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Letters From Abroad: Gems in Paris

Photo Courtesy of Kelsey Morgan, Contributor

I think one of the most important things you can do when you’re abroad or new to an area and school is to find places where you feel at home. I got really lucky and ended up in a program that leaves me a lot of time to travel –– and I mean a lot. I’ve actually gotten to spend the last month or so in Paris, and I’ve gotten a chance to look for some hidden gems to call my own. 

If you know me, you know I have an obsession with quirky and quaint little coffee shops. Desperately needing to fill the void that has been left by the absence of All In, I decided to start working my way through what a particular travel article claims are the “Top 10 Coffee Shops in Paris.” 

This include places that are little shoe repair shops turned coffee shops and places famous for baristas in bowties who serve all their drinks in lime green cups. 

I went to the first coffee shop and told myself I wouldn’t go back to one coffee shop before trying the other ten. I’ve been back to this safe place four times now. It’s called La Caféothèque de Paris and is in Le Marais; from the front door, you can see Notre Dame and the Seine River. I always go to the furthest room where they have some eclectic art on the walls and rustic, brightly painted but chipped wooden tables with tall grassy plants around the windows. I’m starting to get recognized there already, and I have my usual order: a cappuccino and a slice of cheesecake with strawberry drizzle. 

I can’t remember what made me even remember this; I was probably wishing I could go hang out in Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million for a while. Whatever the reason, one day I decided to go hunting for Shakespeare and Company, hoping that they might have at least a section of books in English. Good news! All the books are in English, and it’s the coolest bookstore I’ve ever seen in my life. 

It’s a little overwhelming because it’s not a large space, but it’s packed ceiling to floor and wall to wall to wall with books, alongside book-filled tables in the middle of the room, a makeshift bookshelf running diagonally along the stair case on both sides, a makeshift bookshelf in the wall at the end of the stairs and bookshelves somehow squeezed into the mix on the first floor, with a similar set-up upstairs. All of the books upstairs are for reading in the store on the chairs, cushions and wall nooks. Anywhere you can think they might find a place for books, they did. They also offer the “random book” which is five euros for a book that in a small box, so you have no idea what book you’re getting. I got “The Racketeer” by John Grisham and read it in less than a week. 

Just because of space constraints, I’ll finish with this one last homey find. Like any good southerner, I managed to find a barbecue sandwich in Paris. Ironically enough, I was actually looking everywhere for a salad that was going to cost fewer than 15 euros. After finally moving into the Bastille area knowing it had a lot of bars and restaurants, I somehow happened upon a small half lounge/half pub called The Frog Revolution that was advertising “American Soul Food.” 

Of course, it was no Smokin’ Pig, but not everyone can be a barbecue god –– especially outside of the Southern USA. I sat at a little table by a big window in a big, old, fancy armchair that you might expect to see in a fancy home library of an old, well-read British man who sits in his chair and smokes cigars in front of a fireplace. 

I hope all of you Tigers are enjoying the last stretch of the school year. I know it’s a rough part of the semester, but you’re almost there, and I’m almost home. Not quite, but almost. 

‘Til next time.

–– Kelsey 

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