Every hour of every day I hear the pulsating rush of le Periph and I am reminded that Paris is dead. My dorm is at the very bottom of Paris such that if the city were a ball I’d be the spot that hits the ground. I sit in my windowsill. I watch cars drive on the highway in an unending flow, like blood in veins, fish in streams, but they’re all metal idols of life. Life does not go this fast. Life stops to take a rest.
It seems to me that Paris died forty years ago and is now taxidermic like the fawn I saw guarding an antique shop in the 9th arrondissement. Someone must have prepared the fawn’s body to be preserved, then sewn a tailored military uniform for its cartoonish appearance. Through the window it looks perfectly reanimated and proud to be enlisted in the French infantry. Up close it’s just dusty and reminds me that it has been dead for a long time.
Something stopped in Paris in the 1980s. I think it happened when Parisian food stopped developing. You love French food until you live in Paris and then you decide you can’t have another meal of meat, cheese, butter and bread. A waiter in a French café will serve you a brown omelette, ignore you until you’ve properly begged for the check, and proceed to charge you 14 euros. Paris is proud of its food. They won’t change it any time soon. Read more »
After suffering the injury of pandemic isolation for most of the year, the pride of Dublin city had insult added in May when a national treasure, Bewley’s Café, announced that its doors would be closed not just for the lockdown, but forever. Public outrage rippled out of the city and across the country. Newspapers, blogs and radio programmes lamented the passing of a legend. Bewley’s was the only café in Dublin whose aura, history, and place in people’s hearts could equal the legendary European coffee houses of Paris, Vienna and Venice. Public anger was especially sharp because vanishing customers did not cause the closure.
Bewley’s landlord, an unpopular property mogul, refused to give the café any relief on its annual rent of €1.5 million to ease it through the Covid-19 lockdown, forcing it to close and fire its 110 employees. Print media and the airwaves filled with hundreds of anecdotes and memories from the café’s golden days as “the heart and the hearth” of the city, as the magazine Journal called it. Bewley’s, the “legendary, lofty, clattery café” has always been associated with Leo Maguire’s song Dublin Saunter, a virtual anthem of the city:
“Dublin can be heaven With coffee at eleven And a stroll in Stephen’s Green… Grafton Street’s a wonderland. There’s magic in the air. There’s diamonds in your lady’s eyes, And gold dust in her hair.”
Bewley’s Oriental Café, on the city centre’s stylist Grafton Street, was founded by an English Quaker family who started by importing Chinese tea to Ireland in the 1830s. Ernest Bewley opened his first coffee shop in 1840, followed by a second one soon after on Westmoreland Street, boasting of coffee that was “rich, strong and aromatic, fresh roasted and ground daily on the premises.” Read more »