Most of us don’t go to France to speak English, right?
But George Whitman sure did, when he re-opened legendary English-language bookshop Shakespeare & Company in its current location in Paris in 1951. It’s the only bookshop of its kind in the City of Light, and its original incarnation has a history of being a meeting place and support system for Lost Generation authors living in Paris in the early part of the 20th century.
Now, it continues to host aspiring authors in exchange for their work in the shop, and is among Paris’s more famous landmarks.
And, being nerdy folk, guess where we made a beeline?! 😀
We’ve both read lists calling this place an “off-the-beaten-path” thing to see. But people literally queue up to explore this bookshop, so that puts it squarely ON the beaten path, guys. It seems crazy, right?
Boyfriend Perspective: While I may not enjoy reading Shakespeare (makes my head hurt with all that old-timey English), this place has some pretty cool history and is worth visiting to hear about it. As Meagan said above, the place was packed like a theme park ride. I chose to be a bump on a stump in the heat, instead of trying to wriggle my way through the sardines packed into that book shop.
But once you get inside, you realize this ain’t no Barnes & Noble! This is the twistiest, turniest, cramped-est excuse for a bookstore you’ve ever seen. But maybe that’s what lets it hang on to that fantastic old library smell – who knows?
Little, unique, bookish things
Had I had more time to peruse, I probably would have bought an actual book. But being herded through a cramped book store with tens of your closest friends isn’t terribly conducive. So. Instead, I picked up a deep green, protective book box with a gold leaf Shakespeare & Company logo on the front. Once we create an album of photos from our trips, we’ll use the box to house it. It’s also great for protecting your souvenirs on the return trip, or presenting souvenirs to family and friends.
The other thing to look out for lives right near the checkout counter. You’ll see a few small brown envelopes for €2. Outside, they have fun quotes. And, inside, they contain one or two famous poems typed up by volunteers on the typewriter that lives in a sweet little nook upstairs.
The café next door
The day we visited was HOT. Like, get me out of the sun and into some A/C hot. So, once I damply made it out of the book shop, we walked over to its attached café to rehydrate.
Boyfriend Perspective: Wear your summer clothes and good shoes, and bring plenty of water, for the day is hot and full of tourists. We were not prepared! Luckily, the cafe next to the book store had some amazing drinks to cool us down.
Have you ever had lemonade with basil in it?? If not, we both recommend it highly. It adds a level of refreshment you didn’t realize you were missing. And, on a hot day, it’s absolutely perfect. They also sell various baked goods, smoothies, and bottled drinks. You may have difficulty finding a place to sit, but it’s definitely worth a stop by.
What’s your favorite nerdy spot in Paris? Did we miss it? Let us know below! 🙂
Also published on Medium.