“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” Oscar Wilde (On the bags from Shakespeare and Company)
Shakespeare and Co.
Deanna and I went to this legendary English-language bookstore on a mission. We wanted to buy the book of exceptional essays by David Downie called “Paris, Paris” for Deanna’s friend, Michael, for all his terrific tips on negotiating Paris. Oops! Sold out, they have it on order. So we rummaged around looking for another gift in this amazing place opened in 1951 by George Whitman in an old monestery across the Seine from Notre Dame.
The Beat Generation poets like Ginsberg and Ferlingetti hung out here. Well, as happens in time, George now tends the great bookstore in the sky leaving the brick and mortar to his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman. She was named for the owner of the first Shakespeare and Company, Sylvia Beach, who allowed the Lost Generaton – Joyce and Hemingway etc. to hang out there. That bookstore was closed by the Nazi’s in 1940 and never reopened, but she bequeathed the name to George who allowed broke writers to sleep in his bookstore. (He once guessed that 40,000 had slept under his roof. ) Still happens! Well, we found a completely fabulous book for Michael which I will not divulge as it’s a SURPRISE!
Shakespeare and Co. has added a little cafe since I was here last. So we sipped hot cocoa in the sun while gazing at Notre a Dame and passers-by. Almost next door is the church St. Julien le Pauvre which is Greek Orthodox with a history back to the 5th century. During the Revolution it was used to store animal feed. It opens for a few services as well as concerts, but it was closed when we walked by on the way to Eglise St. Severin.
Severin was a hermit from the 5th century. A Romanesque church was built over his tomb. Then St Severin church, dedicated to Mary, began in the 13th century but had a number of setbacks like fire during the 100 years war. Built in the flamboyant gothic style, it has a cluster of twisted pillars which they call the palm trees. The side chapel and stained glass windows are worth a look. When we were there all the chairs were piled to one side and the nave completely empty save for a man on his hands and knees scrubbing the stone floor. Outside, the wrought-iron railings were decorated with Palm branches from Palm Sunday yesterday.
I could show you
when you are
of your own
(Written on the risers of the steps leading to the second floor of Shakespeare and company.