"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Galignani ~ My personal slice of Paris

Me & Dorothy at Book Lover's Nirvana!

For as long as I can remember, my parents loved to travel. And the fact that they had two young daughters did not deter them in the least. They wanted my sister and I to accompany them as they discovered and experienced as much of the world as possible. We did so, as a family. Their gift of a love of travel was a priceless gift. Literally and figuratively, a gift that keeps on giving.

We always performed one family ritual wherever we went - we went to a bookstore that sold English language books. In 1984, during my first trip to Paris, we discovered our favorite bookstore of them all - the Galignani Bookstore.
You have to remember, back in the day there were no E-book readers. A traveler had to lug their books with them - 4 avid readers = a lot of books that always ran out too soon! And once you got to a country where English was not the official language - you were out of luck. Maybe you could find an English newspaper (usually only the International Herald Tribune) but that was it. For voracious readers like my family and I Galignani was an oasis in the dessert.

The Galignani Bookstore opened its doors in 1520 and is the first English bookshop established on the Continent. The Galignani family were among the first to use the then recently invented printing press, in order to make their books available to the largest possible audience. In 1801 they opened a reading romm that specialized in the English language and published The Messenger - a daily newspaper and reference point for the English community on the Continent. In 1856 they moved to their current location at rue de Rivoli.

“It is what you read when you don't have to 
that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” 
― Oscar Wilde

Galignani's, then and now, is a book lover's dream: parquet floors, tall ceilings, large tables filled to the brim, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with rolling ladders - And books, books everywhere! Books of every description. Of course, for my sister and I, the best section was the children's section (a section, not a shelf or two as was common in most bookstores abroad). And the types of children's books they carry are books you cannot find anywhere else. Children's books from nearly every country, on nearly every subject imaginable, published in English. It was a whole new world for us, a world that our parents encouraged us to freely explore. At Galignani's I discovered "The Adventures of Tintin" - a love affair that continues to this day (everytime I return, I buy one or two more. So far I've got about half of the titles).

Every few years when we returned to Paris, we always made at least one visit to Galignani's. Afterward, we'd take our treasures, cross rue de Rivoli, sit in that cafe in the Tuileries (in the shadow of the Louvre) and read, eat, drink, discuss. It was magical.

Going to Galignani's with my dad, mom, and sister is one of the most wonderful and treasured memories of my life - one of my own personal slices of Paris. Now, only my mother (Dorothy) and I remain (my beloved sister - Rory - passed away in 1994, my beloved father - George - passed away in 2008). My mother and I happily continue, and will continue, to make the pilgrimage. This last trip, my three children were too young to begin the next generation of the family ritual - Pete took them to the Tuileries' carousel while mom and I took an hour or so to wander the aisles. But I think that when we return next fall they'll be ready. I've already picked out our table in the Tuileries cafe ;).

Next time you're in Paris, stop by, wander about a bit and I think that you'll discover the magic too.
Librairie Galignani - 224, rue de Rivoli, 1st err.
Vivre! Rire! Aimer!


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