Monthly Archives: October 2011

Marinière (the French sailor shirt)

Marinière (the French sailor shirt)

 This story was first published in 2011. It has been updated. 
Today, let’s talk fashion. Let’s talk la Marinière, known the world over as “the French sailor shirt,” or “the Breton shirt,” (named after Brittany, the rugged coastal region in Western France.)
Every spring and summer, the striped navy and white shirt returns on runways and in the street. French women refer to it as un basique – a basic but essential piece in their wardrobe. A timeless classic, versatile and adaptable, la Marinière looks good on everyone. 
Gratuitous dog shot– because I love dogs!
Another dog shot — because I can!
Some claim la Marinière – and by extension, everything striped and nautical – has been overdone in recent years. Are we headed for a Breton stripe overdose?

No matter. I own at least six Marinières in different colors and styles. Most have come from France, but it would have been easy finding them here. American prêt-à-porter collections typically include at least one or two models of French sailor shirts in the spring and summer.When la Marinière is mentioned, people usually credit Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel for being the first designer to showcase the Breton shirt, and they are correct. In 1913, the budding designer opened a boutique in Deauville, the fashionable seaside resort town in Normandy. While exploring the region’s expansive beaches and quaint fishing towns, she became enamored with the simple elegance and comfort of the jersey striped shirts worn by local sailors and fishermen.  The Breton shirt fit the bill of what would become Chanel’s trademark:  a very unique blend of feminine, yet comfortable clothes often inspired by men’s wardrobes. One can imagine what this new-found freedom meant to women at the turn of the 20th century: Most were still constrained in stiff corsets, intricate dresses and ornate hats, a legacy of la Belle Epoque fashion trends.

“Belle Epoque” beauties about to be rescued by Chanel!
Coco Chanel in the 1930s
Audrey Tautou is Coco Chanel in Coco Before Chanel, 2009

Chanel made the Breton shirt famous among the French upper classes, but the striped nautical style had been around for a while in trendy European coastal resort towns. At the turn of the century, stripes were everywhere: on towels, on beach tents, and even on the long, conservative-looking bathing suits.

Famous beach tents in Dinard (Brittany)
Royan beach (Jacques Henri Lartigue, 1924)
French Atlantic Coast, 1912

Going back even further, it can be argued that the first Marinières belonged to sailors, and old paintings show seamen wearing them as early as the 17th century. I did some research and found out that until 1858, only officers of the French Navy had to wear a specific uniform. Everyday clothes were the ordinary seaman’s attire on board. That year, a decree defined the sailor’s official uniform in minute detail (color, number and length of stripes, etc.) 

Young French sailor in full uniform

There was no stopping the French sailor shirt, on its way to worldwide domination – or at the very least, to French icon status – once Coco Chanel declared it à la mode (trendy.)

In the 1950s, artists and intellectuals adopted la Marinière. Voilà Pablo Picasso, immortalized in his Breton shirt by Robert Doisneau (1952.)

Then came renowned French mime Marcel Marceau, instantly recognizable thanks to his make-up and shirt.

French actress and sex symbol Brigitte Bardot invented an iconic look: la Marinière with flat ballet shoes and cropped jeans. 

Other actresses followed suit…

Jean Seberg in Godard’s Breathless (1959)
Audrey Hepburn
Kim Novak
Nathalie Wood

A legendary First Lady, famous for her elegance and sense of style, adopted an updated version of la Marinière in the 1960s.

Leonard McCombe, Life Magazine

Following in Chanel’s footsteps, famed designers re-invented the Breton shirt. In the 1960s, Yves Saint Laurent launched elegant collections inspired by the nautical style.

Catherine Deneuve, Cannes Film Festival, 1966

One generation later, Jean-Paul Gaultier adopted the nautical stripe as his trademark. It seems Monsieur Gaultier never met a personality or object he he did not make over in his signature style. Take a look…

Dabbling in interior design…
Dressing European royalty…
Fighting HIV with former French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
Venturing into car design… Smart Fortwo (Montreal, 2011)

Yes, la Marinière (and the nautical style it inspired) are here to stay. Fans of the striped shirt do not have any problem getting their fix. At one point or another, most prêt-à-porter brands will add it to their collections. In France, several prominent companies offer quality products. My favorite brand is St James, but Armorlux and Petit Bateau are worthy competitors.

As for me, I will hang on to all of these…

… hoping to look more like this…

Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Paris
Sex and the City

… and hopefully staying away from that…

What about you? Vous aimez la Marinière? Do you like the French sailor shirt?

A bientôt.
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39 Responses to Marinière (the French sailor shirt)

  1. oh v ANOTHER ONE BEYOND WORDS…as soon as i saw the picture i sighed a very long heavy sigh and looked at the all pictures first…..just fabulous-j crew carried a few st james’ items in the spring of this year but i purchased the few items i have from a store in brittany- i call them my belle isle – i tend to be a purist in such matters and only have the navy strip with white or creme as ALWAYS with gratitude for all the time and attention to detail-have a wonderful week and one question, will you be doing anymore translation posts for us life long learners of this confusing frustrating BUT EVER SO BEAUTIFUL language? i sure hope so my studies have frustrated me this fall to the point of almost throwing in the towel-alas a “comment” for another time-THANKS AS ALWAYS-g

  2. Ah! Thanks for making Halloween seen like summer in France. My favorite La Mariniere was purchased on L’ile d’Yeux almost a decade ago and is still looks as good as the day I bought it!

  3. One of my all time favorite looks, always fresh looking. But you’re are right, we need to keep the look more similar to SJP, than the other options. Thank you for sharing the French term for the small liquor bottles! Happy Halloween.

  4. Bonjour! I have just stumbled across your wonderful blog and become a follower. I spotted your photo of Royan (a place I have often visited during my year in Saintes and many times since) I’m a true francophile and will look forward to your posts. Merci.
    PS I shall add you to my list of favourite blogs on my blog!

  5. Mais où trouves-tu l’inspiration pour tes posts?! A chaque fois, c’est quelque chose de tellement evident qu’on se demande pourquoi on ne s’est pas posé la question soi-même!et on est content que ce soit toi qui ait fait les recherches , et eclairé tout ça!
    Pour la marinière, venant d’une famille de marins, j’apprécie encore plus! j’ai toujours celle de mon père, avec laquelle il a fait le tour du monde , dans les années 50!Donc, un post qui me touche particulièrement!
    A bientôt!

  6. I knew Chanel had popularized the look, but I did not realize it went back even further than that! Excellent post. Just looking at all the celebrities wearing it throughout the years makes me realize what an important influence in fashion it really made. That’s kind of incredible!

    Oh, and that photo of Picasso in front of the window is a bit frightful, is it not? Lol.

  7. Yes! I am a big fan of the French sailor shirt. Why don’t I wear it? Because I think it makes me look fat. There should be less pastries on my table.

  8. I wandered over here from Owen’s blog site, and its been a treat. And now I simply MUST have one of those sailor shirts! Especially the one Bardot was wearing! (I am sentimental this way)

    I’ve only been to Seattle once, after an all night drive down through British Columbia. Mt. Rainier was a blushing pink ice cream sundae in the sunrise. And sea lions were basking on rocks in Coos Bay. These things, and the intoxicating smell of the fish markets are all I remember now.

  9. Now I am living in France I need to add one of these to my wardrobe to prove I belong!! Thanks for another fascinating post about a french icon – I hope this series will run and run!! Greetings from the Riviera…

  10. Oh I have always wanted one of these shirts. Promise me I’ll look like Audrey, or Catherine, or Natalie….and not the to convicts with the ball and chain! LOL

  11. You bet I love la mariniere! I had one in college along with a navy blue skirt…and I felt oh, so French…. I still have one….

    Your photo history of la mariniere is excellent.

  12. Mon Dieu! Look at all these comments, in just two short days! Merci to all of you for visiting. I can see that a majority of you already own a “Mariniere,” whether you wear it or not. Some of you are now officially considering purchasing one – if my post talked you into it, I am tres honored 😉 – As I wrote in the story, I will hang on to mine, even if they tell you that horizontal stripes are not “a woman’s best friend.” — Thanks again. Come back soon! Veronique

  13. Oh dear, I am crestfallen to admit that I haven’t even one such shirt in my wardrobe… despite the abundance of them on sale where we go every summer in Brittany, at the local market… May have to rectify that lacune sometime soon. I love your dog, because you can… but couldn’t you find even just one cat in a sailor shirt ? For faire and balanced reporting ? 🙂 (Just kidding, our two cats were jealous of the dogs included here…)

  14. Je pense que le t-shirt ou pull marin à rayures est intemporel. Il se fera toujours et ne sera jamais démodé. Ce qu’il faudra, Véronique, c’est l’agrandir au fil des ans, afin que nos petits ventres soient à l’aise. 🙂

  15. Je suis en retard lire cette blog, je suis desolee! Tres bien toujours. I had such fun buying my “mariniere” shirt in St. Tropez with Marita. The sales woman was so friendly and spoke little English so we spoke in French avec hand motions, bien sur! I had my picture taken with her, I must show you. I will not forget this experience in St. Tropez. Years ago in Venice, Steve bought a “mariniere” shirt Italian style a la the gondoliers, not knowing the Italians apparently copied the French! Mon dieu! Fun stories you tell, continuez s’il vous plait!

  16. I’m having such a good time scrolling down through all these fabulous posts, that I’ve not even taken time to comment on each of these. Know that I’m totally enjoying the visit this Thanksgiving today. Wanted to say, another of these classics returned home with me after my fall visit to Brittany. This year, pink and white with a soft t-scarf to match. I’ll be keeping all the ones I’ve bought previously too. 😉 ~ Sarah

  17. Amazing post. Interesting and informative from beginning to end. I never comment on blogs, but I felt compelled to say,”Well done.”. Thanks for the help.

  18. Yes! Yes! I love the Breton shirt or Mariniere! The little Yorkie in your photo is very chic. I just want to hug him! I too adore dogs. I do not currently own even one mariniere, and i must remedy the situation immediately. Monday, as tomorrow is Easter. I would love to look like Brigitte Bardot or Catherine Deneuve in one, but alas.. 😀 Yet another fabulous post Veronique. They are obviously your forte. Yours is one of my fav places to visit. Happy Easter and Springtime to you!


  19. Quand je vivais dans le Gard en 1974, il m’a fallu acheter deux choses avant de rentrer chez moi aux E-U, ma croix huguenote et ce «tee-shirt» (version cadet) iconique! Je les ai tous les deux jusqu’aujourd’hui.

  20. Thanks for your reply. I hope to order a couple soon and would like to see colors, styles, prices etc.
    love the pictures of your company’s shirts, dresses and sweaters. Please do reply to my email.
    Thank you very much! Marla Kay

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Le béret: a French icon

Le béret: a French icon

As iconic as la baguette, a ride in the Citroën 2 CV, an Edith Piaf song, or a Gatti rattan chair on the terrace of a Parisian café, le béret still evokes France – and French culture – to millions around the world. “The beret?”, you ask, “that funny, round, flat hat, worn by the military – and…

24 Responses to Le béret: a French icon

  1. OH I loved these photos. My favorite, the one that made me laugh out loud, was the one of the soldiers with the big white “pancakes” on their heads. But the petit garçons avec berets won my heart. Now if I could look like Catherine Denuve wearing one, I might consider it! 🙂

  2. v-simply delightful as USUAL!! during my highscool years, the navy beret was part of our uniform and was worn every first friday to mass. the entire school, with their berets on, the thought still makes me smile. i still have mine, with my name plate securly fastened(as was regulation)- made in france indeed it is and YES i still wear it because i really like it and in my opinion NEVER goes out of style. thanks yet again and enjoy your week!!-g

  3. What fun….and so informative….It is true there are less and less beret wearing folk…or that I see anyway….but I do love to see the old timers wearing them….Such a great post….xv

  4. Dearest Véronique,

    Great post again about my favorite béret! I love to wear it and yes, I got hollered at when I wore mine right after the Clinton scandal. Someone called out: ‘Hey Monica!’…
    Well, as for Obama, no matter what hat he will wear, he will never ever equal the grandeur of Ronald Reagan! That was a man with such a charisma; with or without hat! I was fortunate for having many happy birthdays with him together.

    Love to you,


  5. It’s a great idea – to focus on iconic French things, among which the French beret has a special significance to me. I have always worn berets until Monica Lewinsky ruined them for me in the 90s. However, since berets are classic and have real elegance, I’m glad I can still return to this accessory without any fear 🙂

  6. — Virginia — Don’t we all wish we looked like Catherine Deneuve, with or without a béret!
    — g — Bonjour! I would love to see that béret of yours. It must be really good quality if you still have it. Does it carry a specific name or brand inside? It would be fun to look it up and see if it was made by one of the two companies I mentioned in the story.
    — Vicki — Thank you very much!
    — Mariette — Not a fan of president Obama with or without a beret, eh? 😉
    — Olga — You should absolutely start wearing berets again. I am thinking about ordering a new one online through a French company…

  7. This may be the greatest collection of beret photos outside of Google in existence… truly enjoyed this… especially seeing as how I’m the owner of a classic black beret, which was given to me along with a pack of Gauloises, a baguette, a sausage, and a bottle of red wine, at a party welcoming me to France when I moved here. Had it out just the other day to wear to a party… Thanks V. !!!

  8. merci véronique, pour ce post instructif et amusant. bien sûr que moi aussi j’ai tjrs un béret basque (le vrai!!!) dans mon sac où sur mon crâne, c’est indispensable avec le vélo noir de l’est parisien. mais qu’en est-il des messieurs en béret? à la campagne chez les ramasseurs de champignons, on voit surtout la casquette “gâââpette”, voire la rouge type baseball. toutefois, un certain nombre d’ados “anti-n*ke ou adid*s” de ma connaissance arborent fièrement le béret et l’écharpe rouge façon jean moulin qui signifient “je suis inscrit dans une école d’art”. la symbolique militaire des années 70 semble avoir bel et bien disparu.

  9. I love le beret and doesn’t Claude Monet look so handsome in his beret – and Catherine Deneuve very French and classy with her beret tilted slightly onto one side.
    Thank you for this lovely post!

  10. Le post est comme toujours passionnant, plein de recherche et de fantaisie! Mais j’avoue que ça m’enerve quand je vois des Français actuels ,qui representent la France aujourd’hui, et qui s’affublent d’un beret et d’une baguette , prolongeant le stereotype, le cliché, comme si la France n’avait pas evolué!C’est comme si nous, nous pensions que tous les americains, y compris les New-Yorkais, se baladent avec un stetson! le beret fait partie de notre histoire , certes, mais justement, c’est de + en + historique!

  11. Hello there! I am quite late in responding because I put this aside to read when I could really take the time to enjoy it. Your posts are always so wonderful Veronique–and this was no exception! I actually have been thinking of ordering a beret and this makes me want to do so.
    PS. My honey did his army time with the Chasseurs Alpins–pas mal, non?

  12. — Owen — I will take this as a compliment – Oh, Master Photographer – I certainly hope you still wear that beret, even though the baguette and wine they gave you disappeared long ago!
    — Katelyn — Merci. That French teacher did a great job in front of a very unruly crowd!
    — Winterludes –Le béret survit. C’est ce qui est important!
    — Dianne — You’re welcome. I had a lot of fun researching this story.
    — Malyss — Je ne sais pas si les Français font vraiment exprès de “s’affubler” d’une baguette. La baguette, c’est un peu le prolongement naturel de leur bras 😉 Tu as raison, les stereotypes ont la vie dure. Inutile de les encourager.
    — Balanced Melting Pot — You’re welcome. Go get yourself a new beret, you hear?!
    — Lost in Provence — Welcome back. I am very impressed that your honey joined “Les Chasseurs Alpins” for a while. This means he got to wear the prestigious “crêpe” (the huge beret on the photo.)

  13. Oh Véronique,

    J’ADORE CETTE VIDÉO!! Et le jeune instituteur est charmant! Oh, comme j’aime bien tout ce qui est français et ce billet est super. Merci de ta visite, et ma boutique Etsy n’est pas encore ouverte; je vais faire “une annonce” en quelques jours, et elle s’appelle, CASTLES CROWNS AND COTTAGES: THE SHOP.” Original, non? teeheeeee….

    GROSSES BISES!!!!!! Anita

  14. Another fantastic post!! I love how much I learn from you. 🙂

    I love berets. They remind me of the beatnik era in the 50s, when it was cool to recite poetry in underground coffee shops and dress in black turtlenecks. Lol. But you have shown me there is so much more to them!!

    My best friend Jenn (who actually majored in French in college) used to wear berets all the time. I always envied that she could pull the look off. Hehe.

    I hope you have an awesome weekend! xoxo

  15. I hope this does become a permanent series of French icons as I am learning and enjoying so much about the new country I am living in via your blog….Greetings from the Riviera,,,

  16. I’m an American living in Bordeaux and every time I wear a beret here someone stops me in the street and tells me how British I look, so I giggled to myself as I read your excellent post on these iconic chapeaux.

  17. Hello! Thanks for popping in on Lindsey’s post for Francofile friday. I love this post! Still curious as to why it’s a symbol of Paris, but for some people that is the most of France they see! I suppose that’s what I meant about misconception. Parisians don’t rock berets à la mode. At least not that I’ve seen 🙂

    I love the cat with the beret!

  18. I wear an old German tanker beret from the seventies. I wear it more often than I wear actual clothing despite the chaffing from family and friends regarding it’s “weirdness”. Well I love it and NEVER take it off.

  19. I have worn a beret since the 1970’s. It is practical, warm, rainproof headgear that has served me well. Yes, people may think it weird but I will never give up my beret!

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The Eiffel Tower had a father

The Eiffel Tower had a father

“I ought to be jealous of the tower. She is more famous than I am.” – Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923)   Monsieur Eiffel was right of course. He was one of France’s greatest inventors, an architect, a structural engineer, a successful entrepreneur. He was a man whose innovative, elegant iron structures and buildings have defied…

25 Responses to The Eiffel Tower had a father

  1. I always learn something new when I visit your blog. =) I never get tired of the Eiffel Tower either. Great photos. I can’t believe Hilter in front of the tower – who does he think he is? Good job on the hike up!

  2. I always find it interesting how much time can change public opinion. How the tower can go from being an eyesore to one of the most beloved (by most people, at least) French icons is a point of great discussion and interest for me.

    Thanks also for the book recommendation. I adore La Belle Epoque, so much so that I devoted my entire college thesis to it, so I may be checking that one out!

    Have a wonderful day!

  3. Very interesting and fascinating post, thank you for all the information. Marita and I took pictures of the tower and I got an excellent one I plan to put on a calendar. I never tire of seeing the tower and being in Paris. It is just so magnifique and the icon of Paris, a city I love.

  4. Hi Véronique, you always go so high above and beyond with wonderful research and colorful tangents… always a pleasure.

    When living in Paris as a student in 1986, I had a chambre de bonne with a window that perfectly framed the Eiffel tower, I could watch the light shows at night, and see the sunrise by it in the morning. No end of memories here. Merci…

  5. Ah, quel superbe post!!je suis contente que tu aies mentionné les deux grandes creations niçoises de M. Eiffel, bien moins celèbres que sa tour.Et je suis heureuse de la retrouver chaque fois que je vais a Paris!C’est un symbole tellement fort! Parfois , je regrette qu’on ait detruit tout ce qu’il y avait autour pendant l’expo, sur les vieilles photos certains batiments semblent avoir été eux aussi extraordinaires. Et que serait Paris sans la Tour Eiffel? je fremis rien que d’y penser!

    PS: pas d’appart sur la Prom? parce que:1) c’est tres cher;2) c’est tres bruyant, et le bruit ne s’arrete jamais, même la nuit;3)c’est pollué par les voitures;4) impossible de se garer;5) dur de faire les courses pour les meres de famille!Il y a tout un monde derrière la vision idyllique..

  6. Thank you for the amazing post about one of the most famous Paris sights. Incidentally, I was just thinking about the Eiffel tower in the context of my reflections about Edith Piaf. Is is true that she performed on the Eiffel Tower? Or was it just a recording?

  7. Magnifique mon chère! Of course you knew i”d love this post. I have a growing collection of la Tours in my living room and asst. art etc all over my home! I’m glad you mention Jonnes’ book. It was a special evening when we were fortunate to sit with her and hear her talk about the book. I for one will never tire of seeing her. I make a “pilgrimage” every trip and try and capture her in a new way. Of course I could never do that but it is fun for me to try and think out of the box.

    BTW, I love that they call Tour Montparnasse, the box that the Eiffel Tower came in! 🙂

  8. Merci les amis. So you, too, like “the Old Lady”, eh? I so appreciate your thoughtful and encouraging comments on my blog every week. Thank you for stopping by once again. I have tried to reply to some of your questions on your own blogs. Come back soon! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  9. V- please do not think i have left your wonderful blog for greener pastures….i have been away for a while in the land of tsars and communists. a wonderful time, but glad to be home! 2 really GREAT posts comme d’hab- the photos are SIMPLY MAGNIFIQUE- what an eye your guy has. hope all is well with you and look forward to the next great read from our wonderful instructor out there on the left coast!!

  10. g– Welcome back, faithful reader! I have missed you. A trip to the land of tsars, eh? I am intrigued… Now do you have a blog where I can read about your adventures? I am glad you enjoyed the last two stories and le Husband’s pictures. Working on another French icon right now (story to be published next week.) — Veronique

  11. V-no….no blog….sadly i simply do not possess your talent for the written word-truly a talent! russia was really an experience-trying at times sometimes tiring but really unique-and i would definitely return given the chance. so love your posts-have a wonderful weekend–“talk to you on monday”-georgeanne(g)

  12. Excellent, le mot de Maupassant ! Mais il est un des rares à ne pas l’aimer, notre tour. Pour moi qui suis comme toi une ex-parisienne et une visiteuse régulière, la tour Eiffel reste synonyme de beauté et de magie.

  13. Great information on Gustave Eiffel and the Tower – you have researched this well. You know, I think the tower would not look as great if Paris did not have such strong City Planning laws – that sky scrapers cannot be built in Paris. Just imagine if the Tower was surrounded by huge buildings – it just would not look the same. When I was in our hotel at the Gare du Nord last May I could see the Tower from there, and that is a way off. Land is scarce in Paris and I am sure developers would love to get tall buildings in it, but it is wonderful that so far aesthetic has been stronger than money. I say so far because I heard that Sarkozy wants to change the laws and get big buildings in the center of Paris – he wants it to be more like New York.

  14. what another marvellous post veronique – I am learning so much about France from you blog – thanks!! I passed the Eiffel residence here on the Riviera recently – next door to the Villa Kerylos in Bealieu…

  15. Ma belle,

    C’est MAGNIFIQUE que nos deux billets soient reliés comme ça!!!!!!! Et tu sais, quand je suis allée à Paris, j’ai juré que j’allais monter au somment. Hmmmmmph! A la deuxième étage, j’ai eu PEUR, donc, je suis descendue….

    Mais l’histoire de ce monument me rend contente chaque fois que je vois l’image. Quelles supers photos et ton billet est parfait pour moi aujourd’hui; oui, Paris est toujours une bonne idée! BISES, Anita

  16. Mielenkiintoinen Kuva-Sarja – *Historiaa ja Nykyaikaa*…
    Eiffel-tornin synnystä – nykyaikaan…!
    Katselin kuviasi ihastellen –
    Syksy-Terveiset Eko…

  17. It’s amazing to think she was only meant to be temporary, so glad the powers that be at the time let her become a permanent fixture, a very wise decision indeed. I have heard that famous quote at the end before, I always though it was coined by the architect of Tour Montparnasse, I had no idea it originated from Guy de Maupassant regarding the Eiffel Tower, I always learn something new on your wonderful blog.

  18. Dearest Véronique,

    Great post and so informative too! About Lady Liberty, being connected to Mr. Eiffel I didn’t know either… Hats off to you and Junior for walking those 600 steps up! I went up with my Dad but not climbing myself!
    Love to you,


  19. Hi Véronique,

    I am very much enjoying going back through your fantastic blog reading your posts. I love all things French and now I have the perfect place to go for my French fix. Thank you for popping in at my blog and saying hi.

    Kel x

  20. Dear French Girl in Seattle…I found your blog by chance tonight while visiting another blog I follow. The name of your blog intriqued me, as I love anything French. The Eiffel Tower has been one of my favorite landmarks since I visited there 10 years ago. I laid in a nearby grassy lawn with friends I traveled with and we just gazed at her for two hours. We never walked up and toured the masterpiece..we just didn’t want to take our eyes off her beauty. I’ve never known the true story behind the architect. What a wealth of knowledge you’ve transferred to your reader..I much appreciate it! Merci~

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23 Responses to A tribute to Parisian cafés…

  1. while on vacation for three weeks in France, I came home jet lagged wanting a coffee…I went to Starbucks, took one sip, then another – then it went in the garbage…once you have great coffee, it’s hard to go back…three years later, I still can not drink Starbuck’s …

  2. What a shame Starbucks is taking over Paris! That makes me sad. 🙁 I always associate glamorous and relaxing outdoor cafes with Paris. It really is a staple of the city’s identity.

    I had no idea coffee shops started in the Middle East. That is REALLY interesting.

    And I love that Woody Allen film! I often wish I could go back to 1920s Paris. I’m reading a book about 1920s writers right now (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc.) and Paris really was the place to be back then! 🙂

  3. I don’t know how you do it. You bring us so much interesting information. You h it on one of my favorite topics today V. I have photographed a million chairs I think. I’d kill for those red chairs from Luxembourg and Tuileries!!!! I shudder at how much they must cost. And you ended with Nemours. J’adore Nemours as you well know. How many posts I’ve done on that iconic Paris cafe!

  4. I think that the magic of Parisian cafés is something that both natives and tourists can agree on – perhaps the only thing! Can’t beat the people-watching. I can’t comment on the merits of French coffee as I do not like coffee from any country, but I’m sure it is all a question of what you’re used to, like many things in life.

    Also, that’s one of my favorite quotes from You’ve Got Mail too 😉

  5. What a fabulous thorough post on Paris cafes!
    Brilliant. That chart is horrifying, though I’m told Starbucks is doing well because of the ambience – big chairs for relaxing and wifi.
    I LOVE Paris cafes but I simply don’t know how to relax in them the way the French do. I need to run run run 🙁
    merci carolg

  6. Another fantastic post, Véronique! Gosh, this is almost enough to make me wish that I was still living there, but nope, I’ll take the cafés in tiny Arles plus the 30°C temp today!!

    Am curious about your favs. I do love Nemours too but also le Café de la Marie in the 6th–very fashion!

  7. Je suis absolument en extase devant la richesse de vos posts, les recherches effectuées, l’iconographie.. Chacun est une petite these!ça donne un regard different sur les choses simples: plus jamais je ne prendrai un café sans penser à vous, et à tout ce qu’il y a derrière ce simple geste! Bravo et merci!

  8. I love this post! I keep hearing also about Parisian coffee being not so good. But I’ve heard a foreigner call our coffee bison pee. Maybe it’s because we are used to a certain taste? All I know – if it has caffeine and it makes me shake a little, I’m good to go. And the ambiance helps! =)

  9. — Jacquelyn– Thank you for stopping by. I guess we will add your name to the “Love French coffee” column, then 😉
    — Jennifer Fabulous — Great to hear from you again. That little Woody Allen movie was quite magical, wasn’t it? Be careful what you wish for, though. Remember when the main character finally chooses the present over the past (granted that’s after he has dumped the horrible girlfriend and her horrible parents 😉
    — Virginia — Thanks for visiting. Oui, I know you love the Nemours. What’s not to like? It sits across from the Louvre! One day, one day, you and I will get our Parisian café chairs!
    — Katelyn — Welcome chez French Girl. I agree with you: People tend to enjoy what they are used to. It’s probably hard to switch from an elaborate Starbucks coffee drink, that tastes more like dessert, to a tiny cup of French espresso!
    — Deebee L. — Merci beaucoup!
    — Paris Breakfasts — Carol, you h.a.v.e. to learn how to relax in a Parisian café. 😉 It’s hard to slow down when you know you only have limited time in fabulous cities like Paris or London, but slowing down and soaking in the local atmosphere is part of the experience. Parisians are stressed as heck, but even Parisians know how to take a deep breath and relax at their favorite café.
    — Lost in Provence — Merci beaucoup. I can’t blame you for choosing Arles cafés. I miss Nice cafés right now 😉 I do not know your café in the 6th. Will have to look it up. Two favorites of mine: Le café de l’Opéra. Overpriced, but magnificent. Amazing people watching AND I used to work in the neighborhood. Any café around la Place des Vosges. What a peaceful, romantic place to sit and daydream in Paris.
    — Malyss — Un sincère merci. Les compliments des “autochtones” me touchent très particulièrement.
    — Sandy — Welcome back. Bison pee. Ha. Ha. My brother used to refer to American coffee (in the pre-Starbucks days) as “jus de chaussettes” (sock juice), in reference to the dirty, brownish water one gets after washing their socks 😉

  10. You have immersed me in the atmosphere of French cafes. It’s really one of the most wonderful attractions of living in France. Perhaps French people take it for granted. In Canada, I really miss that culture.

  11. C’est vrai que les terrasses de cafés, quelles qu’elles soient, sont toujours agréables, surtout à la belle saison. Mais à Paris, il y a un plus. C’est magique. On oublie le bruit et les vapeurs d’essence et on se sent bien.
    Tu as raison dans ce que tu écris.
    Bonne journée!

  12. Another treasure-trove of information and insider points! I love the café chairs and have so many photos that I have to pace them on my blog (like my cemetery and pâtisserie shots) – hah! I love the green chairs found in les jardins et les parcs in Paris and although the red just pops, I would choose a pair of green ones to sit out among the azaleas in our yard (to enjoy with a glass of wine, bien sûr)!


  13. évidemment, je boycotte starbucks car il tue les petits bistrots de quartier déjà bien délaissés depuis qu’on ne peut plus y fumer.
    dans la mesure où je ne bois pas de café car je n’aime pas cela, je ne peux répondre exactement à ta question, mais en tous cas, le café des bistrots parisiens sent mauvais, et contient sans doute plus de robusta que d’arabica (il semble épais, noir, acre), contrairement aux cafés torréfiés blonds du nord de l’europe dont l’odeur n’est pas désagréable. ceci explique sans doute pourquoi nombre d’américains n’aiment pas le café des bars parisiens.

  14. I’ll drink to that ! (before I run off to bed for my beauty sleep, this was a last little visit before turning in… but one can never get enough of Paris cafés and bars, an immense variety to choose from)

  15. — Olga –I assure you the French (and the Parisians) do not take their cafés for granted. They may not always realize how lucky they are to have them though 😉
    — Richard –Merci Richard. Les terrasses de café à Antibes ne doivent pas être trop mal non plus…
    — Genie — Thanks for stopping by! My favorite color was actually aubergine, but they were sold out. The chairs were 50% at the end of August and beggars can’t be choosers. I had to pick between Red and Black…
    — WInterludes — Une bonne analyse je pense… mais les cafés parisiens vont devoir s’améliorer rapidement (pour certains) s’ils veulent survivre…
    — Catherine — Thank you for stopping by. Love Riviera cafés too. The view is often unbeatable…
    — Owen — Thanks, Owen, and I agree. There are almost too many to choose from!

  16. Great post! I love the wonderful cafes of Paris and I was sad when I saw the Starbucks open on Ave Opera. Hopefully the glory days of Parisian cafés are not over! However the most crowded McDonalds that I’ve ever seen was in Paris. 🙁

  17. Veronique, give me a Parisian cafe any day over Starbucks, we used to live just round the corner from Cafe de Flore and le Deux Magots, I spent many happy hours there, whiling away the whole afternoon accompanied by coffee’s and a book, never harassed or moved on by the waiters. I think what makes Parisian cafes unique are the way the tables and chairs are positioned on the terraces, very conducive for people watching. I know they are not very eco friendly but I love the heaters to keep you warm on the terraces during the colder months. Sad to hear that some cafes are struggling, from what I understand the main reason they struggle is due to the extortionate contracts they are bound into with unscrupulous suppliers. As for the coffee, It tastes like coffee should, not that synthetic rubbish that takes on the flavour of the receptacle it is served in.

  18. Bonsoir,

    Je viens de découvrir votre blog et je l’adore! Je suis prof de français en Floride et toujours à la recherche de choses à utiliser avec mes élèves. Merci pour votre excellent travail. Véronique (comme vous!)

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