Stories saturate our lives and our learning from an early age. The characters we love can cross cultural boundaries and the physical limitations of proximity to be dear to use near and far. From the plays of William Shakespeare to the fairy-tales of Hans Christian Anderson, stories belong to everyone. If you love reading or have a fondness for literary pursuits, take a page out of my five city book.
For Victor Hugo, the cathedral of Notre Dame represented the heart of Paris so much so he made it the main character in his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. While in Paris, visiting such a cathedral is a must, even in its reconstruction phase. Nearby, however, literary lovers must also stop at the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, an independent bookshop for writers, readers, and travelers alike. As an English-language bookstore nestled in the heart of a French-speaking town, pop in for your favorite classic, a new read, or even an in-house published pamphlet, all of which can be stamped with their bookshop insignia of the bard himself.
At the center of the city of canals lies its main history museum, the Rijksmuseum, but in it also lies the library of my dreams. Nestled in the corner of the famous Dutch history museum lies the Rijksmuseum’s own library, complete with a spiral staircase and the silence of a thousand surrounding words. The Cuypers Library is the Netherlands’ oldest and largest library about art history, and its doors are open to visitors, historians, and students to use. Try a new study scenery with its free wifi or delve into its shelves of art history for your next curiosity. Look for signs for the “Bibliotheek” and know you are heading the right way!
Libraries hold books that can take us to far off places, and sometimes those far off places include libraries visited by such characters we encounter in stories. I felt like Belle walking through the Queen’s Library at Christiansborg Palace. Surround by graceful storks and wise owls, the queen could use this library (and its very own elevator to the next row of shelves) to peruse her private collection. Keep in mind these are only 10% of all the Queen’s books. The rest can be found with her at Amalienborg Palace!
As the home of the Bard, England knows theatre plays an important role in literary history. With the invention of the printing press, Shakespeare’s folios and later his plays became available to the public after years of being staged on the South Bank in London. There are two places to shop specifically for theatrical publications on this such South Bank today. The reconstructed Globe Theatre’s gift shop carries Shakespeare’s works and those inspired by his style; popular among Baylor Theatre were copies of his first folio publications and the Shakespeare’s Star Wars mashups penned by Ian Doescher. Just upstream you’ll find the National Theatre Bookshop, home to hundreds of plays and publications about theatre. You can select titles ranging from the script of what’s currently onstage, anthologies of region-specific titles, or even new publications. If you take a tour of the spaces, you will receive 10% off at these shops as well.
Those are just a few of the places where your love of literature can intersect your learning on a study abroad. Happy travels and hopeful reading to you all!