If I could move one thing from Paris to London…

Most of what’s in Paris belongs in Paris, and needs to stay there in order for it to be the wonderful city that it is, but there is one thing I’d like to steal for London – or, at the very least copy. (Though in a vastly superior way to the way in which Blackpool emulated the Eiffel Tower.) Shakespeare and Company is possibly one of the most delightful bookshops I have ever experienced and I simply do not understand why London doesn’t have anything remotely as good.

I’ve been aware of it for some time, but didn’t manage to step inside during last year’s weekend en Paris. Then it was featured in the 20 most beautiful bookshops list, and I knew that it had to be a component of my three hours of solo Paris time on this visit. After leaving my luggage at Gare du Nord, I made straight for St Michel Notre Dame station and emerged across from the cathedral, feeling every bit as touristy as my Texan friends probably had two days previously when I’d showed them London. Shakespeare & Co. is literally just across the road, and was flanked by pink cherry blossom. Quintessenttial springtime in Paris, no?

The beauty of this bookshop is threefold:
(i) It’s an English language bookshop, therefore is a haven for ex-pats.
(ii) It’s a beautiful building (rather like Daunts, but less ordered).
(iii) Its upstairs is a library in which you could read for hours at a time.

It’s this third element that makes me so desperate for a London version. Next to a window overlooking Notre Dame is a desk with a typewriter; another can be found in a hidden alcove. There are couches and sofas scattered about, plus a nook for children – one room even featured a piano. If I hadn’t had such a short time in the city, I would have tarried longer, but my feet were itching to explore more.

But please, booksellers/librarians of London, please could we have something akin to this wonder? I, and many, many others would be eternally grateful.

Merci beaucoup!


  1. Oooh it sounds heavenly! I’m having real itchy feet to go to Paris (mostly for eating purposes) but this is extra incentive!

  2. I’ve always wanted to go there. My own problem with what you describe is the ‘less ordered’ comment… I really do need some order in a bookshop. I hate feeling that I don’t understand their system or not knowing where to find a book I want. Or have I been too literal?

  3. Hmmm, yes, order is very important! The proper bookshop bit is organised according to subject – I didn’t look much deeper than that because I wasn’t planning on buying English books in Paris! It’s definitely not like Foyles used to be!
    It’s the upstairs library bit that seems to be more disorganised, which adds to the charm rather…

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