Canal St-Martin

Shopping in Paris is obviously a big deal. Since my freelance career doesn’t currently allow for me to purchase a pair of Louboutins (or much else for that matter) and also since I am in the midst of fulfilling my ‘bohemian/traveller/wanderer with a touch of fear and anxiety’ dreams, I can’t really shop ’til I drop here in Paris. You know, luggage restrictions and all.

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Window shopping is becoming a new hobby of mine and like any major city worth visiting, Paris doesn’t disappoint with the sheer amount of shops and stores you can browse in an afternoon. Buying things becomes unecessary.

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Last night, I explored the shops and the area around Canal St-Martin, on the hunt for 1) a new notebook (which I’ve yet to find) and 2) the best Pad Thai in Paris. What I found instead was my new favorite magazine store (My name is Brittany and I am a magazine addict…) and a fantastic menu translation.

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I had been Googling ridiculous, wordy sentences for days, trying to find the best place to purchase a new journal. Things like, “Where can I buy a journal in Paris”, “Best paper shops that also sell other stuff besides just paper” and “Notebook purchasing without breaking the bank” were returning some spotty suggestions, until I realized that here in France, a notebook is always a computer and a journal is most often, a newspaper. The internet finally gave me a few places, so off I went, Canadian winter jacket in tow because apparently France in September requires it. Who knew?!

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The Canal St-Martin area is known as the “bohemian, hipster” area of Paris. Both sides of the canal are usually lined with young’uns who have gone there to sit and relax with friends and partake in all sorts of extra curricular activities.

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My first stop was not planned, but since the store was painted bright orange, I assumed they wanted me to notice it and enter.

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Artazart is a bookstore that is sort of like your favorite section of any other bookstore. You know when you go into a huge bookstore, like maybe Chapters or Waterstones, you always browse a little at the front but then you walk straight to your section with all the books you care about? Artazart is like that. It’s only the books you care about. They have a small room when you first walk in, dedicated to magazines and books about naked French prostitutes in the 1920’s. This place is my jam. As my boyfriend always says, “Why are you always looking at books filled with naked people? It’s super weird, babe.” Le sigh….

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After Artazart, we walked just a few streets over to Pop Market. This place is a lot like the quirky, little gift shops you might find in downtown Halifax, (Biscuit General Store comes to mind) and I can see why it made several “Best Shops In Paris” lists.

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One of my favorite parts was the ‘Build Your Own Fairy Light’ section in the basement. I’ve seen this in several stores since this one, so it seems to be a bit of a trend, but it’s still really cool, says the girl who is currently trying to find glow in the dark stars for her ceiling.
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We made a pit stop for dinner at a well known Thai place by the canal called Mme. Shawn Thai Bistrot. Was it American? Was it French? Was it Thai? Who knows. But I had pad thai with questionable meat (meow) and that’s all that matters. An adventure is not an adventure unless you aren’t sure what animal you’re eating. That’s what I always say!

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We continued on to my new favorite clothing store that I can’t afford, called Des Petits Hauts.

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The clothes were gorgeous, but more importantly, the store was decorated nicely and everything was displayed to my satisfaction. That’s basically how I judge any store I walk into.Would I live here if this were a house? Yes. It doesn’t matter that a store is a store and not a house. It’s what’s inside that counts. (That’s also what I always say!).

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My favorite and least documented part of the evening was about a 20 minute walk from Canal St-Martin to Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank, just next to Notre Dame. *In 2014, Vanity Fair magazine called Shakespeare and Company “Perhaps the most famous independent bookstore in the world…”

I say this part of my night was undocumented because before you even enter this most glorious of bookstores, there are signs asking you not to take photos. Now, if this were any old museum or exhibit that I had paid to enter, I may have just snuck photos and then ran out quickly because, who am I kidding, I’m too basic white girl to go to jail. They don’t have Starbucks in jail. But as a book lover, bookstores are special, respected, revered places to me and I simply couldn’t break the rules. Thus, no photos. But the place is simply too good to visit and not write about. Plus, lots of things happen in life with no proof. Santa, anyone? You believed that one for years.

If you know anything about Paris or famous writers or classic literature, (which I am CERTAINLY not an expert on) you may have heard of Shakespeare and Company a time or two. It’s mentioned throughout Ernest Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast. Hemingway spent a lot of time at the shop’s original Paris location back in the 1920’s. Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Henry Miller are some other noteable names associated with the shop…the list is long. It’s the kind of place writers of long ago and today go to be inspired and also the kind of places tourists (yes, like me) flock to. I think if everyone took photos and posted them all over the internet, the place may lose a certain–dare I say–je ne sais quoi?? So, in the end, of course I wish I had photos of my visit. The place certainly is charming and quaint and jam packed with some wonderful books and I think I could have gotten some fancy shots for the blog. But at the same time, sometimes we spend so much time behind a camera or a phone that we forget to look up. It’s just as important to have happy memories for ourselves as it is to share them with others. So please forgive my lack of photos, but I now have some exciting new books calling my name…

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