The new Parisian bouquinist Rachid Bouanou, a traditional street bookstore, has a stall on the banks of the Seine in Paris, France, August 18, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Paris: In the very heart of Paris, former sailor Rashid Boueanou opens a large green crate attached to the wall overlooking the Seine, carefully arranges the old books he keeps there, and takes a stroll. You sell to visitors who are

Tourists are returning to the French capital, fearing the COVID-19 pandemic could spell the end of a business dating back to the 16th century for riverside bookstores known in France as ‘bouquinistes’ is ending.

There are even 18 new riverside bookstores along the roughly 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) of the river bank, and Buanou, a long-time fishing boat mechanic, is one of them.

“I used to be a sailor…but I’ve always loved books, beautiful books. And why not share this passion and share the books and authors I love with others,” he said. said with a wide smile. “We help people discover books and new authors.”

Nearby, Jean and Maria Aida Vandemoertele, from Bruges, Belgium, happily browsed old books and newspapers for sale from Boukinist.

“Paris is the only stall with good books,” said 68-year-old Jean. “Somebody kept this for 60 years because we’ve just seen Time magazine since we were born. It’s great.”

The coveted bookstore spot is allotted by the city council for five years. Bookstores do not pay rent, but must be open at least four days a week.

Bouanou and 17 other new sellers were recently approved, bringing the total to about 230. This is his first new riverside bookstore since 2019, before the pandemic kept local and foreign tourists away.

“Life is finally back (to normal),” said Jerome Calles, who heads the association of bookstores. “We have been hit by a pandemic for two years and our activities have come to a halt… Now tourists are returning and new bookstores are starting to settle.”

Riverside bookstores aren’t just for tourists.

“(The new seller) is very encouraging. It’s a sign that it won’t go away,” said Kublai Iksel, 27, from Paris. “It’s one of the nicest things about Paris he does.”

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