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“Pure joy” when Paris opens

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1 of 4 | Foto: Mehdi Chebil / TT

“A feeling of freedom.” This is how movie student Lula Gilbaud (right) describes the possibility of enjoying breakfast in the café again. Here she is with Ines Piqué and Emma Hugon at Café Les Petites on Place de la Contrescarpe in Paris.

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Despite the rain and light winds, a festive atmosphere reigned high in the air when the Parisians were finally allowed to enjoy their beloved outdoor cafes again after a six-month closure.

The French have not been without their outdoor cafés for long, and the shortage is generally seen as one of the most difficult social sacrifices they made during the pandemic.

Several outdoor cafes in Paris suffered a massacre on Wednesday morning, as tables quickly ran out, and waiters were completely overwhelmed with coffee and croissant orders after one of Europe’s longest-running pandemic shutdowns.

– I’ll give three servings today, so I can make sure I’m really up to the limit if they have to shut down again tomorrow, 27-year-old designer Laura Meyer told TT.

Hug and toast

On historic Paris Street Mouffetard, on the left bank of the Seine, the party was already in full swing at 5 pm compared to just a week ago, when the street was quiet and ruined, the contrast was almost dramatic. Now he’s being cuddled, roasted, and laughed at. The volume increases with every passing minute.

– This is Paris, laughs from 26-year-old hotel worker Fabiani Zoa Tsama, who got together with a group of her friends at the famous 88 beer bar.

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Some of us came here already at 15:30 to make sure we’d get a table, she says and points to the crowd that has already started spilling onto the street. The bar staff pump beer like machines to supply those standing and waiting on the sidewalk with something to drink.

A group of college students said they were already five, “or is it six?” , Round beer. Although lessons start early tomorrow morning, they intend to stay until closing.

– This is a day to celebrate, as they say in unison with each other.

Visit the restaurant at the top

The fact that the French really lack their outdoor café is not an exaggeration. In a poll conducted by the Elabe Institute on behalf of BFMTV in early May, restaurant visits topped the French wish-list for what they wanted to do when restrictions on the country were finally lifted. As many as 49 per cent mentioned restaurant visits as their number one priority.

At the top of Avenue Mouffetarde, on Place de la Contrescarpe, is the pure Carnival of Rama. Those who could not get a place in the outdoor cafes surrounding the square, bought a quick drink and sat on the floor in the roundabout in the middle. A TT Reporter can count on as many as 70 people in the roundabout alone.

Away from the street, in the bistro, Restaurant Les 5, which has around 20 tables, it is crowded with people. Although owner Alexander Nguyen was afraid during the day that the downpour might scare some of his customers, he was no longer worried.

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– It’s totally insane, I even saw the guests sit and eat their burgers in peace and quiet even though it was raining, laughing.

Since October 30 last year, French cafes, restaurants and bars have been closed for anything other than food delivery. Today’s reopening of outdoor cafés – as well as theaters, museums, and cinemas – is part of France’s second phase in gradually lifting its restrictions. On Wednesday, the French curfew will also be shortened to apply from 9 pm instead of 7 pm.

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