When I first started going to Cafe Mabillon, I thought it was actually called “Jour et Nuit” (tr: “Day and Night”) as this was stenciled prominently on the window. This actually meant, “pretty much open round-the-clock” for coffee, pre-dinner drinks, and the occasional Beaujolais Nouveau tasting at 4 a.m. (Note to interested parties: Beaujolais Nouveau tasting in the wee small hours = bad idea after a night already spent enjoying wines, cocktails, and beer all over Paris.)
Mabillon’s a great location for the sport of people watching, perfect for observing a great assortment of folks stroll by: students from the universities in the area, a variety of international tourists, supermodels heading over to the Lipp, merchants from the neighborhood, and Parisians who find themselves looking for a post-movie refreshment after taking in a film at one of the nearby cinemas.
Of course, doing this over a kir always improves people watching. Just remember what I said about the Beaujolais Nouveau.
Located at 164 Blvd. St-Germain in the 6th arrondissement.
When you think of Paris, you can’t help but think of all the writers and intellectuals who dreamed in, dreamed of, and dreamed up the idea we all have of Paris. If you’re familiar with writers and intellectuals and find yourself in Paris, you also can’t help but think of Sartre and Beauvoir, that iconic, unconventional couple whose life-long personal and intellectual relationship defined multiple eras of Paris, existentialism, and the role of women in modern Western societies– just to name a few of their light contributions to history and modern thought. The fact that they did much of this thinking and writing in cafes just makes them that much more endearing.
Even if you’re not into pursuits of the philosophical variety, you will greatly enjoy two of the most historic cafes in Paris, conveniently located just a block or so away from one another, on the same side of the street.
The first is Café la Flore. It’s a bit packed and slightly pricey because it’s a legend and absolutely worth it. Have an espresso on the terasse or inside. Of course, anytime’s a good time for a kir. They will pour the wine into the cassis right in front of you at your table, where you can also enjoy a hard-boiled egg, per that rather curious offering at many traditional cafes. Sit back, and people watch. Write great thoughts in your journal or on some postcards. If it’s a good enough place for Sartre, Beauvoir, Hemingway, and so many more– it might just work to inspire you.
After you’ve finished your coffee or kir, stroll over for another libation at the Deux Magots, a cafe equally as historic, and linked with the Flore through the activities of both cafes’ celebrated patrons. During one of the most epic periods for these two cafes in the period between World War I and World War II, if you were with your wife or hubby at the Flore, you’d have your mistress/mister be next door at the Deux Magots, ducking in and out of both to keep your appointments. Now that’s efficiency! (I’m not suggesting you try that today, but if you feel so inclined, there’s a historic precedent for pulling that off here.) Sometimes, there’s music in front. And, for a very long time, the cafe has awarded the Deux Magots Literary Prize. (If you drink at a cafe with its own literary prize, kind of makes drinking wine in the morning seem a bit less shifty, right?)
Honor your own inner intellectual over a few drinks at Café la Flore, 172 boulevard St.-Germain, and the Deux Magots, 6 place St.-Germain. Both in the 6th arrondissement. Online, the Deux Magots has a great Web site that you can peruse before you visit: http://www.lesdeuxmagots.fr/index.php
When you want a kir and some free sausage snacks while standing at a typical neighborhood bar, you should head directly to Cafe du Marche in the 7th.
Same goes for a coffee on a small terrace while watching the hustle and bustle of a real working market street.
Same goes for great, reasonably priced food. From succulent steak frites to interesting salads (try the delicious Caesar, which is actually not an American Caeser at all, but more of an East Indian style Cobb salad), Cafe du Marche offers something for everyone at great prices with great rue Cler ambiance (particularly people-watching opportunities). The daily specials are traditional French fare. When they have the duck confit, it’s exceptional, and only outshined by the great potatoes that accompany it.
I’ve said “great” way too much about Cafe du Marche, but since I’ve been going here for more than 12 years and sending happy friends in that direction for the same amount of time, overuse of “great” is deserved.
Stop by when you’re in the neighborhood. Cafe du Marche, in the 7th arrondissement at 38 rue Cler.