Carrefour Vavin, Paris, 6th (or is it 14th?) arrondissement.
The famous boulevard du Montparnasse is nearby, lined with iconic cafés and brasseries where memories of “les Années Folles” still fascinate visitors and locals in the know.
Ghosts of parties past have haunted the neighborhood since the Roaring Twenties. After Montmartre and before Saint Germain des Prés, they flocked here, artists, poets, political refugees and revolutionaries.
These cafés, these streets, were their playgrounds.
Le Dôme (the oldest establishment) faces la Rotonde and its corner “terrasse,” the perfect spot to see and be seen.
Further down the busy boulevard la Coupole and its spectacular Art Deco room faces le Sélect. A winning, four-aces hand.
We can’t forget la Closerie des Lilas, a former guinguette turned high-end restaurant that stands apart a few blocks away.
During my Parisian years, over the course of several decades, I have always been a Right Bank girl, but I’ve also said that the 14th arrondissement could have enticed me to move to “la Rive Gauche.” Of all these legendary cafés, le Sélect remains my go-to choice whenever I am in the neighborhood for breakfast or for lunch.
More intimate than its counterparts, le Sélect has multiple personalities and can accommodate any mood: One can sit “en terrasse” and watch the world go by or claim a table inside by the windows on chilly days. For business meetings or a quiet time away from chatty customers, the small salons in the back provide plenty of privacy.
Le Sélect is “dans son jus:” The decor and ambiance remain authentic without trying too hard. From the tiled floors to moleskin “banquettes” or wrought iron railings, it never fails to take us back in time, a time we never knew, but wish we had. At the very least, it reminds me I am in Paris, the “old Paris” that is fast disappearing in many corners of the French capital.
It is said “les habitués” (patrons) enjoy hanging out by the bar early in the morning before the entire world rushes by along the boulevard. I am not “une habituée” but I visit whenever I can.
Prices can be stiff, yet there’s always a way to enjoy coffee, tea, hot chocolate or a “plat du jour” (Special) without breaking the bank.
Did I mention service? Parisian, certainly, efficient, professional but with a refreshing friendliness from the staff (waiters wear proudly the traditional “garçon de café” attire) that never feels superficial.
I like it here, au Sélect.
Lucky me: My second home these days is the Montparnasse train station a few blocks away.
Lucky me, again: Several of the tours I’ll be leading for Rick Steves Europe this season start in a nearby street.
Guess where I will be reviewing notes and enjoying pre-tour apéros?
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