Living at Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris?
June 30, 2008 5:09 AM   Subscribe

Tell me everything about staying at the Tumbleweed Hotel above Shakespeare & Co. in Paris.

I've heard that writers can stay for free in beds upstairs from the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris if they do some chores and read one book a day. I'd know there's a book that describes a stay there in 1999, but I'm hoping to hear some more current anecdotal tales as I'm a writer with some time ahead of me in Paris. I phoned the store and was told to come in and talk to the owner.

Have you stayed there or known anyone who has? What should one know about inquiring about lodging? Is it clean? Is it at all private? Is it too good to be true? Tell me.
posted by Drohan to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't stay there but I've been there several times. I got the impression it was a bit of a 'scene', i.e. lots of people hanging around seeing and being seen, which can be fabulous or irritating depending on what you're into. I went to a writers' group there one afternoon where writers read and commented on work, which was quite interesting and fun.
It's owned by George Whitman and run by him and his daughter. Actually I don't think George runs it anymore, he's quite fantastically old by this point, like 95 or something. I think whether you can stay there or not depends on everything from how many people are around to various people's moods at any given moment, at least that was the impression I got.
I wouldn't rate the place as particularly clean, and forget about privacy. The beds are actually in the store, or more accurately on the second floor, which is full of books and looks like the store but where none of the books are for sale.
Short answer: if you're into meeting lots of people and having a bohemian Paris experience, go for it! If you're into great comfort and privacy, best look elsewhere.
posted by crazylegs at 5:27 AM on June 30, 2008

Any time I've been they say talk to the owner, but he's not around for long these days and seems fairly non contactable. The place is manned by hip American students and as for clean and private, forget it - you sleep in amongst the books upstairs. It's a fantastic place though. Some photos here, including the living quarters.

If you don't manage to stay there but are still looking for a low cost, interesting experience in Paris, I would highly recommend Hotel Esmeralda which is in the same building as Shakespeare & Co, just around the corner. It's not the Best Western.
posted by fire&wings at 6:16 AM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I stayed there in 95 and had a great time (I actually met my first wife there). George is a crazy old coot who dries his dishes with newspaper and has 90yr old twins come sing opera for him on the weekends.. It's slap dab dang in the middle of Paris and all he asks is that you do some chores and write a description of your stay for him when you leave. If he's still there (he had to be at least 110 when I stayed there) give him my regards. It's not exactly the height of luxury mind, you'll need to find a public bath house to shower (there are some old cool ones you can visit) but what do you want for free :) You'll also get a better spot if you have a pretty face :)
posted by zeoslap at 6:42 AM on June 30, 2008

There are actually a couple (one?) private room that's available, but the pretty face rule applies.
posted by zeoslap at 6:45 AM on June 30, 2008

Seconding fire&wings on the Hotel Esmeralda as a nearby option--I stay there for at least a few days every time I go to Paris. It's relatively cheap, really funky (in a good way), and the staff are very friendly. Great views of Notre Dame from most of the rooms.
posted by baltimoretim at 7:28 AM on June 30, 2008

Never stayed there either (though have been to the shop too many times to count) but I concur on all the above points. I've heard that there are pretty bad bedbugs at the shop, which wouldn't surprise me (this is hearsay though; YMMV). And no, there's nothing even approaching privacy. But it could be fun if you're young enough not to care about that sort of thing. I never had the urge to ask to stay there as the Tumbleweeds seem to be a strange breed of hipper-than-thou crusties (no offence intended to Zeoslap or anyone else!) and I'm more of a cheap hotel person anyway. Plus I like early nights on occasion and the shop doesn't close until late.

You can see the shop in 360 on the site. The 'beds' are just in amongst all the old books.

Just show up and ask if you can stay. Simple as that!
posted by different at 1:58 PM on June 30, 2008

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