"Shakespeare and Company" is considered by many as the most famous bookshop in the world.
Situated in Kilometer Zero, Paris, this historical bookshop was founded in 1919 by Sylvia Whitman who was known as the mother of literature.
This place witnessed numerous legends after its foundation.
Eventually, this shop turned into a library and a popular coffee place. Aspiring writers from around the globe started to come here.
This shop was a regular meeting place for Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Beckett, Gertrude Stein, F Scot Fitzgerald, Paul Valéry and many others.
The number of new writers continued to surge in the bookshop. Noticing their bohemianism, famous writer Gertrude Stein commented on Hemingway and his friends: "You are a Lost Generation" - a generation that went astray, to be precise.
Nevertheless, these writers of the Lost Generation went on to become giants of world literature.
James Joyce, a clerk at that time, was going through financial hardships. He was about to wrap up his colossal novel "Ulysses", but no publisher agreed to print the book.
Shakespeare and Company came forward to help and Sylvia Whitman published the book. And now we all know that "Ulysses" is one of the best novels of the twentieth century.
I nurtured a dream to visit this wonderful literary destination from the day I learnt about the place.
It is a two-minute-long walk from the Notre Dame Church and this bookshop is the centre of Paris.
On the day of visiting this site, I stood outside for some time - gazing upon the signboard of the bookshop which had a portrait of William Shakespeare alongside the shop's name.
The word "Company" in the name implies the share all the writers of the world hold over the shop.
At least, this was the dream of George Whitman, who was the proprietor of the shop after Sylvia.
Passing some boxes full of books in front of the door, we stepped inside the vast empire.
Books of all genres are arranged accordingly - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, adventure, history, and many more.
In one corner, there is a poetry section that houses a huge collection of books. The stairs boast a beautiful quote, "Live for humanity".
Shakespeare and Company always fostered new and unconventional writers.
Books from the Beat Generation including the works of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, and more, occupy the shelves.
Another section of the shop is dedicated to the works of Lost Generation writers such as Ernest Hemingway and his contemporaries.
The shop remains crowded, but not all of them are customers.
Many simply want to riffle through the pages of their favorite books in the corner for hours.
This privilege is available until the shop closes and there has been no exception to this rule since the foundation of the shop.
Earlier, a writing on the wall used to say, "Take what you need, give what you can."
This meant the price of the books depended how much the customer was willing to pay. But now, the situation has changed.
Each book is now marked with a fixed price tag. The price is still low - probably because of the history of this remarkable place.
Every corner of the shop is filled with books and not an inch has been spared. The walls are decorated with rare photographs, quotes of famous people, and several posters.
The rear of the shop houses a stair that connects to the first floor of the world's only hotel for writers.
Any writer from any country can stay here free of cost.
The shop authority informed us that the hotel has housed almost 40,000 writers to date.
At the moment, the floor is being used as a library and for workshops on literature.
Shakespeare and Company shone as the lighthouse of knowledge when the Nazis occupied Paris during the Second World War.
But upon a threat from a German Captain, Sylvia had to go underground.
After about four years, the shop reopened when allied forces took over Paris.
Can you imagine who was on the frontline when the allied forces entered the shop? It was none other than retired military soldier Ernest Hemingway, in his full army uniform.
Hemingway shared this memory in his marvelous memoir "The Movable Feast".
After the war, the shop was transferred to its present location by the Seine River.
After browsing through the wide collection of books, we purchased some of them. The first one was Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass".
Another attraction was a stamp of the shop on the books. This stamp is priceless for all the book lovers as it testifies the book's belonging from this historical place.
I hope someday when my book is published, I will return to this place and seek permission to spend a night.
With that farewell wish in my heart, we left the iconic place.
The shop remained shut during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it has now reopened with certain safety regulations in place.
We had to wear masks, use hand sanitiser and maintain social distancing protocols.