Camili Books & Tea

This English-language bookshop on Rue de la Carreterie in Avignon was founded in 1994 (or 1992, depending on which website you believe) by Wolfgang Zuckermann. He called it “Shakespeare” in the tradition of the bookshop “Shakespeare & Co.” that was started in Paris by Sylvia Beach in 1919.

Wolfgang Zuckermann was born in Berlin in 1922. He became an American citizen in 1938 and for many years was a builder of harpsichords in New York. He left the United States in 1969 (to protest the Vietnam war) and moved to England, where he became known as an author and a social and environmental activist.

For many years, Zuckermann was a writer and editor for The Commons, which describes itself as “a wide open, world-wide, non-government, non-aligned, fully independent public forum concerned with making a modest contribution to improving our understanding and control of technology as it impacts on people in their daily lives.”

He was 72 (or 70) when he founded his bookshop in Avignon. After running it for 18 (or 20) years, he decided the time had come to retire (at age 90), so he sold the shop to a bilingual student named Camille Vourc’h, who was 25 at the time. She re-named the shop “Camili Books & Tea” and set about organizing writing workshops, workshops for children, knitting evenings (under the title “Stitch’n Bitch”), English classes, an English conversation group, French classes and art exhibitions, in addition to running the bookshop and the tearoom.

By the way, when I tried to mention the knitting evenings “Stitch’n Bitch” on the now-defunct website VirtualTourist, the word “Bitch” was automatically replaced by four asterisks ****.

When I first wrote this post, I said I didn’t know if Camille Vourc’h was related to the soprano Karen Vourc’h. In the meantime, I have heard from Camille Vourc’h that she is indeed Karen Vourc’h’s sister.

The name Vourc’h, by the way, is a Breton name which means castle and originally designated the owner or inhabitant of a castle. 

Camili Books & Tea

The bookshop now consists of consists of about 20,000 books:  80 % used, 20 % new. The tearoom has “a wide selections of teas from the world, as well as the amazing flower teas which bloom in your cup”; also organic coffee and “homemade pastries and organic snacks”. There is also a small outdoor patio described as “a hidden gem that stays cool in the summer!”

Update November 2018: An e-mail from Camili Books & Tea has arrived with the news that Wolfgang Zuckermann, the founder and former owner of the bookshop, has passed away. He was in his nineties, probably 96.

In 2019, Camille Vourc’h sold the bookshop to another young woman, Rihame Allouch, who is continuing to run it in the same way (except of course during lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic).

Address: Camili BOOKS & TEA, 155 rue de la Carreterie, 84000 Avignon
Phone: + 33 (0) 4 90 27 38 50

Street sign near the bookshop

A typical feature, for this part of France, is the dangling electrical cable above the street sign.

My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2020.

See more posts on Avignon, France.
See more posts on bookshops.

13 thoughts on “Camili Books & Tea”

  1. Thanks for finding my post and leaving such a nice comment. Great that you knew Wolfgang Zuckermann and visited him at the bookshop. I also used to live in the Bay Area, but that was a long time ago, in the 1960s, when I was news director of KPFA.
    I don’t know the current status of the bookshop in Avignon. The last I heard (pre-pandemic) was that Rihame Allouch was running it, but now their website has been “suspended” and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated for over a year.
    In any case, I hope your niece is having a great trip through Europe and avoiding all the fires and viruses that we never had to worry about in previous decades.

  2. I was there, oh my goodness, I can’t recall. Between 2001-2003 I believe when it was Shakespeare snd Wolfgang Zuckermann was the owner. I was meeting up with a friend (from my Moscow days) and living in Oakland, California, where I was good friends with Wolfgang’s brother, Alex Zuckermann. We were cycling buddies in the Bay Area, cycling hundreds of miles together over 3 years. He told me to visit his brother. So I did. Wolfgang was charming, brilliant, thoughtful and very generous. We stayed in a room , if I recall correctly, above the bookshop. It was a lovely connection. My niece is now traveling through Europe and I was sad to discover the passing of Wolfgang in 2018. Alas, we cannot live forever. Young Camille has large shoes to fill, but from reading descriptions of her shop, I believe she’s brought some tremendous new character and value to a foundation of great literature and passion. I wish you the best and perhaps one day I might find myself in your knitting circle.

  3. Oh, I like that name, Stitch and Bitch. My father tells of times in the mid-50’s where all the old French/Canadian family matriarchs and their friends gathered in the home and …well…stitched and bitched. Kids today..they tell it like it is. 🙂

  4. Namaste from India. I liked the concept of reading & snacking, something I have in mind to introduce in India. Little habits go a long way, like ‘Chai pe Charcha’ – Conversations around Tea. India is a huge market of Tea consumption and as a matter of fact, the present Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi was a tea seller once upon a time. His is a remarkable journey and that’s how Tea is all the more important in our daily rituals. Nice to know about this place in Avignon. My day is incomplete without Tea.

  5. I’ve visited Avignon three times, and it upsets me that I completely missed this charming bookstore! I got a laugh out of the “Stitch n’ Bitch” title, and it’s a shame that it’s been censored (in France, of all places!). Should I return to Avignon, I’ll certainly have to check this place out!

    1. Hi, Rebecca. The censorship took place in El Segundo, California (headquarters of the now-defunct website VirtualTourist), not in France. This really is a nice little bookshop, and I hope they make it through the pandemic OK.

      1. I had no idea that the censorship took place so close to home! Let’s do hope that the bookstore continues to survive, despite these turbulent times.

  6. Sounds like a lovely place.

    My mother (back in the late 30s) got a group of women together from various places – the lady who was in the room with her when I was born, the wives of some of the professors, women she went to school with etc, and they would meet once a month and have dessert and play auction bridge. They soon discovered that there was more talking than bridge playing, so they eliminated the bridge playing just mended socks or just talked. When one of the children of the ladies got married, the child would get a gift from the “non-playing Bridge Club”

  7. This sounds like a lovely place to visit, to browse and enjoy a drink on that patio 🙂 The name she gives the knitting evenings is interesting. Over here many of our libraries have introduced (or had, pre-COVID) knitting afternoons to encourage especially isolated older ladies to get together, and they often call them ‘Knit and Natter’ – I guess VT would have been OK with that name 😆

    1. Yes, I’m sure VT would have had no objection to a good British word like ‘natter’. Their software blocked ‘ass’ but not ‘arse’, for example.
      In some ways, VT was a very American (and 20th century) website.

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