During my trips to Paris, and when time allowed, I loved visiting Shakespeare and Company.
Shakespeare and Company is a bookstore that opened as a lending library in 1919 by Sylvia Beach. The shop has a storied history. It was a regular gathering place for members of The Lost Generation during the time between wars. The with the occupation of Paris during World War II, the shop closed. Beach secreted her books away in a vacant apartment during the occupation. These books were later liberated from their hiding place by Ernest Hemingway.
Following Beach's death in 1951, another English-language bookstore adopted the name Shakespeare and Company. This shop, operated by George Whitman, strived to carry on the traditions of Beach's shop and became host to many of the writers of the Beat Generation. The downstairs with its shelves and tables overflowing with books was host to public readings, while the upstairs, complete with sleeping quarters, provided a place for writers to live and work.
Why Shakespeare and Company? I first learned of the shop while watching a travelogue. My wife and I, having spent our honeymoon in Paris, were planning a return trip in '95. So I bought a few books and watched a view videos to prepare. While watching I learned that the current location of the shop at 37 Rue de la Bucherie is within Kilometer Zero for France. The marker is located in the square of the main entrance to Notre Dame. When you purchase a book from Shakespeare and Company you can have the inside page stamped, indicating that the book comes from the shop inside Kilometer Zero. Being a collector, of sorts, I had to have book stamped. So one day while we were out walking and we visited the shop. I purchased a copy of W. Somerset Maugham's The Narrow Corner for 55 Francs and had it stamped.
We then went a few doors up and found an outdoor table with a view of Notre Dame. We had glass of wine, a plate of cheese, and talked about how nice the day was.
Gerrie and I are now planning to travel to London and Paris in October 2012. I hope to find time to visit this wonderful little shop, find a really good read, and add to my memories of one of my favorite cities in the world.