Cafes in France are not absolutely cafes where a person comes to have a cup of coffee or to have a bite. The French cafes are places where local residents are going, first of all, to spend time in a circle of acquaintances or friends talking in sincere conditions. If the Spanish cafes have more family bias, the French cafes are known for discussions, as a rule, on cultural, sports or political themes.
It is necessary to note a rather specific atmosphere which almost all Parisian cafes possess. If, for example, in Italy you will simply not be paid attention to if you are the new visitor; in Spain one positive gesture can make you a friend for almost all visitors-natives; in Paris it’s all different. Here you will always feel intense stare from both regular customers, and attendants. And it not the only specificity of cafes in Paris, it’s a feature of the country. In France the concept of hospitality has own distinctive features which differ from ours strongly, and to become “native” here is extremely difficult.
There’s, of course, a great number of tourist cafes where attitude to visitors is more than positive, however those are Parisian cafes to the same extent as we are native Parisians. You won’t feel the original spirit of French cafe in such institution.
And now we will tell some words about the direct history of cafe in Paris. According to some historical data, the first Parisian cafe has been opened in 1675 by the Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli and was called Le Procope. In ten years the institution has moved to Rue de l’Ancienne-Comedie (that is in Latin quarter of Paris) where it settles down till today.
Such legendary persons, as Voltaire, Robespierre, Danton, Marat, D’Alembert; Diderot and others were regular customers of this Parisian cafe. Being in Paris presidents of the United States of America Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson visited the cafe. In the late eighties of the last century the new owners have carried out global “semi-antique” reconstruction for attraction of foreign tourists and the institution has lost the cultural value forever. Crowds of tourists are more likely to come here rather than the Parisian fans to sit in cafe.
The idea of the Italian immigrant was welcomed by the Parisians, and after a century the Parisian cafes were estimated not in hundreds, but already in thousands. In the beginning of the twentieth century cafes on Montmartre were especially popular; thousand of Parisians and visitors of the French capital daily came there. However, the reason of such popularity has not been caused by remarkable cuisine and magnificent coffee but by certain features which characterized heating system of Paris of that time. In winter the house in the city were not heated. Even those visitors who came from not the warmest countries felt big discomfort that forced them to go to the Parisian cafes.
Though dishes and drinks offered in the majority of cafes were not of great quality, but in the café hall centre there were ovens which heated the air. In those days such cafes were a place of pilgrimage of huge number of inhabitants and city visitors with short income, who could stay behind one cup of cheap coffee for many hours not to leave for cold streets of Paris.
As for more prosperous people the culture of visiting cafes has got the distinctive features. For example, visitors from America and Great Britain used to begin the day with visiting one of cafes with a big company and ordering a standard cup of coffee along with the well-known for the whole world French croissant. Having spent there some hours, tourists moved to a following institution to try the midday aperitif, and closer to the end of the day one might have visited five (and even more) cafes in which it was possible not only to spend time pleasantly, but to listen to numerous Parisian gossips on which this city was always rich. Many great books have been written in the Parisian cafes as quite often cafes were some kind of studies for many great writers. Then the Parisian cafes were also a place where it was always possible to get a picture of local (and not only) artists who were always a great number in Paris.