While on an editorial meeting with Lillie the other day, we were going through Le Paris du Tout Paris when I noticed that approximatively half of the person interviewed by Alexandra named Le Café de Flore as one of their favorite places. When I told her how much I loved that it myself, Lilie looked at me with her two big surprised eyes. “What “ she said “ I have been there, it’s such a tourist trap !”.
Ordering a café crème at the Flore yesterday, I though of that conversation again. I looked around me. As usual, the Flore was crowded. I sat at the only free table, between a young Asian couple surrounded by huge shopping bags and an old elegant man conscientiously reading his newspaper. And there I was, right at the heart of the Flore’s paradox.
I was slowly drinking my café crème, and enjoying the little chocolat from Alain Ducasse on the side. How perfect is that. The rain was pouring outside, and it’s just felt nice and warm on the inside terrace. Somehow everybody seemed very satisfied. It almost felt like sitting by the fire at home. A home full of tall dark strangers, overdressed and over everything old ladies, and Parisian-ish beautiful young girls.
Trying to be a little objective, I had to admit this was all very cliché, a Midnight in Paris kind of setting. I thought of poor Simone de Beauvoir whose memory is sold shamelessly for the needs of business, to attract authenticity-seeking tourists. And how sad would the writer of The Second Sex be seeing her beloved neighbourhood invaded by luxury shops, and the greatest bookshop of Paris La Hune being forced out by one of them.
Suddenly I felt a bit guilty of playing such a cliché game, but this feeling just didn’t last. I got carried by the feeling of the moment, and memories started flooding back, memories of exhilarating nights spent here with friends, drinking up white wine until they kicked us out, memories of great book readings on the terrace on summer days, memories of first dates.
And maybe that is why the Flore is such a warm place, because it is the very crossroad of so many individual stories and the living memory of Paris’ history. The kind of place where life is stronger than any commercial cliché.