Remembering Paris

Apologies for the reduced service on Nice Day For A Sulk of late, I’ve somehow let a relentless 9-to-5 routine take over my life and reduce any bouts of free time to pathetic slippers-and-couch-binges.

I have nevertheless managed to squeeze in the following, in no particular order:

ice-cream to celebrate a glorious start of the month

lovely autumnal strolls down the park

cultural trips to the theatre for the new Mike Leigh play and the cinema for Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris

It’s a single shot of one of my favourite places in Paris in the Woody Allen film that stayed with me this weekend: seeing the protagonist walk out of Shakespeare & Co suddenly got me longing for long evening strolls on the Left Bank.

Shakespeare & Co is the most beautiful book shop I’ve ever seen, a truly magical place where the flâneur is encouraged to actually read on the premises. I’ve never seen so many books in one place, and they somehow managed to also fit lovely battered armchairs here and there so the visitor can settle in with their choice for any length of time.

Set on the premises of a 16th century monastery, the premises resemble a bibliophile’s fantasy attic, with a mystical well at the centre of the ground floor and winding staircases vanishing between piles of books. As you go up, the walls virtually disappear to be replaced with tomes of all eras, languages and conditions. And if you ever get to the little room at the very top, you might witness an impromptu piano recital as the instrument is there for anyone to use.

The venture was initially set up in the 20’s a few streets away from where it now stands. It was a hub for the Anglo-American modernist literary movement and the likes of James Joyce, Hemingway and F.Scott Fitzgerald regularly frequented the premises, making it a highly-regarded establishment in the literary circles of the time. The business was sadly forced to close during the Occupation.

It’s in 1951 the American George Whitman decided to open ‘Le Mistral’, an Anglo-American bookshop on the banks of the Seine. The store was soon renamed to pay tribute to the original venture that once was the focal point for literary culture in the capital. Whitman’s daughter is now in charge, and the shop has kept all the charms I can imaging it had in the 20’s.

With late opening hours, nocturnal visits are by far my favourite. It’s like being transported to the 1920’s all over again.

It’s just like being in Midnight In Paris.


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