Mystery and Suspense in Paris

Our café two weeks ago, warm and welcoming

Our café two weeks ago, warm and welcoming

On our snowy Sunday walk, we noticed strange goings-on at our local café.

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.

Dismantling the awning

Dismantling the awning

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.

Café behind scaffolding today

Café behind scaffolding today

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.

9 Responses

  1. Oh wonderful!! Now I cannot *wait* for your next visit to find out what happens to the café! 🙂 Safe travels and I’m looking forward to your Paris return and all the adventures in-between!

    Bon voyage, Carolyn & Clive.

  2. Thanks, Karin 🙂 Cheers and we appreciate the good wishes.

  3. I definitely think it’s just being spruced up. Most cafés & restaurants redo their interior and façades from time to time, but I can certainly emphathise your fear of potential loss. The restaurant where my husband and I had our first dinner date was a regular place of pilgrammage until he just disappeared one year. Now we always choose a different venue!

  4. I can be funny about change too, Carolyn but it’s generally okay for me in the end. Thankfully, it does sound as if your favorite restaurant will be there to greet you when you return. I wish we could follow their progress. I loved their website design. Very cute!

  5. Aussie in France, that is my fervent hope as well re just sprucing up! Thanks for your encouragement 🙂 Nice idea that you and your hubby now vary your anniversary dinner location. That’s a nice tradition, too.

    Elizabeth, hi there! I wish I could follow their progress – shame they don’t have a webcam across the street. (I think you may have seen the website of a different cafe — there seem to be multiple with the same name and one in in the Marais has a good website, I think!). Anyway, fingers crossed the mystery will all be solved by March.


  6. Hi Carolyn & Clive,
    Hello! I understand how upsetting change can be foe familiar and fav local places. I am not a café regular here in my quarter, but when the boulangerie owner is changed it is a major thing.
    You were used to the faces and varieties of bread/pastries, then adapt to new people and food choices.

    Wishing you a happy reunion with your beloved Favorite :).

  7. xpat92, hello and thanks for your comment and understanding!

    I can imagine a new boulangerie owner would indeed be a major change 🙂

    Sending good wishes to you in your quartier. Cheers and hope our paths cross on our next visit to Paris.

  8. I hope it stays a restaurant with the same staff…. It’s hard enough finding a place that’s ‘yours’ and you are known. It would be a shame to lose it!

  9. Katie, welcome! I appreciate your comment — so true it would be shame to lose it and I hope it stays the same too!

    Cheers and thanks for visiting.

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