George Whitman & Shakespeare And Company

Shakespeare & Company, Paris, George Whitman

Shakespeare And Company - September 2010 - Elizabeth Harper (In Red)

I was sad to read this morning that George Whitman had died, but as he was 98 and appeared to have lived the life he wanted almost to the end, I think my sad feelings were more out of concern for the end of an era than the death of a man I had not met.

His only child, Sylvia Beach Whitman has been managing the famous bookstore for some time and I imagine it will continue to be a haven for those who wish to pop in to an English-speaking bookstore while in Paris.

I’ve been fortunate to visit Paris four times, the first of which was when I was 19 in late December 1979. I remember being focused on seeing the Louvre and Notre-Dame and excited to be in Paris for New Year’s Eve, but I don’t remember stopping by Shakespeare And Company at that time.

Shakespeare And Company - February 2009 - Elizabeth Harper (In Brown)

Ten years later I went back to Paris with my then 12 year-old daughter, Miranda for the millennium New Year celebration and made time to visit the bookstore and have the wet looking photo below taken while I was there.

Shakespeare & Company - December 1999

There’s generally a lot of activity both inside and out of Shakespeare And Company and the photo above gives you a glimpse of what I’m talking about. I always love sneaking a peek over the shoulders of artists who stop to paint and over to the left you can see another part of the bookstore which deals with antiquarian books.

Notice the man dressed in white … I thought he looked a bit like author, Tom Wolfe.

Speaking of artists, that’s my talented sister Margaret coming though the door having just made a purchase. I always look for something special when I’m there. I particularly like the stamp you can get when you buy a book.

Shakespeare And Company Stamp

There’s an inscription I can’t read in my book and I thought maybe one of my French-speaking friends could help out with a translation.

The bookstore is full of quirky places that I did not photograph, but this blogger has some great interior shots.

Ahhh … the side with the books I covet, but can’t afford.

 Sigh …

Thanks to my Paris based friend, Kim who alerted me to the death of George Whitman on Facebook with a link to this great NYTimes article on his life and passing.

Birthday Cake Again?

Elizabeth & Margaret Celebrating Cousin Wally's Birthday

September is a birthday filled month for me and if I had an opportunity to eat cake every time there was a birthday this month I’d need to diet through October to make up for it. My birthday on the 10th begins the potential cake fest and my sister Margaret’s birthday today ends it.

Our September celebrations feel like bookends with some significant volumes on the shelf in between. My daughter and husband make up the most important middle part for me with their birthdays falling halfway through and near the end, but Margaret’s big day completes it.

Never in all the years we were separated did I not think of her and it makes me happy to know that I can connect with her for a proper birthday greeting today.

We’ve spent years supporting each other in different ways and the bookend analogy seems right. Margaret was one of the people who helped keep me sane during my unplanned summer in Atlanta and it was no surprise that she rallied to help me when I needed her artistic design and savvy computer skills. I was desperate for online sales materials including flyers I could print while I was trying to sell my house in Atlanta and she put together a lovely website on very short notice.

Additionally, she modified the website and flyers several times as my price shifted, and when it wouldn’t move fast enough to suit my time frame, she turned the website into one designed to attract renters.

Last year I had the good fortune to spend the month of September with her traveling to Paris for a week and having my 50th birthday during our week in London. The rest of the month we traveled around Cornwall and finished with her birthday and a special cake just before she flew home to Alaska where she lives with her husband and their two boys.

Margaret & Elizabeth - London - September 2010

Happy Birthday, Margaret … I think I’ve got room tonight for one last piece of cake.


The Write About Love Project

Last September, the universe sent me a message.

Written on a gravestone in a Paris cemetery,

were three little words for me to figure out.

If you’d like to see what I came up with,

click on the link below

and go to

‘ The Write About Love Project ‘

There Is Something Free At Printemps In Paris

Printemps department store in Paris is filled with all types of marvelous items most of which exceeded the amount I wished to spend when I was there recently with my sister Margaret. Everything in the store has a price tag and even a trip to the loo for a bathroom break cost a euro, but there was one thing that could be had there for free. You have seen it before if you saw a post I wrote a few weeks ago. If you missed it, let me just say that what you get for free at Printemps is an amazing view of the Paris skyline.

I snapped this photograph on a walkway between two of the Printemps buildings. Click on it to get a clear look at the two window cleaners on the upper right side of the image.

This is from the other side of the walkway. I had my Canon G11 set in Color Accent mode which in this case was set to pick up the color red.

Here you can see a small gathering of people trying to catch the perfect shot from the rooftop terrace.


Another image from the rooftop.

I know I have completely disregarded the rule of thirds but I don’t care. I like this shot with the abundance of clouds and sky.

More big sky along with the ever familiar Eiffel Tower.

There is ample space to have a rest from your shopping or sightseeing and there is a small restaurant on the same level serving light snacks and drinks. Anne from Anne In Oxfordshire visits friends in Paris fairly often and was curious as to where I had managed to capture images like those above. I told her when she asked in a comment that I was saving the location for another post, but now that I’ve done the big reveal I wonder if anyone worked it out before today.

One Step At A Time

The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs…

one step at a time.

~ Joe Girard

My sister Margaret gets the credit for the photo of me climbing the 280 steps to the top inside the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I thought this photograph was a good one to use in a thank you to all of the readers and friends who took time to leave a supportive message with regard to my writing and ever so slight disappointment over receiving a polite  ” not interested ” response from the newspaper I queried recently.

I have found such fine support for the writing I do here and I am never sure I let you know how much it is appreciated. Mary from A Breath of Fresh Air left me a very kind comment yesterday about writing a book, in which she said she that she would not hesitate to gift a collection of stories taken from my blog to her friends. It was just the lift I needed yesterday to pick up my pace mentally and refocus on the steps before me.

Thanks again to all who visit here at Gifts Of The Journey and thanks for your support.

The Street Of The Fishing Cat-The Narrowest Street In Paris

While rushing past what looked like a tiny alley between two buildings in Paris, I saw the eye-catching image painted on the wall in front of me. Intrigued, I snapped a couple of photographs making sure to include the street name which loosely made a little sense to me … cat, fish, huh?

I was truthfully too interested in getting a proper photograph to consider that this narrow street was in fact even considered a street until much later when doing my research online.

What I saw was colorful umbrella and the shadow figure of a what appeared to be a man with a shadow cat. I did not realize until I had snapped a couple of shots that the red line in front of the cat was a fishing pole.

There’s more to this story though.

When I snapped the first image, it looked like the one below.

This was my initial shot which I took very quickly. I was thinking that even though I was in a hurry, I wanted a shot of this interesting scene. One look at the ugly graffiti covered box and the missing wall plaster on either side of it forced a quick evaluation of what I might do to get the best shot.

I noticed the lamp post that had been over exposed by my flash for the first time when I looked at the image in review on the camera and then after adjusting the flash, I moved over a few steps and snapped the image below before taking the final one in the first image above where you can see the cat waiting with the fishing line.

By using what was available to hide the damaged wall, it added greatly to the shot and reminded me in a way of a Gene Kelly moment from the movie, Singing in the Rain.

It is always interesting to me how a slight change in perspective can greatly alter your view.


Successful Moves – Climbing Your Way To The Top

As illustrated by my last post, while I was in Paris I was never quite sure what I might see around the next corner. One might think this location a bit odd for this show of skill … balancing a ball on various parts of the body in front of a Paris skyline especially since it occurred in front of the famous house of worship below.

Unlike other well-known churches and cathedrals, there was no photography allowed and once inside it felt more like a place of worship than the tourist sites that so many others churches have become.

Since this man had chosen to locate his ” workplace ” at the base of the steps leading up to the famous church it seemed somehow appropriate that he send what looked like a prayerful message to his higher power.

I noticed the man with the ball for a minute until I was temporarily distracted by the traveling troubadour above. Even the music man stopped to watch the ascent when he realized he had lost the attention of the crowd who found a man climbing a lamppost more interesting than his version of James Taylor’s ” You’ve got a Friend.”

So up he goes …

… and up

… climbing hand over hand with a soccer ball resting lightly on his head.

He reached the top rather quickly and the gathered audience that watched from below him as well as the larger once scattered across the steps to the Sacré Coeur were impressed and amazed as their clapping and shouts illustrated.

Just as they say in business … what goes up must come down, he could not maintain his high position forever and he began his descent back to earth. He dangled by one arm balancing the ball on his foot instead of his head and teased his audience with a few impressive displays of his ability to keep their attention.

At one point he dropped his ball, but someone below gave it a toss back up and no one seemed to lose interest even with the temporary loss.

Once he had his ball back, he did a series of flips and had the ball bouncing up and around from one foot to the other, a trick that one might be more accustomed to seeing demonstrated on a soccer field.

Then he let the ball go to the ground and quickly followed behind dropping his body faster than one might imagine safe for a descent.

Back on the ground he stood for a few minutes atop his impromptu stage, a concrete base where his muscled physique reminded me of the marble bodies standing watch in the Louvre. With his hat at his feet before him, he waited as his audience showed their approval with the clink of their coins and I wondered as I watched how much money he would take in for his labor.

Before I could think too much about his possible yearly income, my attention was diverted back to poor Yuri who had begun his song again hoping to sell a few CD’s before it was time for the climbing man’s next show. So surprised was I still by the carnivalesque atmosphere of the area that when I saw the woman below approaching …

I wondered if she was perhaps another person intent on making a living close to the church grounds and as she stopped to be photographed with tourists standing with the Sacré Coeur behind them, I wondered briefly if she was merely in costume to make money or a real nun.

She paused on the steps and gave Yuri a look that made me wonder if she meant to compete with him for an audience too and for a second I half expected her to break into a song and dance routine straight from Whoopi Goldberg’s London stage production of Sister Act.

I watched as she climbed the steps graciously posing for a few more photographs until she was joined by two more members of the church and they went inside. By the time I was ready to leave a few hours later, both Yuri the musician and the climbing man were gone and several new performers had taken their place.

I ran into the older nun you see above only a few days later which was interesting on its own, but where I saw her and what she did make the story even better. That’s one for another day though as I have my own work to get on with. Having no cap to place at my feet, I need to send out more submissions as I look for opportunities today to make my own way to the top.


Learning To Speak A New Language



Paris Metro - Elizabeth Harper 2010


During my recent visit to Paris with my sister Margaret, she snapped this shot with her iPhone on a crowded Metro train (can you see how small I’m trying to make myself and the disembodied hand over my left shoulder) All over Paris we kept seeing signs advertising classes designed to teach people how to speak Wall Street English. Reading them, I had visions of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko standing before a chalk board with ” Greed Is Good ” in large letters and a class full of French folks repeating the words slowly one at a time.

Success in any field is contingent upon many factors only one of which might be understanding the language and language can expand to include the necessary knowledge of the industry such as in my case yesterday with regard to news reporting versus feature writing.

Yesterday, I sent off what I thought was a fairly well crafted letter to a large US newspaper suggesting that perhaps there might be a place for my type of writing. I was clearly thinking of my style as being one easily adaptable to feature writing, but I was quickly and very nicely informed that the kind of writing I proposed, ” does not fit with our mission to cover local news and features. “

The woman who sent me the nice response did say that she enjoyed my blog, but it still felt a bit like getting the ” Miss Congeniality ” award to me. I was glad to receive a response at all though and sent back a short thank you while thinking to myself that even though I don’t speak the language of the newsroom, I certainly could do excellent feature work for them on a variety of topics including some more serious areas such as healthcare in the UK versus America … based at least in part on the personal experience of a medically savvy American living in the UK. This suggestion did not get my foot in the door either.

Having spent a great many hours researching the newspaper and the changes it has been through in recent years, I thought (maybe naïvely) I might have a chance and while I don’t think I need to go back to school if I want feature writing to be part of my future, perhaps I might need to work on presenting my ideas using the language of the industry a bit better.

Thanks to everyone who has commented on my first giveaway post if you haven’t had a chance to stop by, do take a minute to listen and comment here. The contest ends this Friday at 2:00 am Eastern Standard Time.

Shakespeare And Company – Surviving And Thriving

Elizabeth Harper - Shakespeare And Company - 2010

Some of you may be thinking,” What does the famous Shakespeare And Company bookstore in Paris have to do with Surviving And Thriving? ” Aside from the obvious fact that American George Whitman’s bookstore has survived and thrived since he established it in 1951 across from Notre Dame, today’s post has to do with the ways in which we may unknowingly affect others in the blogging community.

I can’t remember if I visited this bookstore the first time I came to Paris in 1980, but I do have a photograph of myself standing in front of it in 2000 and again in 2009. While it may seem pretty touristy to have your picture taken in front of such a well-known shop, it has become a bit of a tradition for me now to stop by George Whitman’s eclectic bookstore to see what’s happening.

It’s funny how people pop into your mind when going through your day and when I mentioned to Donna Freedman in an email recently that I thought of her during my trip to Paris last month and she could not imagine how or why Paris might have triggered a thought about her. It makes perfect sense to me as I am sure it will you once I share a few things about the day.

You may remember that I have mentioned Donna in the past. She writes a great deal about living frugally and makes it sound almost like a game to enjoy versus anything close to deprivation. While strolling in and out of various places in Paris, there were endless opportunities to open my wallet and spend on things I did not need. I found myself having conversations in my head that generally went something like, ” Oh, isn’t that just the cutest thing, maybe I should get it to help remember my trip to Paris.”

Never mind that I had already accumulated about 3,000 photographs of Paris to help trigger my memory, while walking through Shakespeare And Company I decided ever so briefly that I needed another canvas tote. How many of these bags I currently have did not even matter when I discovered the cool bag in the photo below. I went back and forth, buy it – don’t by it … until finally I thought about what would Donna do and I put it back.

Bag Design By Badaude And Image From Her Site

It was a lovely bag by Badaude and I would have snatched it up in a hurry if I did not already own more bags than I have use for, but that did not stop me from considering several books just as I always do. I was on the verge of another purchase when I picked up the book below. (The full image is in the first photograph)

It’s Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and finding it reminded me of how many in the US are struggling just to get by and how the scarcity of jobs has many people working for far less than they would have considered in the past. That thought led me to frugality, which once again made me think of Donna Freedman and even though she didn’t write this book, I still said to my sister, ” Take my picture for Donna.”

Earlier this morning I finished reading a piece she wrote for Get Rich Slowly that has tons of information and tips for both the underemployed and the unemployed. Donna writes regularly at MSN Money as well and has her own site that I mentioned in the title above. She also has a contest every week over at her blog home, Surviving And Thriving and even though I have not won anything yet, I feel like I take something away with me every time I stop by to see what she has to say.

So there it is, a message about how Donna Freedman inspired a thought and photograph in front of a famous bookstore, in the shadow of Notre Dame. It could be you next time.

Are You Missing The Big Moments

Yesterday it was if Paris knew it was our last day and showered us literally with gifts all through the day. We felt as if we both received personal messages (I may share mine later) as we spent our last morning in Paris at Pére Lachaise visiting and photographing some of the graves there. I finally managed to find the graves Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, and Moliére after having searched without success on past visits.

Later when the rain sent us running for cover, we made our way to the Metro and found ourselves on a rooftop overlooking Paris just as the sky went wild with a light and cloud show that had everyone within viewing range watching in amazement.

Everyone, but the young woman you see in the photograph above. I took a series of shots as the clouds shifted and rolled and she never looked up … not even once. If you look below, you can see where her attention was so completely focused.

I know whatever was on her phone might have been really important and she may have been dealing with a horrible emergency or hopefully reading some good news, but to not even notice that this was happening all around her  … what a thing to miss!

It made me a bit sad when I reviewed these photographs because I remember when I was that woman and I can’t help but think about what I might have missed when everything else seemed more important than just sitting for a moment in awareness and appreciation.

Cornwall is calling us back and we will be leaving Paris today with some new memories and gratitude for having had a chance to walk its streets again.

Goodbye Paris!