Thursday, 3 July 2008

I've been to Bookworms' Heaven!

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!


Jeane said...

What a beautiful place. I want to go there someday! I love the open-air bookshelves, that is so cool.

Josette said...

That was a wonderful post! I love looking at pictures of bookstores...I'll actually go bonkers if I were at Hay-on-Wye. Hehe...

This morning, I learnt about a new place and I hope I can visit it one day. I've just did search on it on Google. Hay-on-Wye is also known as "the town of books". Cool! Truly a book lover's paradise!

Anonymous said...

Hi Valentina - Josette tipped me about this book heaven you've just visited and I almost died when I read your intro LOL

I LOVE old books and can't wait to see your copy of "Wind in the Willows! Plus those Welsh sweets that you go :)

I'm gonna link you to my blog too! And hope you'll link me back...

Can't wait to see what books we have in common.

Melody said...

Wow, I enjoyed reading this post and viewing those pics! Bookstores are always fun to visit. I'm glad you get the chance to visit these places.

Ana S. said...

wow! Heaven on earth indeed! That place is so on my list for when I make it back to the UK. I wish I had known about it before! I think the largest bookshop in Europe is Waterstone's Picadilly, but that one looks prettier. One of the coolest bookshops I've ever been to was actually in Wales - in Llangollen. It was a used bookshop in an attic over this pretty little coffeeshop, and it was just awesome beyond words. Unfortunately I knew I couldn't buy many books due to luggage restrictions, so I managed to leave with only one. And I ALMOST got Wonder Tales from Ancient Wales there! But again, weight restrictions :(

You got some really cool books! And it sounds like you had a wonderful time :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love places like this and I hate when people like you share photos like these. :) Wow...and a hay festival. I thought you were kidding. Who knew?

Alessandra said...

This place really does look like heaven!

mariel said...

I still can't believe that I haven't made it to Hay-on-Wye yet! When I was working at Ottakar's, our manager was sent there every year for the begging and pleading never worked! I really should visit this summer...with a car of course!

mariel said...

Oh and my favourite bookshop at the moment is Much Ado Books in Alfriston, East Sussex. Gorgeous shop, gorgous village, and gorgous surroundings...highly recommend it if you are ever passing that way!

valentina said...

Jeane, I hope you will make it to Hay one day!

Josette, thank you! I might post some more pictures of those bookshops later, I have so many.
It really is a paradise. Except your pay for the books, so you better be careful!!

kittycat, I'm glad you found my post:) The sweets were nice, a bit too hard maybe. But they looked great! Thanks for linking me, I'll return the favour.

melody, maybe you'll come to Europe on day and you'll manage to squeeze a visit to Wales in as well!

nymeth, well, that one claimed to be the second largest *second-hand* bookshop. I wish I knew which one was the biggest. There was another one in Hay-on Wye which was in an ex-cinema,and it looked bigger than that one. I have a picture of its map, that you actually needed to visit it or you'd get lost!maybe I'll post it.
Next time I go to Wales I'll keep Llangollen in mind! hate it?:P
no I wasn't kidding about the festival, it's actually world famous. I don't think I would have heard of hay-on-wye if it wasn't for the festival. I read an article on it on a paper few years ago and I knew I had to go one day!

alessandra, it does big time!

Mariel, it'd be awesome if you would go as well! and then post about it too :D I hope you do. It's such a treat. A proper book binge.

Thanks for the recommendation, who knows, I might happen to go there one day!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Oh, can I come to Heaven, please?!

what a fantastic little place!

valentina said...

eheh, I knew Hay-on-Wye was going to be a great hit with all the bookworm bloggers:D
All I can say is: save your money for the trip and go!! you won't regret it!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

How beautiful! In our deadheat of summer I really miss the lush green (everything is scorched right now!). Looks like you had a wonderful trip--and how could you not being surrounded by so many wonderful books!!

Anonymous said...

Gosh, those chairs look mighty inviting!