shakespeare and co

When we first set foot in Paris, it was hot, we were dragging our luggage, and we didn’t know exactly where our hotel was.  But I didn’t care.  My first impression of Paris as we stepped out of the train station, despite the stress that my parents felt, was untainted.  I took in the cyclists, and the cafes, and the lampposts, and the trees planted every so often, and the effortlessly elegant natives that crossed the street with us.

There are a lot of beautiful people in Paris.  It’s sort of unfair, how attractive they are.

We finally caught a cab, and I cobbled together a sentence in French from my crash course and knowledge of Spanish, much to the delight of our cabbie.

We wandered that day to the Louvre and down to Notre Dame.  I think we walked the whole way, since we hadn’t bought our Metro passes yet.  It was gorgeous, and I loved it, even though I was incredibly out of it.

This is where my favorite discovery came.  I ended up going here twice.  Shakespeare and Co, an English-language bookstore in the heart of Paris.  My professor had mentioned it to me before and it sounded fascinating – who wouldn’t want to visit a bookstore that famous expats of the 1920s had frequented? Seriously.  Just imagining all of them converging on that one city, creating, thinking, writing… Ugh.

(On a related note, I saw Midnight in Paris shortly after I got home… OH MY GOSH.  It was brilliant.  I actually threw a pillow across the room when T.S. Eliot popped up.  But I’m getting sidetracked…)

This bookstore.  It’s… it’s one of the most incredible places I’ve been.  And that sounds odd, having seen monuments and architecture and museums.  But I cannot even describe the atmosphere there.  For a book lover, it was absolutely mind-blowing.  Books were organized enough to be found but not enough to give it an atmosphere of sterility… The whole place was just breathing.  Everyone inside that store was there because they wanted to be, and nobody was in a rush.  A love for books just permeated the whole place.

I could have stayed there forever, and I mean that.  I really do.  My family had to drag me out of the shop.  Everything about it was perfect, and I’ve never been anywhere like it.  It’s almost entirely classics, and the atmosphere is… homey?  There are signs, and little sections you can visit.  Hanging above the stairs is a sign that reads “Be not inhospitible to strangers lest they be angels in disguise”.  They have a section called “BEAT” and one simply titled “LOST” for Joyce, Hemingway, and their whole generation.  There’s also a well in the floor labeled “FEED THE STARVING WRITERS” and a cell filled with poetry.  Did I mention the entire Shakespeare section?

The best part about it, though, was the way that they encouraged reading and, further, writing.  They fostered creativity in that spot.  Upstairs, they had two reading rooms, a chess board, a piano, a typewriter, and the kid’s section.  There are so many places where you can write, though.  By the typewriter and the YA section, you can just leave notes, scraps of paper, and bits of prose and poetry, tacking a little bit of yourself up on a Metro ticket or shoving your soul into a crack in the wall.  A mirror in the poetry section also urged you to leave your own poems.

It was beautiful, and alive.

And so began a new adventure, which was chronicled with just as much love and affection as the last.  More later, maybe.

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