Two years ago, when I talked to her at Shakespeare & Company, Sylvia Whitman was in the middle of contacting authors to appear at the bookshop's biennial literary festival. When we picked dates to come to Paris, this was sort of at the back of my mind.
The festival takes place over a weekend in the little park across from the shop, just across from Notre Dame. To be truthful, if you like books, you could settle into a seat under the white tent and stay there all day and some people obviously did. Even though we queued for half an hour, we still had to stand at the side of the tent to hear a discussion between Martin Amis and Will Self. And a crackling 45 minutes of conversation it was too. Well worth the standing, the wait, and the rushing back from the flea market (not via Montparnasse).
The crowds drifted away, or rather over to the shop to get their new books signed. We dove into the maze of narrow back streets for a quick lunch at one of the many gyro spots on the left bank, and then split up for the afternoon, Peter to draw, me to visit a couple of favourite stores.
No wonder Parisians are so enviably trim. They seem to spend all their time racing, gazelle-like, along the pavements from boutique to café to bistro. I managed to race too far north and found myself in the financial district, raced back to cookware store Dehillerin and found it crammed with Americans buying copper saucepans, raced a street or two over to La Droguerie which, if you're nuts about knitting or sewing, is this side of heaven---"hmm, shall I knit that sweater in linen or alpaca, and if it's alpaca, which of those 48 colours should it be?" But by now it was 6 p.m., and I was supposed to be on Ile St. Louis. Buying anything at La Droguerie takes at least 20 minutes so I took notes, and plan to go back.
Returning by metro, I discovered another station to avoid. The number of steps from platform level to ground level at Cité is 107--or 117. Either way, too many.