Morning in Paris

A small crowd is gathering. It’s 10 minutes past the posted opening time, yet no one seems fussed. In Paris, things happen when they happen, which is to say a beat or two late.

C’est la vie.

Once inside we order our coffees, sit, and open our books. The Shakespeare and Company café is a reading place—paper books. Not phones. Not Kindles. I come here almost every day for a second espresso.

Generally I bring whatever it is I’m reading, but today I’m testing my proposed New Year’s resolution that I sit in a place each day. Present. Mindful. And that I write about it. To this end, I jot notes on scraps of paper scrounged from my purse.

The google reviews are accurate; the baristas aren’t friendly. I believe it’s because the line is unrelenting. There’s no time to be chatty.

I sit in the window, always, but unlike most days, today I pay attention—listen to the drone of orders:

  • An allongé
  • A coffee
  • Two extra hot lattes with two scones—to go

And to the coffee shop noises:

  • The grinding of fresh beans
  • The bang, bang, bang as they’re discarded
  • A whoosh of steam
  • A woman singing a mournful song that I associate with the 60s

Which do I prefer? The smell of bacon frying or coffee brewing?

Yes. I’m a morning person.

Outside, the street sweepers whisk down the road. A blockade is in place because a movie is being filmed at the church around the corner. People ask security how they’ll get to their apartment. One minute. Wait.

Friends gather. A whippet-thin woman walks by with her greyhound in tow. Across the river, the work to repair the fire damage to Notre Dame progresses. A line is forming to enter the bookshop, which is next door.

Seated next to me, a young woman photographs her breakfast—chai oatmeal with banana slices and figs—more intently than I photographed my own children. Then she moves her GoPro onto a miniature tripod and films herself eating.

I can think of few videos I’d rather not watch than me eating breakfast. Still, I’m entranced. Bemused.

On my tray is a Proust Questionaire:

  • What is your theme song?
  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  • Which book do you have on your nightstand that you will never read?
  • Who would play you in the movie of your life?

I consider my answers:

  • Born to Run
  • Seventy-two degrees, sunshine, a good book—here
  • Don Quixote
  • Bea Arthur—Golden Girl’s version

A man sits down—the reincarnation of George Whitman. He’s wrapped in an olive green cape that makes him look like a swashbuckler. His mask is pulled down below his mustache while he doodles in a grid-lined notebook. When his breakfast arrives, he pulls out last week’s edition of the International Times and starts to read.

He’s a bit shop worn. Tousled hair. Scuffed shoes. I wonder if he slept in the park across the street swaddled in a cape that is large enough to encircle his body at least twice. But if that’s the case, it seems odd that he spent 15 euros for his breakfast.

When did the sartorial choices of the rich start to mimic the poor?

It’s time to leave. I walk home along the Seine as the bounquinistes prop open their book stalls.

Morning in Paris.



Categories: Life in Paris

Tags: , , ,

4 replies

  1. What a charming post! And a delicious way to start the last day of this year. Happy new year to you. Thank you for your photo-journaling blog.

    Courtenay 510-333-1049

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  2. I can smell the espresso and also amused at the breakfast photography – thank you!

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