In Paris, booksellers on the banks of the Seine welcome the return of tourists – 08/19/2022 at 15:10
IN PARIS, THE BOUQUINISTES OF THE QUAYS OF THE SEINE WELCOME THE RETURN OF TOURISTS
by Manuel Ausloos
PARIS (Reuters) – In the heart of Paris, Rachid Bouanou, a former sailor, opens his bookstore, a large green wooden box wagon placed on a wall overlooking the Seine, and carefully arranges second-hand old books for the attention of walkers.
Tourists are back in the French capital, to the slowdown of booksellers on the banks of the Seine who feared to see these stalls, which date back to the 16th century, disappear in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
New booksellers have even appeared, 18 with Rachid Bouanou, mechanic for a long time on a fishing boat, on the three kilometers along the Seine dedicated to this activity.
“Before, I was a sailor (…) but I always liked books, finding beautiful books, authors. And I said to myself why not share this passion there and at the same time discover new things”, on he declared, smiling.
“When customers come here, it’s not to buy things they know. We introduce them to books, authors, so also to dust off things that are not at all known and that’s the role of bookseller.
Not far away, Jan and Maria-Aida Vandemoortele, originally from Bruges, Belgium, happily perused the old books and newspapers on sale at booksellers.
“Only in Paris do you find these shelves with wonderful books,” says Jan Vandemoortele, 68. “We just saw a ‘Time magazine’ from when we were born, so someone’s had this for 60 years, my God, that’s wonderful.”
The pitches, which are highly coveted, are allocated for a period of five years by the municipal council. Booksellers do not pay rent but must open at least four days a week and, in normal times, the busy summers compensate for the slowdown in sales in the winter.
Rachid Bouanou and the 17 other new sellers were selected recently, bringing the total of booksellers to around 230. They are the first new booksellers on the banks of the Seine appointed since 2019, before the pandemic drove away local and foreign tourists.
“We have an activity that is really picking up,” said Jérôme Callais, president of the cultural association of booksellers in Paris. “We have just had two years of pandemic with confinements which have totally blocked our activity (…) There not only the tourists rejected, the new nominees settle, people are happy because life is resuming its rights”.
The book stalls on the banks of the Seine are not just reserved for tourists.
“It’s very encouraged, it’s a sign that it won’t go away,” said Kublai Iksel, a 27-year-old Parisian. “It’s one of the most wonderful things in Paris.”
(Written by Ingrid Melander; French version Elena Vardon, editing by Kate Entringer)