One of the simplest but most enjoyable activities I have found over my time here has been to sit out on the heated terrace of a café with a coffee or a glass of wine and watch Paris pass by.
It was in fact first as a passer-by that I took note of this phenomenon. Walking by, I felt immediately the way each set of French eyes follows the stroller along the length of the terrace, and first noticed how the chairs are strategically positioned towards the street towards this vantage. As the unconsenting subject of the spectacle, the terrace, and thus the people sitting there, seem unwelcoming. People always love to ask if French people are really as mean and unfriendly as their reputation in the U.S. suggests. From the perspective of the passer-by, defensive under the searing French gaze, the answer would probably lean towards the positive. But, build up the courage to shimmy into a cozy street-facing two top yourself and the answer might quickly flip. I have seldom, if ever, been in such a situation when a fellow café dweller hasn't leaned over towards my table with some sort of friendly remark or anecdote. One time, in fact, an older woman sitting next to my friend and I with her dog (classic Paris scene) even bought us coffees and dessert after detailing us on the various highlights of her life story (most of which we unfortunately didn't catch because it was all in soft-spoken french).
Be warned though: don't put yourself in one of these situations if you aren't in the mood to talk to strangers - you will find yourself suddenly fascinated by the inside of your coffee cup and avoiding eye contact for quite another reason than when you were passing by. Now that you're on the inside, in cahoots with the exclusive group, the set of eyes leans into you in complicity, eager to start up any type of conversation - and you have to be prepared for whatever they might throw at you.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Hi, I'm Katie Johnsen, a 3rd year student at the University of Virginia. I am a Media Studies and French double major studying abroad in Paris this semester in the Business & International Affairs program. I enjoying writing, photography, and exploring new places and people, and am excited to share my abroad experiences with you!</p>