Yes, there is such a place and it's right here on this planet! It's called Hay-on-Wye and it's tiny little village in the middle of nowhere, in Wales. I spent 3 days there and it was awesome! Everywhere you turn there was a bookshop, of any kind and form. There's less than 2000 people living in Hay but more than 30 bookshops. Mostly second-hand. I've only seen one that actually sells new books. The rest are reminders, collectibles, antiques, second hand...Heaven, I'm telling you!
It wasn't that easy to get there. We had to take a ferry from Dublin, which was nice and quick. Then the train which was less quick and then from Hereford we were meant to take a bus. Only the last bus had just left 20 minutes before we got there, so there was no other solution than to pay 30 pounds for a taxi, since hitch-hiking is for teenagers, and I felt too old for it:P
Hay itself is lovely. It's a typical cosy British village, only with lots and lots and lots of books. So many that you might get tired of them. I didn't, though.
The scenery around the village is gorgeous. You can walk along the river through a path between the trees, and it feels like stepping into a fairytale. It was truly magical.
But obviously what made it so special was the books! I wasn't so much interested in the Festival, for which the town is most famous. I just wanted a quiet and relaxed holiday browsing books till I dropped:P And that's exactly what I did.
The first bookshop I went was the Richard Booth's shop. It's the second largest secondhand bookshop in Europe. I don't know which one is the biggest, but this one was massive. Three floors, in an old looking building.
The basement was also used as shop floor and smelled like a proper basement, damp and dusty. It was pretty cool.
Across the road was the crime fiction bookshop called "Murder and Mayhem". I didn't go in because I'm not a fan of crime books but the window was great:
(click to enlarge!)
Rose's Bookshop is specialised in Children's books. There were all very expensive, for collectors mainly, but I managed to buy one for only 6 sterlings, which I'll show you later. The shop was small but really well kept. The window was wonderful too, but I didn't take a photo with the digital camera so no pic. Here's the inside, showing the Fairy tales' section:
The shop included also a very playful dog, which kept asking for its toy to be thrown:
At the bottom of the town's castle (also made into a bookshop) there's the "Honesty Bookshop", which is basically just open air shelves, where you can buy any book and leave the money into a box hanging on a wall. 50p for hardbacks and 30p for paperbacks. Isn't it the coolest thing?
I wish I could show you all the bookish pictures that I have but this is taking ages and it's already a very long post. So I'll leave you with a picture of all the books that I ended up bringing home. Not that many. I've been surprisingly wise, also because I was a bit broke. I did most of the shopping in the "all for 1 pound" shop, which was brilliant. And this is was a got, from top to bottom:
- The wind in the willos by Kenneth Grahame (very old edition, nice cover9
- The restaurant at the end of the universe by Douglas Adam
- My swordhand is singing by Markus Sedwick
- Wonder Tales of ancient Wales (couldn't leave without something like this)
- Zoli by Column McCann
- Reading the Vampire Slayer- the new unofficial guide to Buffy and Angel (you can never have too many Buffy books)
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
- The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren (I didn't even know this existed!)
- Coraline by Neil Gaiman
- The Weirdstone of Brisingaman by Alan Garner
- Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
- Boobela and Worm by Joe Friedman and Sam Childs
- Year of the goat by Nigel Suckling and Wayne Anderson (bought in Rose's)
Also included in the picture is the homemade honey and the honeycomb bought from a cute man with a long white beard, the Hay-on-Wye passport, welsh sweets, welsh apple juice and a nice flyer of some circus.
I really hope to go back there one day, with more money, more time and a car!