Starbucks franchise opened across the street from where we live. I saw the green sign go up but didn't think much about it; I am used to going to the café which is situated closer to my flat. While it isn't the most elegant of cafés--indeed, it's got a real 70's architecture thing going on--they know me there and it's also a tabac so I can pick up gum or a card for the parking meter at the same time I down an espresso.
When Starbucks opened their flagship shop at the Opéra in 2002, I made a decision that I would never spend a euro in their place. Another example of American Imperialism! Who wants to drink coffee in a paper container? And the prices! More and more Starbucks shingles began appearing in Paris and I stubbornly maintained my stance.
But a couple of weeks ago I stepped into this new Starbucks. Amélie and her friends use it as a place to study after class and I wanted to check it out. What a pleasant shop! Instead of the tightly-packed tables of my downstairs place, Starbucks had these comfortable easy chairs, all spread out like in a living room. Everything was clean and the paint job was very tasteful; no mirrors with beer ads on them or big screen TV on the walls.
I've been back several times since, which makes me wonder if I'm cheating myself out of the European experience. I mean it is total Americana in this place--they even have carrot cake and low-fat muffins. (The latter an oxymoron.) Of course the service is still French; they can never get my order correct and it takes them hours to make my skim milk decaf latté, but if you can get past the personnel, you could pretend you are in Marin County (except that I haven't double-parked my giant SUV outside the door of the place and I never go in wearing lycra running shorts). While it will never replace the café experience--Starbucks is too sanitized to feel European--I have the feeling that I'll be crossing the street again tomorrow for our hit of Americana. And rather than feel guilty, I'll just tell myself that it is all part of keeping my children's alter-culture topped up.