Cafe de la Paix, 5 Place de l’Opera.
Well dressed, well preserved matrons meet each other for tea at tables facing the Paris Opera. Suave men of a certain age hide behind Le Monde or their iPads and eye the mirrored reflections of the sleek young genderless. The afternoon crowd at Cafe de la Paix is so discreet as it checks out who is sipping and sitting with or without whom.
If Booth Tarkington or Henry James edged through the palm trees, faux marble tables and rattan chairs today, hardly anyone would notice. Today, just as during the Belle Epoque a hundred years ago, the clientele is successful and civilized. But the beauty of a Paris cafe is that even shaggy-haired artistes can feel comfortable, as long as they can afford something from the menu.
The decore is muted gilt with pairs of cherubs at the corners so it looks like a Baroque church. And Cafe de la Paix is, in a way, an elegant temple to the gentele ways of time standing, or sitting, still. Near the staircase that leads to the W.C., there was once a small desk where a rubber stamp of the Cafe’s logo could be used to decorate postcards or a travel notebook. Tea and a waistline challenging pastry probably cost more than a sandwich and a beer. Service is included.