So while we knew cafes were a part of the culture here in Paris, we had no idea the extent of it…or how much we would (both!) love it.
Cafe culture in Paris is all about watching the world go by, about chatting with friends for hours over wine or coffee…and we have taken to it like fish to water.
It’s such a cultural thing that even in our less-touristy neighborhood, we notice that at all times of day, on all days of the week, the locals flock to the cafes. It doesn’t matter if the weather is cold (hello permanently installed space heaters), raining (hello extendable overhangs) or 7:00am (assuming places are open) – Parisians and their cafes are an unmistakable part of this city. Young or old, single or part of a couple, Parisians and cafes are a thing.
So, to live as locals, we obviously had to experience this! We have done cafe culture in the morning with coffees, at lunch with a refreshing glass of rose and a charcuterie board and during many, many late afternoons, evening and late nights with red wine and *the* most delicious cheese fries you’ve ever experienced. One of the best things about cafe culture is exactly what the locals embrace about it – no one rushes you…the servers don’t care if you want to just order a coffee and sit to read for 3 hours. So we have done just that! Nick will work while I sit and leisurely read a book or watch the world go by in the square near our apartment.
While slow service notoriously drives Nick crazy, he fell in love with cafes for the reasons mentioned above, but also for the space…or strangely, for the lack thereof. Cafe culture here is a long row of perfectly aligned small chairs with a small round cafe table after every second chair. Normally there will be just 2 or 3 inches between the chair of your neighbor. Not a lot of space, right? Right!
Except for the fact that space is delineated as “yours” – no one is bumping into you trying to get to the bar, no one will continually encroach on your space as a normal inside-bar gets busier and busier, and you can sit back and relax! So while Nick technically had trouble fitting into the small space, he was very content not always feeling like he was in the way. Mix that with a book or work and it made us both happy campers.
Sometimes cafe culture is about sitting and watching. It was about watching bachelorette parties (ie: hen parties, for you Europeans) meander through the square doing silly dances and going on dares. It was about the cello and violin performers who would set up for a few songs or the itinerant accordion player setting up tips. The locals going on first dates, the business folk tip-tapping away, the groups of young men and young women watching each other from across the courtyard. The old man with his crusty cigar, reading a worn paperback, and sipping his umpteenth espresso for the day.
Sometimes it was about sipping on a cafe creme with the overhang extended and enjoying the patter of rain or the warm breeze that kicks up when the sun *finally* goes down at 9:30. It was about watching the sun move from one side of the building and setting over the other, then wandering around to find a crepe and another espresso.
But all the time, it was about connecting. Feeling a connection to the world around you by soaking it in; connecting with the rhythms of a neighborhood and connecting with your friends and loved ones in random 30 second conversations or during multi-hour discussions.
Cafe culture, for us, was about settling in and connecting with whatever it is you want to connect with – the world around you, the world within a book, or the world with your partner. And hey, it’s weirdly not as crowded!