Last week I was in Paris and I'd like to share with you the Paris I love, a little bit hidden, not your usual monuments and touristic high points. Come with me to Shakespeare and Co., surely the most extraordinary bookstore in all of Paris and probably Europe.
Here it is, lying low and snug between two tall 19th century buildings along the river Seine (in the 5th arrondissement). Yet the bookstore is no doubt much older than its neighbors, just look at the beams climbing up between the two façades:
Moving closer, the bookstore is in the back, on the left and a neat little restaurant is up front:
Here it is at last, the splendid, cluttered façade of the Shakespeare bookstore:
Over the front door there's a reminder of George Whitman, a friend of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, but above all, the mythical founder of the bookstore (he founded it in 1951 and died in 2011):
Yes, "...the business of books is the business of life." I love that! And there's no bookstore anywhere that feels more like a temple dedicated to readers than this one.
Inside, the charm of old rickety stairs and bare stone walls:
The reading room with a view on the Seine: here you're allowed to read whatever you like but you must put the book back on the shelf when you leave:
There's a place to play chess:
Another for music:
And so much fantasy:
Yes, this is a bookstore I love!
Even their paper bags to carry your purchase are cute:
And of course, their trademark poster, a painted board on the façade:
This is a library with a personality, a brand, a mission in life: spread the love for books! And that's becoming an ever harder thing to do!
Because times for book stores are not really any happier in France than in the United States or anywhere else in the developed world: a famous Parisian bookstore, the "librairie del Duca" on the Boulevard des Italiens just closed its doors on 30 November. It had been created in 1952 by Cino del Duca, a mythical editor and publisher as well as film maker. His widow had set up a foundation to help artists (she died in 2004) but in spite of annual sales over €2 millions/year, the library didn't make it. Now it's finished, according to the Figaro (23 November) the plot it stands on will be taken over by the next door supermarket, a Monoprix that probably won't even sell books...
After we finished our tour in Shakespeare & Co. (I say we, my husband and I), spending the whole morning there, we went to the neat little restaurant next door that we had spotted walking in, Le Petit Chatelet. Cozy inside, with a working fireplace where they cook your meat:
Yes that's me in the mirror (looking very serious, sorry, I hadn't realized my camera had taken me in!). And the menu of course is classically hand-written on a blackboard:
We opted for a fish soup and it was lovely! Afterwards a nice walk along the Seine, stopping at a book stall:
You can see Notre Dame peeking behind him! And the Seine carries sometimes surprising boats (not just the fast ones for visitors), like this huge coal carrying barge:
The coal looks like warm black velvet...and what a beautiful river.
If you're in Paris, here are the addesses:
Bookstore Shakespeare & Co: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris, tel: 01 43 25 40 93
They have a neat website where they announce in a serendipitous manner all their upcoming events: http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/
Restaurant Le Petit Chatelet: 39 Rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris, France tel: 01 46 33 53 40. It's ranked #83 out of some 8500 restaurants in Paris by TripAdviser. The day we were there, there were only French clients, a good sign!
Please share in the comments your own experience of Shakespeare & Co or the restaurant Le Petit Chatelet if you went there, or tell us about your own favorite place in Paris!