What a fantastic day in Paris!
Firstly, I was on the hunt for Shakespeare and Co. I can’t remember exactly where I first read about that store but I know I was around twelve (the perfect age for romantic fancy to catch – hmm..well, in some cases, it never ends, does it? J ) Anyway, the whole story of Shakespeare and Co certainly caught my fancy. Sylvia Beach opened her shop in the 1920’s (I think) and supported some incredible authors (she independently published Joyce’s Ulyssses when no one else would). She had to close in 1941 and was interred for several months herself (apparently she hid her books in an empty apartment). Hemingway, personally “freed” her shop in 1944 but it never actually re-opened for business. The modern Shakespeare and Co is not at the same location but was opened by George Whitman in the early fifties. He’s in his nineties now (and currently in England traveling for the summer!). He had Sylvia’s permission to use the name of her shop. He actually named his own daughter Sylvia Beach Whitman and she currently runs the store.
As per usual, I got very lost trying to find the store. Once I figured out that rue de la Bucherie was separated by a small park – I found it! There were people lolling all over outside, a young woman with her nose literally buried in her newly purchased book, three men debating the merits of an author I’ve never heard of, very seriously at the small table and a load of books on the table outside. I could feel the excitement growing.
When I stepped inside…inhale. It smelled exactly the way it should – like old books – the smell of paper, some leather, slightly musty and I love it – I love the smell of books. I remember in university, one of my favourite days was buying all my texts, going home and laying the out. The smell of new books (some only new to me) and the excitement of what was inside them (okay, NOT for my anatomy course – I hated that course) and…okay, okay, I’ll stop!
The bookshop was just as I had imagined it. Books from floor to ceiling and covering every available surface. There is some order to the chaos –books are catagorized by fiction, biography, science, poetry, politics and history. I spent over an hour, just scanning titles, wandering around, reading the back summaries and eavesdropping on conversations. I finally selected two (I limited myself, knowing I’d be back) and purchased them (getting the Shakespeare and Co stamp, of course!).
I thought I’d go back and try the Memorial for the Martyrs of Deportation again as it was closed the day I went to Notre Dame. It didn’t open until 2 so I found a Turkish cafe that sold shwarma (yum, yum) and had lunch in the small and quiet park where the Memorial is, to wait. I still have to visit the Shoah Memorial as well in the Marais district. On the park wall in red engraving it’s written that there were two –hundred thousand deaths resulting from the deportation from 1940-1945.
The Memorial is beautiful and creates a space for silent reflection and contemplation. You can see the Seine gently roll past as you walk down the steps through the iron work across. The deep white stonework is cool and calming. It is a beautiful background for the emotional space visitors are in.
When you walk in the enclave it has three areas – the two sides have walls with the triangular cut-outs where people have place small stones and flowers. There are engraved writings as well, but in French so I couldn’t read them, I’m afraid but they are apparently texts and poems from authors. The triangles have the names of concentration camps and have in them the some ashes and soil from that camp.
In the middle is the Hall of Remembrance. It is lined with over 160, 000 white pebbles. It is for the Jewish tradition of placing a stone on a loved ones grave. It is staggering. Beautiful but difficult at the same time.
After the Memorial, I went for a walk and wandered around the Notre Dame and all the stalls there for a bit. I was walking across the Pont des Arts when I saw all the locks on the bridge. I remembered reading about them! On Valentine’s Day, lovers write/engrave their names on a lock, clip it to the metal bridge and throw the key into the Seine to represent their everlasting love. I find it romantic. On a side note, I couldn’t remember the name of the bridge so I just googled it and was very surprised to find a whack of articles relating to the locks and the bridge. Apparently some Parisians consider it an eyesore and this spring the city had the locks removed from the bridge! I guess that explains why there aren’t more of them, I suppose. However, in a short while, quite a few have shown up…the power of love?
I then was wandering back to the Hotel de ville and came across a pretty good band (they covered a bunch of 50’s rock songs) and then there was the street performer. He was very funny! His show was about 20 minutes and he did a great job of playing with the audience. That’s a tough gig!
On my way back, I saw this written on the bridge….merci!