July 17, 2014

Airstream and the Sidewalk Cafe

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It’s 1956. You’re with the Airstream Wally Byam Caravan in Europe – Paris, France, to be precise.

Picture this: you stroll down the Champs Elysées in Paris. You stop at a small bistro, pull out a chair, sit down, and order an aperitif. As a nouveau Parisian, you sip your beverage and eye the public strolling by. This is your introduction to the casual enjoyment, which you take back to the campsite.

So the other Airstreamers make the Sidewalk Café one of their daily must-do’s.

This may not be true of every good thing in life, but the daily routine still occurs at Airstream Caravan Club rallies and other events. A more complete explanation is included below.

Today, we enjoy the Happy Hour. That special time in the afternoon when we relax, before dinner, and meet with other Caravanners and Airstreamers.

In Airstream’s The Caravanner, dated August 1957, the Sidewalk Café was explained. Following is their story, slightly modified and shortened.

It started in Paris.

Our special brand of Wally Byam Caravan “sidewalk café” began while the 1956 European Caravan was in Paris. Our cosmopolitan Caravanners really went for the world famous outdoor cafés you have seen in the movies! They didn’t want to miss the important decisions and announcements made each day, so they decided to hold their meeting times around enjoying the Paris sidewalk cafés.

Since Caravanners are particularly smart at figuring out how to do all the things they want to do, someone dreamed up the idea that the Caravan should have its own sidewalk café! There, Caravanners could get together and have their “meeting time” while still enjoying what they loved about the outdoor cafés.

So, to create their own, each trailer group brought its own table and chairs to a central spot and each group brought its own refreshments. This combination of social hour and business meeting was so successful on the 1958 European Caravan that we’ve continued it on all Caravans since then.

The first Caravan sidewalk café was located in the Bois de Boulounge, the “Central Park” of Paris, and continued in the other countries of Europe. The next cafe-meeting times were held in Cuba the following winter, and again in Mexico. This spring, the first American caravan followed the custom and set up its tables in Louisville during Derby week and at Indianapolis, where they attended the 500-mile race.

So whether you serve yourself wine in Paris, Cuba libra in Havana, Cervesa in Mexico, Mint Juleps at the Derby, or Coca-Cola anywhere in the world, there isn’t a more friendly atmosphere to be found than at a Wally Byam Caravan “sidewalk café.”

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