Gertrude & Alice Cafe/Bookstore Bondi Beach
For some unknown reason dear readers, Bondi Beach had completely escaped my French radar. It was only very recently that I had discovered that Paris had unexpectedly and pleasantly made its way to this iconic and touristy area in Sydney. Lovers of books and Shakespeare & Company in Paris’ Latin Quarter will be thrilled, as I was, to discover that a Shakespeare and Co inspired bookstore by the delightful and symbolic name of “Gertrude and Alice” now exists in Bondi’s trendy café and boutique hub in Hall Street. The iconic Shakespeare & Company in Paris, founded by an American expat Sylvia Beach, retailed books in French and English and hosted struggling writers, novel and author events and regular jazz and poetry recitals. The bookstore attracted the Lost Generation, a term invented by Gertrude Stein, of expat modern writers like herself, Hemmingway, Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald & James Joyce who left America to become involved in the literary culture of Paris. Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Beach both played a significant role in developing and promoting these expat writers’ works throughout France and Europe.
Shakespeare and Company, immediately recognised by its wagon green and yellow façade, became famous for cultivating American literature and art culture and for its bohemian, eclectic and old world aesthetic. Thespians and writers of the past and of now gravitate to this quirky bookshop with its floor to ceiling shelves overcrowded with new and second hand books and where little vignettes and hidden nooks with reading tables, sofas and make shift beds that are at all times occupied by book enthusiasts and artists of all genres. Being a Shakespeare and Company enthusiast and admirer I was completely over taken with excitement when discovering Gertrude & Alice and within moments of entering the store was transported to my beloved Paris. The book store, named after the famous Gertrude Stein and her partner/lover and assistant Alice B.Toklas was an admired and highly revered expat American business woman, modernist, novelist, theorist, enthusiastic art collector, mentor and friend to many artists and great writers of the early 20th century, Some of her friends included Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, James Joyce and many others. These artists depended greatly on Gertrude Stein’s modernist thinking, expertise as an art collector and novelist to critique and validate their work and her influential presence and friendship contributed greatly to their careers. Gertrude and Alice were famous for hosting literature and art events from their salon in their Paris home as well as elaborate parties where their famous artist and writer friends would be seen mingling with their eclectic mix of guests.
Gertrude and Alice in Bondi, is delightfully reminiscent of Shakespeare and Company in Paris in its concept and design where wall to wall and floor to ceiling shelves are also overcrowded with novels and books. As you casually explore the store’s central salon you’ll discover the same concept of Shakespeare and Company being repeated where little adorable vignettes take you by surprise with quirky occasional chairs, sofas and tables. Every chair is occupied mostly by artistic and bohemian types of all ages who seem right at home and totally engaged in novels while sipping on award winning Campos café lattes made lovingly by the shop’s in store Barista. The petite coffee bar situated at the front of the store is a nice additional option to have and enjoy where you can order a slice of cake, organic biscuits, muffins and sandwiches or a deliciously casual/café dish or even a glass of wine from their menu to enjoy with or without your novel.
Parisians are blessed with countless bookstores that they frequent and treasure with an equal enthusiasm and passion to dining in the countless cafes and restaurants in every street of every district in Paris. Bookstores and cafes are institutions in Paris and bookshops in particular are revered and continue to thrive due to the French love for literature. For every bookstore that opens in Paris, one closes here in Sydney and so to have a wonderful bookstore like Gertrude and Alice, inspired by the iconic Shakespeare & Company, is a treasure that should be supported, encouraged to thrive and expand. Next time you’re in Hall Street Bondi, take the time to visit this adorable bookshop where you’ll most certainly find a great read upon the never-ending bookshelves to purchase and enjoy for hours while relaxing on one of the cosy sofas. Gertrude & Alice has become a popular gathering place and oasis not only for artists, writers, avid readers and coffee lovers but for anyone who appreciates something quirky, whimsical and out of the ordinary and would definitely get the French nod of approval. Dear readers, are you entranced by Gertrude & Alice Café inspired by the bookstores in France?
Gertrude & Alice Café/Bookstore
46 Hall St, Bondi Beach, Sydney Phone: 9130 5155