Life in a Paris Café
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Dear Parler Paris Reader,
There simply isn’t anything like it…a Paris café.
Writers have spent their lives recording their thoughts in them. Love affairs have begun in them. Friends have become enemies and enemies have become friends in them. Business deals have been made in them.
I suspect that anything that’s ever been done has been done in them…at least at one time or another.
A Paris café is not about eating or drinking or smoking (and now only at the tables on the sidewalk!). It’s not about what they serve, to whom it’s s
erved or who serves it. It’s not about the kind of tables or chairs that fill them.
A Paris café is about communication. It’s the stage that is set for every form of exchange of ideas and emotions. It’s about language…the language of words, of love, of music.
There are more than 2000 cafés in the City of Light…these centers of intercourse, connection, conversation, exchange…and life itself. They beckon you: “Come, have a seat. Refresh yourself. Take notice of life around you. Talk with friends. Or just gaze at humanity itself. Dream. Contemplate. Plan. Stay as long as you like.”
A day doesn’t go by that I don’t patronize at least one Paris café. Each one is just a little bit different. Each one takes on the personality of its owner. Each one takes on the ambiance of its patrons. I wonder often how it happens so easily that the patrons mirror the “patron” — or is it any wonder at all?
We all have our favorites and do we know why? Who can explain why at the “Café Français” I’ve met the important loves of my life? Or why is it that when approaching “L’Etoile Manquante,” a front row seat always opens up just in time to take it. The “Café du Marché” on the shady side of the street rivals The “Café Charlot” for the sunworshipers, but why is it that it feels like home while its rival seems so foreign? The same faces line the bar at “Le Petit Trou” — would yours become one of them? Or do you prefer the “Café de Flore” for all its “glore?” rather than “Les Deux Magots” for those not in the know. And at Café de la Paix, are you willing to “paie” too much for a coffee just for a view of the Opéra Garnier?
There are cafés that are “chic” and cafés that are just plain “cheap.” If the tables are round, the conversation is often profound. If the tables are square, more likely you’ll be one of a pair. Sit in the sun — it’s clearly more fun. Go ahead, surf the Net — if there’s a signal to get.
There is life in a Paris café. Your life. My life. Their life. It’s old. It’s young. It’s naive. It’s wise. Go ahead. Take a seat. Find your spot. Tell your tales. Leave your mark…in a Paris café.
Which one will it be?
P.S. Wednesday morning I board the plane headed for the City by the Bay — San Francisco, where John Howell, Mary Fort, Jody Cracknell, Peter Zipper, Steven Navaro, Schuyler Hoffman and a host of others, will be teaching you how to live and invest in France…for pleasure and profit. There is still time to register. Visit frenchpropertyconference to sign up now.
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Janet Hulstrand, workshop instructor, is a writer, editor, and teacher whose essays and articles have been published in the Christian Science Monitor, Guide to Retirement Living, International Educator, Smithsonian.com, and other publications. She has taught writing and literature at Hunter and Queens Colleges of the City University of New York. Her first book, Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home, was widely praised. She is currently working on her next book, A Long Way from Iowa, a literary memoir.
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Life in a Paris Café
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