Why Shakespeare & Company?

If you’re heading to Paris anytime soon, are you considering SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY for your itinerary?

Here’s some information on the iconic Parisian bookstore.

  1. The original bookstore was opened by American Sylvia Beach in 1919 and it was located at 8 rue Dupuytren.
  2. When a bigger more desirable building around the corner on 12 rue de l’Odeon became available, Ms. Beach moved her store to that location.
  3. Don’t be mistaken into thinking the present day store is one and the same with the one that Sylvia Beach ran…it is not. It is however, most definitely, an homage to that store.
  4. Sylvia Beach published James Joyce‘s Ulysses out of Shakespeare & Company. You can read about this and Ms. Beach’s life in Shakespeare & Company…a memoir she herself penned.
Ms. Beach penned a memoir about her store and the publication of Ulysses. It’s written in a simple and conversational tone and you may not fall in love with it. It has a very ‘and then this happened, and then this happened…’ feeling. She was offering the history.

If you would like to read Sylvia Beach’s story written as historical fiction (it is extremely accurate) in a captivating literary voice, pick up THE PARIS BOOKSELLER by Kerri Maher. It’s Sylvia’s story, well told.

The Paris Bookseller is an excellent read! A novel that perfectly encapsulates Sylvia Beach’s story…

Wait! There’s more. We’re not yet geographically close to the current day bookstore ALSO KNOWN AS Shakespeare & Company!

It was Sylvia Beach’s store over on rue de l’Odeon that had such literati in attendance as F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Ford Maddox Ford, James Joyce and others.

The original store was mentioned in Ernest Hemingway’s A MOVEABLE FEAST. He was quite touched at how quickly Ms. Beach welcomed him. She allowed him to enter the bookstore’s lending library before he paid the fee. You get the sense from his words that she took him under her wing. Her store actually served as a sort of post office for the expat writers who frequented it…a home away from home.

Beach was imprisoned by the Nazis during the war. In 1941, during the occupation, the store closed. When Beach was released, she was ill…and she never re-opened the store.

Ten years later, George Whitman, an American ex-serviceman and communist at heart opened the present day Shakespeare & Company location under the name of “Le Mistral”.

Le Mistral was a stomping ground for the next generation of writers…the BEAT and beyond. Everyone from Allen Ginsberg to Gregory Corso to William S. Burroughs haunted this new location in the shadow of Notre-Dame Cathedral…not yet named Shakespeare & Company. Also present were James Baldwin, Lawrence Durrell, George Plimpton, and many many more.

George Whitman modeled Le Mistral after Shakespeare & Company and it was with Ms. Beach’s blessing that he eventually changed the name of his bookstore to Shakespeare & Company. Though it’s believed the blessing happened in 1958, it wasn’t until after Beach’s death in 1964 that the name change became official.

Sylvia Whitman, George’s daughter, now runs the bookstore. She has found many ways to move Shakespeare & Company into the 21st century. Speaking of which, don’t miss the store’s podcast!

The current Shakespeare & Company has ‘housed’ writers throughout its existence. They still host writers to this day. If you visit the store, you might be served by one of these visiting writers…literary wanderers neither lost nor found. They even have a name. They are called TUMBLEWEEDS…for the way they tumble into the store and float around there.

The evolution of Shakespeare & Company…
The famous facade of the current incarnation of SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY on 37 rue de la Bûcherie…in the shadow of the cathedral.

Why visit Shakespeare & Company? It’s a literary landmark that connects Paris to North America like no other. J. R. R. Tolkien once said, “All those who wander are not lost.” If history (and the history of Shakespeare & Company) is any indication, all those writers who wander through Paris have found themselves, at one time or another, at one incarnation of this iconic bookstore or another. Either they visited Ms. Beach, or Mr. Whitman, or Ms. Whitman. And if you are literary-minded, you might want to wander in their footsteps. Between the three stores, there is so much history! Even this latest incarnation has an incredible amount of history.

There are many wonderful rooms upstairs at Shakespeare & Company, filled with old books, and desks, and lounges, and pianos, and cats.

For a full and comprehensive history of the bookstore, this book, A HISTORY OF THE RAG & BONE SHOP OF THE HEART, is a must-have TREASURE! It’s a biography of the store and it opens up to the reader like the store itself, with many nooks and crannies and surprises. It’s well worth the price of admission. DON’T FORGET TO GET THE STORE STAMP EMBOSSED IN YOUR BOOK PURCHASES!

If you’re a book geek, you will want to stop by Shakespeare. They have a first edition room, as well, if you are a collector. And in recent years, they even opened a cafe. If you’re literary minded, don’t ask WHY SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY? Ask WHY NOT?

It’s worth the line-up to immerse yourself in literary history…

The more you learn about its history, the more this magical maze of a store will appeal to you…and open up to you!



(Jump to OUR DAY OF THE DEAD IN THE CITY OF LIGHT to discover our itinerary of death in Paris!)

There is Never Any End to Paris

Hemingway knew about Paris and how it infiltrates you, once you’ve been there. He understood the ever-present need one has to return there, like a salmon running upstream and fighting against the current to return, to return, to return…for Paris gets into you, and calls you back. For Paris is a moveable feast hard to ignore, hard to stay away from. Hard, even, to turn away from.

A Moveable Feast, a book I return to again and again…
My treasured copy of Shakespeare and Company: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart purchased at Shakespeare & Company in October, 2021. My favourite book!

We are returning to the magical city! Our passage is booked. We will spend a little of our September (2023) walking the streets of Paris once again. Two weeks this time. We will see the places we’ve already seen and some we missed. We will venture daily from our hotel on the outskirts of Le Marais this time. Nothing against the 9th Arrondissement (where we stayed in 2021) or Île Saint-Louis in the 4th (where I stayed in 2014)! We loved staying so close to the Moulin Rouge and Boulevard de Clichy! And I really enjoyed staying down the street from Notre-Dame! But it will be nice to stay in a different neighbourhood…experience a different vibe yet again. Besides, the Saint-Louis is only a stone’s throw from the Marais!

But this is still months away. 225 days, to be exact. Not that I’m counting. But let’s just be honest…I’m counting.

Having just disembarked from Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas not quite two weeks ago, I am already counting down to our next adventure with a degree of desperation.

Many of our mornings and nights in October of 2021 were spent walking into and out of our neighbourhood…which meant crossing the Champs-Élysées repeatedly. Look! There’s the Arc!

As we map out our stay in Paris, I already worry about our itinerary. Will we see everything we want to see? Will we forget something only to remember it when we’re on the plane on the way home? Will we have enough time? I’m already experiencing FOMO!

On our last night in Paris in October, 2021, we ran up the street from our hotel for one last view of the Moulin Rouge. Our last selfie in Paris that year. (PS: The bus did not hit us!)

This trip’s itinerary will have a mix of overlapping items with the last trip, as well as a lot of new items. There are some things I want to see during every Paris trip. Some of the new ones will be Paris Disney and Mont-Saint-Michel. As well as a few other sights we missed. I’m dying to visit Montparnasse!

We have 2 walking tours booked with Emmanuel’s Hidden Gems (Link is for his Instagram…he can also be found on Facebook). We’ve heard so many good things about Emmanuel’s tours in the Paris Facebook groups we’re in. We have to try him! We booked Montmartre and Le Marais, two places I adore.

Also, though a picnic was on our itinerary for 2021, we didn’t quite make it. It is my goal to do it this time around. It was great fun with the Left Bank Writers Retreat in 2014! Maybe somewhere in or near Square du Vert-Galant! That is the goal, anyway! We’ll get a baguette, some cheese, a little wine…it’ll be magic!

There are so many museums in Paris, that we only saw a fraction of them during our last visit. We’ll hit a few that we missed and probably do one or two that we have already visited. It would take a month to see all of the Louvre. It is impossible to see it all in one visit. Also, what’s a trip to Paris without going to Shakespeare & Company?! I couldn’t imagine it! I also want to go to their new(ish) coffee shop next door. I don’t know why we didn’t think to go there on our last visit.

One of my favourite days in Paris in 2021 was our DAY OF THE DEAD! This turned out to be a thematic day filled with all things dead, from the Catacombes, to Père Lachaise Cemetery to the Panthéon. It would have been the perfect Paris day, had the booked tour through Père Lachaise been unceremoniously and without warning cancelled. We had to wander through that city of a cemetery on our own. We still managed to find a lot of the graves we wanted to visit, but without the tour we felt we did not do it justice. Hopefully, now that we’re further along in this forever-pandemic, the tour we book this time won’t be cancelled at the last minute. I want context with my stroll through the cemetery.

La Closerie des Lilas, a must when in Paris for me!

The list of restaurants is growing so quickly, I’m afraid we won’t have enough days to visit all the ones we wish to see. We will be narrowing it down in the coming weeks. One I like to return to is La Closerie des Lilas. It’s not incredible, but it has an incredible literary history. It draws me to it. Maybe just a cocktail next time? Maybe with an appetizer?

From my June 2014 trip with Left Bank Writers Retreat…new writer friend, Nina! Atop the Arc.

If we miss anything, I suppose we can always do it on our NEXT trip after this one. There will always be a next trip, right?! There is never any end to Paris!

Only 225 days to go. That seems like a lifetime when there are several inches of snow on the ground and a cold-snap is threatening to overwhelm us. The countdown is on…

Paris or bust!


I’m also an author. Pick up my short book 7 – Paris at Sunset and Into the Night, and Other Stories at Amazon. 7 short stories, some of which are set in Paris, for less than $1!




Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart – Shakespeare & Company, Paris

I have now been home from Paris about one and a half weeks. Paris never lasts long enough, does it?!

I thought that by bringing a great nugget of Paris home with me, I would somehow prolong my visit…if only in my head and in my heart. But like being given your favourite treats and attempting to make them last, I have now devoured the last of that great nugget I carried back across the pond with me.

The nugget of which I speak? A book. A tome I thought would last a little longer. A tome I devoured all too quickly!

Shakespeare & Company Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart. This is going down as THE most magical book I ever read. Read isn’t even right…it doesn’t cover what I did. I fell into this book. I immersed myself in this book. So divine, it was!

To think, Michael practically had to twist my arm to get me to buy it during our first visit this time around to the iconic and beautiful madhouse of books. There’s no place quite like Shakespeare & Company Bookstore at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris. I hemmed and I hawed. The price would put it somewhere in the vicinity of extravagant as a self-purchase and I really wrung my hands over it. Should I? Shouldn’t I? In the end, Michael prevailed. He talked me into purchasing the thing I MOST wanted to purchase in all the store.

I HAVE NO REGRETS. Such a beautiful rambling read through the history of my favourite international bookstore, which also, itself, has a tendency to ramble through space and time.

George Whitman was a formidable presence in the universe. I believed that before opening the book, and I know it now. He was a magician with a gravitational pull that rivaled the universe itself. He was the moon, orchestrating the tides of ‘Tumbleweeds’ in and out of his magical bookstore for decades.

I’ve loved Shakespeare & Company since I first learned about its first incarnation, created by Sylvia Beach and found originally at 8 Rue Dupuytren and then the bigger location at 12 rue de l’Odéon. George Whitman was the perfect successor of the name (Whitman changed the name of the current day Shakespeare & Company from Le Mistral in 1964, presumably with Ms. Beach’s blessing). He carried with him the same kind of generosity of heart and spirit as his predecessor.

Here’s the description of the book from Amazon:

A copiously illustrated account of the famed Paris bookstore on its 65th anniversary

This first-ever history of the legendary bohemian bookstore in Paris interweaves essays and poetry from dozens of writers associated with the shop–Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, Ethan Hawke, Robert Stone and Jeanette Winterson, among others–with hundreds of never-before-seen archival pieces, including photographs of James Baldwin, William Burroughs and Langston Hughes, plus a foreword by the celebrated British novelist Jeanette Winterson and an epilogue by Sylvia Whitman, the daughter of the store’s founder, George Whitman. The book has been edited by Krista Halverson, director of the newly founded Shakespeare and Company publishing house.

George Whitman opened his bookstore in a tumbledown 16th-century building just across the Seine from Notre-Dame in 1951, a decade after the original Shakespeare and Company had closed. Run by Sylvia Beach, it had been the meeting place for the Lost Generation and the first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses. (This book includes an illustrated adaptation of Beach’s memoir.) Since Whitman picked up the mantle, Shakespeare and Company has served as a home-away-from-home for many celebrated writers, from Jorge Luis Borges to Ray Bradbury, A.M. Homes to Dave Eggers, as well as for young authors and poets. Visitors are invited not only to read the books in the library and to share a pot of tea, but sometimes also to live in the bookstore itself–all for free.

More than 30,000 people have stayed at Shakespeare and Company, fulfilling Whitman’s vision of a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.” Through the prism of the shop’s history, the book traces the lives of literary expats in Paris from 1951 to the present, touching on the Beat Generation, civil rights, May ’68 and the feminist movement–all while pondering that perennial literary question, “What is it about writers and Paris?”

If you want to read an extraordinarily moving history of one of the world’s most astonishing bookstores, you need to have this book in your life. It would also make a fantastic present for the literary lover in your life. I know I’m going to cherish my copy forever. Now that I’ve read it, I know with certainty that is a book that will give me much joy in future re-readings. I could not put it down. Wandering through its pages felt much the same as wandering through the crooked little rooms and alcoves and mystery spaces splattered with books and things inside Shakespeare & Company itself.

You can purchase this wild ride through history directly through the Shakespeare & Co Online Bookstore!!

a kitty cat in the upstairs room that looks out onto Notre-Dame Cathedral.


I also wrote about a full day of dead things in Paris! Click this link to find out what we did on OUR DAY OF THE DEAD IN THE CITY OF LIGHT!

I’m also an author. One of my novels, a young adult story, is set on the Camino Frances route of the Camino de Santiago. THE CAMINO CLUB. It follows six teens on their journey from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela. The teens walk with court appointed counselors in a juvenile delinquent program that will see them free of their records once they make the journey to Santiago…a clean slate. Think of a more diverse The Breakfast Club, but on the Camino de Santiago over two weeks instead of in a school library on a Saturday. Give it a look! It’s available wherever books are sold. Here’s the Amazon USA link.