when i first moved to paris, i moved into a completely re-renovated (what we would call brownstone) house. most of the "houses" in this building were actually apartments. this part used to be several businesses. my host family bought it and turned it (back into) a four-story dream house complete with spiraling staircases and a private garden. i wish you all could experience it.
when i arrived the children were still away for the summer as there was still work to be done on the house. the crew of workers would come and go, come and go, in and out, bonjour, a tout a l'heure. then one day i learned that they were going on breaks when they would go. i assumed they were running errands--like buying a different set of screws or something. no, i was informed that they would arrive, let's say, at 9, and by 9.30, they would go for a coffee. and then continue like this all day. quel vie.
i will say that billy was pretty cool. billy was, i guess you could say, boss of this hard-working crew. he was from algeria, with light -brown skin, dark hair, a rather commanding nose, and in a certain way, handsome. he always had something nice or interesting to converse about, and always fought with the portuguese femme de menage (maria-celeste, who i will always hold dear in my heart.) i loved it. the one time they did harmonize was when he told me i was having vertigo because my bed was facing the wrong direction. maria-celeste nodded in agreement. he definitely worked harder than most of his team, and even stayed late sometimes...like the time the father had billy stay with the kids while i went to carry a dead hare across town to be butchered. but that's another story.
i do love coffee and tea breaks. i think america would be a lot happier if they were mandatory. kind of like siestas...i'll take a large siesta and a small tea to go, please. extra pillows, crumpets on the side.