Bette Davis or Joan Crawford? Blur or Oasis? North or south? Sometimes you have to make a choice and stand up for what you believe in. And so it is on the Boulevard Saint-German. There, you need to decide whether it’ll be the Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots for your coffee.
With the Sorbonne close by, both cafés attract the cream of Paris’ intelligentsia – just as they have always done.
The Café de Flore opened its doors in the 1880s and became popular with surrealists. Writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir were among its regulars in the 1940s. In the 1960s, it became the haunt of cool cat Serge Gainsbourg and chanteuse Juliette Gréco. Today, celebrities – or les people, as the French call them – can also be found there.
Perhaps they are attracted by the timeless red and green seats outside, or its red banquettes inside.
Alternatively, they may prefer its arch rival, Les Deux Magots, a block away. There, visitors are shielded from the public eye in its shielded terrace, and enchanted with painted wooden statues of magi.
When I was in Paris in the summer, I had some time to myself while I waited for colleagues to arrive from London. I took a stroll along the Boulevard Saint-Germain and sat and enjoyed a coffee while watching the world go by.
“I took a stroll along the Boulevard Saint-Germain and sat and enjoyed a coffee while watching the world go by”
My venue of choice was the Café de Flore – not because of its literary associations, nor because of its art deco styling. I chose it simply because there was a free table outside.
Sometimes our choices are that basic.