Cafe sitting is a great Parisian sport. You don’t have to be young, rich, famous, politically connected, intellectually or physiologically exceptional to participate in this sport. You don’t even have to be French. There is a little bit of technique involved in cafe-sitting. Give yourself a week in Paris and you should be able to grasp the essentials. Choose a cafe which talks to you. Once you’ve chosen this cafe as your own, remain faithful to it. Cafe fidelity is important, but don’t rush your choice.
Here are some criteria:
Is the cafe located at an interesting intersection where you can watch pedestrians? Are the seats reasonably comfortable? Is the cafe on the sunny side of the street? What is the noise level? Pinball machines?
The waiters. If they’re aloof the first day, no big deal. If they are still aloof by the third day, move on.
Now that you’ve decided on a cafe where you feel at home, consider honing this technique to an art form: nursing your cafe expresso to last for at minimum one hour. This is done more easily if you’re involved in an animated conversation about sustainable sources of energy – or a similar topic.
Any cafe where Hemingway drank will now be expensive and touristy. Some of these cafes were even expensive when he drank there, but then he probably never paid.
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Here are some of the famous Left Bank cafes you will see in most Paris travel guides:
Les Deux Magots
If you’re wondering where Les Deux Magots found its name, the original shop selling silk drapery was named after a famous play in its day “Les Deux Magots de la Chine”
Yes, Hemingway drank here. The food isn’t bad either!
These three ‘biggies’ are located on Boulevard St. Germain, Metro: St. Germain-des-Pres. So, they put their expressos in fancier cups. Let’s face it. Coffee is coffee.
On the Right Bank, you can pay for the privilege of sitting at Cafe de la Paix – where Charles de Gaulle sat down when he triumphantly marched into Paris at the end of World War II. Don’t get me wrong – I love Cafe de la Paix. If you want a great view of the Garnier Opera House at night, this is the place to pull up a chair and enjoy a view of the Opera House’s illuminated facade. But it won’t necessarily be YOUR cafe.
Home for me is Cafe Odessa, Metro: Edgar Quinet. The intersection always has plenty of street traffic.
You can find your favorite cafe in any of Paris’s neighborhoods. Make it a cafe close to your hotel or lodging so that you can pop in at any time of day to sip an expresso or a petit creme – and with a little luck the person behind the bar will recognize you when you’re back in town.