I mean, come on, this is the entrance to the store—an archway of books!
So I’m writing this a few days early because when this gets posted, I’ll be running around New York with my family (hopefully adding a bookstore or two to my nerd list!). But for now, back to the matter at hand.
Rounding out my book tour of France (even though that maxes out at two stores), I visited this little bookshop on one of the tiny side streets in Lyon, France.
While shopping is a problem if you don’t speak or read French (unlike Shakespeare and Co. from last week, this is an actual French bookshop), this shop is well worth the quick stop in. Why? Because just looking around the store set up will make any book nerd feel the coziness of home.
While I can’t speak to the content—though it’s as varied in sections as any other—what I can mention is the sheer volume of books inside the small space!
Every surface is covered in books including some pretty creative ones—there was a great bright yellow chair tucked in between two tables, all of which were piled with books.
Again, this post is small—just like it’s topic—but if you are in the area, go check it out!
Until next time (when I’m safely back in London Town),
Standing just opposite the river Seine with the most picturesque view of the Notre Dame behind you, sits this tiny, unassuming bookshop. While Shakespeare and Company’s history may not be as long or grand as the building across the river, this little shop has its own kind of appeal which pulls people from around the world into its courtyard and through its front door.
This trip to Paris was not my first, so only a few years earlier, I stood yards away from this historic bookshop and never realized what I was missing simply by not looking behind me. I don’t think I can stress enough how close these two major attractions are for travelers to Paris—basically, if you get to visit Paris and the Notre Dame, take five minutes (at least) across the river and you won’t be sorry.
On four large panels in the middle of the storefront, beginning with the worlds “Paris Wall Newspaper January 1st 2004”, you can read the building’s history through the voice of the building itself as it watched the world change around it, setting the tone of the experience you encounter within the space—It really is a place out of time.
Made famous by the major literary cohorts of the 1920s and 1960s who hung out in and around the shop, Shakespeare and Company isn’t a bookstore for the modern world, but a shop that transports you back in time through the construction of its tiny passageways and alcoves to the grand history of the large range of books filling them.
This small, English language bookshop still seems a draw in and serves as a haven for literary expats like myself which was unexpected, yet a nice change from the bookshop I’ll talk about next week; I was able to look through the books as I explored without looking too lost since I can’t speak or read French. While it definitely seats you within the historically American patronage throughout the history of the store (from both its 1920s and 1960s storefronts—remember, the building did change locations though still claims its rich history), I found myself a little lost in placing myself in another country as well as the time discussed, as this shop felt almost like a satellite nation—a tiny piece of American and English space and history connected to its Parisian roots and yet separated from them.
All in all, it was an interesting place to be especially when you stopped to really place yourself in it.
In an almost constant stream, you will see tourists pick up books from the small stalls outside the building and pose/sit, pretending to read, on the benches in a mirror of all those figures who came before them as friends snap photos to send home. There are no pictures allowed inside of the shop—a beneficial scheme for them as it limits the congestion of photographers in the small alleyways within the store as well as creates a little extra money through picture postcards you can collect for 1 Euro each—but the outside of the building and it’s square are fair game.
I loved the inside of the shop and know I will not be able to give it its proper due through my descriptions alone—I feel it’s a place that needs to really be experienced in all its Book Nerd glory to fully appreciate. My favorite feature to note, however, was the poetry alcove sitting past the twists and turns of the sections, in the furthest back and left quadrant of the main store. This is a tiny, three sided alcove covered—almost floor to ceiling—with books of poetry. This alcove is set down a few small steps and it’s entrance is decorated with a small iron gate that can be closed and padlocked giving you a sense of a world apart, a separate sphere to be recognized separately from all the other wares in the store. I was so tempted to take a picture of this particular detail but you really can’t get away with it—there are workers and the all seeing eye of security cameras pretty much covering the entirety of the store.
Other little things to note for you book nerds while you are there are the pictures and quotes hanging and painted on the walls—seriously the building is worth checking out for these detail besides just looking for great books and shopping!—but what I really loved was the literary nod of the raven sitting high in the widow next to door.
Anyway, to wrap up this week, Shakespeare and Company is a huge MUST on my recommendation lists for anyone visiting Paris—book nerds and non-readers alike—for a place of history and art and a unique quality you won’t find anywhere else. So if you are around, spare the time and, I promise, you won’t be sorry!
This week we interrupt our regularly scheduled program on the continued Book Nerd adventures to say have a very happy and festive Saint Patrick’s Day (or whatever is left of it, wherever you happen to be).
And wherever that may be, whether you are near your home or far from it, have fun and be safe!
If you are out drinking, remember to make good choices:
–don’t get in a car if the person behind the wheel (even if it’s you!) has been drinking.
–have a sober companion to help you get home.
–pay attention to your surroundings.
Not a big thing for travel, but if you are away from home and in unfamiliar surroundings, be even more careful.
I traveled around Ireland for a week and a half a few years back, and today I’m thinking of the places I still want to hit next time I hop over. So, to keep some of the travel in this travel blog, here is me Irish wishlist:
1. Spend more time wandering the Ring of Kerry.
2. The hill of Tara and the surrounding area.
3. Two national parks: Wicklow and Connemara.
4. More nights in local pubs with good live music.
and probably a few others I haven’t thought of yet!
And to leave on a happy note (and because I must), I leave you with my Granddad’s favorite:
“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Now I’m off for one last bowl of Irish beef and cabbage stew and next week we’ll be back to our normal program.
So, last time around we talked about a lot of new and really positive experiences I had on my first ever solo adventure which came about by embracing experiences and opportunities where they came.
The trip, however, was not all sun-shiny moments (as is bound to happen on every trip), but knowing how to bounce back from those issues is a huge learning experience not just in terms of travel but facing challenges in your day to day life as well.
Where to begin….
I guess my real first brush with trouble occurred when on the (very early!) morning of my third day out as I tried to move from Paris to Lyon. If you remember, I booked my train tickets via a third party site (voyages) and I am not kidding, it was horrible.
I had gone over my plan checking, double checking, triple checking (you get the idea) all the numbers I would need to get the tickets, the location the directions said I would leave from, and everything written down nice and neatly on the notepad app on my phone—I was prepared.
Then the night before I discovered I was leaving so early that the metro wouldn’t be running yet. Great. I set my alarm super early, packed up what I could and had my clothes out for the morning and my essentials set before going to bed—I had it covered.
The next morning, I walked to the station and headed in with just over the half an hour they recommended to be safe only to discover there were no Euroline machines to pick up my tickets at. And, at the time in the morning I was there, the train stations information desks weren’t open and neither was the voyages question/help line. I was on my own and I had no idea what I was going to do.
After a long (and repetitive due to language barriers!) conversation with a shop owner, I discovered that despite all the information I had received, Eurolines did not use the station I was at. I never found out where they connect, but by the time I found out, my train would have been gone anyway.
So what did I do? Feeling like I was going to cry out of frustration, I got out my card and booked myself a new round-trip ticket to Lyon. I wasn’t going to let an issue like that screw me out of my trip, after all. However, remember to write to the company if issues like this arrive—you can usually get your money back or something if you can show that it was a failure on their part, or, at the very least, you may make them change something in their system which can help future travelers not have the same issues you did!
But, as the title indicates, that was simply the BAD and now we move onto the UGLY:
On my last day in Paris—it always seems to be Paris, doesn’t it?—The ugly reared its head in terms of ‘no good deed goes unpunished’:
I was good Samaritan-ed and my phone was pick-pocketed.
Yep, the oldest trick. I was exiting the Gare du Nord train station (a photo spot for the above—a Chuck and Blair location shot from the series Gossip Girl – also maybe my trouble is more train stations than just Paris.) where a woman was struggling with a box in the turnstile to the metro. I put my phone in my pocket for five seconds to help out and when my hand was in my pocket again, my phone was not.
Train stations are notorious for this and the thieves are professionals you will not catch. It sounds mean, but don’t help people out unless things are buried under layers of clothes that no one can get to and even then, play it safe.
I quickly traveled back to the hostel where my bags were and video chatted with my dad. We got most things sorted (including a good cry), and his main point, and one to focus on, is: this is just stuff and stuff can be replaced.
What stunk, however, was that I had pictures from that morning and the day before that were on the phone and hadn’t been loaded to any other storage space (some were on my other camera but, do to battery power and charging issues, those were limited).
A few things you can do in these situations are have a way to contact someone to help (even if this just means crying), have copies of numbers you haven’t memorized but are those close emergency contacts, have a way to remotely wipe the phone of any personal information (make the phone a useless brick), and give yourself the moment to be freaked out and cry if you need to—it’s not being unreasonable.
However, once you do that, you have a choice to make.
For me, I could have sat around the hostel on my computer for my remaining five or so hours I had in the city, or I could pick myself up, go out and explore, and make the most of the time left rather than let one thing and stupid people ruin what was mostly a very good trip.
In the end, I used the last hours to sprint from one destination to another, capturing (as close as I could) pictures from the places I’d visited and lost along with the phone with my steadily dying camera (that thing was a real trouper!).
This stress was compounded by some travel stress (a two hour delay do to ferry docking issues and no phone to contact anyone or make plans for the rest on my day!) But I would still consider this a great trip. After all, you learn a whole lot when things get bad—sometimes these lessons are about who you are as a person and what’s important and other times it teaches out to make better choices.
There’s always a silver lining to be found and a challenge to be faced, so make the best out of bad situations instead of letting them hold you back and get out there without worrying about the worst that can happen. Take care of yourself, be smart and keep rolling with the punches—accept nothing less!
First off, I think this is my one year anniversary without missing a week so yay! For a while there, I didn’t know if I’d make it!
But onto the topic at hand.
One thing that can be really scary about traveling, but is really worth doing, is staying spontaneous and taking chances on opportunities when they come up.
This is doubly scary when you are traveling on your own like I was on this Paris/Lyon trip. It is embracing the experience of traveling alone and taking advantage of everything that comes with that that makes the experience memorable and the reason we go out in the world and travel!
Before going any further, I’m going to say the same thing I always caution: Go have your experience, but THINK about what you are doing and do it SAFELY!
On this trip—besides embracing factors of traveling alone like setting my own schedule, where I went and what I saw—Lyon was the area I really embraced the experience of connecting with other wanderers (well, too a degree).
On my first day in Lyon, I dropped my stuff off at the hostel (the SLO Living Hostel is great by the way!), and went straight out to see the Roman ruins and the area surrounding it. The sites were incredible and I really enjoyed my morning climbing around and taking pictures of absolutely everything.
On my way to finding the cemetery and aqueducts, I happened upon an older French man who was also wandering the city but a little loss. We ended up looking for the same sights, so we decided to wander around together. While joining up with someone else means you don’t have the same amount of freedom to do whatever you want exactly how you want it (I couldn’t find the aqueducts so I ended up missing that as I couldn’t backtrack on the map to find where we’d met), but you can get access and insight to things and place you hadn’t known about before.
Which leads to the exploration of Old Town:
Exploring old town had always been on my list of this to do simply from the pictures of the buildings (and they definitely live up to and beyond my expectations), but, walking with the gentleman I had met, I was able to see much more than I would have known to look for on my own. In the old town area, there are courtyards and tunnel areas that as a public person you can go into and explore. Some of these have historical placards and some don’t but the trick to exploring is to press the buzzer button and try the door of any place that looks promising and a great many of them open right up.
I really recommend this for anyone who is at all interested in architecture or art because the structures are beautifully constructed and look like they are water colored and they are just fantastic (I really fell in love with the architecture of this city).
Back to safety, however. You have to be aware and know yourself well when deciding to venture forth with strangers, despite the experience you might get from them. You have to be aware of your comfort level and be willing and able to get out of the situation if someone is making you uncomfortable. A big part of this is keeping track of where you are and other people around—Safety in numbers extends to larger areas of strangers who can help you in a bind
Just because you are presented with opportunity however, doesn’t mean you have to take it!
During dinner at the hostel, I met a lovely group of younger students for the UK who invited me out to go bar hopping with them that evening. At first, I was very interested, however, as the dinner wore on, I could tell they were all in town for the party atmosphere away from school and that nightlife aspect (there was a comment about sleeping in late, like until the afternoon).
I realized that going out with this group (as fun as it might have been) wouldn’t really let me experience the sightseeing and exploratory aspect of the city I wanted which entailed getting up for breakfast and heading out well before 11 am, let alone the afternoon.
In the end, I opted out of the nightlife experience, but am still glad that the offer had been there.
As one final area, don’t forget to be prepare for cultural experiences you didn’t know were going to happen and join in! This brings us back before Lyon, to my second day in Paris which also happened to be Carnival.
When I planned this trip, I had no idea this was going to be going on while I was in town. I just happened to be talking to another girl in my room and she mentioned that there was some kind of parade going on the next day. After a few minutes of research and Googling, we figured out that it was Carnival and where and when the event would begin and end.
While I didn’t end up going through the whole parade route through the city (I ended up hitting some more classic tourist attractions with a friend who is studying in the city), we met up in the square where the parade ended, joining the crowd and taking pictures of the people, performers and creations.
Even though I didn’t do much besides show up and take pictures, being able to say I was there and see the different things going on made this day extremely memorable as part of the trip.
So, basically my advice is to embrace experiences that interest you (safely), don’t worry about those that don’t, and just keep an open mind.
Again, happy anniversary and we’ll see you next time,