Shakespeare and Company.
Or Hemingway’s Paris Lives.
Act I: Shakespeare and Company
Sylvia Beach founded this bookstore in 1919 and is the reason the Lost Generation became the Found By International Fame And Immortal Writing Generation. Hemingway used to come borrow books from Sylvia at her book store because he was living the dream as a broke writer in Paris so when you get a book from here you are living Hemingway’s Paris.
What I love to do is to close my eyes and pick a book at random from the table of staff selections on the first floor. I’ve found some of my favorite new novelist on that table. It never misses.
With your new book head west along the Seine until taking a left on Boulevard Saint-Michel. A few minutes later you’ll come to the intersection of where else but Boulevard Saint-Germain.
The Cluny Museum is here at this intersection. It’s a lovely little uncrowded museum with some spectacular stuff from the middle ages. If you’ve got time, it’s just to your left.
If you don’t want to stop at the Cluny or are now just coming out of the Cluny, then head west on the famous Boulevard Saint-Germain and stroll for a few minutes. I mean just stroll. It’s Paris and Hemingway wrote of strolling on this boulevard.
If you’re happy that your strolling is a new personal best in strolling because if you’re not going to top your personal best in strolling on Boulevard Saint-Germain then you never will, then take a left on Rue de Seine and after a minute or two, depending on your strolling speed, at the corner of Rue Lobineau and Rue de Seine will be the pastry shop of Gerard Mullet Pastry. Walk in with your new book because walking into a French pâtisserie with a novel under your arm is straight out of the dream of being Belle from Beauty and the Beast that inspired you to buy tickets to Paris in the first place. At the counter you can order fresh pastries or lunch like a sandwich or a slice of pizza and eat at a French pâtisserie while reading. Then die if you want. It’s hard to improve on reading at a French pâtisserie, if we’re all being honest.
Act II: Luxembourg Gardens
From Gerard Mullet Pastry, just keep strolling south on Rue de Seine, which then becomes Rue de Tournon, and that bad boy will drop you right into one of my favorite places in Paris, especially since I don’t have to hunt pigeons for my lunch like Hemingway did. It’s Luxembourg Gardens and all you have to hunt for is your favorite new place to read from your favorite new novel.
I start at the Pavillon de la Fontaine Paris. It’s a nice little shaded area to sit with tables and trees. Do not eat here, but a ginger beer and a sparkling water while you read is a ginger beer and a sparkling water while you read anywhere. Don’t worry about how fast or slow is the service. You’re in one of the world’s incredible green spaces and the world does not factor waiter speed into deciding the delightfulness of its gardens. Anyway you ought to be hoping that the service is slow. Ordering comes with a token for the bathrooms, which is cool, too.
When you’re done with your ginger beer or sparkling water close your book and move from the Pavillon to the chairs behind the fountain. Open your book again but look up from time to time to watch families push sailboats around a fountain. Let it remind you that you’re in Paris.
Close your book again and if they are open move to the lawns on the south side of the garden and do your time in Luxembourg on the lawns like a real Parisian. Let it remind you that you’re in Paris.
Swing back north through the west side of the gardens where there are some statues and benches if you’re inclined to keep reading, and then once out of the gardens, on the northwest side, take Rue Bonaparte north for a few minutes until you reach the church of Saint Sulpice.
From this street is the view of the church you’re looking for and it puts you smack dab into the fountain out front. On a warm day or even a cold one sit on the edge and dip your toes into the fountain and open back up your book.
Act III: Chez Julien – Lou Pescadou
Hemingway used to skip meals to save up for dinner and I can’t imagine him doing that for better than the onion soup and braised leg of lamb at the outdoor tables of Lou Pescadou. So from the fountain of Saint Sulpice continue north on Rue Bonaparte, then hang a quick right on Place Saint-Sulpice, which becomes Rue Saint-Sulpice, and then a quick left on Rue Mabillon and my table at Lou Pescadou is outside, second from the end. I have had some of the best evenings of my life at that table second from the end. The waiters here are lovely and so is the chef and if he’s taking a smoking break go sit with him and learn about cooking. This is the kind of evening for which you came to Paris.