GET LOST: Finding rare literary gems like Shakespeare and Company in Paris will make your travels all the more memorable.
GET LOST: Finding rare literary gems like Shakespeare and Company in Paris will make your travels all the more memorable. zozzzzo

Get into a site's good books

We had no idea our hotel was above a famous, independent second-hand book store, and it took a little gasp of appreciation to stand in front of Shakespeare and Company in Paris before we even thought about entering our hotel.

Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank near the Latin Quarter is legendary.

I believe literary devotees will happily travel from all over the world, some just happy to say they have visited, let alone sat in one of its chairs where many a literary bottom has rested itself.

Outside the book store there is a little town square where shabby old book stands contain well-thumbed books.

Queues often form, bus loads of foreign tourists arrive, most get out, take a photo of the store's celebrated green and yellow facade, get back on the bus and seem very pleased with themselves.

We had stumbled upon this icon. Traveller's luck. Which made us feel quite smug. Until we finally entered the doors of our hotel next door and found a narrow space which did nothing to deserve the word 'reception'. We could barely get inside.

But a friendly man assured us everything was just fine and with that took our two heavy bags, one on each shoulder, and veritably leapt up the winding steps towards our room. We were almost as awed by his strength and friendly co-operation as we were by Shakespeare himself.

When we were invited by our bag carrier to follow him up the stairs to the top floor, the staircase became narrower by the step. At one point we had to haul ourselves up by a thick rope on the handrail to finally get to our room. But up there, the views, oh the views. Right, smack bang looking at Notre Dame. Our happiness could not have been more complete.

Fast forward and we happened upon a similar scenario, this time halfway across the world in a place you have probably never head of: Sonora.

Sonora calls itself a city in California. I don't think I'd be so grand as to give myself that title with a population of just about 4500 but it is the closest 'place' to the famous Yosemite National Park, and so it is allowed to call itself anything it wants to.

We stayed at the Historic Days Inn in Sonora's main street, Washington St, which runs through the town. Grace Kelly stayed there when she was filming High Noon and more recently Drew Barrymore when she was filming Bad Girls.

It was here in sleepy Sonora we found perhaps the best independent second-hand book store (creatively called Sonora Used Books), owned and run by a sprightly old bloke. Argue with me about the best second-hand book store in the world, but you'd have to travel to California, find Sonora, then the book store and then the sprightly man and finally prove your point.

This super sprightly old bloke loved his shop more than his life.

He modestly said there was not a book anywhere around the globe that he didn't have or couldn't source for you. To prove his point he took us though the narrow shop through a labyrinth of passages where books, neat and clean and in perfect chronological order, were stacked from floor to ceiling.

Everything was orderly and systematically laid out. Anyone with even the smallest interest in reading could happily spend months in here in a state of perpetual bliss.

You could make the trip from Paris to Sonora and never come across such gems. But we did.

www.annrickard.com

IF YOU GO

Sit outside Shakespeare and Company in one of the many surrounding cafes or bars and think about some of the big literary names who have done the same before you:

Stroll along the nearby Seine River... now you know you are in Paris.

Dig into Sonora's past, full of old mining stories.The California Gold Rush which began in 1848 and ended in 1855 was the largest mass migration in history.



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