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The legend of Paris is written at the Café de Flore: "Here, personalities mingle with anonymous"


The stronghold of Sartre and Beauvoir has been moored for over a century in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. His rituals fuel fantasies and he att

Sitting on the terrace, a young woman, draped in the indolence of this September afternoon, patient under her felt hat.

Suddenly disembarks from Boulevard Saint-Germain, an Adonis, shoulder-length hair, sneakers and beige suit: “Sorry, I was at the Philharmonie, I thought the rehearsal would be shorter!


A few meters away, “Monsieur Claude”, director of the Café de Flore, readjust his glasses rimmed with scales to better observe the ballet of waiters in aprons and bow ties.

He distributes the instructions, watches over the grain by regularly consulting Nadine, the cashier installed inside.

From her lookout post, a small gatehouse that has stood here since the 1900s, she works to check each of the trays served in the room on the ground floor.

A few moments later, Fabrice Luchini quickly reaches the wooded living room upstairs to work in peace, in the back corner.

After taking off his gabardine, the actor orders, as usual, a tea and a piece of homemade candied fruit cake.

The best of Paris, according to him!

On the ground floor, a certain Monsieur Charles leaves table 10, greeting the manager.

The man comes here every day to write, not far from the corner of the red moleskin bench seat, in the background on the right, where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were also blackening pages.

In her gatehouse, the cashier on the ground floor takes a look at all the trays that pass./Jean-Baptiste Quentin  

In the 1940s, the two philosophers spent their days there, composing some of their major works, such as L'Etre et le Néant, Les Mouches or L'Invitée, near the coal stove installed by the then boss, Paul Boubal. .

An idea that allowed the latter to attract writers from the neighborhood during the winter, happy to find an alternative to the cramped nature of the hotel rooms where they lived.

Boiled eggs and pouilly-smoked

It is almost 8 pm and the actor Gilles Lellouche, flanked by his friends, settles down “on the garden side” (understand, the side terrace on the rue Saint-Benoît side) to have an aperitif.

According to local customs, the little band does not order “glasses of white”, but Ladoucette pouilly-fumé, the house's essential beverage.

So goes the little life of Flore, "arguably the most legendary of all cafes," says the New York Times.

And to think that, originally, around 1885, this establishment, now famous throughout the world, was only a modest bistro, meeting place for checkers and belote players!

It was the arrival in the district, at the beginning of the 20th century, of major publishers such as Gallimard or Grasset which attracted writers and artists from all walks of life.

Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Picasso, Jacques Prévert and André Malraux appropriate the coffee with the white awning.

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When Paul Boubal, an Aveyron lemonade, took over the business in 1939, he definitely made it the haunt of the Parisian intelligentsia.

Each evening, the man with the rocky accent and the unbelievable liberty returns to his apartment, overlooking the Place Saint-Germain, turns off the light in the living room and, from the window, observes the small theater with artillery binoculars. which is played at the Flore.

After the war, he saw Boris Vian, Simone Signoret and Juliette Gréco pass there, then, later, Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon, Bernard-Henri Lévy ...

Juliette Gréco (here, in 1959) meets Brigitte Bardot or Boris Vian at Café de Flore./SP  

To his successors, the shrewd shopkeeper, tie and slicked back hair, will give precious advice: "Display prices higher than those of cafes and bistros around, to scare away tourists," recalls Miroslav Siljegovic.

Arrived in Paris in the 1970s, this former waiter of the famous cabaret Raspoutine took over the Flore in 1983, with his wife Colette.

It is clear that the man with small laughing eyes and a very slight Serbian accent follows the advice of his illustrious predecessor: the squeezed lemon is billed here at 8 euros!

He also kept the eggs, available in all sauces, a la carte, as well as welsh rarebit, a Welsh dish made with cheddar, beer, toast and Worcestershire sauce.

Not great cuisine, of course, but the owners are keen on ensuring that their establishment is a café, and not a restaurant.

While making sure to cultivate the charm of immutability.

The mosaic floor, mahogany tables, Lalique chandeliers, marble and mirrors allow everyone to discreetly observe who comes and goes.

The decor has not changed.

Outside still stand the iconic pedestal tables and caned chairs that the American director Francis Ford Coppola ordered for his castle, eager to reproduce a "mini-Flora".

From Bernard Kouchner to Nabilla

The whole of Paris continues, nowadays, to crowd in these places.

Each corporation has its own little habits.

In the morning, politicians (and ex-politicians), including Bernard Kouchner, Jean-Louis Borloo, Bruno Le Maire or Alain Juppé, lock, according to the accepted expression, “coffee pots”.

Because here, the beverage is served in a small pitcher, on a silver platter.

They prefer, like journalists, the room on the ground floor, for its tranquility.

When it comes to enjoying total discretion, they take the staircase leading to the first floor, in front of which the novice always hesitates - the cashier, installed nearby, seems to be on guard.

At the top of the steps is revealed a room resembling a boat cabin, with its teak woodwork, its carpet and its pee lady watching over the marble toilets.

In one corner, an electrical outlet reserved for the vacuum cleaner, which the American writer Douglas Kennedy has managed to use exceptionally to plug in his laptop when he comes to work here.

Among the specialties of the Café de Flore, the “café pot” ./ LP / Jean-Baptiste Quentin  

The controversial lawyer Juan Branco, he laughs at the sensitive ears and opts instead for the terrace, where he caused a small outcry in early 2019, by giving an interview to L'Incorrect, a far-right magazine.

On the same sidewalk, actors and cinema people abound during the Sunday brunch, and elbow the rest of the week men of letters, philosophers, musicians ... And during the Fiac, high mass of contemporary art which takes place in particular in the galleries In the neighborhood, artists gather at tables on the ground floor, as do models and fashion caliphs during fashion week.

We meet here all those who want to be seen, or to be in sight.

In their wake today, the inevitable instagramers and starlets on a spree, like Nabilla, photographed on the terrace for Gala magazine in 2016, Jean-Paul Sartre glasses on her nose, or the American Kim Kardashian , who came out in front of an audience of paparazzi, last March.

Foreign celebrities love the Flore because they feel Parisian.

Kim Kardashian and her daughter, March 2, 2020, on the sidelines of fashion week./Getty Images / Marc Piasecki  

Robert De Niro thus passes a head to each of his stays in the capital.

There was a time, even, when he was the first customer of the place, from 7:30 in the morning.

Now, the freedman gets out of a sedan to sit discreetly on the terrace, without anyone thinking of disturbing him.

In his shirt sleeves and cap, he is seated in front of an Alsatian Meteor beer, another emblematic beverage of the house since 1945. Sometimes, he orders an Emmental ham sandwich, which he so adores, to the point of sending his driver to stock up on it. 'he is staying at the Bristol, on the other side of the Seine.

Closeness, but no familiarity

"This café is an exceptional theater, where personalities mingle with illustrious anonymous people," enthuses Carole Chrétiennot, daughter of the owners.

I just regret that the festive spirit has been lost a bit, due to the ambient hygiene.

It is a long time ago, the time of the waiter who came back to the cash register, distraught by this grizzled gentleman who had just ordered an enigmatic


at the back of the room


A fantasy signed Serge Gainsbourg, who thus named his double Pastis 51. And, when "The Man with the Head of Chou" was a little too tired, he called out the director: "My little guy, you can call the street from the Abbey, that they come and get me?

“Namely, the neighborhood police station, to be repatriated home in a salad basket.

Another vibrant figure of the place, Edouard Baer.

The young man is a host at Radio Nova when, one afternoon in the spring of 1995, he bursts into the room on the ground floor.

Dressed in white from head to toe, he is standing in balance on a Vespa scooter with, on the same saddle, his partner Ariel Wizman, in a floral shirt, accompanied by Jean-François Bizot, their boss.

Before rushing into the kitchen to make the staff sing “Quand Madelon”, and order a tour of pouilly-fumé!

Frédéric Beigbeder, alongside DJ Cut Killer, during the Prix de Flore award ceremony in 2013./Foc Kan / WireImage / Getty  

To preserve this sweet madness that she so cherishes, Carole Chrétiennot created, in 1994, with the writer Frédéric Beigbeder, the Prix de Flore, which each year gives rise to the most popular and insolent literary evening in the capital.

A machine to find talent.

In 1996, the winner was named Michel Houellebecq, then unknown to the general public and to the security service who, on the evening of the award ceremony, refused entry to the writer.

In an olive green parka, his head on his shoulders, hidden behind the smoke of his cigarette, he is about to turn back when Carole Chrétiennot catches him by the hand at the last minute to give him the prize awarded to the winner: 6,150 euros and a glass de pouilly offered every day for a year - a touch that it will put to good use.

Enough to allow him to feel, finally, at home.

Proof if there is one that, for the layman, the Flore can be intimidating, with its post-war private club atmosphere, the moleskin of which creaks when the regulars turn around to observe the customer entering.

Nothing to do with the accessibility of the neighboring café, Les Deux Magots, also legendary.

With an imposing terrace and a more beautiful panorama, facing the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church, this doubly first cousin captures the attention on the boulevard, acting as a screen for tourists and sparing their surge of tourists. Flore servers.

No question, for the latter, of sulking the visitor in sneakers and K-Way however.

"We treat all our customers with the same respect, even if we establish a privileged contact with some", affirms Michel, thirty-four years of house, who, over the relationships forged, has turned to the cinema alongside Sophie Marceau or Gérard Depardieu.

Despite this, he makes sure to stay in his place when he meets them in an apron.

Closeness, but not familiarity!

One of the tenacious precepts of Flora, which resists, with a romanticism tinged with delicious snobbery, the pangs of time.

We have not finished philosophizing around Pouilly-Fumé ...

Source: leparis

All life articles on 2020-10-31

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