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One Thousand Words: Cafe Culture

We don’t have many sidewalk cafes where I live in Pennsylvania.  The reason why seems unclear, but I have a secret theory about it–it’s because uptight, stressed-out Northeasterners don’t have time for the simple pleasure of a wasted morning (or afternoon or evening) spent sipping a beverage and watching the world go by.

Fortunately for the human race, the entire world does not share this east coast mentality.  I’ve lounged at cafes in Paris, New Orleans–shown above–and most recently in Montreal.  And while I’m typically a go-go-go sort of traveler, I have to say that the full evening I spent sitting at a tiny table on a patio on Rue St. Paul–and then on super touristy but super cute Place Jacques Cartier–was truly the highlight of my visit.

But it took me a while to get to the point where I, too, could appreciate the simple pleasures of cafe culture.  On our trip to Paris two years ago, all my husband wanted to do was sit in a cafe and drink coffee and read (and look at hot French women walk by); all I wanted to do was hit every major attraction in Paris in ten days or less (please note–this is not possible unless you have a time machine, a jet pack, and are willing to experience at least seventeen nervous breakdowns).  Guess who had a better trip?

I hate to admit it, but clearly I’m an uptight Northeasterner–and, worse, clearly I’m very American in my mentality.  You will note that each cafe-rich place I listed–Paris, New Orleans, and Montreal–all share a similar cultural background.  After all, I can’t really think of anywhere less American within America than New Orleans–which may explain why I love it so much–and Montreal and Paris are, obviously, not American cities.

So what is it about us that prevents us from enjoying the outdoor cafe?  You can’t blame the weather–case and point, Montreal.  You can’t blame a lack of space–case and point, Paris.  You can’t even blame lack of a desire for cafe food and drinks–even in this economy, Starbucks is going strong.  So what is our deal?  Is it the fact that we can’t fit our laptops on tiny cafe tables?  Because that’s what I think it is–and that makes me very sad (as I write this on a laptop on a sunny day–I’m a huge fan of irony).

Whatever the reason, I’m ok with it.  Because it just gives me one more reason to leave my own town and explore the world beyond, and one more way to make people jealous with Facebook mobile upload photos of tiny tables graced with a single rose and a glass of wine looking out over a bustling street–ideally while listening to live music.

It’s really not a bad way to spend a few hours.  Trust me.

This has been the first installment of One Thousand Words, a blog series in which I spend some time writing about one of my random, previously unused travel photos.  In case you were counting, no, the posts will not be exactly a thousand words each–not even close.  The thousand words thing refers to the fact that this is what ‘a picture is worth’.

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