Shakespeare and Company

It’s impossible to write about places to visit in Paris without talking about Shakespeare and Company. It’s a landmark, a piece of literary and Parisian history, an institution, a place of pilgrimage for young writers and literature lovers from all over the world, and now with the recent opening of their new café, a wonderful place to hang out and enjoy good food and great books.

The original Shakespeare and Company was founded in 1919 by an American, Sylvia Beach, on the rue de l’Odeon in the 6th arrondissement. Selling English language books, her shop became a meeting place for the writers of the ‘Lost Generation’ who flocked to Paris in the 1920s – Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, TS Eliot, Ezra Pound and many more, including perhaps most famously James Joyce, whose Ulysses she published for the first time in 1922 – nobody was prepared to publish it at the time. The shop you see today was opened in 1951 by another American, Geroge Whitman, and it also quickly became a mecca for writers of the Beat Generation such as Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs. In fact over 30,000 aspiring writers, or ‘Tumbleweeds’ as they are known, have stayed there over the years, the bookshop provides them with a free room in return for helping around the shop and reading a book a day! Don’t miss the motto above the door: ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise’.


More recently, George Whitman’s dream of opening a literary café in the building next door, has been realised by his daughter Sylvia Beach Whitman, who now runs the bookshop. The café was opened in partnership with the popular Bob’s Bake Shop, serving mainly vegetarian food, good coffee, and George’s special recipe lemon pie.

It’s hard to do justice to such a fascinating and historic place as Shakespeare & Company in a short blog post. If you are interested in learning more about it I recommend you read this Vanity Fair article or check out the history section on the bookshop’s website. A great book I can also highly recommend is ‘Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation – A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties’ by Noel Riley Fitch.

Better still, drop in when you are in Paris, lose yourself amongst the thousands of books and the many rooms and corridors of the shop, or attend a poetry reading or a talk by a writer – you’ll soon feel the magic of this very special place.

  • Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, 37 rue de la Bucherie, 75005 Paris.  metro: St Michel

The main shop is open daily 10:00 – 23:00. The café is open Mon-Fri 9:30 – 19:00, Sat and Sun 9:30 – 20:00

Shakespeare & Company website


Vineyards in Paris

Once Paris was surrounded by vineyards. Wine has been produced here since Roman times, and still is today. There are many vineyards in the Paris region, but it’s a little known fact that there are also a few still remaining within the city itself. Although small, they are all lovingly maintained and very beautiful. Most were planted, or replanted, in the 20th century, as a souvenir of the wine growing past of that particular part of the city.

Le Parc de Bercy, 12th arrondissement

In the 19th century Bercy was the biggest wine and spirits market in the world.  660m2 of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay vines grow today in the Parc de Bercy on the east side of the city. Planted in 1996, they produce about 350 bottles per year.

Le Clos de Belleville, Le Parc de Belleville, 20th arrondissement

Vines have apparently been growing in Belleville since the Middle Ages, in the 13th century there were over 15 hectares of vineyards here. Nowadays there remains just a small plot of 250m2 on the slopes of the Parc de Belleville, growing mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier .

Le Clos Montmartre, 18th arrondissement

The Clos Montmartre is probably the best known vineyard in Paris. Vines have also been here since Roman times, although they were wiped out by phylloxera and the plot became waste ground. In 1933 it was saved from the property developers by a group of artists, and the 1700 bottles made each year (in the basement of the local town hall!) are sold with all the proceeds going to local charities. This is the only one of the vineyards to sell their wine. The main grape varieties grown here are Gamay and Pinot Noir.

La Butte Bergeyre, 19th arrondissement

The charming village-like quarter of the Butte Bergeyre sits on top of a hill with sweeping views over the city. The park here is not only home to the 600m2 vineyard, but also to a wonderful shared garden, bursting with fruit and vegetables, as well as six beehives. It sits just to the west of the beautiful Buttes Chaumont park, and produces about 100 litres of Clos des Chaufourniers each year, made mainly from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.

Clos des Morillons, Parc Georges Brassens, 15th arrondissement

The area around Vaugirard was traditionally a wine growing area, although it gradually disappeared, replaced first by market gardens and then buildings. Since 1983 the wine growing tradition has been revived here, and now it is one of the largest vineyards in the city, growing Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.

Coming across one of these vineyards in the heart of the city is a such a pleasure, and going in search of them is even better, as it can take you to fascinating areas that you may otherwise completely miss.

  • Vigne du Parc de Bercy, 1 rue Jospeh Kessel, 75012
  • Clos de Belleville, Parc de Belleville, 75020
  • Clos Montmartre, corner of rue St Vincent and rue des Saules, 75018
  • Clos des Chaufourniers, rue Georges Lardennois, 75019
  • Clos des Morillons, Parc Georges Brassens, 75015

Mallet Stevens at the Villa Cavrois

The modernist Villa Cavrois is considered one of the greatest works of architect Robert Mallet Stevens. Located just to the north east of the city of Lille, about 220km north of Paris, it was commissioned in 1929 by wealthy industrialist Paul Cavrois to house his large family. It is a complete manifesto of the work of Mallet Stevens, he designed not only the building but the interiors, the furniture and the gardens. The result is spectacular.

Mallet Stevens had complete freedom with the design of the villa, as long as he stayed within budget. The yellow bricks of the facade were made specially for the house, the horizontal joints between them (over 200km total) were painstakingly painted by hand to accentuate the length and horizontality of the building. Mallet Stevens designed without ornamentation, but using the highest quality materials – exotic woods and marble, as well as modern industrial materials such as steel and glass. The proportions are large but not ostentatious, every detail is considered and the house conveys a sense of both luxury and simplicity. Modern technologies such as electricity, central heating, air conditioning, telephones between all rooms and a lift were installed. The rooms are not only beautiful, but also functional.

Light is present throughout the villa, both from the large windows and direct and indirect lighting. The house is divided into 2 wings, one for the parents, one for their 7 children and the personnel. Life in the villa revolved around the main points of it’s design: air, light, work, sports, hygiene, comfort and efficiency.

Requisitioned by the Germans during WWII, the villa was partially damaged. Parts of the interior were remodeled in 1947 to accommodate the evolving family. After the death of Madame Cavrois in 1986 the villa fell into disrepair, it was looted, ransacked and became a squat. An association was a formed to protect it – it was declared a national monument in 1990 but the destruction continued until it was bought by the state in 2001. Its restoration was finally entrusted to the Centre des Monuments National, this mammoth task took 12 years. The villa has been painstakingly restored to its former glory (some of the gardens had to unfortunately be sold off to pay for the works) and the result is breathtaking.

If you like architecture, design and outstanding craftsmanship, don’t miss a visit to the Villa Cavrois. If you are interested in seeing more work by Mallet Stevens in Paris, plan a visit to the rue Mallet Stevens in the 16th arrondissement or the Musée Mendjisky.

Also, if you are in Lille before 5 June 2016 don’t miss the exceptional Modigliani exhibition at the LAM (Modern Art Museum of Lille) in Villeneuve d’Asq.

  • Villa Cavrois, 60 avenue John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 59170 Croix

Open daily except Tuesdays, 10:30 – 18:30

Villa Cavrois website (in English)

An enchanted forest in the Louvre

Set in the heart of the Cour Carré in the Louvre, is a magical, mirrored box that allows you to step into another world. Artist Eva Jospin’s Panorama is both architecture and art. The box is encased in steel, reflecting the beautiful buildings of the Louvre that surround it.

Louvre Cour Carré Eva Jospin

Inside, a mysterious forest grotto has been sculpted entirely from cardboard. Only a few visitors are allowed in at a time, it’s quiet, fragile, detailed and incredibly beautiful.

The Panorama has been designed specially for this site and is on show until August 28th. Admission is free.

  • Musée du Louvre, 75001 Paris. metro: Palais Royal Musée du Louvre

Les Grands Voisins

In the 14th arrondissement, the Hopital Saint Vincent de Paul has been closed since 2011. In a few years this old maternity hospital – parts of which date back to the 17th century – will become a vast eco-quarter. In the meantime, three associations have transformed it into a shared space where people live, create, work and form a community that supports itself and each other.

Les Grands Voisins provides a home for those in need, a space for artists and artisans to create and work, a meeting space for associations and clubs to provide classes, cultural activities and much more.  It relies on its residents to take care of it and of each other – old hospital furniture is reused and recycled, plants and bees thrive in the gardens and the space is open to the public to come and participate, meet the residents, and join the community effort. It’s a different way of living in the heart of the city.

During a visit you can find all kinds of treasures – amongst them a second hand shop selling everything from books to vintage crockery, a potter making beautiful, delicate bowls, teapots and lights, and a wonderful plant nursery and concept store that also runs workshops – Mama Petula

The lingerie – the old laundry – is now a café and meeting place, also hosting debates and concerts. A board on the wall lists the activities for the week: yoga, qi gong, community barbecues, workshops and more. The atmosphere is friendly, joyful and convivial, it’s a breath of fresh air in a city where such community spirit and generosity can sometimes seem hard to find.

600 people live at Les Grands Voisins, 300 work there in over 70 associations, workshops and companies. Eighty students still study at the midwifery school. This weekend they participated in the 48 Hours of Urban Agriculture that was taking place across the city. There is always something going on and visitors are welcome. Take some time to stop in and support this impressive community before the hospital is torn down and disappears.

  • Les Grands Voisins, Hôpital Saint Vincent de Paul, 82 avenue Denfert Rochereau, 75014. metro: Denfert Rochereau

Open Wed-Sat 10:00 – 23:00. Sun 10:00 – 21:00

Les Grands Voisins Facebook page


David Bowie at the Philharmonie de Paris

Last spring I went to see David Bowie Is at the newly opened Philharmonie de Paris, an incredible building designed by Jean Nouvel.

He is one of my all time heroes, he influenced and defined my teenage years and beyond, as he did for so many others.

Long may his legend live on.

Philharmonie de Paris-Jean Nouvel


Fred le Chevalier around the Canal St Martin

Recently whilst wandering around the Canal Saint Martin I was delighted to see some new works by my favourite street artist, Fred le Chevalier, and decided it was time for another post. Previously to be found around Menilmontant, his beautiful and poetic drawings can now be seen more often in the Canal Saint Martin area in the 10th arrondissement, also sometimes in the Marais and parts of the 11th arrondissement.

I always find it such a delight to come across one of these drawings, they are pasted on the walls and disappear gradually depending on the weather, offering fleeting moments of gladness when you see one. They seem especially poignant now in the area that was hit so tragically by the attacks in November. ‘Invent monsters to scare away our fears’ is often something he writes under his drawings. Musicians play to a monster with death pinned onto his lapel, a child snuggles up to a great beast.

Fred Le Chevalier-Paris 2Other drawings show benevolent angels looking down on us, or scenes of comfort and peace. Each time I come across one of his works I am reminded that not only that it is possible to confront our fears, but also that art, beauty and joy still surround us every day.

If you are interested in his work you can see more on his Facebook page.


Open days – Artists studios from Anvers to Abbesses

This weekend it was the turn of 120 artists living and working in the 9th and 18th arrondissements – between approximately Anvers and Abbesses – to open their workshops, galleries, shops and sometimes even their homes to the public. Organised by the artists association ‘d’Anvers aux Abbesses’ it takes place each year on the 3rd weekend of November, and this year celebrates it’s 20th anniversary.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a day – you get to explore areas that you may not otherwise visit, to step into hidden courtyards, down tiny stairways into workshops, or go up the stairs into apartments and studios, all filled with amazing works of contemporary art. More than that, it’s a chance to meet the artists, to talk to them about their work, buy works if you wish and show them your support.

The association organizing the weekend provides a free, easy to follow map with a list of all the artists and their mediums. You can wander around and visit as many or as few as you like, in any order. The area around Montmartre is also full of lively cafés and restaurants and there are plenty of places to stop and relax between visits. On a beautiful crisp, sunny day like today, Paris is at her creative and beautiful best.

Anvers aux Abbesses artists association website (in French)

Wallace fountains

Paris is a pretty expensive city, but did you know you can get free drinking water around the city from these beautiful Wallace fountains? One of the iconic symbols of Paris, they owe their English sounding name to the philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace who financed them. These fountains were installed from 1870, during the reconstruction of Paris that followed the ravages of the Franco Prussian war and the ensuing Commune. Aqueducts had been destroyed, the price of water was high and it was usually brought from the Seine, meaning it was dirty and spread disease. Liquor was cheaper and the poor turned to drink.


Sir Richard designed the fountains himself, there are 4 different models. The most well known feature 4 caryatids representing charity, kindness, simplicity and sobriety. Each of the four is slightly different, look at the way she bends her knee or the folds of her robe. They were placed close enough together so that horses could not fit their heads in between!

The original fountains are dark green to blend in with their surroundings, although you may come across some nowadays painted bright pink or yellow! The water is safe and healthy, and is still today helping those in need – they are a source of free drinking water for the homeless. So they continue to fulfill Sir Richard’s dream, of beautifying Paris and helping her inhabitants, and nowadays visitors too.

They run from March 15 to November 15, in the winter they are switched off due to the risk of frost. Keep your eyes open as you wander around the city, there are still around 120 of them and the water is fresh and clean, just bring a bottle!

The doorways of Paris

Everywhere you look in Paris there is something to take a picture of.
I like looking at the doorways. Many of the buildings have beautiful entrances, and there is a huge variety of styles. Often these doors will open into beautiful hidden courtyards. If you’re lucky you can sometimes get a peep inside.

Even the details can be incredibly beautiful, so keep your eyes open and your camera handy!


Cocktail party by Le Notre

The French have this wonderful thing called a ‘cocktail dinatoire’, which is drinks – usually champagne – accompanied by lots of little snacks, enough so that you don’t need to have a dinner. And in France food not only sometimes becomes an art form, but is always more than delicious.

The other evening I went to one catered by Le Notre. The food was so beautiful it almost seemed a pity to eat it.

Then I realised it would be impolite to not to try some, so I made sure I had one of each, at least.

They have several shops dotted around Paris. Maybe a good place to pick up a picnic! Or at least some good ideas…

Le Notre

The farmer’s market in early summer

One of the things I love about living in France is that people here enjoy eating food when it is in season. Of course you can get all types of fruits and vegetables all year round, but I like shopping the French way, going to the market and buying local produce when it is at it’s best.


We look forward to the first French strawberries and asparagus in late May, and gorge ourselves on them knowing that the feast will soon be over. Not only does it mean you eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables throughout the year, but it really seems to add to the pleasure knowing that you only have a short window of time to enjoy them in. And of course they are always at their best just harvested, it’s hard to beat the first fresh apricot of early summer.

At this time of year we are spoilt for choice… below is what was on offer at the market in Chartres this morning. You can find markets in and around Paris every day of the week, many of them like this one with local producers selling what they grow. Just make sure you go in the mornings – by lunchtime everything and everyone will have disappeared.