by Melinda Gallo

Sitting in a café

To start off my first full day in Paris, I went to the café on the corner right above the métro to have colazione (breakfast). Because none of the local supermarkets were open, I didn’t have anything to eat at home. Once inside the café, I sat down at a table near the tall windows. While I was waiting for my café and croissant to arrive, I realized that there were many differences between Vivoli, where I went yesterday, and the Parisian café I was in this morning.

Yesterday I stood at the banco (bar) in Vivoli to have my cappuccino. I talked with the barrista and knew one of the two men who entered to have his morning caffè. Whereas today in Paris, I didn’t know anyone and the waiter barely made eye contact with me.

In Florence, there is a sense of familiarity that I don’t experience here. It’s as if people treat me as if they know me even if they don’t. In this Parisian café, all the people I interacted with were formal--besides using the formal you as well--and not interacting with me in a friendly manner I enjoy the formality sometimes, and don’t mind that the people in restaurants and cafés don’t want to befriend me. I like being left alone at times so I can see what’s going on around me without participating.

While I sipped my café crême (caffè latte) and nibbled on my croissant, I watched people rushing by in both directions; a few walked up the stairs from the métro while others walked down them. It’s such a different scene than what I’m used to in Florence. There were a few tourists, but no groups in the area I’m living in.

At 8:30am, people are commuting. Tourists aren’t out yet because not much is even open at this time. I have been surprised though by what is open, like the small supermarket that opened at 7am most mornings.

After I finished my colazione, I too scurried down the stairs to take the métro to get to work. Even though I rarely go to a café to have colazione, I do enjoy it. I probably won’t go that often while I’m in Paris because I like it to be a treat and not a routine for me.

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