“I had now only one hope left for the future — a hope far more poignant than any fear — and that was that I might forget Albertine.”When it comes to Albertine, the bookstore- you won’t want to forget it’s here in New York.
As a Franglaise in NYC, I like to keep myself updated on the Parisian happenings around me. This is why, when a guest at one of my language exchange events emailed me to let me know about the opening of Albertine Books, I rushed to find out more. Named after the beautiful love interest in Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, Albertine boasts over 14,000 titles in both French and English. Dressed snugly for the brisk New York weather, I jumped into an Uber and headed up to 65th and Madison. Before anything, I had a coffee addiction to feed and just the place to do it. Nespresso is the absolute best coffee I’ve ever had. It’s rich and indulgent, and the staff is knowledgeable and professional. I adore the sleek, modern design of the café and quickly chose a seat by the window. I was feeling particularly naughty that morning so I ordered a café liegois. Delicious vanilla ice cream swimming in a sea of two shots hot espresso. Nespresso boasts 12 flavors of coffee, but I went with the oaky Diavollito. Ice cream for breakfast?? Toujours! After I’d had my fill of sugar, I marched myself up to the doors of the historic Payne Whitney mansion at 972 Fifth Ave for a peak. Albertine is a project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, so Albertine is housed into the headquarters of the Cultural Services. The absolute first thing you’ll notice about Albertine? The glorious architecture. This centerpiece is a replica of Michelangelo’s “Marble Boy.” The original had been in the lobby of the mansion for decades until it was discovered to be a true Michelangelo! If you’re an art lover, it is currently on loan at the Met and can be seen there. You walk into what looks to be your typical bookstore: lines of shelves adorned with hardcovers and paperback, tables covered completely with narratives of adventures and memoirs. The interior of Albertine is designed by celebrated French designer Jacques Garcia who also did The NoMad Hotel in New York City. Albertine boasts deux etages (two floors), and you’re in for a treat when you head upstairs. The ceiling is magnificent: blue and gold maps of constellations and planets, inspired by the ceilings of Lorenzo de Medici created in the 1500s to capture “the knowledge of the world” with large golden chandeliers hanging over the shelves and tables of books. The room houses Busts created by the ateliers of The Louvre of great figures such as Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Tocqueville and Descartes. If you fancy a quiet nook to read one of the many books you’ve purchased at Albertine, don’t worry! In a New York Times article Mr. Baudry, owner of Albertine, described the bookstore as “more like a grand private library.” Little velvet love seats are built in by the windows for you to comfortably get lost in some Proust or Balzac. Or maybe something a little more fun… It’s truly one of the most immersive French experiences I’ve had in Manhattan—it seemed as though every French expat in NYC was here, getting lost in a story at Albertine. On a regular basis, Albertine holds conferences featuring the most prominent, and great thinkers from France/Europe and the United States to debate, think, share and exchange together. J’espere de vous voir a la prochaine! For a schedule of events,you must check out Albertine’s website at albertine.com/events and follow them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Albertinebooks