Wait, this isn’t a restaurant chain in Lexington, KY.
For context, there are some restaurants in my hometown called “Shakespeare and Co.” that serve cute brunch foods. Apparently, they have really good vegan options, so when my vegan friends come to town, I often go.
The real Shakespeare and Co., however, is an old bookshop in Paris. I’m not actually sure where I heard of it first — was it my freshman English class? Was it one of the various French movies I watched for extra credit but never really understood? It’s just one of those things that I know I know, but I don’t know how I know — you know?
On Tuesday, the last day before classes began, my new friend, Hannah, and I decided to do some shopping, with the specific intent of visiting some thrift stores. We’d heard it alluded to by our Welcome Programme leader, and Hannah had actually visited it before, but I hadn’t yet made it there. It sounded like heaven to me — an entire section of town devoted to vintage and thrift shops? Sounds like my cup of tea.
Of all of the neighborhoods in Paris, I think I visited Le Marais the most frequently, after my own neighborhood and the neighborhood Sciences Po is in. Le Marais is the proverbial *bohemian* part of town, akin to Shoreditch in London or Wicker Park in Chicago. It’s home to a thriving gay community, arts community, and of course, lots of wonderful vintage shops.
My favorite was Free’p’star. No, I don’t know why it’s called that. All I know is that it was an amazing store — I don’t like the phrase “happy place,” but that’s probably what I would call it.
There were actually two Free’p’stars right across the street from each other — again, don’t know why. They both had similar stocks — not that that means anything, when I’m pretty sure they sold just about any kind of clothing imaginable. I can’t say they had a very consistent theme, beyond “used French clothes.”
But the thing about “used French clothes” is that they’re much nicer than used American clothes — much nicer than what you’d find at a Goodwill. French people, especially Parisian French people, are a fashionable bunch. When they get rid of clothes, what they get rid of is still pretty nice.
The best part of Free’p’star was the massive 1 euro bargain bin at the back of the store. Everything in the bin was 1 euro — no lie.
You’d often have to fight a crowd just to stand at the bargain bin and sift through its treasures. As soon as someone moved in position slightly, you had to be prepared to elbow your way in — and if you were standing at the bin already, you had to be prepared for someone to sneak next to you as soon as you shifted your feet. It was competitive — people would start stacks to get clothes out of their way as they hunted, and someone else would come along behind them and start shifting through the other person’s stack of refuse, creating their own stack in the process.
But there was some really nice stuff to be found, if you were willing to do some treasure hunting. As it turns out, that’s exactly my kind of thing. My mother, on the other hand, who hates the disorganized nature of even a store like TJ Maxx, would have taken one look inside Free’p’star and turned around and walked out.
After Le Marais, Hannah and I visited the famous Shakespeare and Co. across the river. There were signs requesting that tourists not take pictures inside, which I mostly heeded. I did get plenty of pictures outside though.
To my surprise, Shakespeare and Co., sold almost exclusively English language books. I’m not sure what I expected out of a bookstore named for the most famous English writer in history, but I was hoping for a chance to check out some French books. That was why I was in Paris, after all — to learn French.
Thankfully, Gibert Jaune in the Latin Quarter was able to scratch that itch. There were several Gibert Jaune storefronts at the same intersection, so it took Hannah and I a moment to figure out which store was best for us, as each store was devoted to a different genre of books. After wandering around aimlessly in the nonfiction store and then the science fiction/fantasy store, we finally came across the discount books store.
I picked up copies of L’étranger by Albert Camus and Vol au-dessus d’un nid du coucou by Ken Kesey, a French translation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I figured I needed something other than Harry Potter et le prisonnier d’Azkaban to read on the Metro on my way to school in order to look like an authentic Parisian.
That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester abroad in the Paris, France. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, Twitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Jacket: A vintage shop in Budapest (thrifted)