Where? The Café de Flore, 172 boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris’s oh-so-chic 6th arrondissement
When? Saturday, 4 pm.
Why? Because I’ve been going to this legendary café for decades (I took my parents there once) and their hot chocolate is good. I also wanted to show my visiting 18-year old god-daughter where the beau monde of Paris meet. Good for celebrity watching. Years ago, I saw Lauren Bacall there, Bette Midler and Tina Turner (not together). And BHL (Bernard-Henri Lévy). It’s his neighborhood hangout.
Tourists call it The Café de Flore, Parisians call it simply Le Flore.
It used to be a sedate, traditional, classy Parisian café; quiet and elegant.
But now, as a consequence of the Emily in Paris series on Netflix, it has turned into a circus. We had to stand in line for more than 30 minutes! Never before has there been a queue to get into the Café Flore … quelle horreur ! It has turned into a tourist attraction, like Disneyland or the Statue of Liberty.
We were finally let in and shown to a table that hadn’t been cleaned. When the waiter came (after a long wait) he addressed us in English. “Nous sommes françaises,” we told him. “Oh,” he replied in French, “We speak English here all day long.” We ordered three hot chocolates. Last year I paid 8 euros for this beverage. Now, it’s 10 euros.
We wondered how café regulars, like BHL, get in and decided they probably entered through a back door and climbed the stairs to a quiet upper floor. Three hours later we left and walked in the cold, clear night to rue du Bac metro station.
This reminds me of a time in Bacharach, Germany, when the waiter was shocked to hear two of us speaking German. He said they had almost exclusively English-speaking customers, ever since Rick Steves started recommending their restaurant in his books and TV shows.
Of course, I’m all for international travel and writing about it – after all, that’s what we do on our blogs. But sometimes it goes too far. When the local populations feel invaded, prices go up and the quality of life diminishes because of crowds and noise, it’s time to pull back.
Barcelona is a perfect example (and Lisbon). Rent and real estate prices went through the roof because of the popularity of Air BnB. Locals could no longer afford to live in certain neighborhoods. Noise, crowds and litter tarnished some districts and, in the end, the Barcelona Town Council demanded that Airbnb remove 4,102 advertised properties from their website.