August 10, 2010

Guest Blog: Danielle from 'Sesquipedalian'

Hello everyone!

Since Maya is presently out gallivanting on fabulous adventures, I thought it seemed appropriate to write about travel as well. Recently, I was able to spend three weeks in France (all over) and England (mainly London area). In both places, I was able to partake in one of my favorite tourist activities-- scouting the local English bookstores. There are a million different things I could write about but instead I'm going to focus on one particular site-- a bookstore. Shocking, I know.

The first time I visited France in 2006, I stumbled across Shakespeare and Company Bookstore across from Notre Dame in Paris, completely by accident. Upon my second trip this summer, it was the first place I wanted to revisit, as well as the one I remembered the most. My first thoughts upon seeing the exterior are best described as mouth gaping awesomeness. It is the kind of store that makes you believe you have accidentally stumbled into Heaven. Pictures are definitely the best way of describing this:

the first cashier desk, with lovely books

a view of the main store area, with the wishing well in the center

the second cashier desk, and of course.. books

the store was filled with rich colors

an example of the vintage artifacts in the shop

the shop's motto

one of the beds and the lovely piano

lovely boxes of lavender, just strewn about

the classic old fashioned typewriter in the writing nook

a very creaky and narrow staircase-- good fun!

the shop made me just a little bit happy
Now that you've seen just how special Shakespeare and Co. is, you can read the official history here if you so desire. This, however, is my condensed and specialized version of the story.

The shop was founded by an American named George Whitman in 1951, with the motto of "BE NOT INHOSPITABLE TO STRANGERS LEST THEY BE ANGELS IN DISGUISE." The most exciting part of this is that he would let friends and strangers alike stay the night in the beds he conveniently placed throughout the shop (you can see one of them in the pictures above). The only conditions were that they made their beds in the morning, helped around the shop, and read a book a day. On Saturdays, he would make pancakes. To this day, you can still make an appointment to stay the night in the shop. The book selection is also superb, branching nearly every subject of interest you could possibly have-- not an easy task for a shop this small. As if that were not charm enough, the random assortment of eclectic and whimsical items such as a wishing well where coins of all nationalities are thrown, street signs, attached moving ladders similar to Beauty and the Beast style, an abundance of well loved armchairs, reading rooms, lavender, picturesque views of the Seine river, a playable piano, and an authentic old fashioned typewriter in perfect working condition are all characteristic of the shop and its history. In the writing nook, visitors write and leave little notes expressing their joy in stumbling across the shop, their dreams and aspirations, and sometimes even a secret or two. It was incredibly inspiring to be sitting where you know thousands have come before you, breathing in the magic of a classically wonderful bookshop.

In closing, I can express only two things more. First, is that you absolutely must visit this shop if ever you find yourself in Paris. It's very easy to find-- directly across the river from Notre Dame Cathedral. Secondly, always keep an eye out for the hidden bookshops you might see along your adventures. They're usually the most magical treasures.

Happy reading!


Julia said...

I'll be visiting Paris myself in October( I'll have to check it out.

Erin said...

Oh my goose I want to go there so so badly.

Jessie Carty said...

so wanted to go there when I was in Paris back in 2007 but we were tired and I lost the address while we werecwanderibg that day!! :(

Holly said...

But the most important there a waiting list for sleeping there?

Danielle said...

Holly- I think you have to check with the people who work there, but I doubt it's very long. :)