During our trip to Paris, Jay and I made an effort to stroll through a multitude of neighbourhoods, but somehow we always ended up back in Left Bank. After a dinner at a restaurant in a completely different area, we would hop on the metro and end up sitting in front of Notre Dame at night (again.) I think, in a six day span, we went back four times. I just could not get over the ancient, majestic feel of this cathedral. My inner kid may be speaking here, but it was also amazing for me to see a structure I had dreamed of (thanks to Disney) for years, in person.
And of course, after we marveled over the intricate carvings of Notre Dame, which took 170 years to complete and has been standing for 850 years, we would stroll over to Le Tournebievre for another dinner. This is the only place in Paris that we ate at twice. Most fantastic restaurants in Paris are tiny as tiny can be, with all of three people working. When we wandered in the first time without a reservation, the waiter gave us a pained look, as if he knew he had no room for us, but terribly wanted to be accommodating. He put us in the back (which, is not actually that far from the front), right up against the bar. What followed was perhaps the nicest restaurant experience I have ever had. The food was amazing, the wine was wonderful, the waiters (both of them serve and speak to you) were amazing. One of them had a bit of a difficult time with English, but so badly wanted to chat with us. He would speak quickly to Jay in French, and then turn to describe everything to me slowly in English. I was endeared to him immediately!
At the end of our meal, he asked if he could serve us a shot, which he excitedly explained tasted like an After Eight bar. We loved the way the waiter connected with us and when we left, I was full to the brim with delicious food and drinks. If you ever get the chance to eat there, I could not recommend it more!
Since you can’t just eat an entree in Paris, I devoured numerous plates of food, so Jay and I strolled around the neighbourhood and went back to Shakespeare & Co. Before leaving on my trip, my coworker had made sure I was aware of this shop: an old English bookstore nestled in Left Bank, where down-and-out writers have lived above the store for years. I will spare you all of the details, but here is a quick overview: Shakespeare & Co was originally opened by Sylvia Beach in 1919 and was a hangout for writers like Hemingway and Joyce. Years later in 1964, it was reopened in it’s current location by a man named George Whitman as a tribute. The store has remained in its original layout for years! Old wooden ladders line the shelves and, get this, YOU CAN USE THEM! I don’t know how many times I have seen these, but they are never for public use. When I asked one of the employees how I could grab a book from the top shelf, he looked at us dumbly and said we could just use the ladder, or he could use it for us. My booklover dream has been realized, guys: I climbed up an old wooden ladder in an old bookstore in Paris to get a copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame! I get the numerous layers of corny that exist in that sentence and I AM FINE WITH IT! In fact, I love it. As Kate Winslet’s character says in The Holiday, “I like corny. I’m looking for corny in my life.”
After buying a book in Shakespeare & Co, your book is stamped with their signature stamp, showing their logo and stating their proximity to Kilometre Zero of Paris (the center of the city). I went away with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and (on one of my many other visits) Julia Child’s My Life in France. When I got back to the hotel, I used Jay’s iPad to learn more about the store and found something quite interesting. As previously stated, George Whitman left many down-and-out writers live above the store. One of these men was a Canadian journalist, Jeremy Mercer. Mercer wandered into the store, met the staff and moved in. His book, Time Was Soft There (or Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs in the UK), is his account of his time spent there with George and his makeshift staff. Two days after I returned from my trip, my coworker brought the book down to my desk. I have no idea how he had a copy (as it was pub’d in 2005), but sometimes I think he has magic book powers and we’ll leave it at that. I can’t wait to dive into it and be transported back to this little quirky store!
After visiting these three wonders, Jay and I wandered along the Seine, waving at boat tours and planning the decor of our future (non-existent) home with the furniture in closed shop windows. One night, we wandered all the way to the Louvre!
We remade this evening more than once, for the pure pleasure of all of the above experiences. What a beautiful few nights in a beautiful city!