No visit of mine to Paris would be complete without a stop at my favorite cafe for people-watching, Cafe de Flore. I spent an hour or so one afternoon at one of the sidewalk tables, having a Café Liégeois and watching the world go by. So many memories of drinks and coffees, late nights and early mornings at the Flore. Once when a friend was visiting Paris on the spur of the moment, she couldn’t reach me at home (this was pre-mobile phone days) and she took a chance and called the Flore on a Saturday afternoon. I suddenly heard my name on the speaker and was asked to take a call on the second floor in the antique phone booth. I was so glad she was able to find me and we ended up spending the weekend together.
We also had our daily breakfasts – tartine, croissant and cafe creme at a neighborhood cafe close to our hotel – Le Nemrod. It’s on a corner of a residential area of the 6th where lots of locals walk by greeting each other and doing the French kiss-kiss. On one morning we saw no fewer than half a dozen moms rushing with their toddlers in Maclaren strollers to the garderie (daycare) then coming back with empty strollers to meet up with other moms at Le Nemrod for a coffee, a cigarette and a chat. On another morning, there were several solo Americans with the Herald Tribune for company and the cafe’s owners sitting around discussing menu changes and new fonts. It’s a nice little place to have a snack and see a bit of the vie de quartier (local life).
On our last morning, we walked further up the road towards the Poilâne bakery and to a little cafe that’s easy to miss which is two doors before the bakery. Cuisine de Bar is a French-style sandwich place where the specialty are tartines (open-faced sandwiches) made with bread from next-door Poilâne. Open from early morning where simple breakfasts are served to lunch where delicious combinations are created to top the slices of sourdough bread. The complete breakfasts comes with a giant bowl, not a cup or a mug, of cafe au lait, a basket of bread, a slab of butter and two types of jam – on that day, we had raspberry and sweet orange marmalade. Coffees are served with a very cute and edible butter cookie teaspoon also from next door.
There’s a cafe in almost every street corner in Paris but unfortunately, lots of them have undergone a modern refurbishment that has taken away the rustic feeling and charming atmosphere of the tiled floors, cane-chairs and small iron-legged tables. Let’s hope that not all the cafes go the way of the futuristic, velvet, faux-Costes look to keep the ambiance of the real French cafe alive.
The three listed below are all in the 6th arrondissement:
Cafe de Flore
172, bd. St. Germain
Tel: +33 01 45 48 55 26
51, rue Cherche-Midi
Tel: +33 01 45 48 17 05
Cuisine du Bar
8, rue Cherche-Midi
Tel: +33 01 45 48 45 69