The immediate solidarity shown by Parisians that awful night for anyone needing safe haven,by using the #PorteOuverte hashtag – inspired us, and the determination not to give in to hatred were most movingly expressed by the words on Facebook of Parisian Antoine Leiris who tragically lost his wife Helene Muyal Leiris in the Bataclan massacre.
This post and film is an ode to what is best in all of us.
A Photo history of the Paris cafe culture.
Table for one – Paris through the years
Honoré de Balzac – “Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.”
The cafe culture in Paris is old, very old. The first coffee house was opened in 1672 by Pasqua Rose, who maintained a monopoly until Cafè Procope opened later in 1686. It remains open to this day.
In its heyday it was known as the theatrical cafe, where members of the French enlightenment such as Voltaire were regular guests.
The image of Paris as a city of free thinkers was sealed, along with the association of its cafe culture.
Coffee houses continued to be free thinker zones, and fashionable places to be seen in until the shadow of World War Two and the occupation of Paris.
Paris Fashion and the Cafè Culture.
By the 1930s, model shoots bwere becoming quite common in the trendy cafe settings of Paris’s cafes. By the 1950s, they were almost considered a priority during the Paris fashion seasons.
Charles Dickens – “Paris is the most extraordinary place in the world!”
Love on the Left bank – 1954
In the post war era, one name Vali Myers, perhaps encapsulates more than any other woman, the post war bohemian. Born in Brisbane, the actor, dancer, artist moved to Paris in 1949 full of dreams, but found herself living on the streets of Saint-Germain on Paris’s Left Bank.
Here she is captured in a wonderful series of photos by Dutch photographer Ed van der Elskin, documenting the bohemian life on the Rive de Gaucheand entitled Love on the Left Bank and published as a Photobook story in the British Picture Post.
Myers life,look and work inspired many future artists from Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith.
Today perhaps, you will more likely see flocks of tourists in these iconic places. Parisians have thousands of cafes to choose from.
Paris blogger Flore der Agopian writes in A Woman’s Paris, a beautiful ode to her culture.“Even in winter we sit outdoors, whether it’s raining or snowing, at cafés where there are heaters for warmth and awnings for protection.”
She described one typical conversation she overheard between a woman in her 80s – “graceful, very delicate and wore a silk scarf with a pearl necklace and red lipstick. Aristocratic!” and a man in his 50s who had sat down beside her – ” he carried a motorcycle helmet and in the other a black leather briefcase. A businessman”.