Category Archives: Café Culture

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.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER and get the latest articles, news, and more. (Sign-up in the left-hand menu bar on desktop, or at the bottom of the page on mobile.)

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

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

©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.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER and get the latest articles, news, and more. (Sign-up in the left-hand menu bar on desktop, or at the bottom of the page on mobile.)

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)

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

©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.