Jealous Whispers in Paris

Where to winter with mulled wine in the City of Light

By / October 2013

Outside the St. Sulpice metro station there is a brown-toned café called, quite appropriately, Le Café du Métro. It’s a few blocks from the comically over-hyped Café de Flore, Jean-Paul Sartre’s unofficial office when he couldn’t afford to heat his apartment and where tourists take selfies and offer up, in a spirit like worship, the nine-euro price of a glass of beer, or the five-euro cost of a single espresso.

On past the Café du Métro, down one of the neighborhood’s how-is-this-still-here? cobblestoned alleys, sits a barman with his back to a mirror filmy from smoke. His coffees cost just a euro, but his only buyers are one sixty-something couple, together but looking like they wished they’d come alone.

I like the Café du Metro for its mid-range appeal. Drinks aren’t cheap but the waitress gives you a little ramequin of olives and a tray of peanuts she refills when it gets low. The place occupies one of the more chic corners in all Paris, and from it you can ogle two full streets’ worth of Japanese tourists, shopping bags dripping from the crooks of their arms; well-dressed young architects, lawyers, designers; and international bobos whose money is older, earned generations before.

Sometimes models pass by who you think you recognize, their willowy frames swaddled in prêt-a-porter, feet adorned in heels or bottines that inspire jealous whispers from the older women next to me, who are watching them, too.

I used to stake out the same brown wicker seat every time. Even in winter, when Paris grows wet and cold soot peels against your sneakers, the café’s customers leaned toward the heat lamps that kept the place’s lights on, expensive as it was to be there. The patrons kept at their smoking, their drinking — often vin chaud, that French cold-weather cocktail we call mulled wine. And they kept at their talking, passing yet another evening of café life in the lonely, freezing Paris; a beautiful place, and costly, too.

 

Will Fleeson is a press officer at the French Embassy in Washington DC.

 

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