26 Mar 2013
Flanking the left bank of the Seine are les bouquinistes. Chocolate box like stalls that fold open to reveal hidden literary treasures, antiquarian etchings and rare prints. An eclectic gathering of souls and wares alike luring riverside strollers to bend just that little bit closer to leaf through a well thumbed tome. At night they shut tight like clams and gone are the textures, the colours, the smells. Come the next morning the sellers turn the keys of their green jack in the boxes and a bounty of visual food bursts out.
To drive by Café Bouquiniste at night is to pass a sombre green Parisian book seller. With it's lights turned off all trace of the carnival inside is gone. However as sleepy bodies rouse and cast their noses to the air in search of coffee scent this little world comes to life. An ever evolving space where paintings are propped against vintage teapots. Dried blooms and leaves hang from here and there and a higgeldy piggedly array of books greet you at every turn.
I watch entranced as the beautiful girl behind the counter cuts slice after slice of a luscious raspberry cake. Not the stereotypical cloying ganache filled varieties often found in coffee houses but a moist crumbed round slathered with buttery icing that would be home amongst your Grandmother's morning tea offerings. The cafe is buzzing with all walks of life and the staff dance to a quick tempo in order to satisfy their patrons' hungry bellies. Amidst all this flurry she plucks tiny fresh orchids from a mass and rains them over each and every piece of cake her hands touch. I am thrilled I ordered it.
A slab of marble atop an old crate forms the low table where we perch watching our babies devour fresh orange, apple, carrot and ginger juices. Around us is all bohemian colour, raw timber and cinnamon yogurt topped fruit salad. Swirls of vintage teaspoons, french literature and genuine smiles for our little people. A tiny doored little nook of this beautiful city where the atmosphere alone lowers your shoulders and curls the corners of your mouth. Quirk and character, simplicity and substance. Sublime.