Shakespeare & Co – my Holy Grail in Paris

Under the shadow of the scaffolding and cranes repairing the fire-ravaged Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris and across the tourist drenched road lies Shakespeare and Company. This English literature bookshop is known all over the world as a refuge for book lovers.

When I excitedly planned a stint as a Tumbleweed who rolls in to the shop, spends a week helping out, reading and getting a sleeping space in exchange I thought all my Christmases had come at once. However, life is not a straight line to dream fulfilment, and the dreaded email arrived letting me know of the repairs and renos happening, so the tumbleweed would have to roll on. I swallowed my disappointment and booked my hostel in Montmartre and yesterday I finally made the pilgrimage (but a short 90 minute pilgrimage walk)….and yes, it was like finding the Holy Grail.

The history is fascinating, and the continuity thankfully enduring.

To see the outside was exciting. To feel the fraternity of bookies (not of the betting kind) soaking up the atmosphere outside was peaceful. The numbers inside the shop at any one time are limited, so the queues are quite long. But hardly noticeable with your nose stuck in pages dotted with words and new worlds while waiting to enter the hallowed book-lined rooms.

Yesterday was a reconnoitre…Thursday and Friday I will be back for half days basking in the sun outside the adjoining cafe, and reading in the shop library for hours. I will be an early queuer!

Sometimes it is a challenge to find food ‘sans gluten’ in a city of world-class pastries and breads with ‘boulangeries’ on most corners. However, the delicious pumpkin and mushroom quiche without pastry with perfect beetroot salad and greens drizzled with olive oil and sesame seeds and home-made lemonade from the cafe hit the spot.

Might even find a bargain or two.