What’s it like being back on a café terrace in Paris?
It’s like being back in your lover’s arms after a long, hard trip.
It’s like being hugged by your gramma and smelling her pumpkin pie in the oven following a grueling car ride during which you fought with your sister in the back seat.
It’s like home.
Why? Because Paris cafés and restaurants are so many things.
They’re your living room where you entertain guests.
They’re your break room between gigs.
They’re your kitchen where you feed your loved ones.
They’re your safe space when you meet that Tinder guy.
They’re your buffer zone where you get your head together before going home after a bad day at work.
They’re your car where you’re hanging out waiting for your kid’s ballet class to end.
They’re your office when you’re sick of staring at your own four walls.
They’re your porch where you read a book and daydream.
Not to be crude, but they’re also your bathroom. Paris is woefully short of toilets, and whether you sneak in or do the right thing and buy a drink, it’s going to happen sometime.
Why? Because cafés are plentiful and for the price of one drink you can sit there indefinitely, being productive or not, eating or not.
Paris cafés and restaurants aren’t just meal alternatives, they’re community. It’s not food we’ve been hungry for during Covid. It’s not coffee or wine. It’s each other, it’s people. We’ve all been eating just fine this year, what with baking sourdough bread and Googling recipes and spending way too much money on Deliveroo. Just ask my pants.
We needed people, and in Paris, with cafés and restaurants closed from October to May, that was hard.
If you invite a friend to your house, and it’s all on you—the food, the atmosphere, the cost, the responsibility for everybody’s happiness and wellbeing. Conversation might lull. Your soufflé might fall. Your friend might spill red wine on your sofa, or be allergic to your main dish, or turn out to be a raw vegan. Disaster awaits. Your friend might not even want to come to your sixth-floor 100-square-foot walk-up. But meet that friend on a Paris terrace, and good things can happen. Everybody can order exactly what they want from the vaguely flirtatious server who somehow makes you feel great about your choice. They’ll clean up spills and bring more food and drinks if you need it. If conversation lags, somebody interesting will pass your by and topics will present themselves.
We need people, even strangers. Strangers who are relaxing with their own cups of coffee are kindred spirits. You might ignore one another, or cast a sympathetic glance when somebody drops their napkin, or have a low-commitment conversation about the weather. It’s up to you.
If you need me, you’ll find me on a terrace.
- Check out more of Yvonne’s Parisian stories here
- Need to dive deeper? We got you: Everything You Want to Know about the Café Terraces in Paris
- If you’re in Paris, here’s What To do in June!
Written by Yvonne Hazelton for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person (when possible)? Check out new marketplace shop and experiences.