Outdoor Dining: a Delightful Part of Paris Night Life.

I strolled around the area surrounding my little hotel here in Paris last evening, looking for a likely place to have dinner. There are lots of options. The closest one is literally a few feet from our front door, but there are dozens more within just a few blocks, and all of them were doing a booming business. Customers laughing and chatting filled all of the tables both inside and outside on the sidewalk.

(Incidentally, outside dining is a wonderful idea and should be more common in the U.S., particularly in Hawaii. Yes, I know the restaurant owner is making money by occupying part of the public sidewalk, but it’s a win-win-win, isn’t it? The restaurant owner gets more tables, which generate more income, which means he pays more taxes, and he hires more staff which helps the local economy, and his patrons have a more enjoyable dining experience. Where’s the downside in all that?)

Anyway, last night was a Friday, the start of le weekend here, which probably accounts for the fact that this whole part of the city was full of people, all dining out. My completely unscientific observation said that at least half of the people sipping coffee or having a glass of wine or nibbling a sandwich were in their 30s … or younger.

I had dinner last evening at brasserie just around the corner on Boulevard Haussmann, a major thoroughfare in this part of Paris. With a what-the-hell-it’s-my-last-night-in-Paris attitude, I ordered onion soup, half a small roasted chicken, which came with french fries, and a half carafe of chablis. Dessert was creme brûlée, and I topped it all off with a double espresso. It was plenty; it was good (but not great); and the ambience was just right.

The bill came to 70.50 euros … and that’s 89 bucks, folks!  I should note here that in France, the tip is included in your bill … in this case, 13-percent or about ten dollars.

Anyway, looking around me last night at all those young people having such a good time and clearing so comfortable in these surroundings, I wondered: How the hell can they afford this? 

I asked my waitress, Sophie — a cheerful, efficient woman of maybe 45, with red hair (and by that I mean really red). She shrugged, and said a lot of these people are single and share small, inexpensive apartments. And then she said, quite matter-of-factly, they don’t own cars. 

Bingo! No car payments … no parking (or parking tickets) to pay for …  no gas to buy … no car insurance. 

That’s how they do it … by not spending a lot on housing and transportation, they have the money for regular socializing with friends over a nice meal with a glass or two of wine. And, wherever the mood or the need occurs, they can go anywhere in the City of Light or anywhere in this entire country conveniently and inexpensively by public transportation.

How’s that for a concept?

And now, au revoir Paris, I’m off to the airport. Next stop: New York.