Wikipedia states that Maury Henry Biddle Paul was the first to coin the phrase “Café Society”. It was used to represent the brilliant and beautiful who frequented the cafés during the early 1900s in Paris, London, and New York. Today you can’t walk down a main street anywhere in Paris that doesn’t have at least one café. When you pass by, chances are you will hear robust conversations about the news of the day, what’s happening in the arts and literary communities and/or a French staple, politics. There is always a mix of young and old, locals and tourists. And I do love hearing all that chatter!
Ernest Hemingway spent most of the 1920s in Paris writing in cafés scattered throughout the Left Bank. He wrote “The Sun Also Rises” at a cafe around the corner from where he lived (on rue Notre Dame des Champs) called La Closerie des Lilas. Although he sat at many different tables in the café, a brass marker with his name engraved on it marks the spot where Hemingway sat when he was at the bar. He was a patron of many cafes in Paris meeting up with other literary types like my favourite, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This is La Closerie des Lilas, as it is today, located just behind the Luxembourg Gardens at 171 Boulevard du Montparnasse. After a morning of wandering through Montparnasse, it is an ideal spot to stop for lunch to people watch and rest aching feet. The paper placemats are a real topic of conversation, printed with drawings, quotes, and poems written by “artsy” celebrities who have frequented the cafe from all over the world.
Café Society has become a part of today’s pop culture. I’m sure many of you watched “Friends” and remember the numerous scenes that took place at the “Central Perk“. In 2014 a “Central Perk” pop up café (complete with many original props) was set up in New York for a month and fans could experience what the original set looked like while enjoying a free cup of coffee. While sitting on the ionic sofa you could reminisce with your friends about how the memorable comedy, “Friends”, entertained us for 10 years in the 1990s and 2000s.
The “fab four” from “Sex and the City” spent many hours, usually over brunch, in their usual café discussing their relationship woes. This scene from one of the last two episodes of “Sex and the City” shows Carrie in a Paris cafe lonely, missing her friends. This dog staring at her with a priceless expression ends up eating most of her desserts!
I don’t remember seeing many cafes when I was growing up in Canada. Corner cafes did start popping up in the early 1970s when the first Starbucks opened in Seattle. Today going out for coffee has become quite fashionable. The best news claims that coffee is actually good for you! I can’t start the day without a great cup of coffee (I call it my “drug” of choice)…never brewing it at home instead preferring to get a jump on the day by going out to “Crum Coffee Bar“. “Crum” is independently owned and operated by two lovely, young women (sisters) who have plenty of previous experience as baristas. They have sourced out premium organic coffee…and pastries to die for. If you come early the aroma of freshly baked French pastry greets you as you walk through the door. The dough for the croissants comes in from France and the waffles are from Belgium. Other delectables come from a local bakery. Regulars are greeted by name and are treated royally. Their carefully curated playlists provide just the right balance of background music for conversation and/or thought-provoking stimulation. I channel my inner Hemingway (yeah, right!) often working on a blog post from a (my) table by the window. The window faces east and even if it is cold and miserable outdoors, the light that comes in as the sun is rising brings another opportunity for a promising day.
Have you had your caffeine fix for the day?