Tuesday, 8 November 2016

French cafe society

Inside Les Deux Magots, Paris
Over the last 10 years or so, we in the UK have caught up with continental -style cafe society. Now it's pefectly normal to go for a coffee, sit and read the newspapers - often provided for clients by the cafe - and watch the world go by or pore over laptops, tablets or phones.
Some UK cafes are even venturing into cold climate outdoor seating, with rugs and blankets to snuggle into slung on the backs of chairs. The only place I'd ever seen this before, and several years ago, was in Stockholm. If course, we also have the outdoor heaters under large umbrellas for those (smokers?) who choose to sit outside.
The photo above is one I took inside the famous Parisian left bank cafe, Les Deux Magots. It has traditional, old-fashioned style waiters who wear long white aprons as they serve at tables. The cafe was the meeting place of many French intellectuals - writers, philosophers - such as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemingway. The interior is wood-panneled, and the atmosphere quiet and well-behaved.

The local cycling club socialising

Cut from the heart of France's capital city to a small seaside resort on the Picardy coast. Cafe society is in full swing on a Sunday afternoon and a group of middle-aged Frenchmen are enjoying the final stages of a meal they have shared after cycling together in the surrounding countryside. There are cycles stacked up against the walls and chairs and they have joined three tables together on the pavement outside so they can all sit in a rather ungainly circle around them. They've clearly had a fair amount to drink and the volume of laughter and conversation is high.

The cafe staff are keeping an eye on them as the noise could be keeping potential customers away, but no-one takes that much notice. They're enjoying their social time together. Their exuberance is tolerated by most, frowned on by a few.

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