I met a friend for coffee at the new Hoxton Hotel on the rue du Sentier in Paris’s rapidly gentrifying area between the rue du Faubourg Monmartre and the rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis. She was the fifth friend in as many days that I had either planned to meet or had run into by happy coincidence while working there—something I realized only later, after yet another friend, the sixth, stopped by my table. For years, I have done a lot of my writing at the Hotel Amour and another friendly hotel around the corner, Le Pigalle. But the Hoxton, which combines several Haussmannian apartment buildings around a very pleasant central courtyard and glassed-in enclosure, has become my favorite.
When you lack the regularity or stability of having an office to report to, working from home in the brave new age of YouTube, Twitter, and that most timeless of foes, human sloth, can be a daunting proposition. From at least the time of Balzac, there have always been cafés and coffeehouses (as well as libraries and other public spaces) to wander into and work from and, more recently, with the arrival of Starbucks, even in Paris, many of these establishments now provide free, hi-speed Internet access. But the right kind of hotel lobby-café transcends mere utility and dignifies the freelance endeavor with beauty and serendipity. A coffee and a smile from a familiar (but not overly so) server, a chance encounter with an acquaintance, as well as a comfortable, well-designed chair, table, and room in which to sit and work constitute an oasis of serenity amid the chaos of the gig economy that so many “knowledge-workers” now find ourselves thrust into.
I just wish I could expense the lunches.