Category Archives: Café Culture

Lily Heise's Romantic Café Picks

Author Lily Heise (Je T’Aime, Me Neither; Je T’Aime…Maybe?) shares her favorite romantic spots to cozy up with your amour this Valentine’s Day—or any day.

Parisian cafés serve a variety of purposes. Regulars pop in for their morning petit café on the way to work. Some come mid morning to linger over un café crème. Le plat du jour satisfies busy office workers lunchtime hunger pains and there’s nothing quite as perfect as celebrating the end of the work day over a glass of le vin du mois. Cafés also serve as the ideal spot for dates in Paris. That said, your café du coin might not be the right place for some wooing. From historic to hidden, these cafés all offer the perfect setting for a romantic meet-up in the City of Love:

 Le Jardin du Petit Palais
Avenue Winston Churchill, 8ème; 01.40.07.11.41

Courtesy of Jardin du Petit Palais

For a touch of elegant grandeur, rendezvous with your romantic interest in front of Le Petit Palais, the City of Paris Art Museum, where its glitzy facade will already set the tone for your chic date. Located overlooking an opulent, leafy courtyard is one of Paris’s most attractive museum cafés. If things are going well, you can suggest extending your date by perusing the museum’s collections ranging from Roman statues to Impressionist greats (and it’s free!).

Musée de la Vie Romantique
Hotel Scheffer-Renan, 16 Rue Chaptal, 9ème; 01.55.31.95.67

©Lily Heise

You can’t find a more suitable setting for a romantic meet-up then at the City of Paris Museum of the Romantic Era (Musée de la Vie Romantique). Built in 1830 for Dutch painter Ary Scheffer, the house became the hub of intellectual Paris of the Romantic Era of the first half of the 19th century. On a given soirée held at the house, you might have crossed paths with Georges Sand, Chopin, Eugène Delacroix, or Franz Liszt. The small museum houses art and artifacts linked to the period (also free), however, its equally romantic courtyard café, nestled within the greenery and flowers of the garden, is open to anyone, and is sublimely romantique.

Café Louis-Philippe
66 Quai de l’Hotel de Ville, 4ème; 01.42.72.29.42

©Lily Heise

This charming joint is a great choice for a classic café experience without having to take out a mortgage to pay for two coffees like at most historic cafés. With a simple old-school decor of wooden bistro tables and chairs, a beautiful iron spiral staircase, a wonderful sunroom and terrace looking towards one of the most alluring streets of Paris (Rue des Barres), your petit café or petit Chablis will be delivered by an aproned waiter who will leave you be, Parisian style, so you can take your time gazing into your chéri/e’s eyes from across the table. Afterwards, keep the romancing going by strolling up Rue des Barres and through the quiet streets of the lower Marais.

Le Zimmer
1 Place du Chatelet, 1ère; 01.42.36.74.03

Courtesy of Le Zimmer

If you’re looking to combine history with glamour, the centuries-old café of the Chatelet Theatre fits the bill perfectly. Opened in 1896 during the great brasserie craze of Paris, this café has had a makeover—relooking—by star interior designer Jacques Garcia who, thankfully, kept many of its historic features and seductive feel of La Belle Epoque—including gilded mirrors, painted wood ceilings, and velour drapery. It’s Paris romantic chic at its best—without too much of a fuss.

Hôtel des Marronniers
21 Rue Jacob, 6ème; 01.43.25.30.60

©Lily Heise

There are a few hidden cafés in Paris and the one located in this discreet hotel in the 6th arrondissement is one of the most romantic. Meet your date nearby, perhaps in front of Saint-Germain-dès-Pres church, and then lead around to this address, where she or he will be instantly enchanted by the peaceful courtyard of the hotel. Going inside, make your way to the back, and you’ll find a glassed-in sunroom behind which is a terrace with intimate seating amidst flowers and statues. It’s not so well known, so you might even have the café all the yourselves.

Le Lieu Secret
7 Rue Francis de Pressensé, 14ème; 01.45.40.07.50

©Lily Heise

Another hidden café, the “secret place” was formerly known as L’Entrepot, a historic cultural center that has recently been saved from closure. The building has already seen a few lives. Originally a textile warehouse (“entrepot” in French), in 1975 it became an important venue for the promotion of avant garde cinema. This “new” space hasn’t abandoned its roots, so after having a drink in its “secret” café—with soaring warehouse ceilings, a large glass atrium, and a quiet back courtyard—you could further your date with a play, film, or concert.

Pavillon des Canaux
39 Quai de la Loire, 19ème; 01.73.71.82.90

©Lily Heise

Perfect for dreamy romantics, this whimsical café is found at the end of the Basin de la Villette, where it becomes the Canal de l’Ourcq. This former lock-keeper’s home has been converted into an eclectic space where you can choose to sit in a plush sofa in the living room, around the retro table in the kitchen, in the bathtub in the bathroom…or on the bed in the bedroom. After your drink, you can extend your date with a stroll along the canal.

Peonies
81 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, 10ème

©Lily Heise

As you might guess from its name, this modern café doesn’t only offer up a good cup of coffee, it doubles as a flower shop. So before or after you’ve sipped your way through an excellent latte and nibbled on a piece of moist cake, you can surprise your date with one of their original flower bouquets. The café is small, so avoid taking a date here on weekend afternoons. If it’s full, you could always get your coffee and bouquet to go!

LILY HEISE is a Canadian travel writer, author, and romantic expert who has lived in Paris since 2000. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, Frommer’s, Playboy.com (Travel), among others. She is also the author of two lively books on searching for love in Paris, Je T’Aime, Me Neitherand Je T’Aime…Maybe?. Lily shares tips on Paris date ideas and romantic travel on her website and leads romantic tours of Paris.
Discover her world at  www.jetaimemeneither.com.
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Cover photo courtesy of Pavillon des Canaux

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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

Don’t miss Edith’s cafe recommendations. Sign up for our newsletter on the sidebar menu on the homepage

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.

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

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

Don’t miss Edith’s cafe recommendations. Sign up for our newsletter on the sidebar menu on the homepage

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

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.
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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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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

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

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

Don’t miss Edith’s cafe recommendations. Sign up for our newsletter on the sidebar menu on the homepage

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

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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A Place to Be Alone, with Others

by Janet Hulstrand

When people ask me what they should be sure to do while they’re in Paris, I always say the same thing: “Just be sure you leave some time to simply wander—walk, sit in a park or café, and take some time to just watch the world go by.”

I say this even if the person asking me is only going to be in Paris for a day or two. It seems to me to be even more important if you only have a little bit of time in Paris to have this very Parisian, and most wonderful experience—that is, to take the time to do “nothing” and just enjoy the beauty and the inherent interest of the world surrounding you.

The French have a word for this kind of thing: flâner is the verb, and it is variously translated. Most often it is translated as “to stroll,” with secondary definitions including to lounge, dawdle, wander, or loiter. Harriet Welty Rochefort, in her book, Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French, has a chapter called “Hanging Out Without Feeling Guilty.” It seems to me that this is the best way to describe what it means to flâner that I have ever heard.

Each summer, I assign the American students in my literature class in Paris to find a café that looks sympa to them, and then to spend at least half an hour there. (“Longer is better,” I say.) I tell them they don’t have to order more than a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine if they don’t want to, or can’t afford to. Then they are to spend at least some of their time there writing about what they see, hear, observe, or think about. I give them this assignment fairly early in their month-long stay in Paris because I want them to know that this is something they can do in Paris even if they are there on a very tight budget. And I want them to understand through personal experience that it is indeed one of the most wonderful things Paris has to offer them—and everyone.

Watching the world go by. Photo: Patty Sadauskas

That is, to have a place to go where you can be alone with your thoughts, but surrounded by the interesting display of humanity around you. A place where you can take the time to relax—read, write, think, and watch the passing parade. Perhaps most importantly of all, to not be hurried away by anyone, but to feel truly welcome.

A café doesn’t have to be old in order to be a very pleasant place to pass the time, but sometimes that is part of the charm. My own favorite café in Paris is the Café Bullier, on the corner of Boulevard Montparnasse and Avenue de l’Observatoire. This café has been there for a long time: Hemingway referred to it in A Moveable Feast (as the “Bal Bullier”). When I sit in the Café Bullier, I like to find a seat from which I can look across the boulevard to the Closeries des Lilas, now famous as one of the cafés in which Hemingway liked to work. But what I like most about the Café Bullier is the warm accueil I always experience when I am there, whether I’ve come for a leisurely cup of coffee or glass of wine, or a meal. (The service is always both professional and friendly, and the food is always good too.)

Because of my love for Parisian cafés, as well as cafés elsewhere in France, I avoid going to Starbucks when I am in France. I have nothing against Starbucks in general, but I do feel like there are plenty of Starbucks in the world, and that when in France, it’s better to support local, independently owned cafés.

After all, they have played such an important social function for such a long time—and to me, this being able to be both alone and surrounded by people, to do your work in peace and calm, and to not feel rushed about leaving is truly one of the greatest things about Paris.

Of course one of the reasons Parisian café owners are able to allow us this wonderful luxury is that there are so many of them—so many cafés, so many tables, so much space in which to do this. There is not the need to “turn tables” as there is in other places that are both more crowded and—let’s face it—more mercenary.

But Parisian café owners have to be able to earn a living too. So shouldn’t we all be helping them do that?

Because Paris just wouldn’t be the same without them.

JANET HULSTRAND is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher who divides her time between France and the United States. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and she writes frequently for Bonjour Paris, France Today, France Revisited, as well as for her blog Writing from the Heart, Reading for the Road.

Edith’s Café Spotlight: Les Deux Magots

Parisian storyteller, historian, and licensed tour guide Edith de Belleville shares the history behind her favorite places around Paris to sip a coffee or glass of wine and watch Paris go by. We’re launching the series with the venerable Les Deux Magots in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
[La v
ersion française ci-dessous.]

There are cafés in Paris where you can’t just do whatever you want. There are rules. Les Deux Magots is one of these. But do not be put off by this. As soon as you pass through the majestic revolving door of this mythical café, you’ll understand what I mean. You are now in the hallowed halls of the Parisian Intelligensia.

On the wall are black and white photographs of the famous artists and writers who came before, and sat in the same comfortable banquettes where you are now sitting: Ernest Hemingway with Janet Flanner; the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire; the Argentinian writer Jorge-Luis Borges; the Parisian feminist Simone de Beauvoir; Pablo Picasso with his talented and beautiful muse, Dora Maar. And let’s not forget the wry poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, or Antoine de Saint-Exupery—author of the most-read book in the world (after the Bible): The Little Prince. Yes, the literati used to sip their coffee here.

©Edith de Belleville

So now you understand why, in this café, c’est interdit (it’s forbidden) to stare at your smartphone, posting photos to Instagram. Non. Instead, read a book or newspaper, have an philosophical discussion with your well-read friend (chosen especially for this moment), or jot something in your journal (even if it’s just your shopping list). And if you must be on your computer, be sure it’s to write your masterpiece. Because the goal here is to look like an intellectual Parisian from the Left Bank.

Okay, so maybe these are just my rules, but why not take advantage of the atmosphere of this historic place to broaden your mind? Me, I come to Les Deux Magots when I need to stimulate my brain. And when the elegant, amiable waiter brings me my favorite old fashioned hot chocolate, I feel immediately more brilliant.

Whatta view: The Abbey of Saint-Germain-des Prés ©Edith de Belleville

There is just one difficult dilemma that I must solve each time I come here: A table outside or inside? Inside, you can admire the two glorious Asian statutes who gave this iconic café its name. These ancient beauties have been holding court over the many VIPs who have come through the door since 1884. But outside, there is the magnificent view. From the terrace, you can admire the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des Prés, the only example of Romanesque architecture in Paris, which boasts the oldest bell tower in the city. It’s a happy problem to have to solve.

Admittedly, the price of my stylish hot chocolate was not particularly cheap. But from time to time, one must be willing to invest a bit more in his or her intelligence. —Edith de Belleville

  • Where? 6 Place Saint-Germain, Paris 6th arr.
  • When? 7 :30am – 1am, 7 days
  • How to get there? Métro Saint-Germain-des-Prés, line 4
  • What to drink? Coffee: 4.80 euros; hot chocolate: 8.50 euros (like liquid pudding; it’s worth every centime)
  • What to eat? The Hemingway Breakfast: 26 euros for a copious meal—includes fried eggs with bacon or ham (or omelet of your choice), fresh-baked bread served with creamery butter and homemade jam, a choice of hot beverage plus fresh-squeezed fruit juice, yogurt or fruit salad; for any time of day: the classic Croque Monsieur with mixed salad (13.50 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

Il a des cafés à Paris où vous ne pouvez pas faire ce que vous voulez. Il y a des règles. Le café Les Deux Magots est l’un de ces endroits. Dès que vous pousserez la majestueuse porte battante en bois de ce café mythique vous comprendrez ce que je veux dire. Vous êtes dans un des berceaux de l’Intelligentsia parisienne.

Elle ne comprend pas mes regles ! ©Edith de Belleville

Sur le mur il y a des photographies en noir et blanc des artistes et écrivains célèbres qui se sont assis sur les confortables banquettes avant vous : Ernest Hemingway avec Janet Flanner ; le poète français Guillaume Apollinaire ; l’écrivain argentin Jorge-Luis Borges ; la parisienne et féministe Simone de Beauvoir et Pablo Picasso avec sa belle et talentueuse muse, Dora Maar. Et je ne vous parle même pas d’Oscar Wilde ni d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, auteur du livre le plus lu au monde ( après la Bible ) le petit prince. Tous ceux qui ont fait la littérature ont siroté leur café ici.

Maintenant vous comprenez pourquoi dans ce café vous ne regardez pas l’écran de votre téléphone, vous n’utilisez-pas votre ordinateur et vous ne téléphonez pas. En réalité ce sont mes propres règles. Mais pourquoi ne pas profiter de cette atmosphère littéraire légendaire pour nourrir votre esprit? A la place lisez un roman ou un journal, ayez une discussion artistique avec l’ami cultivé que vous aurez choisi pour vous accompagner ou écrivez ( écrire votre liste de courses à Paris fera l’affaire ). Le but est d’avoir l’air d’un intellectuel parisien de la Rive Gauche.

©Edith de Belleville

Je viens ici à chaque fois que j’ai besoin d’une stimulation cérébrale. Quand l’élégant et sympathique serveur m’apporte mon chocolat chaud à l’ancienne, je sens immédiatement que je deviens brillante.

Mais à chaque fois je dois faire un choix cornélien : A l’intérieur ou à l’extérieur ? A l’intérieur, vous pouvez admirer les grandes et antiques statues des deux asiatiques qui regardent défiler les VIP depuis 1884 et qui ont donné le nom à ce lieu iconique. Dehors, il y a la vue magnifique. De la terrasse vous pouvez admirer la superbe église romane de Saint-Germain-des-Prés qui possède le clocher le plus ancien de Paris.

Bon d’accord, le prix de mon chocolat chaud stylé n’était pas particulièrement bon marché. Mais de temps en temps il faut savoir être prêt à investir et payer un petit peu plus pour se sentir intelligent. —Edith de Belleville

  • Où ? 6, place Saint Germain, 75006 Paris
  • Quand ? 7h30 à 1h, tous les jours
  • Comment y aller ? Métro Saint-Germain-des-Prés, ligne 4
  • Que boire ? Café : 4,80 euros ; chocolat chaud à l’ancienne : 8,50 euros
  • Que manger ? Le Petit Déjeuner Hemingway : 26 euros (pour un petit-déjeuner copieux) Œufs sur le plat au bacon ou au jambon, (ou omelette nature, au jambon, au fromage ou mixte), accompagnés d’une tartine avec beurre de Poitou-Charentes, boisson chaude au choix renouvelable une fois, jus de fruits presses, yoghourt nature ou salade de fruits ; Le Croque Monsieur avec une salade mixte : 13.50 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.

Introducing Edith de Bellevilles’s Café Series

Parisian storyteller and licensed tour guide, Edith de Belleville

[Trouvez ci-dessous la version française]
Parisian storyteller Edith de Belleville spends a lot of time in cafés, bistros, and brasseries around Paris. A licensed tour guide, Edith is our go-to for the history of Paris, and notably its cafés. She has her favorites, but also discovers new cafés all the time as she bides her time between tours. We’ve asked Edith to share her picks with us—and you can be sure there’s a story in each.

In this upcoming series, Edith will showcase some classic places full of history, and some new and notable places worth a try. Make no mistake; these are not restaurant reviews. You’re going to be taken on a unique journey through time as only Edith de Belleville can do.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Edith’s favorite places around Paris to sip a coffee or glass of wine and watch Paris go by.

Don’t miss Edith’s cafe recommendations. Sign up for our newsletter on the sidebar menu or on the homepage

Edith de Belleville is an attorney and licensed tour guide in Paris. She is also 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

Photo: Edith de Bellevillle

Il était une fois à Paris…Edith a toujours aimé raconter des histoires sur la ville qui l’a vue naître. 

Quand elle n’est pas en train de faire découvrir sa ville adorée, Edith est attablée à la terrasse d’un café. Nous lui avons donc demandé de nous raconter ses cafés préférés, les anciens comme les nouveaux. Et même si c’est un fait bien connu que la Française ne grossit pas, Edith a bien voulu nous dévoiler aussi les bistros et les brasseries de Paris qu’elle affectionne particulièrement quand elle a (un peu ) faim. Siroter un café ou un verre de vin tout en regardant Paris et les Parisiens, c’est sa Vie Parisienne qu’elle vous fera partager. Restez branché dans les semaines qui suivent et Edith vous fera découvrir  les histoires  qui se cachent  derrière les cafés connus ou inconnus.

Avocate et 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 préferés ! Abonnez-vous à notre newsletter, ici.