During our recent family trip to Paris, I launched a Napoleonic assault on the city, beginning immediately after my morning croissant and ending with wine on the terrace in the late evening.
“Slow down,” my daughter, advised. “Paris will wait.”
No. It won’t.
Long days of sightseeing make the late afternoon a danger zone. My blood sugar drops, I want a nap, but I can’t afford to lose valuable touring time.
That’s where a good café comes into play.
A cup of coffee and a sweet treat are what I need to muscle through the hours before dinner. But finding the right café is a challenge in a strange location.
Take the Road Less Traveled
The hardest part of the hunt is ignoring Starbucks’ siren call. Positioned on nearly every street corner, Starbucks is the easy choice. But I know I’m missing out if I settle for a chocolate croissant that was frozen and flown ’round the world. Same goes for all of the other mega chain coffee shops.
No Queue for You
The other places I avoid are those brightly lit, cafeteria-type snack shops. I’ll sometimes grab an inexpensive lunch in one. But when I need my afternoon pick-me-up, I want to feel like I’m getting tucked in for a nap, so I need a cozy spot. I want cloth napkins and a china mug, not a spork and a styrofoam cup on a plastic tray.
I like to play coffee voyeur and peep into cafés, looking for the right mix of comfy decor, interesting people, and a decadent pastry case. My job is made easier if the joint has outdoor seating. I’m a sucker for al fresco, no matter the weather. I love it when I find a patio that offers snugly blankets to ward off the chill.
Grab a Local
The word “coffee” is fairly universal. Pair it with “please” and you can get most anyone to point out their favorite caffeine hole. And don’t be afraid to ask about the preferred regional bakery item. The desk agent at my motel this weekend told me I had to try a “dirt bomb“. By the time she finished describing it, I was already out the door and on my way to get one.
If I find the perfect café, I’ll linger for a half-hour or so, the equivalent of a successful afternoon power nap. I love to hold a warm mug, eat something insanely sugary good, and eavesdrop on conversations. Refreshed, I’m ready to tackle my itinerary. The best part? I didn’t wake up in a puddle of drool.