I don’t know why I remember it this way, but years ago, on the Rue de Bouchers in Brussels, I recall the quality of light at dusk with all the little cafe lights strung between the buildings. I think I’m a sucker for a cliche because when I look at pictures of Beenhouwersstraat, there are no such lights to be seen. But in my head, it’s a lovely image, probably cobbled together from the tourist memories of many great meals.
There is nothing wrong with garden-variety twinkle lights, but somehow, they just don’t compare to the romance of big bulbs. How gorgeous do they make the scene below (although admittedly, a picture’s appeal is largely to do with who’s in it and that is one beautiful bride wearing one smashing frock):
I think that you get more refinement with cafe bulbs than you do with twinkle lights, which can fall victim to a sort of college-dorm-room sort of vibe. The other advantage of cafe lights is that while I would argue that twinkle lights are much better en masse, you can get by with just a couple strands of cafe lights. Plus, as we found when we cleaned up our backyard–which previously had no lighting to speak of (sitting at the table was akin to sitting around a dying campfire)–one string of incandescent cafe bulbs was enough not only to see, but cast everyone in cinema-romantic light:
That’s not daytime or dusk. That is straight-up nighttime–we do get minimal help from the lights being on in our apartment, but honestly, the cafe string really is that bright. We bought ours from christmaslights.com. Even though it’s less green (and who are we kidding, here–I board a plane like, 6 times a year; my carbon footprint is the size of Canada), I strongly recommend incandescent over LED, the latter of which are white and institutional. And if you buy a string, I also highly recommend you spring for a set of replacement bulbs. The bulbs are easy to swap out and trust me, you’ll be doing that fairly often. Nature of the beast.