I love Paris. It has to be one of my most favourite places to spend some time when I need to recharge and seek some inspiration. Just wandering about the streets from bustling main roads into deserted side alleys fills me with joy. It’s my favourite city to get lost in.
Back in the spring I was lucky enough to spend a few days there and after speaking to a friend of mine who is escaping to Paris today for a few days I felt compelled to revisit my photos and share my trip with you.
We arrived in Paris around 10am feeling excited for the few days ahead without an email or hint of responsibility in sight. After checking in at our hotel we couldn’t wait to start so made straight for Notre Dame which is just across the road from our hotel. I love being in the Latin Quarter – the atmosphere is perfect for us – so vibrant, and by the time we arrived that morning the streets of Paris were just coming to life.
Sitting in front of Notre Dame was beautiful and time seemed to stand still for us allowing us to make the most of every minute. The sun was shining for the first time in months and with the fresh spring air we found it to be the busy, jostling place you would hope for. We sat for a while watching an old man hand feeding the birds . . .
Once we’d spent some time soaking up the atmosphere around Notre Dame we decided to look up Shakespeare & Company which we knew could be found in that area on the left bank. Happy to wander and see what we found we couldn’t believe our luck when we stumbled across it straight away, almost as if it were waiting for us to walk by, and my goodness it is wonderful. All the pictures you see in the press capture it beautifully, but that feeling it has? Magical.
” . . . It’s like a well known secret that everyone wants to be part of . . . “
We must have spent a couple of hours exploring inside. It is floor to ceiling with books of all descriptions to buy and rooms upstairs to sit and read the treasury of books displayed in the walls of shelves, broken up every now and then with day beds and curtained-off writing areas with traditional typewriters so that poets and authors can spend some time seeking inspiration and writing in exchange for a few hours helping to run the busy store.
Even with the crowds of people who make a point of visiting this lovely shop it is still a very calming place to be with a strong bohemian vibe.
It is a tight squeeze between shelving, stairways, rickety chairs and strangers but this all adds to the charm and atmosphere. It’s like a well known secret that everyone wants to be part of.
My favourite part has to be the poetry section at the rear of the store, sectioned off with a tall narrow wrought iron gate with only enough room for three to stand if you’re lucky and certainly no room to bend down to view lower shelves. I found a book by Pablo Neruda that I’d always coveted but had never found in stock anywhere – I swear this place is magical because it more or less drew me in and jumped off the shelf at me. Of all the books I could have picked up, this tiny pocket-sized book of poetry was the first I saw and I couldn’t put it back down.
At this point it got so busy we decided to head back out for some wine and would return that night once the crowds had gone to do some more shopping.
Photography isn’t allowed inside – I feel so torn about this, especially as Kitty, their beautiful white cat was hanging out in the top room with me for a while. I would have loved a sneaky shot of her napping on the battered leather armchair bathed in the spring sunlight streaming in through the huge window. The secrecy is wonderful though, so when you experience Shakespeare & Co. for the first time it is genuinely gasp-inducing, but like most people, I wish I had some photos to bring home so as I never forget just how special this place is.
And what is Paris without the Eiffel Tower? One of the things I adore about this city is that everything is in walking distance, so the next day we headed along the Seine from our base in the Latin Quarter to the Eiffel Tower.
The atmosphere along the Seine is adorable. My favourite moment had to be the shared music area under one of the bridges where you can plug in your iPod and dance with strangers, who in turn share their music with you. There is simple wooden seating built up at different levels so plenty of space to linger a while. I can’t think of anything more special to have chanced upon.
Floating around Paris is for me one of the most perfect ways to spend a few days. Getting lost in side streets, drinking wine and negotiating the ordering process with some of the most uptight waiters the world has to offer is all part of the charm and I love it. At night time the Latin Quarter comes alive with street performers from trad-jazz trios throwing out their version of Sympathy For The Devil through to hip hop dance troupes who quite literally stop traffic so they can perform. There is something to make you squeal a little around every corner.
Taking a couple of days out of your routine to catch your breath – even if your schedule is packed – is so important, especially when you lead a non-stop life. People will wait, emails will still be there and the world will continue to spin. Just grab your diary, block out 48 hours and go somewhere that enriches your soul.
Paris – we’ll be back soon . . .
As always, I love to hear from you – where is your favourite spot to escape to when you need to clear your mind and get inspired? Let me know in the comments below, join the conversation over on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and for some visual inspiration we can be found on Instagram and Pinterest too.