Last summer I went to Paris. I won’t wax eloquent about the cathedrals and the croissants and the fashion, because I’m sure you’ve heard all that.
But let me tell you about my favorite part of Paris. My favorite part is the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, a tiny, cramped, two-story old-school bookstore crammed to the brim with the best book selections on the face of the Earth.
The best part for some of us foreigners: all of the books are in English. Check out their charming website!
It took us forever to find it. We walked all over the bank with the thought that it would be there any minute, but it was only through a chance sighting on my part that we found it on our way back to our rented apartment. And later, when I set out to find it on my own, it must have taken me at least an hour to find it again (although to be fair, my inner compass says North is South and South is North). It’s hidden away, but that adds to its charm. It’s an unexpected surprise that finds you itself, instead of you finding it.
Although the shop is tiny, I could have spent hours there. The shop has old-world character and has the best old-book smell one can imagine, even though many of its books are new. Part of the experience also involves the awkward dance to get around fellow bookstore browsers in the packed store. And each book you buy gets the certified Shakespeare and Co. stamp.
The rumor is that Shakespeare and Co. was legendary in the 1920s, and one could find Pound, Hemingway, or other famous writers lurking there. I’ve also heard that the owner lets writers stay there for free in return for a few chores.
If only I spoke fluent French; I would work there in a heartbeat. Ah, well. Maybe next time I go to Paris I’ll claim a spot as a writer and sleep surrounded by books.