Shakespeare and Company looks as a bookstore should. Books tucked everywhere from ceiling to floor, making one wonder if the English-language bookshop even has walls. Maybe there are just books, somehow suspended in the air.
Forget about those modern, glossy superstores where you can practically do cartwheels down the aisles. Shakespeare and Company is nothing like that. You squeeze yourself through the book laden passages, walk from hidden room to hidden room, pass under heavy wooden beams and walk along hexagonal clay tiles.
I can spend all day in here, browsing through the books and feeling as if I were back in Paris in the 1950s. But this time, I wasn't here to read or buy a book. I'd come to the shop for one of the many types of special events that delight the English-speaking community -- and in this case, the very youngest of readers.
Children's Hour! Hosted by the charismatic Kate Stables, it was just what I needed to jolt my three-year-old daughter P. out of her English-language phobia. (Our usual conversation: I say, often in a pleading voice: "Why don't you want to speak English?" P. says, "Everyone at school speaks French. Only YOU speak English.")
But now, it's not just me. Here is Kate who actually knows the words to "London Bridge" and "Wheels on the Bus" (P. is now realizing that I didn't make these songs up!) And there are other children here too who speak French AND English. I can almost see the thoughts running rapidly through P.'s mind. She is quiet through most of the hour, but does whisper-sing a few of the songs, play some musical instruments and tell me she wants to come back.
And on the way home, she proudly counts aloud... in English. Thanks, Kate! Thanks, Shakespeare and Company!