Monday, November 09, 2009

Outdoor cafes

Streets, and roads (“streets” for short) are places of public life everywhere. Streets have many functions. The main function is connecting places. That’s way they are there. Streets connect places that are important for people for one reason or another, because they live there or work there, because these places have special functions (theatres, shops, railway stations), and so on. In order to go from one such a place to another one you follow the streets that connect them, walking, by bike, by car or how you like. However, streets have many other functions as well. Some people work there like policemen or street sweepers. Other people practice sports along the roads, like running or cycling. Some people use streets for meeting other people, for example by making an appointment at a crossing or on a square with another person or by parading along the streets. Sometimes people use streets for making their opinion public, like in demonstrations. People can use streets also as an extension of private life. On warm summer evenings it can happen in the Netherlands for instance that people put their chairs outdoors on the street sides, for talking with their neighbours, for reading the newspaper, and the like, or for just sitting there. In other countries with a warmer climate a big part of private life takes place in the streets. Streets have other functions as well.
What we often find along streets are outdoor cafes. In most cases, they are (semi-)public extensions of the semi-public life that takes place in the cafes and restaurants along the streets, mainly in the centres of towns and villages, but not only there. I think that outdoor cafes are a very interesting aspect of public and semi-public life along the streets. In a certain sense they reflect local society, since they are often reflections of the life that takes place around the sites where they are. The furnishings are often adapted to the environment or purpose. An outdoor cafe of a highway restaurant is different from an outdoor cafe in a town centre. In some outdoor cafes you find mainly local people, looking for contact with other locals. In other ones you find tourists, stopping for a short rest, a drink and maybe a simple meal. Other ones are for casual passers-by or shopping people looking for a short break. Because they are often so characteristic, I find it interesting to make photos of them (see
One typical photo of such an outdoor cafe is the one here in my blog. It shows an outdoor café on an unpaved surface. Parked cars on the other side of the road. People with race bikes and with a racing outfit standing by or sitting down. In the left upper corner you can just see that it is a place high in the mountains. All this limits the place where the picture can have been taken. It could be in Switzerland, Austria, or Spain, if it is in Europe, or, where it actually has been taken, in France. It is on the Col du Tourmalet, a mountain pass in the French Pyrenees. This col is one of the most famous cols of the Tour de France cycle race, and that’s why it attracts many bike tourists.


Luzdeana said...

Hi, Henk!
You've brought me back to my childhood. When I was a little girl, I used to play with my friends for hours in the streets. We used to take our dolls and things with us and play in the front gardens in the long sunny mornings. It was so enjoyable. Now things have changed a lot: it's almost impossible for my daughters to imagine something like that. Staying in the streets is no longer that safe.
And in the evenings, my parents also used to take some chairs outside and have conversation with our neighbours... you've brought back those sweet memories.
What a lovely place in the pic.
Have a nice week!

HbdW said...

Hello Diana,
Thank you for your reaction. Nice that I brought your youth back into your mind. When I was a child it happened often that people spent warm summer evenings in front of their houses, outdoors. Here and there it still happens, but not so much anymore as in the past. I think that it is not because the streets are not safe any longer (in residential quarters that is not such a problem) but because people are different today. But, as said, it still happens here and there.
Yes, it is a nice place there on the Col du Tourmalet, but rather busy because of all the cyclists :)
Best wishes,