Bed in a bookstore | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

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A begrudging thumbs-up to this photo of Shakespeare & Co., in Paris. The owner – now in his 90s – used to invite misfits and travellers of all stripes to stay in the store (the sit-and-read couches are all beds!) in exchange for a short, written biography and a couple of hours’ work shifting books and boxes. I found out about it too late to take advantage during my first trip to Paris, but was able to pass it along to Doctor-Esquire, who had the pleasure of (and the allergic reaction to) staying amongst the books and resident cats.

On my recent trip, however, I was disappointed to find the owner’s 20-something daughter – all movie-star looks and runway-model snobby – has taken over the running of the store. The piles upon piles of used books, once stacked to the ceiling, are gone; replaced by new books sold at above-average prices. The number of floors has been reduced. And – most gallingly – the “tumbleweeds” now appear to be chosen based on cool factor, rather than the random and open selections for which George was famous.

As traditions and history go, Shakespeare & Co. is rightfully a Paris legend. But for those who love books and hate attitude, you’d be better off around the corner – at the Canadian bookstore on rue de Parcheminerie. The stacks go to the ceiling, the owner knows everything he’s got, and makes fabulous recommendations as well as conversation. And if you catch him at the right time of day, you may be offered a book in exchange for a sharing cheap bottle of wine, rather than the asking price… How’s that for a true Parisien experience?

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