Where will the old ladies lunch in Paris?


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Photo by Chris Card Fuller © 2007
Carrying loaves of bread for the poor? Or stocking up on brioche before the Cador closes? (Front alcove of St. Germain Auxerrois church -located just behind the Louvre’s Cour Carre).

Even from where we stood just in front of the St. Germain Auxerrois church, we could see the facade of the Cador Patisserie did not look promising. The ‘P’ in Patisserie had slipped slightly and as we drew closer to the Cador Salon du The, the soaped white windows told the story: the Cador was history. Closed and sold to a snack and refreshments chain, a chapter in the life of neighborhood habitues had come to a sudden and disheartening end.
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Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2007
Interior of St. Germain Auxerrois. It was the bell called ‘Marie’ from this church that signalled the beginning of the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre in which hundreds of Protestants were slain upon the orders of Catherine de Medici.

Chris and I had only once had the good luck to stumble into the Cador Salon du The. Walking through the front glass doors was something like crossing a threshold from present times to a Louis XVI tea salon which had remained perpetually in its own era. There was nothing contrived about the moldings, the high ceilings, the discreetly arranged tables, the hushed crowd. It’s the kind of Paris nook that you pat yourself on the back for having found – and it’s so quintessentially Parisian that you assume this kind of place will always be there just as Moliere will always be performed at the Comedie Francaise. I had always promised myself we’d get back for another cup of tea and tarts. Helas, in a rapidly changing world – if you have a favorite, restaurant, cafe or bar in Paris – there’s no lifetime guarantees in this current frenzy of real estate buying and developing.
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Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2007 Blades of Grass sculpture.
New sculpture to distract us from the loss of old tea salons.

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Just as we approached the front doors of Cador, so did a neatly dressed women ‘of a certain age’ who looked as disappointed as we did to see the construction worker exit – and confirm our worst expectations: yes,the Cador had closed for good and the new restaurant would have self-service sandwiches and snacks. Quel domage!

“Where will I invite my friends now?” the woman asked herself, certainly not us. We were there as witnesses of this regrettable demise.
“We’re disappointed too. We had only come here one time.”
“I’ve been coming here for thirty years – and I even had my own table. First, the Samaritaine goes – and now this. There’s not much left.”
“There’s that place up on Rivoli,” she said.
“Angelina’s?”
“Yes, that’s the one, but this place was ‘tres sympathique’. Angelina’s – well people have their noses up in the air.”
The construction worker who had remained close to us – as if in some way he felt responsible- opened wide the half-closed front door -the way a funeral director would quietly direct a mourner toward the remains of a dear friend. Like any corpse, the salon looked unlike anything it had been in real life. The entire salon had been painted stark white – the faint outline of the intricate moldings forever strangled in white. All the color and life had been painted out of the room like an intense snowstorm settling in for a long, cold winter.

“Any suggestions for another salon?” I asked the women.
“Well there’s that butter place,” she said. “It’s near BHV, you know across from Hotel de Ville.”
The place she referred to was also a chain operation called ‘Paul’ which is a fairly agreeable imitation of a salon du the. If you had never known the Cador, you would find Paul to be perfectly charming. We did go to Paul and found the waitresses to be friendly and accommodating. Happily, the interior is also old and cosy with Louis XIII style chairs that haven�t been reupholstered and beamed ceilings. The coffee eclair melted in my mouth and the chocolate filling was rich but there are certain things that chain can never replace. Cafes and salons take on the personality of their owner. When the owner is elsewhere, the establishment can be managed beyond reproach – and still will have no soul. The resident we met will probably bring her friends here – but she’ll no longer have her own table and she will know that thirty years of tea and sweet memories are now irreparably part of history.