The café always closes on Sunday, so we weren’t concerned it was dark and empty. What grabbed our attention was the sight of the owners, their 30-ish son, and several others streaming out the front door laden with table lamps, small chairs, and cartons of pots and pans.
Immediately I began to panic, whispering to Clive that just when our waiter started greeting us with a welcoming wave, what if the café is closing? What if they’ve sold it to someone else? What if it becomes — Lord forbid — another women’s clothing boutique (not my idea of fun, even in Paris). And what would happen to our waiter Vlad, so nicknamed by Clive for his resemblance to Mr Putin and because we don’t know his real name.
Despite knowing change is constant, especially in Paris, I’m still mourning this trip’s tragic discovery that our trusty little combined maison de presse (newsagent) / librarie (bookshop) / papetrie (stationery shop) has become a Bose showroom. In my hyper-sensitive state, I continued to worry and wonder throughout our walk, until on the way back, we saw the owner’s son again. He was scooping snow off the windshield of his car, throwing it at a woman in front of the café.
Motivated by the urgent desire to know something — anything! — about the situation, I mustered up my courage and best French and had a short conversation with him. What I think he said was: the café will be closed for travaux (works), for one month or maybe two, and then will reopen. I expressed great happiness this was the case, and he thanked me.
Still, I fretted: did I understand him correctly? Does his family still own the café? What exactly are they doing?
Yesterday, more action started. A man on a ladder seemed to be removing the awning and lights from the building’s façade. We peeked inside and the bar area was already partly demolished.
Today, the front of the café is covered in scaffolding and a pedestrian diversion is in place. This evening, I walked by, surprised to see lights on inside. First I thought maybe they’d opened their little bar/tabac counter — but no. A small group of men was moving around just inside the door, gesturing to the ceiling and around the room. To my delight, I spied the owner’s son in the middle of the discussion. As much as I wanted to stay and watch, I kept walking and rushed back to report the latest to Clive, who had stayed home to begin closing down the apartment ready for our departure tomorrow morning. At least thus far, it appears the family hasn’t sold the café to another business.
The café could use a facelift; as I wrote in 2008, it’s simple and unassuming, but it’s ours. Clive suggests it may be transformed into a more upmarket restaurant. I can hardly wait to find out.
We leave Paris tomorrow so will have to wait until our return in March for the next instalment. Au revoir, little café, and cheers for now.On our
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