The cafes were where I found rest during our whirlwind tour of Paris, even though they were often bustling with lots of people. Fast food restaurants are few and far between, but cafes are EVERYWHERE. There are 2 or 3 (or more) on every block, oftentimes right next to each other.
Your time at a cafe can be as long or short as you want it to be- the service is actually quite fast, but you can just hang out for a while if you like. Our meals always arrived much quicker than they would at a sit-down restaurant in the U.S. I thought of it as fast real food. You know, meals where you can name all the food on your plate: those are potatoes, that’s an egg, there is some lettuce, this is a piece of chicken. Nary a serving of homogenized oil, maltodextrin, or blue #2 in sight. Actual dishware, glasses, and flatware are always used instead of plastic, and hot drinks are always served in a cup with a saucer- my favorite was a cafe creme. Yum.
One of my favorite things about the cafes is that most of the seating is out front on the sidewalk with all of the chairs facing out. So, instead of facing the other people you’re eating with, you sit beside them or in a semi-circle like you’re on a t.v. sitcom. Everyone knows that people watching is one of the great things about sitting outside in a big city, so why make one person always have the bum seat that misses the action?
All of these little details of a Parisian cafe communicate the idea that it’s good to sit down and rest for a minute. Just be. So, that’s what we did. And it was lovely.