How to Sit in a Sidewalk Café—Lessons from Paris

I received a note from a student who lives in Paris and well … I’m hankering for Paris, too. I’d like to spend a year, at least, there … Have to come up with a project….

The Uncanny

Paris– In between le café La Contrescarpe and le Delma, in Montparnasse, Paris, on a chilly, overcast evening, though it’s June, I sit. And I observe carefully. Rain may come—then again it may not.

There is a proper way to sit in a café.

In Paris, all café goers lining streets, whether with one partner or several, face the passersby. In case of several people sitting at one table, the art is to construct an experience where one eye is on the intimacy of the moment while the other is watching, observing, taking in the street, the activity. This is very different in other places.

I just came down from Lund, Sweden, where café goers face each other, sometimes even sitting in cafes that are behind small iron fencing or behind a waist high canvas partition sporting the café’s name. The experience is about what’s happening right on the table…

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