Yesterday I explored the St. Michel area, which is basically the latin quarter. Lots of students, lots of bookshops, which is a very dangerous combination.
I went into Shakespeare and Co., which is situated right across from Notre Dame. One would think that it would be completely superficial… being in a major tourist centre of paris, and having such an english name. i was very suprised to walk in and find stacks and stacks of beautiful books… new and used, a complete classics section, a large philosophy section, and a well-stocked poetry section. there were books in russian and german and spanish… all of these books were on beautiful wooden shelves and there are ladders attached to the shelves to reach the ones that are too high.
after looking around on the main floor for awhile, i found very small red staircase leading up to a loft. there was a sign at the top of the stairs that said, “none of these books are for sale”. this was unexpected… what kind of bookstore has a whole loft full of books that are not for sale?
i got to the top of the stairs and saw a bed amongst children’s books. when i got closer, i could see notes from people all over the world attached to the mirror above the bed. there were letters to the bookstore, to future inhabitants of the bed, and pictures of anne frank.
as i sat down on the bed, i saw a sentence above the door – ‘be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.’ i could not believe that there exists a place like this, where there are so many people to take advantage of it.
the loft seemed to be unofficially dedicated to anne frank. letters upon letters made reference to the fact that she wanted to come to paris to study. she loved books. she loved people. she was remarkable in her openness and intelligence. how many young women, like me, had thought about her in this loft as they lived out the dream that she never attained? it was about the time when company of players started rehearsing ‘the diary of anne frank’ that i started planning this trip. among all those books, i felt a part of history, and connected to those who came before me or dreamed of this city.
there was a letter on the wall from a woman who said that this loft is ‘one of the last real places in the world.’ i completely agree. i felt at home and not lonely at all, even though i had just arrived and there was not another person in sight.
i explored the loft a little further, and i found a big wooden table by a window with chairs for studying. there was a sink tucked in the bookshelves, and there was a typewriter in a little nook in the passageway.
i found out that you can sleep at Shakespeare and Co. if you work a two hour shift and read a book every day. for anyone who wants to come to paris for a visit, this would be a really neat (and free!) thing to participate in. or, if you are ever in paris, make sure you visit this place.
in the evening, i ate at the cité universitaire, and i met a guy from fredricton named Connor Barry. he is the first canadian i have met here. he is starting his doctorate of philosophy at the sorbonne, and he has been in paris for only one week. for some reason it was really comforting to meet someone from my own country and hear french spoken with the same accent. and not be mocked for saying eh.
i am disappointed that i talked with him for too long, and i missed the eiffel tower being turned off. i also wasnt able to see mahlers tragic symphony… but i got to bed early, at least.
i have a full weekend ahead!
bon fin de semaine!