History of Shakespeare and Company, famous Left Bank bookstore:
The current Shakespeare and Co. follows in the tradition of the original store opened by Sylvia Beach in 1921. Beach's store, which was frequented by Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and Pound (and published Ulysses when no one else would), closed during WWII, but George Whitman, a friend of Beach, opened a new one in 1956. Whitman's store continued to attract writers like William Burroughs and Henry Miller, who described it as "a wonderland of books." It's currently run by his daughter Sylvia Whitman.
More than a bookstore:
Not only is Shakespeare and Company an atmospheric bookstore, but it also provides community to English-speaking expats and travelers, hosting a travel writing festival, a festival of literature, writing groups, photography workshops, and readings.
Why Shakespeare and Company is important to writers:
Beyond providing reading material and inspiration, Shakespeare and Company allows writers to stay for free in exchange for helping out in the bookstore. The bookstore can accommodate five or six writers at a time, and writers may stay as long as they want. George Whitman's goal in instituting the practice was to provide writers time to write and, in his own words, "to repay the hospitality I received in many countries when I was a vagabond."
How to arrange to stay :
In my own Eurail days I was too shy to ask to stay at the shop, feeling that I wasn't enough of a "real writer." As it turns out, it's a fairly casual affair. Even while I was there someone dropped in to ask about space and was told to check back in a day or so. Call or email in advance if you know your plans, or stop by to enquire. Note that accomodations are as casual as their booking system, however. If you're beyond backpacking, it's probably better to get a hotel room instead.
Getting to Shakespeare and Company :
Shakespeare and Company is located at 37 rue de la Bucherie in the Latin Quarter, near métro Saint-Michel. Call them at 00 33 (0)1 43 25 40 93. They're open every day from noon until midnight.