Travel Notes: Paris
In May, we made a spontaneous trip to Paris with my best friend Kate. As Hemingway has said it: ‘there is never any ending to Paris’ . It was not my first trip to Paris, but every single one is inspired by ‘Poems of Paris’, ‘Down and Out in Paris’ or rereading ‘A Moveable Feast’.
The first highlight of our trip was a visit to Shakespeare & Company, a legendary bookstore that was a hangout place for the Lost Generation writers such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Joyce. I dreamed of visiting the bookstore since reading the ‘Moveable Feast’ by Hemingway where he mentioned this bookshop and lending library ran by Sylvia Beach in the 1920s and 30s.
Sylvia Beach closed the shop during the Nazi occupation and never reopened it. It was George Whitman who opened the present-day store in 1951. Whitman saw the store as a work of art in its own right and regarded Sylvia as a key part of its legacy.
“Instead of being a bonafire bookseller, I am more like a frustrated novelist. This store has rooms like chapters in a novel and the fact is Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are more real to me than my next door neighboors.” — George Whitman.
On another interesting note, an early visitor to Shakespeare & Company Lawrence Ferlinghetti co-founded City Lights bookstore in San Francisco as a sister institution two years after Shakespeare’s was reopened, in 1953. City Lights is my favorite place in San Francisco and it has very similar vibes to Shakespeare & Company that I love. 😊
Today, Shakespeare & Company is perhaps the most famous independent bookstore in the world and is a mecca for book lovers. As you dive deeper into the store’s early 17th-century building on Rue de la Bûcherie, you can feel like entering a time warp to a quieter, older Paris.
After hours of wandering around the store and buying a bunch of books (that we couldn’t fit into our suitcases on the flight back, but that’s a different story 😅), we landed at the Shakespeare & Company’s lovely coffee place that has a really good coffee and a good selection of old books and fresh newspapers to enjoy.
The second highlight of our trip was a visit to Musée d’Orsay which hosts the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces. 😍 It is one of the most beautiful museums in the world and has one of the richest collections. The building of the museum is a masterpiece itself — Gare d’Orsay which is a former Paris railway station and hotel built in 1900.
We were lucky enough to catch the Le modèle noir exhibition that explores the representation of black figures in art history in France. The exhibition is a great reminder that black people have been indispensable in arts for centuries, even if have been overlooked.
Our next stop was Montmartre, the most famous Parisian district for the artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. Montmartre is a very special place for art lovers (like me and Kate) since it has been home to countless influential creatives, including Van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso.
We started from the famous Moulin Rouge and then get a coffee at a Café des 2 Moulins that has gained considerable fame since its appearance in the Amélie movie.
One of my favorite strolls in the district is the Van Gogh’s house where he spent two years in Paris between 1886 and 1888, at 54 Rue Lepic.
We explored the hidden vineyards, windmills, and a modern art market. Montmartre has plenty of local cafes worth visiting, too.
And of course, les chats de Paris. 😻