The cafés in Aix are the city’s pulse. They wake up pouring espresso for the early-to-rise Aixois, serve lunch throughout the afternoon, hand out pre-dinner tapas with after-work drinks, and greet the night owls with cocktails into the wee hours of the night. They’re even open on Sundays, which alone is an accomplishment.
Besides providing a steady flow of caffeine and alcohol, the cafés allow the Aixois to pursue one of their favorite hobbies: people-watching. One large square called Place Richelme, for example, is home to five cafés, a daily a.m. farmers market, and three major pathways of pedestrian traffic. Most café customers sit outside, even in near-freezing temperatures, in order to best observe this slice of life (and to smoke legally). You could sit there alone from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. and have constant entertainment.
I still love the coffee shop culture of America — sitting in a comfy armchair with the latest New York Times bestseller or a MacBook — but I miss the social voyeurism, as well as the espresso, of French cafés. Read more