Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise adorns one of the walls inside Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, and this phrase encapsulates the warmth of the store’s heritage. George Whitman was the owner at the time this picture was taken in 2003 and now his daughter Sylvia carries on her father’s legacy. There are beds throughout the store where struggling writers are welcome to spend the night.
Last year when George Whitman passed away, I turned my house upside down looking for the picture of me in mom jeans and a huge shirt standing in front of a bookstore I waited my entire life up until that point to see. Tonight the picture fell out of a photo album I haven’t glanced at in probably a decade, and I almost cried. This picture was my ultimate Paris souvenir, and it’s been missing for years.
The day I finally got a chance to visit Shakespeare and Company was a milestone for me. I hobbled around the store, my left foot in a walking cast due to tripping over a tree root in my front yard, and broken foot or not I was determined to see what I always thought of as my Mecca, a place where book lovers, writers, outcasts, and whomever else wondered in the doors received a warm welcome, a place to sleep if needed (in exchange for work at the store), and stacks and stacks of books piled in every corner of the dimly lit shop to peruse. I really wish I would have taken pictures of the interior of the shop with my disposable camera I used on the trip, but I was too overwhelmed and living in the moment. Ah, the days before iPhones and Instagram.
Here are some more pictures of Nate and me in France way back in 2003:
The above pictures are just a little bit of what Nate and I did while we visited France. We spent days touring through art museums where Nate wheeled me around in a wheelchair to see my favorite paintings and sculptures in person, eating delicious food, and walking through beautiful parks. At one of the parks we saw the coolest mechanical puppet show. I could go on and on…