Ever since I was a young girl falling in love with the written word for the first time, I formulated this image in my head of the perfect bookstore. This fantasy locale would have a large bell over the door that jangled noisily when anyone ventured inside and the overwhelming scent of musty books would hit you square in the face as you entered and cling to you long after you left.
To make your way through the small store would require careful navigation around towering stacks of books and tall cases packed as closely as possible with every inch of space filled, dusty gems filed away for sale two or sometimes three rows deep. The owner would have half frame spectacles worn on a silver chain around his neck and would only put them on when reading or calculating purchases on notepaper by hand because his ancient register was busted. He would know every single title he had in his store and, regardless of how disorganized it might seem, he would know exactly where it was located in the jumble.
Ever since I imagined this perfect bookstore, this treasure trove of everything I hold sacred, I’d not discovered one single place that even came close. It wasn’t until I met a fellow book lover here in New Orleans (my best friend Dani) who brought me to Arcadian Books & Prints.
If you’ve never been, you can find this gem tucked away at 714 Orleans Avenue behind the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. It’s a tiny shop that lies just around the corner from the fabulous art and antique shops on Royal Street and just steps away from the crowds on Bourbon…and if you aren’t looking for it, you could easily walk right by. It is all I have ever dreamed of in a bookstore.
Not only does Arcadian possess almost everything I described above, but it also offers used books and specializes in books on Louisiana history. Sometimes on the steps in front of the tall, French doors to the shop, you will find a cardboard box marked “free” filled with books for anyone who might happen by. I can’t help but be in love with this place. If I lived nearby, I would stop by to search for literary gold on a regular basis.
You know what else? I am not surprised that it took moving to New Orleans before I found the bookstore from my imagination. Discoveries like these, ones so close to my desires and personal aspirations, only strengthen my belief that I belong here. It seems to me that when your dreams at long last become reality, you know you’ve finally made it home.