When I walk by the corner cafe in the morning, a man with a white apron is sweeping the sidewalk, calling "Bonjour" to anyone who passes. A man in a plaid dress shirt and striped orange tie sits by himself with a newspaper and coffee. A woman in a black skirt has taken a table in the sun: she turns her face towards the warmth, a cigarette dangling from her hand. A younger woman, a bright scarf wrapped around her neck, hunches over a paperback book. Two older men set briefcases on the sidewalk as they choose a table.
As the sun gets higher, the cafe begins buzzing with conversation. Every little round table holds two or three people, the dishes on the tables clinking as hungry customers jostle everything to make it all fit. The elbows and knees of strangers brush with a murmured, "Pardon." Waiters wearing black and white weave through the tables with china bowls of salad, baguette sandwiches that hang provocatively over the edge of the plate, and glasses of wine that glow red in the sunlight.
By late afternoon, sun warms the sidewalk where the tiny tables cluster sleepily. A young man with a backpack stares at the people walking by, just inches from his table. Two women with shopping bags at their feet chat. A man fiddles with his cell phone while he eats ham and cheese on baguette.
As the shadows get longer, customers inch their chairs into patches of sun. Evenings in early March are still cool. The round little tables tilt under heavy plates of warm food, the ends of cigarettes glow, and the smell of garlic and onion wafts through the crowd. The cold night air begins pushing people into the cosy tables inside, where they can drink wine, talk with their friends, and stare out the big windows.