Bistro, Bar, Brasserie, Restau… S’il vous plaît…

In Paris there are more corner bistros than there are corners.

L'Etoile de Montmartre in Rue Marcadet in the 18th

There is something about the run down yet majestic façades of Parisian houses. The grey and beige stone façades with the rows of black iron wrought balconies. So many details, all of which seem curiously forgotten as they look down upon the people in the streets. Stone faces, and vines. Detailed leaves decorating the top of the street doors. Columns and arches everywhere. All of it misty and dirty and somehow left behind.

Bar and Brasserie on Place Charles Bernard in the 18th
Bar and Brasserie on Place Charles Bernard in the 18th

Paris is dirty – and smelly on a hot spring day. And yet, because it is Paris we accept it. It is a part of the charm, a part of why we are drawn to this city. But we also accept it, because it only proves that Paris is full of life. It is a city where life is lived in the street as much as in the small and crowded apartments and studios.

La Sardine at Place Sainte Marthe in the 10th
La Sardine at Place Sainte Marthe in the 10th

On every corner, sunshades in all the brownish colours of the 70’s shade coffee drinking Parisians. Brasseries, bistros, restaus, cafés… places which guarantee the continued life of a vibrant city. These places seem as much a part of Paris as les grandes boulevardes, Le tour Eiffel and le metro.

They often seem to have grown out of the 70’s with colours from dark brown through red to dirty orange, with matching plastic braided chairs and plexi-glass covers. Inside they look dark and cosy, but as corner places they also offer a place in the sun.

Chez Lili et Marcel at Quai Austerlitz in the 13th
Chez Lili et Marcel at Quai Austerlitz in the 13th

On any given day they serve plates du jour, formulas et cafés, and an original atmosphere. Some are more modern and bright, while some are elder with wrought-iron marble tables, but all of them are fora for the local life. They are places with local customers who greet each other across the tables, and make it their regular thing to come at least once a week.

Le Grand Bar Cluny at Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 5th
Le Grand Bar Cluny at Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 5th

As the old man at La Bande à Bon’Eau the other day, who as he made it to coffee reached across to my table, handing me the accompanying chocolate. The comfortable kindness from a regular customer who feels as if the restaurant offers a second home and a way to get out and meet people on Saturdays.

Everyone knows everyone under the brownish sunshades.

Zofka

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