The French do not mix work and food, or really anything and food. Most of the time I love this about France, but over the past couple weeks I began to get frustrated for one reason: my dream of parking myself at a cafe to read and write for hours on end began seeming like an impossibility. Back in the States, I love working at coffee shops. But here, although people will sit in cafes and read the newspaper, scroll through their phones, or chat with friends, you almost never see them working.
So I turned yet again to online reviews. Tellingly, the places that seem most amenable to laptops are the American-style coffee shops that dot the city. Starbucks, for example, kept popping up in search results. I refuse, on principle. (Interestingly, however, co-working spaces with free coffee and snacks – a sort of blend of American coffee shop culture and French work-life balance – seem to be popular here.)
Just in the last week, I’ve found three places that might work: two hipstery coffee shops on either side of the river, and one tiny tea shop. They are familiar in their cozy vibe, but they’re far enough off the beaten path to be filled with students rather than tourists. The baristas also speak French to me, for better or for worse.
The tea shop, in particular, is charming. Everything about it is floral and dainty, right down to the mismatched china tea sets. They have a thé du jour. And although a single cup of tea will set you back 5 euros anywhere else (don’t get me started on the ridiculousness of tea prices here! Espresso is 2.50), at this cafe tea is only 2.50 if you get it to go or 4.50 for the whole pot if you stay. Unless I start drinking coffee (which I’ve considered because I’m so frugal…), I’m never going to find anything cheaper.
My dream of working at cafes lives to see another day. La vie est belle.