“What’s going on inside … why do I have to walk in the street instead of on the sidewalk?”
This was the question from a pedestrian on Sunday afternoon as she tried to avoid a large crowd and a troop of police officers in front of a café on the boulevard Saint-Germain. The reason for the throng was that former French president Jacques Chirac was inside La Rhumerie café signing copies of the second volume of his autobiography.
The 77-year-old Chirac is a frequent patron of the café (known for its rum-based cocktails and its Caribbean cuisine), and manager Dominique Herenguel said she was delighted when the politician decided he would autograph his book there.
“It’s wonderful that he has chosen to give us this honor,” she said.
Chirac seemed relaxed as he chatted with admirers of all ages. At one point, a couple clamored for him to hug their baby, and he smilingly complied as the cameras rolled. He later spent time talking to a young boy who appeared thrilled by the attention.
Between autographs, Chirac paused to sip a frothy white cocktail, while his security staff tried to keep journalists and photo-hunters from getting too close in the packed cafe.
Despite all the excitement, some regular diners continued nibbling on their salt-fish fritters and drinking their exotique punch, seemingly oblivious to the hoopla.
La Rhumerie, established in 1932, is an institution in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. It is located a few steps from the landmark church and from similarly famous cafés such as Les Deux Magots. The owners try to keep its profile high with literary spectacles, art exhibitions, and other cultural events.
As Chirac signed copies of his book, he was flanked by the colorful canvases of Nathalie Lemaître, a French artist who has held annual exhibitions at La Rhumerie for the past five years. Her current show runs until July 11 – something to catch if you missed Chirac.
We wish to thank A. D. McKenzie for her contribution to the Paris Insights blog.