Shakespeare and Company tote bag, Paris
Acouple years ago, I took my daughter Arizona on a literary tour of Paris. Our itinerary led us by the haunts of some of my favourite writers who had lived and worked in the city. We passed the apartment where George Orwell lived in penury and wrote about fascism. I pointed up to an attic where Henry Miller wrote about sex. We stopped at the hotel where Oscar Wilde died in 1900, apparently having issue with the wallpaper. Although I always believed his last words, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go,” were a statement on the immoral esthetics of the world. We went by Café de Flore, where existentialists such as Camus sat drinking coffee and came up with the idea that life was actually meaningless, but that was what made it so wonderful. We went to Montparnasse Cemetery to visit Marguerite Duras’s grave. There was a small flower pot filled with pens people had left in her honour. The pen in my purse was four dollars and I didn’t wish to part with it. “Marguerite Duras is your favourite writer!” Arizona yelled. “You’ll regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t stick your pen in there.” I relented.
We wandered over to see Simone de Beauvoir’s grave, which she shares with her life partner, JeanPaul Sartre, so we had to see his, too. It was like being with a friend who brings her boyfriend everywhere when really you just want to spend time with her alone. There were kiss marks all over their tombstone. Arizona immediately took out a tube of lipstick and began applying it thickly over her lips. “You will absolutely not kiss that tombstone,” I said. “You’ll get herpes.” We went to the famous bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. Wherever I go, I can’t help but buy books, even though they’re a pain to lug back. We were in such a literary mood, we left with a huge pile. I still have the tote bag we had to buy to carry them in as we walked happily down the bank of the Seine. Heather O’neill ( @lethal_heroine) is the author of Lullabies for Little Criminals, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and The Lonely Hearts Hotel. What’s your favourite travel souvenir? Tell us the story behind it on (@Cangeo_travel) and (@cangeotravel).