Towards the end of last year I went to Paris. You know that because I've already told you about my reason for visiting: a bookshop. What I didn't tell you was that while I was there I also visited a bonus bookshop, the subject of this week's blog.
I didn't mention it before because they're two very different bookshops and I didn't want them to get mixed up. It felt right to leave some space between the two visits and write-ups so that each would be appreciated individually: one for being a small, local bookshop with a community feel, the other for its international fame and the romance that somehow comes with it.
A film is perhaps an odd first reference to a bookshop, but that brief glimpse inside is all I knew of Shakespeare and Company for many years. Next I read a book. Written by a former tumbleweed, it gave me a glimpse of life in the time of George and created the image of a magical world.
Finally, one bright autumn afternoon a friend and I left Notre Dame, crossed the Seine, wandered through a very small park and saw the sign of Shakespeare and Company peeking out.
The bookshop itself is as pictured in countless images all over the internet. The accompanying antiquarian bookshop* is also there. Finally – and actually the first thing spotted on the route I took – is the accompanying relatively new cafe and a welcome opportunity to grab a cold drink and recover from a busy day exploring.
Entering Shakespeare and Company is like walking into wonderland. A sign on the door asks visitors not to take photos and part of the bookshop's magic is definitely the journey of discovery as you explore the rabbit warren of rooms, meaning I'm reluctant to go into too much detail here but will say the nooks and crannies, writing cubby, random beds and countless other details are a joy to discover.
There were also people everywhere. In one room a girl typed away at a laptop, while in another two friends chatted on a bed, and everywhere browsers comfortably jostled for space. It's always a joy to see a busy bookshop and every sight and sound served as an additional reminder of the bookshop's motto: Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.
Shakespeare & Company
37 rue de la Bûcherie
Tel: 00 33 (0) 1 43 25 40 93
* The antiquarian bookshop was closed at the time of my visit, I consider this an excellent excuse to return (not that I needed one).