Sometimes when sitting around the apartment I get itchy feet. In the States it was the kind that would push me to pack a light backpack and book a random flight to Europe. Now in Europe it's the kind that makes me want to hike around my city and find those treasures or streets I haven't discovered. It was today, on another itchy feet day, that I discovered the 'Librarie des Livres Anciens'.
To preface, I must say that a Librarie in France is not like a 'library' in America. In the states, the library is the place you go to check out books for a temporary basis. Often these books are covered in plastic, new editions and sometimes stained by the previous borrow. A Librarie in France is actually a 'bookstore', while a 'biblotheque' is an American style of library. Confused yet? Needless to say, there are hundreds upon hundreds of bookstores scattered around Lyon; same as the multitude of boulangeries, epiceries and wine shops.
I took a big swing around Bellecour and decided to cross over the bridge to Old Lyon. Old Lyon is a part of the city built around the 1400's. The streets remained cobblestoned and impossible to walk on with high heels. The tiny streets compliment the ancient architecture and the equally as ancient- but slightly more tacky- tourist attractions. Crêperies, marron roasters... all the snaz of a classic city complete with a touring medieval church in the center. Considered a tourist escape, hundreds upon hundreds of English speaking people pass through here every day- snapping up pictures and saving their memories. I saw one just today, wandering into a boulangerie (as I was ordering my baguette) and snapping photos of the food, then, promptly leaving. DO NOT EVER DO THIS... always buy something, a macaron, ANYTHING. If one gets thirsty in this Old City, there are pubs owned by true Brit Expatriates lining the street.
It was today I was wandering through this city, trying my best to appear as non-American as possible, that I caught a glimpse of a little shop. I tend hesitate going into shops because I feel guilty I don't purchase.. but this one was an Ancient Bookshop (Rue du Palais de Justice) and I couldn't pull away. I always wondered what happened to those piles of books I bought.. or were gifted.. and I imagined that books have been around for while... I began to wonder, where do books go when they retire?
I paused and glanced at the window merchandise, scanning ancient copies of maps, a 19th century Lyon Cuisine book.. soon enough I found myself pushing through the solid door and quickly saying, 'Bonjour' to the man at the desk. It was book heaven.
It smelled pungent... quite opposite from the fresh smell of new books, almost like an aged cheese or a wine- refined. I followed the signs, up the stairs.. and faced the Gastronomy section. Every book I pulled of the shelf was old; covers were shredded, some missing a cover. Of the books I looked at, not one was priced over 25€ or younger than 50 years old. The oldest book had a simple black cover; it was a cookbook from 1834. I smelt the inside, and leafed through the pages. Instructions for the recipes were simple, 'cut, cook, serve'. Often recipes were in 1 paragraph, and none with the quintessential listing of ingredients/times to cook. I imagined the housewife who owned this book, pumping the oven with wood to create a warm enough fire to cook dinner. With every ancient book, the history and life behind it was weighed between my fingers, and I couldn't stop myself.
The old bookstore is more than a place for antique collectors, it's a time machine. You can spend easily hours, browsing through these books and looking at old writings/drawings. If lucky you may even find a prize..a book from another time that details 'gastronomy' in France, or 'history of france'. The very old books are kept downstairs, and some may even date to before the 19th century.
It was beautiful... and I will be there once again- soon.