Paris Redux

17 August, 2010

So I went to Paris for four days last week with my family, something we do every few years. My parents met in Paris so it’s their favourite city in the world. We went in August this year so it was nice and empty except for tourists dotted here and there. But compared to London, there was enough breathing and walking space and we were able to get a table in any café and bistro we walked into. Nice one!

We each drew up a list of places we wanted to visit and of course, you’ve guessed mine: the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. Last time we arrived just at closing time and were unable to have a look, so this time, after a breakfast of tartines, croissants and café au lait while taking in the gorgeous view of Notre Dame, we trotted off to the famous secondhand bookshop bright and early. We spent a good hour there marvelling at the decor, the illustrations along the staircase by one of my favourite illustrators and writers Badaude and trying to figure out the sleeping arrangements of the tumbleweeds (aspiring writers who come to Paris in search of their muse and kip over at Shakespeare & Co in exchange for working in the shop and reading a book a day).

It’s a beautiful, cosy and welcoming place with lots of very interesting nooks and crannies filled with books. Lovely. Lucky for me I was born into a family of booklovers, but we had places to go and see, so I left with a copy of the poster (illustrated by Badaude again) of the biannual literary festival Festival and Co (where events are free!) which I sadly missed this year and also a copy of Shakespeare and Company’s literary journal, The Paris Magazine.

We stayed in a lovely hotel near the Odéon and because it’s very close to the Sorbonne and the University of Paris Medical Faculty, the streets were teaming with small bookshops from medical to architectural. Near our hotel we found two other English secondhand bookshops: The San Francisco Book Company and the The Berkeley Books of Paris! I’d heard of them but didn’t think I’d stumble across them.

And of course, how could we overlook my father’s favourite bookshop when he was a student there all those years ago, Gibert Jeune next to the Metro Saint Michel, with it’s iconic yellow signs.

We also had our after dinner coffees at a wonderful literary café, les éditeurs with book-lined walls and comfy red leather chairs:

I think I now understand why my parents are always going on about the Quartier Latin and Boulevard Saint Michel. Naturally we left Paris with a new nickname for my dad: Boule Miche! Vive la France and May 1968!

~  ♦  ~  ♦  ~  ♦  ~  ♦  ~  ♦  ~

On a different note, have you all had a chance to visit the BBC Archive – In Their Own Words: British Novelists site? Interviews galore! I’ll be spending the next few weeks with my ears glued to the screen.

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21 Responses to “Paris Redux”

  1. gaskella Says:

    I’ve been to Paris many times, but never made it into Shakespeare & Co or the other bookshops. A good excuse to go again perhaps. Sounds like you had a wonderful time.

  2. winstonsdad Says:

    lovely tour only breifly one visited shakespeare many years ago ,love paris wan t have a longer visit with my wife ,all the best stu

  3. amymckie Says:

    I’m jealous of all the bookstores! Shakespeare & Co is a wonderful store. Glad you had a good time!

  4. Bellezza Says:

    I’ve been to Paris many times in my life, but not to the first bookstore you posted. I enjoyed the pictures so much! Especially charming is the little typewriter corner with lights strung above it; I’m sick of the commercialism of everything fancy and perfect where I live. They think it’s perfect I should say, but there’s no charm whatsoever. This was a very delightful post, and started my day off just right.

    • chasing bawa Says:

      Totally with you regarding the excess of commercialised space. Shakespeare & Co was so charming because it had so much character. You can just imagine someone sitting in front of that typewriter and typing their novel:)

  5. Mystica Says:

    It sounds a wonderful break.

  6. ashleylharnett Says:

    Gorgeous bookshops. I love looking at pictures of other people’s shelves and shops.

    http://www.ashleyharnett.com

  7. kayoko Says:

    Shakespeare is the bookshop that was shot in BEFORE SUNSET, no? Looks familiar.

    I haven’t been to Paris in 10 years. I think it’s time for a little visit.

    How did your parents meet? Quartier Latin… 1968… sounds so romantic!

    • chasing bawa Says:

      That’s right! Love those films. My parents were both studying in Paris (Dad did a geography PhD at the Sorbonne and Mum did art as all artists had to do their time in Paris). Romantic, right? No wonder they love Paris. May 1968 was the student revolt in Paris which, although a failure, managed to drastically change the French government.

  8. Nymeth Says:

    Thank you for the photos and virtual tour! I’m hoping to finally make it to Paris either this fall or something next year, and I’ll keep all those lovely bookshops in mind.

  9. chasing bawa Says:

    Thanks everyone! You all MUST visit Paris and if you do, it would be a crime if you didn’t go and see Shakespeare & Co yourself. I guarantee you’d all love it!

  10. Melody Says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip with us! I’d love to visit Paris one day!! 🙂

  11. novelinsights Says:

    Oh if I go to Paris again I WANT to go there! What a wonderful looking bookshop. That blue velvet chair looks so comfortable, I want to jump into the picture and curl up with a good book.

    Great pictures!

  12. Lydia Says:

    Lucky you! I’ve never been to Paris, though it’s been on my “to do” list for quite some time. Those little shops look amazing. It makes me want to wander the isles and flip through all those books!

  13. Simon T Says:

    Shakespeare & Co is brilliant, isn’t it? I didn’t know the others you mentioned, though, and I must get to them next time I visit Paris, because S & Co was better for its ambiance etc. than for secondhand buying, since you aren’t allowed to buy any of the books upstairs!

  14. Tamara Says:

    Merci! thanks for the little window into the latin quatier this morning – just what I needed. It’s just aamazing what a little bit of Paris in Springtime can do for a girls mood. I’m planning my trip and these bookshops are on my list…

  15. itoeri Says:

    love the pics! shakes..&co looks fantastic inside – perfect corners here and there.
    loved the movie too.

  16. Mae Says:

    How very romantic! Your parents meeting in Paris and taking their children there years later. Shakespeare and co. looks amazing and I’m itching to visit. I would have thought August would be packed with tourists.

    • chasing bawa Says:

      There are lots of tourists, but because there aren’t many Parisians, most places felt relatively empty (unlike London where it is permanently busy). So it’s a nice time to visit!

  17. Arti Says:

    I’ve just come back from Paris not too long ago and yes, like you, have paid my visit to the legendary S & Co. It’s no. 1 on my to-see list. Just posted on it. You’ve a nice blog here and some book bloggers I recognize. WIll definitely stop by again!


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