Shakespeare and Co. – Where Willy Wonka meets Shakespeare

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I became fascinated with Shakespeare and Co. when I watched the movie Before Sunset in which Julie Delpy got a glimpse of Ethan Hawke at his own book signing at the bookstore. The second day I was in Paris, I went straight to the Rue de Bucherie on the Left Bank, opposite Notre Dame Cathedral, and almost weeped at the sight of Kesey and Ginsberg’s works on the shelves.

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Shakespeare & Company has been a literary institution in Paris since 1951, although its roots lie with bookseller Sylvia Beach in 1919. You might recognize her name; she was close friends with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein during the riotously fun “Roaring Twenties,” or as the French put it, Les Années Folles. If you’ve seen Midnight in Paris, you know exactly what I’m talking about!

The place is inconspicuous on the outside yet has a unique charm that attracts tens of thousands visitors per year. When you walk in, it feels like a literary utopia where Willy Wonka meets Shakespeare. The walls are decorated with signed title pages and tens of thousands of books are causally piled up on the weather-beaten shelves. It’s like entering a time machine which brings you back to the lost generation.

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Soon after George Whitman opened the bookstore, he started housing several writers at a time, either published or aspiring, and these literary vagabonds came to be known as the Tumbleweeds. “Several million persons have walked in our door like tumbleweeds drifting in the wind,” George wrote in his letter from the editor in the second edition of The Paris Magazine, published by the bookshop in 1984, “and then walked out, their innocence lost, as free citizens of the cosmos.” He believed “we’re all homeless wanderers in a way,” and over the years, Shakespeare & Co. has welcomed wandering writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, James Baldwin, Julio Cortázar, Darren Aronofsky, and Dave Eggers.

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This is me in one of my favorite sections – music and film holding a book about one of my favorite directors and screenwriters, Woody;). Photographs are generally prohibited but it was a relatively hidden part of the bookstore.

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Paperbacks line red wooden steps leading upstairs to a “non-commercial” floor: a library in which you could lose yourself, with one rule: books mustn’t leave the premises. Here, as on the ground floor, single mattresses lurk between the shelves, and, in the children’s section, a bunk bed. It’s on these that young authors sleep each night.

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I read one blog post about the bookstore and I am going to end the post with the last paragraph. “As I leave, the western facade of Notre Dame is noisy with tourists. I cross the square, haunted by one of the messages tacked to the mirror. Hand-written by the mother of a 21-year-old bipolar man who killed himself by jumping off Brooklyn Bridge, it read: “I’ve spent the last hour trying to decide if I should end my life. If he could have discovered your bookshop, perhaps he would have survived. I want to thank you for this place and the hope it gives.” Not only does that seem to underline the redemptive power of literature, but also something less tangible: the balm of environment.”

Shakespeare & Company Bookstore

37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
Metro Saint Michel Notre Dame (line 4, RER C and B)
Bus 24 (Stops Notre Dame or Maubert Mutualité) and 47 (Stops Notre Dame or Petit Pont)

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Love and Passion @ Rodin Musuem

“I am beautiful, O mortals! Like a dream carved in stone,
And my breast where each one in turn has bruised himself
Is made to inspire in the poet a love
As eternal and silent as matter.” 

– Charles Baudelaire

 

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This delightful gem of a museum felt like a quiet oasis where I could get away from the usual crowds in Paris. I loved wandering in the gardens and discovering statues around each turn. The installation at Rodin Museum is the largest collection focusing on the work of French sculpture Auguste Rodin, as this year marks the hundredth anniversary of his death. Participating museums include the Met and another Philadelphia institution, the Barnes Foundation, among others.

There is a reason why so many museums are working to commemorate Rodin. He’s an unparalleled figure and one of few sculptors whose works are readily recognizable. Rodin’s work is known for its realistic modeling of the human form. He captured truth, depth, and the fluid motion of life in the most unlikely of mediums.

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The exhibition brings out Rodin’s love for “exploring what it means to be human. The figures in the gallery are posed and intertwined:  some spiraling, others flailing and still more arching outward. They show a multiplicity of emotions, such as shame, guilt, adoration, lust, fear and caring, that are possible only through Rodin’s obsession with the human form. The museum’s central gallery has been completely reconfigured with embracing and struggling lovers in marble, plaster, and bronze. The stark nudity, made all the more compelling by the anonymous, suggests unfettered ardor of the female.

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In 1912, Rodin said, “People have often accused me of having made erotic sculptures. I have never made any erotic works. I have never made a sculpture for the sake of the erotic element. Most of the people cannot conceive this because they are unable to conceive what sculpture is because they are forever looking in sculpture for literary and philosophical ideas. Sculpture is the art of forms.” The whole collection tells a hot-blooded story of lust and power and even tenderness. That Rodin was in love with passionate energy becomes abundantly clear. Rodin is sharing with us a catalog of passion. It’s a theme he comes back to again and again and again…

Casual Chic in the City of Angels

My Fashion History teacher once said in class, “no matter how hard she tries, she always looks overdressed in the sunny LA.”  Her interesting statement was the source of inspiration for this post today. I considered myself half Angeleno since I’d lived there for over four years and I am very excited to share some tips with those that want to master the “LA casual chic”.

Don’t Overdress 

Angelenos were the ones that invented “sports casual chic.” It is the land of crop tops, yoga pants, and baseball caps. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing crop tops or yoga pants, the versatile ensemble of a basic white tee and boyfriend jeans paired with some funky accessories will be ultra chic and weather friendly.

Opt for Light Colors

It can get really hot during the day in LA. Ditch the monochromatic dark shades in your Parisian wardrobe and pick out the light colored outfits for the day. Your sartorial choices may bright up your mood as well. After all, Angelenos are notorious for smiling and looking unreasonably cheerful all the time.

Maxi Dress

I loved wearing maxi dresses when I lived there because it it ultra soft and feminine and looks fantastic with a bikini underneath! It is must-have in your wardrobe if you live in a Mediterranean climate. Also pair it with some cute sandals or pumps, you’re good to go for a sexy evening out.

Boho Chic

Being the entertainment capital of the world, LA hosts an abundance of music festivals and summer concerts. So the LA locals love adding a bit bohemian flair to their casual outfits. Take a stroll along Venice beach and you will be greeted with a slideshow of “Californian hippie chic”.

Wear layers 

Although it’s 20 degrees (68°F) out, don’t indulge the impulse to throw on a tank top and short shorts. Instead alway bring a jacket, a sweater, a kimono, or simply a scarf just in case the temperature decides to suddenly drop 10 degrees.

Evening Wear

For the evenings, the LA girl dresses to impress. Let it be a date, a night out with the girlfriends, or just for some casual drinks at a bar. But we don’t want to look like we’re trying too hard, so wear something understated yet sexy.