The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in a Paris Café

August 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Le Phare du Canal, 32 Rue Faubourg du Temple, Paris 75011

Generally speaking, I feel pretty comfortable in France. I speak French fairly fluently with an accent that the French usually can’t quite place. I love Paris dearly and could easily just wander around the city all day, every day, for months on end. However, I do not always feel quite as comfortable with the French. Sometimes I am stared at, I assume because I am neither quite thin enough, nor stylish enough, for their taste. Sometimes, but not too often, I have an unpleasant encounter. Unfortunately, I had one yesterday, on my precious day off (see previous post)!

In my wanderings, I thought I would try to find a café in my neighborhood where I could hang out, maybe go to do some work from time to time for a change of pace. I thought I had found the perfect one too. Lighthouse (one of my obsessions) in the name, plenty of people but not too packed, book-lined shelves (another obsession) along the back wall, some soft cushy seats, reasonable-sized tables, and a great view of the intersection of five different streets. I spent two hours there. I ate a small, delicious and fresh salad plate, drank a cup of jasmine green tea, and even managed to do some work. All the while people watching and marveling at the number of French who still smoke (most I think). The prices were a bit high but overall I was thrilled, imagining coming several times a week, getting to know the staff, you know, becoming a local. But then.

As I was walking out, I said thank you and goodbye in my usually quite passable French, and the three waiters burst into high-pitched laughter behind me, as though they were about twelve years old and I had just done something completely ridiculous or embarrassing. I am 99.9% sure that I did NO such thing. My heart and stomach dropped, but I just walked on. And of course spent the rest of the day thinking up witty retorts and hating myself for not having turned to ask them what the hell was so damn funny. Fortunately, such incidents don’t happen often but when they do, I am too stunned to react. But I do think over time I have developed a thicker skin as I did not feel as hurt as I once might have. Or maybe I am just getting old and refuse to waste my energy on those who seem to get pleasure by taking it away from others.

Bottom line, my search for my perfect neighborhood café continues, now aided by a note to self: book-lined shelves do not necessarily an intelligent and welcoming locale make. Sigh.

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