When Hemmingway puffs one of his cuban cigars chatting with Ezra Pound and the silhouette of Scott Fitzgerald scribbling on his notes, appears in the smoke, you are thrown back to an iconic time in bohemian Paris. The Latin Quarter in Paris is my favourite part of the city and a renowned bookstore here has the most claim to fame. Shakespeare and Company is one of the finest english language bookstores and is truly an exceptional little part in the heart of the left bank of the city.
The Latin Quarter is so called because of the time when this part of Paris housed the students of its time and most spoke Latin. In this intellectual part of Paris, it was a haven for American expat writers to find inspiration here. Today, this part of France is the quintessential image of Paris that is etched in every romantic’s mind – labyrinths of cobblestone pathways housing vibrant cafés and bistros serving the delicacies of the world. A patient walker is bound to find the finest of macrons and the perfect café creme here.
For the literary thirsty ones though, the aforementioned bookstore is a valhalla. On a cool autumn day, I spotted the lovely bookstore housed on Rue de la Bücherie. The bookstore is remodeled after the original one was gutted in a fire. Founded some time in the 1920’s, the bookstore still stands strong.
The most delightful aspect of the bookstore is the layout itself. Stepping into the bookstore was like turning the clock back as I walked into an alcove with further nooks and crannies. Stacks of books were layered one above the other in a neat fashion while yet another stack leaned over me in the cutest of cubby holes. If this weren’t enough, there is a staircase leading to another section that had a reading session going on. It was amazing to say the least, as we all seated ourselves around an emerging writer reading out a translation of his Italian work. Before I could satiate myself with the books, I heard wonderful notes from a piano being played. A random booklover played pianist for a day as we revelled in a brilliant impromptu piano concert for an hour while a few of us made ourselves comfortable around him. Occasionally Aggie the cat makes his appearance. Seated on a worn out sofa amidst the scent of old books, listening to a classical concert of piano and a cat cozying itself in the little nook of a bookshelf, I cannot paint a more romantic setting.
A cafe next to the bookstore is quite inviting as one can sit just across the view of the Notre Dame cathedral of the hunchback fame, across the Seine river. The bookstore to this day encourages up and coming artists by providing free beds in its store. This is a remarkable effort that goes a long way into giving this store the iconic status that it has.
The next time you are in Paris, please have this in your itinerary. You don’t have to necessarily like books to enjoy simplicity.
PS: I apologize for the bad pictures here. I didn’t really go to the bookstore aiming to photograph it! On a side note, the inside is a zillion times more charming than the outside, but photography is not permitted inside. Take my word for it 🙂