Saturday, October 13, 2012

Shakespeare and Company - Paris, France

I don't have a book to review this week because I spent the last couple of weeks in France. It was my first trip to Europe, so my wife and I were too caught up in exploring to spend much time reading.  Instead this entry is about one afternoon when Toni and I decided to look for Shakespeare and Company, a fairly famous bookstore for anglophiles in Paris – all the books are in English.

It was a cloudy day, cool enough to wear jackets, which was good for walking and also meant I had pockets. I had a compact umbrella in one of those pockets and Toni had one in her purse.

We had just toured Notre Dame and had crossed the Seine on a bridge (Pont de l'Archeveche) that was east of the famous cathedral. That was a mistake because walking along that road brought us to the south of the street we were looking for. We turned left instead of right and moved further away from the bookstore.

That's when the rain came (our only rain during our vacation). It poured. The umbrellas helped, but we still had to find shelter. We ducked into a parking lot and waited until the rain lightened up. During that break we went over the map we had and determined that we were going the wrong way. When we got out to the street we asked for directions. Toni speaks enough French to get by and we found that the French people were always happy to help us when they could. Unfortunately, a bookstore that carries only English books was a landmark that the French speaking people we stopped didn't know. We finally found Rue de la Bucherie, the street where Shakespeare and Company was supposed to be. We walked it end to end and couldn't find the store. We were about to head back to the metro, but I decided to try one more time. Toni told me how to say “Where is?” and I already knew how to say “Please” and “Thank you,” so I stepped into a restaurant and asked again. A waiter there knew the store and explained to Toni that a park (Square Rene Viviani) broke the street in two. When we went to the other part of Rue de la Bucherie the bookstore was there.

Shakespeare and Company is a two story, narrow store jammed with books. The aisles and the staircase are tiny. There's a reading room upstairs and some seats out front. It has great atmosphere and a very interesting collection of customers. It was worth searching for. We didn't take any pictures, but here are a couple I found on the web.

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