People ask me what my favorite part of living in Paris is. Is it the museums? True, the new impressionist wing at Musee d’Orsay is stunning, as is the Gertrude Stein exhibit at the Grand Palais; but no. Not my favorite thing about Paris. Is it the shopping? If you judged by the amount of new clothing I’ve bought since moving here, you might think so. But no. Not the shopping either.
The thing that I find myself doing at every available opportunity is simply sitting. Or, as I like to call it, “terracing.” Of all my travels so far, I have yet to find a city that has mastered the art of the outdoor terrace quite like Paris.
No matter how narrow the sidewalk or how cold the weather, Paris is overflowing with cafés lined with rows of little round tables outside. At first glance, you may think I’m crazy. Tiny stools jammed next to each other that would make even Kate Moss feel like an elephant…. The cloud of endless cigarette smoke…. Rude waiters that take forever to bring your bill.
So what is it?
Perhaps it’s because you sit side by side with your ami, facing the street and watching the world pass you by. There’s something about sitting next to someone instead of across from them that takes away the intensity of conversation and slows the world down to a peaceful stroll.
Or perhaps it’s because no one rushes you, no one tries to upsell you; frankly, no one cares about you. It’s just you, your coffee, and Paris. It took me six months to stop anxiously looking for my waiter and truly just sit, and it’s been transforming. I challenge you to do the same.
My favorite terracing spots in Paris are on any of the fabulous pedestrian streets across the different arrondisements. These are bustling market streets lined with flower shops, produce shops, cheese shops, fish shops, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers… all spilling their wares out onto the walkways.
If you find yourself in Paris, head to Rue Cler in the 7th, find a seat at Café du Marche, and order yourself at chevre salade – fresh butter lettuce and couscous with toasted bread topped with generous portions of goat cheese. Or head to Rue Montorgueil in the 2nd, find a seat at Au Rocher de Cancale, and order the mixed plancha of charcuterie and cheese.
And if you can’t make it to Paris, then make your own Parisian terrace. Sit side by side with a friend at a restaurant. Order dessert (your own, not to share). Let time slow down. And don’t forget the wine!
Café du Marche, 38 Rue Cler, 75007 Paris, France, +33 1 47 05 51 27
Au Rocher Cancale, 78 Rue Montorgueil, 75002 Paris, +33 1 42 33 50 29