Shakespeare and Company.
37 rue de la Bûcherie. Paris, France.
Shakespeare and Company is an Independent Bookstore in Paris. From the moment that Helen commented that I should visit there while in Paris, I knew that this was one of the destinations on my “must see” list.
As I mentioned, after our visit to Sacré Cœur, we decided to head to Shakespeare and Company. Somehow I managed to navigate us getting off at the wrong Metro Station. I’m still not sure how that happened as Google and Apple maps were very reliable during our travels. Since I would need a few minutes to gather our bearings and somebody needed to use the bathroom (this is an inevitable, frequent occurrence when traveling in a party of 5), we decided to head into a nearby restaurant for lunch.
We were somewhat surprised by the service or lack thereof. This is also the restaurant where I obviously did not understand what they meant on the sauce description. When it said egg, it wasn’t part of the sauce. It was an actual raw egg, placed on top of the pasta. I ate around it the best I could and ate whatever leftovers the teens still had on their plates.
As we began our journey toward Shakespeare and Company, we discovered that while we had felt confused by where we exited the Metro, we were in fact very close to the Louvre.
It occurred to us at that point that we were probably eating at a touristy restaurant, which would explain the high prices combined with a lack of service. Next time I visit Paris I will actually look at Yelp reviews and try to find restaurants loved by Parisians. I’ve specifically not shared certain names of the places in which we ate because I don’t like to add to negativity, but they were ranked in the lower third of reviews.
Panorama of the Louvre.
Since we were passing by the Louvre, I decided to experiment with capturing a panorama. Of course, that would be the moment that vehicles would pass through!
A second try was much more successful and we then continued on our way toward Shakespeare and Company.
If I had been a person with a pre-planned itinerary, we would have visited the bookstore on the day that we visited Notre-Dame. It is located on the Left Bank opposite Notre-Dame.
Shakespeare and Company was founded in 1951 by the American, George Whitman.
The building it’s housed in was constructed in the 17th Century and was originally a monastery.
When the bookstore first opened it was called Le Mistral. Whitman changed it to its present name in April of 1964, on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth.
He did this in honor of a bookseller he admired, Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919. Her bookstore had been a gathering place for expat writers at that time…such as Hemingway and Eliot.
He endeavored to carry on that spirit. Allen Ginsberg and Anaïs Nin are just a few of the literary expats who gathered here.
Shakespeare and Company is considered one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world.
An estimated 30,000 aspiring writers have bunked at Shakespeare and Company.
I knew that I had to walk along the floors, smell the scent of old paper, and touch the worn bindings of the old books.
So after capturing some of the doors for my Thursday Door friends, I entered.
The hubby and teens decided to rest their weary feet and sit outside while I perused the bookstore.
Inside, there are new books as well as old.
They request that no photos be taken inside to respect the privacy of the patrons. As much as there were places inside that I would have loved to photograph, I chose to respect their request.
A google image search of the staircase will show you one such photo that I was tempted to take.
Up the Staircase.
It spoke to me because upon it was written so much of what I believe to be true.
I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being. -Hafiz
The red stairs are well worn.
I wonder how many feet have walked up that stairwell.
I pause and look at things pinned here and there… and words…everywhere are words.
And I ponder the magnitude of how many written words are contained in this space.
As I meander about the rooms at the tops of the stairs, my mind travels to the writers who sat here pouring out their thoughts.
I run my hand along the spaces.
If there is any magic here, I want it to travel through my fingertips.
I want it to take residence in my brain and then find its way back out and through my fingertips into written words.
However, I am conscientious of the fact that I have left my family waiting for me. I know they are tired and we still want to see the Eiffel Tower from its base.
I want to stay here and soak up this magic.
To breathe in the creativity.
But I must go.
I leave, but I know that I will return again someday.
That I walk through those green doors.
And once again, I slowly ascend those stairs, and this time I will sit upon the chairs.
I will breathe deeply in that creative space.
And I will think on those whose written words have made it from their fingertips and on those whose words are still waiting to be written.
Let your light shine!
23 thoughts on “Shakespeare and Company”
I’ve been there! In the year or two before we had children we visited Paris a couple of times on the train, and spent days exploring on foot. I remember that bookshop so well. Another bookshop “of note” I’ve visited is City Lights bookstore in San Francisco – where Kerouac and friends used to hang around 🙂
Wasn’t that bookshop amazing!! I’ve not been to San Francisco, but I’ll have to that bookstore in mind if I ever make it there! 🙂
Wonderful post, Amy. What a fabulous bookstore.
Thank you Jean. It really was quite wonderful!
What an amazingly cool bookstore! Wow! I’d love to spend a day there! 🙂
It was such a cool bookstore! 🙂
Isn’t it a wonderful book shop! I loved it. It was on my list for my first trip there.
Your pano is lovely!
Thanks Deborah! It was an amazing bookstore. I was in awe of its history as well as just in love with pages and pages of words. 🙂
This is a place I hope to see 🙂
Taking mental notes on the dining experiences, Amy, thanks.
I hope you get to see it Joey.
I’d definitely check reviews of restaurants and have some type of idea of where to go. We were not the type to eat at places that required reservations. It was hard enough to agree on a time when all 5 of us were hungry enough to eat! 🙂 I am not a fan of raw eggs. It was probably a fancy dish. lol.
First place i visited when i first went to Paris.
It was a lovely place to visit! I hope I get get to return there again someday.
It was a great place to hang out in Paris, and look for books in the old days when books in English were hard to find in Paris. It seems it is still a nice place to hang out. Thanks for the post.
I’m glad that you enjoyed it. It was a wonderful place to visit. I imagine it would be quite the gathering place of people looking for books in English at a time when they were hard to find in Paris. I remember looking at the wonderful old books in the bouquiniste stalls along the Seine and wishing that I could read French.
Well it’s on my list now too – thank you very much 😀
I’ll happily give up an hour or two of my vacation time in a used book store in ANY city. For one thing I just love the smell of these places, but the unexpected treasures that can be found always make it worth a detour. Did you find anything of interest while you were there?
I wish I’d had that kind of time to devote. …if not for teenagers. But really, everyone was great when I came out and were surprised that I didn’t spend longer. Next time! I mostly took in the sights and smells. I thought about purchasing a book of poems. It was new though. In the end, I wanted more time to make a choice, so I left with only my memories. 🙂
By coincidence there is also a Shakespeare and Company in Vienna. I wonder are they related?
This made me curious, so I found this article… (the former owner was inspired during a visit to the one in Paris)
Oh that is interesting