Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Rain in Saint Germain, Book Shops and CDs

The Left Bank of Paris is a little like home to us. It’s the first place we stayed in 2006 and again in 2007, we rented an apartment for a week in St Andre des Arts closer to the Seine off Boulevard St Michel. It was a loft style apartment with the sleeping quarters above the living area.

These two street signs give us a feeling of a second home. A bit touristy but close to everything.

We once again started the day by emerging from the Metro, this time at Boulevard Saint Michel with anticipation of returning to familiar sights. We weren’t disappointed as the familiar scenes appeared as we hit the street. The cafe, the fountain, our old street and the book shops were all there to greet us once again.

Sue wanted to buy some English novels and there are a few book shops specialising in English language literature in this area. Gibert Jeune on Place Saint Michel was our first stop. I even purchased a book titled “Paris, a Secret History” written in a not quite, but similar manner to Bill Bryson. It starts from the early settlement of the Seine islands by the Parisii Celts and progresses to the time of Caesar’s widening his power through Gaul. He gave the area the name Lutetia when he defeated the Parisii after a short battle. The Parisii were shrewd enough to realise more was to be gained by a short altercation before getting on with their lives under Roman rule.

Many signs of Roman settlement still stand in Paris, mainly on the Left Bank. Last year we visited the remains of a Roman arena, now a small park. Also in the Sorbonne are the remains of Roman baths.
I posted these on my "leapingleapingleonsfrenchfancies" blog on a previous visit.
But I digress, the reason for returning to the Left Bank was for Sue to buy some English language books and unknown to me at the time was to buy a very, very expensive handbag. Walking up Boulevard Saint Michel to Boulevard Saint Germain, the heavens opened once again and it was up with the brollies. The Boulevard also has a couple of great shops with both second hand and special priced CD shops and the rain was my excuse to pop in. I can spend hours checking out CD shops, hence there are five French artist Cds in my luggage to enjoy when I get home.

One of the book shops I really did want to see (and I will return to before going home) was Shakespeare and Co. It has a rich history of selling English language books in Paris since the early 1900s. It sits in the shadows of Notre Dame at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie and has its own website. If you like literature go to http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/
Initially started by Sylvia Beach, I became intrigued by the book shop's history and found this on Wikipedia,
The original bookstore's proprietor was Sylvia Beach. It opened in 1919 and was located at 8 rue Dupuytren. In May 1921, Beach moved the store to a larger location at 12 rue de l'Odéon, where it remained until 1941. During this era, the store was considered to be a center of Anglo/American literary culture in Paris. The shop was often visited by artists of the "Lost Generation," such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, George Antheil, Man Ray and James Joyce. The contents of the store were considered high quality and reflected Beach's own literary taste. Shakespeare and Company, as well as its literary denizens, was repeatedly mentioned in Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. Patrons could buy or borrow books like D. H. Lawrence's controversial Lady Chatterley's Lover, which had been banned in England and the United States.
You could spend hours discovering the most obscure English language books in its narrow, winding hallways of bookshelves.

It was time to consider lunch and so we walked through the narrow meandering streets of the 5e to discover the enchanting church of Saint Severin. Although we knew of its existence on previous visits, we’d never actually found it. The leadlight windows, the ceiling architecture and the fact that it was established in the 15 century made it all the more interesting. It is believed it was built on the foundations of the earlier chapel of the hermit Severin where it takes it's name. My Paris book tells me it was also built on an earlier burial ground.

As we walked away from the church we located a street full of comic book shops.

I don't know much about Tin Tin but gather it is extremely popular in Europe - can anyone explain please.
I have a friend in OZ who is an absolute fanatical Tin Tin fan. Being an avid collector, he probably has seen most of what is available but I post these pics because he is a good friend with a very sad obsession.
Lunch was galettes at a creperie on Boulevard Saint Michel and at the right time as the rain started again. We sat beside the quintessential elderly French gentleman with a hearing issue. He smiled and made nice small talk on leaving. I had the salmon galette while Sue had the mushroom galette. We swapped half way. Galettes and crepes are an inexpensive lunch in our experience throughout France and even in Paris.
A short walk back down Saint Michel and I was 200 euro poorer. Sue found a handbag and purse to take back home.
No wonder this bike is chained to the down-pipe. It is a true classic English Raleigh and fully chromed. The saddle for those who know is a vintage leather Brooks. Very nice.

Finally at home and it was a feet up rest before popping out to dinner. Our friends Sophie and Leigh had invited us to their home in the 11e for dinner with another couple from London who had just returned from a few days Skiing in the Alps. Kate was an Aussie but had lived away from home for 20 years from memory and Jonathon was a native of Leeds. A great night was had and one we can put in our box of travel memories.
Not an uncommon sight in Paris is the unbelievable amount of cigarette buts littering the streets, however there is very little doggie poo visible these days.

We concluded a great day by hitting the Metro with some trepidation at 11.00 pm. Something we would hesitate doing in Melbourne but we were assured by Leigh and Sophie that it was not a concern in Paris.

We arrived home safely to live another day.

Sunday - a quiet day with a ride in the arvo and Lapin for dinner.
Most things were closed, the streets were quiet generally and the weather started clearing. We decided to check out a museum not far up the road dealing with "Inventors and the progress of unique scientific and technical heritage".
The most interesting section for me was in the restored chapel. On display were early Aero and  Auto inventions against a backdrop of the early chapel.
Last year we passed by one of these windmills in the Loire, but didn't quite understand how it all worked. Note the four legs at the base, they of course stay in place while the actual windmill would swivel on the base to take advantage of the wind regardless of direction.

Oh no, not another bike - I heard that, but this is special. Rims and sections of the frame are made of wood with metal connecting pieces. Just a great piece of Velo d'Art, don't you think?

Quite an amazing display of Aero and Auto inventions of the past. Man has always dreamt of flying. Other examples in this museum showed that some failed.

This machine was a cross between Aero and Auto. It had an Aero motor, yet a very racing car body of the era. Note the back wheel on the right. Both back wheels were covered in for the effect of cutting down wind turbulance - nothin is new, cyclists use disc wheels for the same advantage today.

Food and Wine of the day
Beautiful Bunny for dinner, Sue purchased a fresh "Lapin" from our local Boucherie.

And me, I'm in charge of wine - check these 1/2 bottles for approx AUS$7.00 each. Vintage 2005 and 2006. Bordeaux wines are more to the taste of Australians, where the middle bottle is from Provence, south of France and is lighter, bit like a Pinot. The Buzet comes from middle France in the Lot district.
The main training area for Parisienne cyclists use the parklands of Vincennes, about 10 kms from inner Paris. As you ride towards the parklands you pass by Vincennes Castle. Tomorrow's blog takes us there.


  1. It seems like the weather is finally warming up. You are lucky to have friends in Paris and to be able to visit with them.
    Tintin is from Belgium. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson directed a Tintin movie (the same process as "Avatar" using motion capture technology). Spielberg was in LA and Peter in New-Zealand. You will hear about it soon when the movie comes out.
    Do Aussies eat rabbit?

  2. Nadege,
    Friends are what makes life fun, yes I do think we are very fortunate. Wonderful to see clear sky today. My Tin Tin friend told me of its Belgium origins and on our return to Melbourne, I am going to take an interest.
    I remember Spielberg's 1st film Duel and have enjoyed Jackson's films as Tolkien fan. Should be a great partnership. I will tell my friend.

  3. Ahhhhh Gibert Jeune!! I spent quite a bit of time wandering around in here before heading down to St Germaine. I also took photos of Tin Tin for Al here too. This shop is on a corner that has numerous manga and comic shops nearby. A very attractive part of Paris.
    Love your writing Leon. Keep tapping away.

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