Shakespeare & Company, Paris
One of my adventurous searches was most difficult, but in time, I succeeded.
As I planned my frist trip to Paris, I came across the name of an interesting bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. In the middle of Paris this bookstore sold books written in the English language and it had an interesting history.
Evidently, the bookstore, originally opened by the son of George Sands, (I've just read contradictiory information, so will have to check it out and report back.) became a meeting place of great writers, including Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Anis Nin and many others.
Well according to the website for Shakespeare & Company, this book store was founded by George Whitman, (1913-2011) the son of Walter Whitman and Grace Bates and born in Orange, New Jersey. No connection to George Sands at all.
At this bookstore, writers and poets and artists were (and still are) offered a room for the night if they hadn't enough money for a hotel. Customers were invited for Afternoon Tea, if they happened to be browsing at that auspicious time.
I wanted to find this bookstore and though it took most of the day, going from one Metro Station to another and searching the streets of Paris in all directions, hitting at least five Arrondisments, I did find it.
What a great place it was too. The old American man who owned the store was a character. It was funny watching the young French cashiers patiently accepting the directions of their agitated boss.
George died in 2011 and his daughter, Sylvia, is running it just as her father would have. They have a variety of events offered so while in Paris take a look at what will be taking place during your visit and join in.
Open 11 am to midnight
Metro St. Michel
This photo was taken along the street as I searched for Paris' English language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company.
Shakespeare & Company is not a simple Library neither a normal bookstore - It is a mix of both and also a place where the owners live.
In the basement floor is the bookstore with a bit of everything in French and English languages. Shelves full of beautiful books.
In the first floor, you will find an uncommon library as it could be a house with the walls full of shelves full of books.
This place really called my attention and pushed me to go it - I do love books but also it has to be with those places that I normally found in my way, as the one in my Israel page called "The little Prince", similar kind of place.
We spent long time there taking photos, listening the music from the piano (at back side, just in the basement floor before the stairs), talking to owners, looking for books, very nice moments, truly memories!
* I also bought a book there: " Kafka on the shore" by Haruki Murakami ^-^
Shakespeare & Co. was founded in 1921. What most people don't know is that you can sleep there. Owner George Whitman (would he be family of Walt Whitman, I wonder?) invites guests to stay at his 'Tumbleweed hotel'. There are in fact around 8 beds in the bookshop, where you will sleep amongst the books. You can't book but must be invited by George. The only thing is: you must be writing a book. It's free but guests must do one hour of work each day (cleaning the floor, dusting books, small chores). Also, when the shop is open, you must be out of there.
It is said that the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed there too. It is said that sleeping in the Philosphy section gives the best dreams but the most coveted bed is the double bed in the Romantic section.
Some guests stay more than one night, the record is five years!
Go to the their website
Many people have heard of Shakespeare and Company, George Whitman's famous English bookshop near Notre-Dame. The original bookshop was founded by Sylvia Beach, an American lady from Princeton, and in the 1920's it was a meeting place for writers, artists, and (mainly) American ex-pats. The shop is probably best known for publishing James Joyce's Ulysees.
The site of the original Shakespeare and Company is more difficult to find. It's on Rue De l'Odean, in the 6th arrondissement, and there is a plaque on the wall, which my photo doesn't really pick up, commemorating the publication of Ulysees.
No.37 Rue de la Bucherie - 'Shakespeare and Co.'
If you love books, or even just like them, then this is the bookshop to go to. Out of all the places i went when i was in Paris, this was my favourite. Just as it says on the 'Paris Wall Newspaper' sign hanging outside, this quaint little shop really does have 'rooms like chapters in a novel'. Cross the idea of an enchanted little magical bookshop with dusty Parisian charm and 'Shakespeare and Co.' is what you get. You have to go!
Shakespeare might be the most famous English-language bookstore for publishing 'Ulyseus' back in the day and is well worth a visit, but book lovers might also visit the Village Voice. They not only have lots of small press editions, but a series of free readings from visiting writers such as David Sedaris. Location: 6 Rue Princess, 6th, 46 33 36 47
If you have nothing else to do one night, visit the night-open bookstore of Shakespeare&co on the left bank opposite the Notre Dame. I think it closes at midnight or so. The prices arent that good, but you can find a lot of great stuff and the atmosphere is great too!