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Amazing bookshops around the world: Abbey Bookshop (Paris)

Abbey Bookshop (Paris, France)
29 rue de la Parcheminerie
Mon-Sat 10:00-19:00

The second time I went to Paris, visiting Shakespeare & Co. was high up on my list of priorities. I love books, I love Shakespeare and Before Sunset is one of my favourite movies, so it all made sense. Besides, it was on the top10 things to do on my guide. Surely a divine sign that I had to visit it. Well, to my disappointment another film was being filmed right when I decided to go visit it, and some man told me to go away and not take any pictures in a very rude manner. Disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I had to sit down on a bench to contemplate my options. Thankfully I had armed myself with a guide written by someone who must have been a bit of a book nerd like me, and recommended another bookshop not far from Shakespeare & Co. It wasn’t just that I needed a bookshop fix, I actually really wanted to buy a book about Paris, so I didn’t think about it twice.

I’m so glad Shakespeare & Co. was closed that day.

paris 140

Abbey Bookshop, opened in 1989, is a beautiful little place owned by a Canadian man called Brian who kindly offered me some coffee when I stepped in. Always a good sign. There are books everywhere. It was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. Double-sliding shelves, books stacked up on a table, on stools, on the floor. I didn’t dare to venture into the basement, which according to Brian is even more impressive than the ground floor. Now I wish I had.

In Abbey Bookshop you’ll find everything you need in life. New books, second-hand books, rare books, best sellers and about every subject imaginable. Brian kindly offered to help me find a book I was desperately looking for, but sadly I was leaving Paris on the next day. If I had visited before I would have been able to take advantage of their express delivery for urgent orders, which guarantees you’ll have the desired book in 2-3 days. Pretty rad, no?
Abbey Bookshop
The bookshop is a subsidiary of Abbey Bookshop in Toronto and carries an impressive selection of Canadian literature, both in English and French. Besides, they organise language exchange pub nights, reading groups and even hikes in the countryside! I honestly think every town in the world should have a bookshop like this. Definitely on my top10 things to do in Paris.

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Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs

I read this book in a rather compulsive manner. I’m all up for quitting everything, selling my possessions and moving to Paris to live it rough and get inspired. I really am. I probably won’t do it, mainly because I would find it too hard to part with my record collection, but that’s what Jeremy Mercer did. And he wrote a book about it.
After getting into a bit of trouble with his job, Mercer left Canada and moved to Paris as an excuse to learn the language. After some time there, seeing how his money was dangerously close to disappearing, he happened to visit Shakespeare & Co. A few days later he moved in.
It’s really interesting to get an insight in the daily routine of the bookshop; how work is organised, what the owner is like, how they get by in such an expensive city with little money. Mix that with the history of such a fascinating place (despite this not being the original Shakespeare & Co.), the romantic idea of the poor writer in the city of lights and a story of personal development and finding yourself in unexpected places. What you get is some sort of “Down and Out in Paris and London” minus the London part made for book lovers. I loved it.


My two (very different) experiences at Ladurée

On my last visit to Paris a few months ago, visiting Ladurée was high on my list of things to do. We decided to go for dinner there one night. Their menus are not extremely expensive (but still pricey) and we figured that we deserved one night of eating out of budget. After a quick look on their website, we decided on Ladurée Champs Elysées because, well, look at the pictures on the website.
If I had to summarise the meal in two words it would be: “never again”.
Despite having made a reservation, we were seated in what was probably the worst table in the worst part of the restaurant. Not in the pretty area that I had seen in the photos, but in a really tacky badly lit bit with indoor palm trees that wasn’t pretty at all. Plus we were right next to the till, which was very very annoying and not at all like the nice evening that we had imagined. Now, this would be okay if the place had been actually full, but people with no reservation got better tables. I was not impressed.
We settled for the cheapest bottle of wine and I have to admit I got a bit overexcited when we were brought bread and butter and the butter came in a cylindric shape, wrapped in a Ladurée paper that made it look like it was an incredible delicacy despite being just that, butter.
The starters were okay. My friend dared to try foie and didn’t entirely dislike it, just the idea of it. I had a little bite and, although it was good, I must say I’ve had better, not even in France, and for a fraction of the price.I had something with a fancy name that I can’t remember. Basically it was a mini baguette with prawns, orange and mango inside. Pretty adventurous. It was nice, but not mind-blowing. So far our romantic night seemed to be failing, but we still had hope in the main course.

But the main course didn’t arrive in about an hour, and I’m not even exaggerating. The couple sitting down next to us, who arrived when we were finishing our starter, finished eating before us, and one of them was eating the same as one of us. Other customers literally came, ate and left in the space between our starter and main. After giving the waiter angry looks for what seemed like hours, he muttered “your food is coming soon”, which was obviously a lie; it still took a while.
By the time it arrived we were so angry that we found it hard to enjoy it. The fact that I didn’t even take pictures of it illustrates my anger. The food wasn’t bad, but a meal of better quality can be had for much less money in Paris. The beef with peanut sauce tasted a bit too peanut-y. And I had duck which, like the starter, wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
We stormed off right after we finished our meal, without eating dessert (which was the main reason to go to Ladurée, really) or leaving a tip, which got us the most horrified glance from the couple in the next table. Obviously, they had eaten their meal at a normal pace.
I knew we were paying partly for the name and the location, but I never imagined it would be such a disappointing experience.
However, a few days later we went to another Ladurée for tea and cake, the one in Rue Royale. This time the experience was completely different. Though pricey, the hot chocolate was thick and filling, real hot chocolate rather than warm nesquick with a bit of foam. Below you can see what I had:
I can’t remember exactly what they were, but mine was rose flavoured and my friend’s was pistachio. The cream was made with rose water and it was truly one of the best things I have ever tasted. Unlike the other time, this time the service was excellent. We were served by the nicest waiter, something I wouldn’t have expected in such a busy place.

So I guess the moral of the story is: Go to Ladurée, but only for cake.


Literary Paris

It is perhaps obvious that my last two visits to Paris (March 2009 and April 2010) together with all the preliminary reading and watching I did made me fall in Love with the city a little bit. One of the things I love the most about it are all the literary connections. I love sitting in a café and thinking that Simone de Beauvoir and Paul Sartre used to write there, or walking down a narrow alley and wondering if George Orwell ever set foot in it. I obviously had to visit all these relevant places and, inspired by Robert Doisneau’s photo of Simone de Beauvoir, here’s a collection of them.
The building where Ernest Hemingway lived, in 74 Rue Du Cardinal Lemoine, pretty much in front of Joyce, who lived in the same street (71 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine).

I never imagined James Joyce living somewhere like this, which happens to be round the corner from the hostel where George Orwell used to live.

Orwell’s hostel, 6 Rue Pot de Fer
We also visited the (extremely overpriced but oh-so-nice) Café de Flore (corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue St. Benoit), where Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre used to work. This is also next to Les Deux Magots (corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain with Rue Bonaparte), a favourite of Hemingway and Picasso among others and in front of Brasserie Lipp (151 Boulevard Saint-Germaine), another famous literary hangout.
Some writers also had the terrible habit of dying in Paris, the most famous example being Oscar Wilde, who died in the hotel d’Alsace, nowadays called L’Hotel (13 Rue de Beaux-Arts) allegedly after uttering some of the most famous last words: “My wallpaper and me are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go”. You can see the inside of the hotel here.
His tomb, which you can find in the Cimètiere du Père Lachaise, has become a tourist hotspot, which means that sometimes you can find nice messages like the one below together with stupid stuff like “MIKE & JULIA 4EVAH”
“You’re one of the few reasons I’m proud to be Irish”

In the same graveyard you can find Marcel Proust and Balzac

And finally, if you venture into the less touristy but equally nice Cimèiere du Montparnasse, you will find Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Tristan Tzara. It’s not as nice as the other one, but it is less crowded and better if you want to relax and disconnect from the crowds.


1. Blanchisserie, 2. Abbey Bookshop, 3. paris fabric shop, 4. mamie vintage, 5. eiffel tower, 6. Hats, 7. Tournesols, 8. fromage, 9. Roses, 10. Mona Lisa, 11. Caverne a Fripes Vintage, 12. Patisserie, 13. Mami Vintage, 14. Ladurée Macarons, 15. paris fabric shop, 16. Souvenirs, 17. Sartre & Simone, 18. Tristan Tzara, 19. paris 017, 20. paris 088, 21. paris 140

Only 10 days and I will be in Paris again. This time for a week. I’m absolutely looking forward to getting lost in it. I already have a pretty massive list of places I want to see, but any recommendations will be welcome. The photos above were taken in March last year.You can see them on my Paris flickr set.


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