Last month, I traveled to France with my husband for 11 glorious days. We brought back a lot of memories, over 2600 photos, and not a lot of souvenirs. In fact, as of our final night, we hadn’t bought much at all.
And then, my husband chose dinner (at a lovely restaurant) next door to the amazing Shakespeare and Company.
It was so beautiful! Outside, they had a couple of tables and shelves of secondhand books. The shop to the left was temporarily closed and seemed dedicated to more antiquarian books.
Through the door on the right, I could’ve spent days. And hundreds of dollars or euros or whatever else they wanted to accept. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), they don’t allow photos inside. I respected that request and quickly lost myself in the shelves. However, I’m sure a quick Google search or looking at their blog will give you a glimpse at the magic. It added to the cozy and personal atmosphere, as if you were truly escaping the modern, techy world into a place where only paper existed somehow.
The store itself consisted of tiny nooks and crannies stuffed with specialty topics in addition to a wide selection of mainstream and classics, and I was amazed at how much they were able to cram into the tiny space. Upstairs held an assortment of children’s books, as well as two reading rooms full of rare books that must remain on-site.
I decided books would be a perfect souvenir but that I must choose wisely. No fly-by-night popular fiction and preferably something related to our trip.
Here are my selections:
First, a couple of classics. “Dubliners” by James Joyce was my husband’s selection. It appealed to him because Mike is Irish, and Joyce lived in Paris for a time. Plus, he liked that it was a collection of short stories. I’ve neglected reading much (any?) Joyce so I’ll read this as well. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde isn’t a very lively-looking edition (they had this one, which many people love, but I find it terrifying) though you can’t go wrong with an orange Penguin! I enjoyed “The Importance of Being Earnest” so reading more of his work is a must. Also, we saw Wilde’s grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery on this trip. He’s another writer who spent much time in Paris. The quote on the bag is from him.
Next, I’m going to call these two selections my “modern classics” if you’ll allow me some leniency. First, a collection of short stories by Daphne du Maurier, “The Breaking Point.” She was English, but her name and heritage at least is French. Shirley Jackson has absolutely no ties whatsoever to France or Europe that I can find, but I love her writing, so I’ve been adding to my collection of her works bit by bit. Adding “Raising Demons” in this fun edition while in Paris seemed like a great idea.
And finally, “Marina” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I bought it mainly because it was inexpensive in the secondhand cart. Zafon is Spanish, which is a neighboring country. I loved one of his other works, so it was worth a chance for the price. It appears this is a YA novel based on reviews. I started reading it last night and so far, I’m enjoying it a lot.
Here’s where the souvenir angle really kicks in – the store will stamp your purchases for you. Since I selected carefully and I’m not concerned about resale, this seemed like the perfect way to mark their origin.
One thing I didn’t buy? Anything written by Shakespeare. I looked, but I wasn’t feeling it, which I know will horrify at least one of my friends and fellow JHBC members.
We also bought an assortment of more traditional souvenir books along the way from museums or places that didn’t allow photos. But Shakespeare and Company was a destination all its own and bringing home books from there was a great way for me to commemorate the trip, even if it did add a lot of weight to our carry-ons!
I’m still sad about all the books I had to leave behind. I always feel that way when I leave a bookstore or library. I’ll just have to rescue them on a return trip! (Note: This is a safer promise to make with bookstores than animal shelters.)