Thursday, December 20, 2007

the best bookstore in Paris

In the pictures above, on the corner across the street, you see before you the most magnificent bookstore in all of Paris. I'm getting a little ahead of myself, though.

My lovely daughter and I got up early for a day alone on the streets of Paris. The weather wasn't cooperating with our planned shopping excursion to Montmartre, so we came up with another plan. We took the Metro from Oberkampf to Opera and walked to the high rise shops called Galeries Lafayette. The shops are situated near the perfume factory we had visited earlier in the week and the gorgeous Opera Garnier. We had lunch that day in the cafeteria on the top floor of the high rise and had wanted to go back to wander through all the lovely things we saw on our ride up the escalator.

I'm not a shopper, as I am sure I've mentioned here before, probably multiple times. My lovely daughter got her shopping gene as well as mine and maybe those of two or three other people in the family. We stopped and looked at each and every little stand displaying wares for sale. There were items as diverse as scarves, souveniers, women's shoes, towel wraps for your hair, and children's toys. I think it took us an hour to walk from the Metro stop to the Galeries Lafayette.

Once inside, we marvelled at all the beautiful things available for purchase. There were six or seven floors, each one filled with gorgeous goods, like an upscale department store, but French. As we ascended, we looked at things to purchase for my daughter or to take home with us, and we looked just to look. My daughter had me take pictures of these lovely designer gowns so that I could try to recreate them for her next dance or prom. They both cost more than a small used car. You should have seen the prices on the wedding gowns.

She wanted a coat. We began looking in an area that we thought was the juniors department. We were on a floor of designer clothing, and the prices were more than we wanted to pay. Some of them much more. But she continued to look and as we made our way around the floor, we came to a designer who specialized in more affordable clothing for young women. There she found a little trench coat she loved, just longer than a mini skirt in a soft army green. It is beautifully cut and fits her well. She is wearing the coat below in a picture taken at the gate of the Tuilleries Gardens. (Her aunt says this picture is very "Madeleine, the teenage years").

We bought shoes, dresses, some tops, teal blue tights, a couple of lovely patterned silk scarves for me, and little presents for her brothers and father, my parents and my mother-in-law. The escalators ran all the way to the roof of the building, for gorgeous views of Paris. Even though the day was overcast and gray, you could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

We had a fantastic time, but we were tired and needed sustenance. After a meal in the Lafayette Caffe followed by ridiculously decadent desserts, we decided to return to the hotel. As we watched the underground world of the Metro pass us by, we discussed our purchases. My lovely daughter realized she had forgotten one important thing: a French language dictionary and a book, about third grade level or so, that she could use to improve her French reading and vocabulary skills. She thought that someone in a bookstore might be able to help her choose well. We were leaving in just a few days and might not have much more free time. I remembered that first day we had seen what looked like a charming little bookstore near the hotel. It was still open when we passed by on our way to the hotel from Oberkampf Station, so we rushed to the hotel and took our bags and parcels to our room. We ran back down the three flights of stairs and out the door, walking the two or three city blocks and crossing Boulevard Voltaire to get to the book store, Paperterie Appel Librairie, which I think is literally translated "stationery call bookshop".

We had stopped in the little grocery for drinks and as we walked in, we carried them with us. A man about my age spoke to us sharply in French. We did not understand. My daughter said, "Pardon?" He immediately recognized that we weren't French and said in his heavily accented English that drinks weren't allowed in the store. He walked over to where we stood and took them from us, placing them on his counter for us to retrieve when we were ready to leave. A woman who we supposed to be his wife asked if we needed help. She had dark, short curly hair and dark eyes. She was impeccably dressed and groomed, and reminded me of a grown up version of the French exchange student in Better Off Dead. My daughter spoke to her in schoolgirl French, asking for a good dictionary and a book recommendation. There was much back and forth, and a young girl not much older than my daughter came from the back and started to speak to us in excellent English. The older woman walked away and busied herself at a shelf of books.

My lovely daughter settled on a small, thick dictionary, one that was recommended by the young girl, Larousse dictionnaire français-anglais. She held a stack of children's books in her hands, trying to decide which interested her most. She has been a Harry Potter fan from a young age, and the book she selected, Ma soeur est une sorcière, translates literally to "my sister is a sorceress". Perfect. I selected a note pad printed with fleur de lis in a subtle pattern.

We took our selections to the front of the little shop and put them on the counter. The woman reappeared with a book in her hand. She conversed with my daughter in English, searching carefully for her words. The book was a gift for my daughter, for her to read when she mastered reading books in French. The title is one of the woman's latest favorites, hygiène de l'assassin (hygiene of the assassin). She wanted my lovely daughter to have the book because it pleased her that "this sweet American youth" was studying the French language.

The gift was surprising and delightful. It made me teary eyed that a complete stranger would have such a reaction to my daughter's quest to master French. There are wonderful people all over the world. Two of them own a bookstore on the corner of Boulevard Voltaire and Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in Paris.


Nekked Lizards said...

What a wonderful memory for you and your daughter. We've been to Paris twice. The last time we went, my then teeny bopper daughter and I wanted to find a perfume store we found the first trip. Our guide told us how to take the subway there, but we had to return within 3 hours. We were nervous but navigated the complex subways and made it back with 15 minutes to spare. We were so proud of ourselves, and I still have the subway stubs in my purse. Nekked Lizards

laurie said...

what a wonderful story!

and, again, more places i didn't go, which, once again, necessitates my return.

the gowns are gorgeous. i plan to buy them (when i return) and wear them to work. maybe i'll get a raise.

and the story of the book.... that is wonderful. just wonderful.

you and your daughter obviously charmed them.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Great memories for you to keep about your French experience. I'm hoping to take Amy next year for a holiday and she keeps going on about visiting Paris. I shall look out for that book store.

Crystal xx

aminah said...

I've been offline for a while, so I have lots of reading to catch up with...loved reading this...and we may have crossed paths at this very bookshop cause I was in Paris around the same time! I miss Paris...we will be in Norway for xmas this year so until next xmas we won't be in our favourite city. hope you are well!!!

Kim said...

My daughter loved the Metro. She had so much fun figuring out which lines to take where. I let her plot the paths we took and only gave my opinion if it looked like she was taking us FAR out of the way. Was it the perfume shop across from Opera Garnier?

I think you would look quite smashing in those gowns, Laurie! Where did we go that you didn't? Lafayette? Opera Garnier? Where DID you go?

My daughter is the charmer, Laurie. She really is a delightful girl.

I am sure you and Amy will have a wonderful time. There is a beautiful old carousel in Montmartre that I bet Amy would love.

Aminah, have you really been to that bookshop? Don't go by the dates on my pictures, that is just the default date when we take the batteries out and forget to reset it. We were there in March. It's good to have you stop back by.

elizabethm said...

I love Paris and am so glad you had such a good time. Your daughter sounds a bit of a star! I hope you will be back over here in Europe soon - I think you should start with Wales!

the rotten correspondent said...

I love these stories. You obviously had the time of your lives - both of you. And it shows.

Can I borrow your daughter?

Kim said...

I would love to visit Wales, Elizabeth. We've taken trips to Germany, England, and France. Each has her own charms. I think Wales would be fabulous to visit. I saw a program about a little train in Wales that was the model for the Thomas the Tank Engine series. Fascinating.

Thanks, RC. There is something special about traveling just with one child. We did have a wonderful time. You can borrow my daughter anytime. You know, she's a native Kansan!

laurie said...

i've been to wales! by bus....

ciara said...

popping over from r.c.'s because i wanted to tell you that the show 'californication' is good. i always watch that & weeds on showtime. but what a treat to see all the photos of paris and read your stories :)

The Green Stone Woman said...

It's nice to hear that Americans also have good experiences in Paris where Parisians can be so haughty, even to the Dutch. Paris is a wonderful place, isn't it. I need to go back there myself and walk around some more.

laurie said...

where did you go that we didn't? well, the louvre.... and the friendly bookstore....and the gown store.

where did we go that you didn't? not sure. we went through the catacombs. we spent a lot of time in the rue cler neighborhood, eating at cafes and window shopping and buying from fruit stalls. we went to sylvia beach's bookstore. we browsed the bookstalls along the seine. ...

willowtree said...

To Kaycie and Family,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
from WT and Family

Fire Byrd said...

it had such an impact on you that trip, I hope your daughter holds it as one of her treasured memories to.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful festive season and a great New Year

Jenni said...

Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us! I really enjoyed reading both of these posts about Paris.

It just amazes me a bit that students are allowed to bring their supplies into The Louvre and copy the paintings. I suppose they are only very advanced students that do this--or at least it looks that way from the one guy's work.

Kim said...

I am so glad you enjoyed them, Jenni. There are two previous stories about our March, 2007 trip to Paris, one in September and one in October, if you're interested. One of them is about visiting the cemetary where Jim Morrison, among many others, is buried. The other is about our first day in Paris and how we got separated from the group and lost in Montmartre.