Paris the eternal city has a fascinating and legendary cafe culture
Arguably Paris is the world’s greatest city for people watching. Students of human behaviour will think it is almost as if the city was made for them. The great tree lined boulevards, the geographical position of the city as a natural confluence for interesting people from across Europe to congregate and its pavement cafes designed to facilitate the noble activity of people watching.
Recently I was able to indulge in some quality people watching in this great city from behind the polished windows of some of its most notable cafes. Parisians themselves of course are well versed in what the sociologist Simmel once called the blase attitude. Hardly surprising in such a great city. ‘Great’ is being used here in both versions: great and Great.
One gets the impression that the French very much integrate cafe life into their working day, and a lunch time session probably provides an opportunity to recharge batteries or conduct an informal business meeting. Or maybe discuss the deconstruction of a text in Derida style. Or maybe take the same view of life and its purpose, or lack of purpose, as Sartre. After all if life has no purpose then we may as well hang around in cafes. Maybe the cafes gave Sartre this idea as an excuse to spend more time in them?
Cafe de Flora
The Cafe de Flora is particularly well positioned to watch people in the hustle and bustle of Paris. It serves fine coffee and food to aid in concentration while taking in the atmosphere of this lively district of Paris.
The Surrealists, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Picasso and many others frequented the cafe in its mid twentieth century heyday.
I noticed that the modern population of Paris is a cosmopolitan mix of assimilated people from around the world. Asian, African, Arab, Mediterranean and European people, many well dressed and evidently prosperous.