How to get there? Métro Porte de Bagnolet, line 3, exit 5
  • What to drink? Coffee, tea, beer, at cheap prices
  • What to eat? Duck à l’Orange, 10 euros; Beef Tartare, 12 euros; Vegetarian Lentil Salad, 10.50 euros; Norwegian Salad, 11.50; Croque Monsieur, 8 euros; Fries, 4.50; Chocolat Mousse, 4 euros
A charming table by the window with Edith watching over you, like an angel. ©Edith de Belleville

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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

Les deux Ediths. Photo ©Chrissy Willey

Il y a des cafés à Paris qui vous attirent juste à cause de leur nom. C’est la raison pour laquelle je suis allée au bar Edith Piaf, juste à cause du nom. Je suppose qu’il est inutile que je vous présente Edith Piaf. Ce bar de quartier est situé place Edith Piaf dans un quartier ouvrier où Piaf habitait. Ce n’est pas loin du célèbre cimetière Père Lachaise où elle est enterrée.

Lorsque je fais ma visite guidée sur Edith Piaf je m’arrête obligatoirement dans cet endroit pour prendre un café ou bien déjeuner. Ici vous ne trouverez que des locaux, aucun touriste. Ce bar qui est aussi un café et un restaurant, est dédiée à la chanteuse. Vous aurez  l’impression de prendre un café avec Edith parce qu’elle est partout.

©Edith de Belleville

Ce café n’est ni branché, ni à la mode, ni chic, ni historique. C’est un café ordinaire mais authentique avec de vrais Parisiens qui échangent à propos de leur vie parisienne de tous les jours. Et détail très important… les toilettes étaient propres ce qui est toujours bon signe.

Comme j’avais faim après mon café, j’ai commandé un canard à l’orange accompagné de pommes sautées à l’ail pour seulement 10 euros. Le pain est excellent ce qui est un autre bon signe. J’ai parlé à mes gentils voisins, un jeune couple qui était avec leur adorable nourrisson prénommé Martin âgé de trois semaines. Pas étonnant que les cafés de Paris soient dans l ‘ADN des Parisiens puisqu’ils les fréquentent à peine nés. Le gentil couple avait choisi une appétissante salade de lentilles, ainsi qu’une salade norvégienne avec du saumon fumé.

Canard à l’orange, 10 euros. ©Edith de Belleville

Quand j’ai dit au sympathique serveur que je m’appelais aussi Edith il m’a alors demandé si j’étais chanteuse. 

Seulement sous ma douche lui ai-je répondu.

Les samedis soirs on organise des soirées musicales. Les clients chantent des chansons françaises, c’est très sympa, vous devriez venir.

Je lui ai promis de revenir et je lui ai dit en partant:
Mon canard était délicieux, j’ai vraiment apprécié mon repas et cet endroit est très sympathique. C’est bien, vous n’avez pas déçu Edith !

Puis je me suis mise à fredonner dans la rue : quand il me prend dans ses bras, qu’il me parle tout bas, je vois la vie en rose ….

  • Où ? Place Edith Piaf ( 22, rue de la Py ), 20ème
  • Quand ? Lundi à samedi, 8h à minuit. ( Vérifier les samedis soirs pour les soirées musicales. )
  • Comment y aller ? Métro Porte de Bagnolet, ligne 3, sortier 5
  • Que boire ? Tout est abordable  
  • Que manger ? Canard à l’orange : 10 euros ; Tartare de boeuf : 12 euros ; Salade de lentilles végétarienne : 10,50 euros ; Salade  Norvégienne : 11,50 euros ; Frites : 4,50 euros ; Croque-monsieur : 8 euros ; Mousse au chocolat : 4 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.

Cover photo: ©Chrissy Willey

Café Photo of the Week

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

At Les Pipos, by Lisa Anselmo

©Lisa Anselmo

The bar at the popular Les Pipos, in the Latin Quarter, dates from the mid-1940s, and there has been a bistro or café on this site for the last 130 years. Woody Allen liked to hang out here when he was filming Midnight in Paris in the area.

Les Pipos was in danger of losing its lease, and its future is still unsure, but hopeful after the locals launched a petition to save it.

Bistrot Les Pipos, 2 rue de l’Ecole Polytechnique, 5ème

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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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The Local Café: Where Everyone Can Belong

by Lisa Anselmo

I’m sitting in my local café at lunchtime, which I use as my office. The WiFi is excellent, the manager and wait staff are welcoming and accommodating. There are no rules, no restrictions here, no signs warning “Laptops Forbidden.” I’m able to adapt the café to suit my life as I need, and it’s as though that’s expected. No one is imposing an agenda on me; they want me to feel at home, to call this place my own. This is the beauty of the cafés and bistros of Paris: they are an extension of our homes, and an indispensable part of our lives.

The lunch crowd has arrived. Next to me is a young couple and their baby; across, sit three woman, one in a hijab; beside them, two men huddle over a laptop discussing what looks like architectural drawings. Just outside on the terrace, a small group of construction workers of various origin are no doubt taking a break from renovating a nearby apartment, their work togs covered in plaster dust and paint. 

The clientele at this café represents the makeup of the neighborhood: Jewish, Muslim, hipsters, Millennials, old-timers, and newcomers—all of us living in the same buildings together, our lives mingling on a daily basis.

Cafés are essential for local communities—inclusive public houses where everyone has a seat at the table. But Paris has lost 300 cafés since 2014.*

Cafés are a vital part of our diverse communities. ©Lisa Anselmo

This is what makes the local café so special—and so essential. It’s where the entire community gathers—regardless of income, origin, religion, education, political affiliation, or skin color. “The crucible of friendship,” says restaurateur Alain Fontaine of cafés and bistros. “The melting pot where everyone meets.” Fontaine is leading an initiative to attain UNESCO status for Paris’s beloved bistros. Cafés could use this boost as well.

Cafés are the ultimate democratizer, inclusive public houses where anyone can find their place at the table. It’s something we take for granted because they’ve always been here, serving our communities. But it’s changing. Cafés are closing, both in Paris, and in France at large.

Cafe closures have been making headlines for years. The French government is finally recognizing the problem.

LOSING THE HEART OF LOCAL LIFE

Cafés in small towns across France have been the most hard-hit, mainly due to dwindling populations, not in small part precipitated by a massive reduction in national rail routes, cutting off these towns from the main artery, so they wither and die. The local businesses close—and worse, the café, often the only one in the village, leaving the residents with no common meeting place. In a country with a culture of socializing around food and drink, this loss is devastating to a community. The French government has recently understood the impact of this on the heart of the people, and is investing 150 million euros to launch an ambitious initiative that gives grants to anyone willing to open or preserve a café in a small town. It’s a start.

But in Paris, where money talks and international trends have a strong impact, cafés here are not getting the same kind of aid. The corporate chain is king, as is the foreign investor. Tech start-ups are the only small business ventures anyone wants to talk about these days. Longstanding locally owned businesses have little recourse if they’re struggling, and few resources, often shouldering the lion’s share of taxes, stymied by one-sided labor laws, and struggling to pay ever-rising rents. Cafés, too, are feeling this pressure, and in recent years, there has been a spate of closures, particularly in gentrifying or touristy areas. Paris has lost 300 cafés in just the last four years. And, like in small towns, the local Parisian café is also the center of neighborhood life, and the closure of a popular café has the same devastating impact on the residents, particularly if it’s replaced with an upscale restaurant or trendy specialty shop geared more to tourists than locals.

A Brooklyn-style coffee house just opened in our neighborhood. While French-owned, everything is in English (or a sort of English). Not sure about the coffee. ©Lisa Anselmo

Cafés are also facing competition, at least in the minds of some, with the rise of the Brooklyn-style coffee house: small establishments known for artisanal beans brewed by English-speaking baristas. Often, these are owned by Aussies or Americans who’ve imported this coffee culture to Paris—at first as a response to their own dislike of Parisian café coffee, which many find bitter and wanting. But the trend has caught on in a city where all things Brooklyn are highly prized. And, if you’re a coffee-lover, these are a welcomed addition to the Paris food scene. They’re often cozy and friendly, and along with impeccable coffee, serve tasty treats like brownies, and avocado toast. If that’s your thing.

But we shouldn’t mistake these places for the new Paris café. For starters, they’re technically not cafés—they don’t keep café hours, for example—and the vibe is completely different from a classic café. The coffee house is not a place where you can stay for hours gabbing, drinking, and eating until midnight. They often have only three or four tables (some don’t allow laptops for this reason), and are more tranquil and solitary. People tend to go alone or with one other person, have their coffee and a brief pause or business chat, then move on. It’s about the coffee, not the experience.

And there’s something else decidedly different about these places: the demographic. White, young, educated, middle- to upper-class. Period. The most diverse thing about these coffee houses is that they serve vegan milk options.

SERVING (& PRESERVING) DIVERSE COMMUNITIES

Why should we care? Because these kind of upscale businesses are a sign of the changes in our communities, thanks to gentrification and rising rents. Whole neighborhoods are going upmarket, transforming in a few short years; restaurants and shops serve a new moneyed clientele. The Saint-Ambroise district in the 11th arrondissement is a perfect example of this. Suddenly, the working class residents who have lived in these neighborhoods for decades can no longer afford to eat or shop in their own backyard, marginalized in the very quartier they call home.

I admit, as someone who blogs about Paris to an audience of a certain demographic, I have a nagging guilt about my own possible contribution to this change, real or imagined. Eight years ago, when I arrived in my sleepy neighborhood, a district somewhere between Charonne and Nation in the 11th, I was the only English-speaker around, and I liked it because I wanted to immerse myself in Paris life. I chose the area for it’s authentic local feel, something my New York neighborhood had long since lost. My Paris neighborhood was, and still is, home to a mix of young professionals, students, and families; the businesses are affordable and utilitarian. The cafés, if not always pretty, are welcoming and cheap. I’ve often called this area the last patch of real Paris.

Now I see signs of gentrification. The first giveaway: I hear and see English everywhere—even the servers at the cafés speak English now, menus are offered in English, perhaps catering to tourists encroaching on the district thanks to AirBnb. Prices are starting to rise. My nearby Leader Price grocery store, once frequented by the neighborhood’s working-class and elderly residents on pensions, has become an expensive organic shop with sparse, highly curated shelves. The old grocery store was packed with customers, and we all knew each other; the organic shop sits empty for now, confounding the locals who, when they do enter, wander the aisles slightly dazed then walk out with empty carts, shaking their heads. They’ve been abandoned.

Upscale overnight. A very pricey organic shop replaces an affordable grocery store that had served the working-class neighborhood for years. ©Lisa Anselmo

THE FATE OF OUR CAFES IS OUR FATE

The next time you see a café close, take note. Because it marks more than a change in our way of commerce; it’s a change in how we relate to each other—or more accurately, how we are beginning to not relate. Gentrification is just that: creating a place for the gentry. A certain class of people. If we build coffee houses that exclude some of us, what does this say about who we are now? It concerns me, and it should you. There is a trend toward isolation that is sweeping the world, and this is affecting how we interact, vote and govern, and how we see the world. The local café is the opposite of isolation and segregation. In a fast-gentrifying city like Paris, our cafés remain a place of liberté, égalité, fraternité. A Utopia for a diverse and vital community.

It’s why, sitting in my café now, I cherish this place. Here, there is something for everyone, because everyone matters, equally. I can’t say that Paris is the most inclusive city I’ve ever lived in, or that I’ve never witnessed racism here, but for this hour or two in this wonderful place of food and drink, we are all one, united by the desire to share and connect with the world around us. We are the Paris café, and it is us.

Coffee houses are fine for some, but cafés are essential for all. This, more than any other reason, is why I fight for the survival of the Paris café. I want to be where everyone has a seat at the table. Where we all can belong.

Thanks for the memories. Chez Gladines was very popular, and served decent food to a mix of locals. “Coming Soon” as the sign touts—in English—is a Brooklyn-style craft beer bar. ©Lisa Anselmo

*Source: French National Statistics Office, 2014 – 2018

LISA ANSELMO is a writer, branding expert, speaker, and coach, and has worked at such iconic American magazines as Allure, InStyle, and People. She is the author of My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home, (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press), and has been featured in New York magazine, Travel and Leisure, Bustle, House Hunters International, Expatriates Magazine among others.
Discover her blog and book
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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.

Wine & Pétanque, by Paul Boyd

©Paul Boyd

Le Caveau du Palais in Place Dauphine is a wonderful oasis of tranquility, just steps from Notre Dame, where often the only sound is the clacking from a nearby game of pétanque.

Le Caveau du Palais, 17-19 Place Dauphine, 1ère

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Photo Essay: Le Bistro Chair

by Janice MacLeod, excerpted from her book, A Paris Year, page 106, “May 25: Le Bistro Chair”

When you spend as much time in cafés as I do, you begin to notice that the typical bistro chair is like a snowflake. They are alike, yet no two are the same. Surprisingly, each chair costs on average $500.

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.

Editor’s note: Most classic rattan bistro chairs in Paris cafés have been handcrafted by the same company since 1920, Maison Gatti. Next time you’re seated at a terrace table, look for the telltale gold name plate on the back of your chair.

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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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.

Service Continu, by Patty Sadauskas

©Patty Sadauskas

Another gem from Patty Sadauskas. Non-stop service—or service continu—on this warm and inviting terrace during a raw night, courtesy of La Tour du Temple in the 3rd.

Shop Patty’s page on Redbubble
Discover Patty’s world at geniunefrance.com
Follow her on Instagram @parisonadime and @geniunefrance

Café La Tour du Temple, 160bis Rue du Temple, 3ème

Want to submit a photo for our weekly column,
Café Photo of the Week? Click here for submission rules.
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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…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.

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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

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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.
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All photos this page: ©Janice MacLeod

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