I came home from London with a suitcase full of books.
Well, not really. My carry-on backpack held my purchases; my suitcase was huge in the first place, and only held one new book.
Even so, although those who know me would not be surprised at either statement, the thought of buying books in plural on a trip AT ALL renders many perplexed. Also, when I share this happy experience, many feel obliged to share their opinions - here are some I've heard:
"Why?" Because I'm Batman.
"Don't you have enough books?" Yes, and no.
"Where do you find time to read?" Where do you find time to watch TV?
"Have you read all your books at home?" Have you?
"How do you fit all your books into your apartment?" It's bigger on the inside...
"Doesn't your back hurt?" No, but my head is starting to!
"Additional questions that aren't really questions but criticisms and general judginess" Silent expletives and return judginess..
And I get it, sort of. Besides the obvious question of time - I'm actually not the quickest reader I know, and sadly I can't spend most of my life reading - some are baffled as to why I am that into buying books in the first place, never mind in other countries. I don't have an answer, because I believe you have to be A Book Person to understand. I don't say this to sound lofty, or even to set myself apart from others.
I will offer this imperfect comparison: I like wine. I appreciate the fact that there's some amazing wine out there, but my palate isn't refined enough to spend a pretty penny of fine wine from vineyards blessed by angels and pressed by the feet of vegan virgins. When I'm at a liquor store (where we New Yorkers buy wine for the most part), I head for the $10 bottles, read the label for indications of flavors and pairings, and frankly pick a bottle half the time because I like the picture on the label (trees and ducks tend to win out.) Even so, I do not ask those who invest in the pricey, amazing stuff why they bother, because if you're a wine lover, you just get it: it's a pleasure. Therefore, I hope that anyone curious as to my reading/book buying habits can offer me the same courtesy. Sometimes we like/love something because we just do. The heart wants what the heart wants.
Now that that's off my chest (and I'm craving an evening curled up with a good book and a glass of wine), let's talk about my bookshop adventures in London and Oxford!
There are branches of Blackwell's around the UK nowadays, but this is the original. At a time when so many chains are threatened by online sales and rent hikes (yes New York, you have a lot to answer for), it's a pleasure to see some mainstays. Also, although I'd return to Oxford in a heartbeat, my feet were wrecked by day-trip's end, and a leisurely saunter around floors of gorgeous books (and an abundance of Inspector Morse paperbacks) was just what I needed.
|Weary but Happy!|
Word on the Water, Regent's Canal
The one that got away in 2014. There's a part of me that rejoices in my never finishing my to-do list in London, but I certainly regretted not going here in the first place. Still, it may have been a good thing, because I got to see a book barge in all its glory during a warm, carefree day. That has to be preferable.
That's all I'll say for now, as I plan to write more about this entire concept in a future post. Stay tuned...
Foyle's, Charing Cross Road
I am still in mourning for 84 Charing Cross Road, and it closed years before I was even born. I am relieved that other bookshops have survived and thrived here. Somehow, to my knowledge I'd never been to the flagship Foyle's, though in 2014 I was able to visit the Southwark branch.
It's still on Charing Cross Road, but not in its original spot. It would've been nice to see it as it was, but no complaints on the current setup, which is perfection. My only issue, and this is a Catherine thing, not anyone else's problem, is that it was crowded - and why wouldn't it be? And it should be! I'm a professional grumpypants.
Otherwise, it was everything a massive bookshop should be, and more. I stumbled upon event space and imagined getting married there. There was an entire display of Lamy fountain pens near the ground floor cash register. I found graphic novels I hadn't seen elsewhere. Bought four books with no shame - especially the one about London. When in London, right?
Highest marks go to the cafe. Now, normally the thought of sharing a table with a stranger brings on paroxysms of social anxiety. Yet, nothing seemed out of order to me when I found myself sitting with an elderly woman and her newspaper, and a student (probably) with her laptop. Perhaps it was because I was grateful for WiFi access. Maybe it was the wondrous orange and lavender cake, paired well with a lemony ginger tea. Or it could've been all this, with proximity to All The Books, in my favorite city, just a short walk from my hotel that did me in. No matter; it was bliss.
|This should be hanging in my apartment...|
|An entire cookery display worthy of Taking Tea With Catherine|
|Tea and Cakes! Tea and Cakes!|
|A view that made my heart soar...but then, I'm a Britophile.|
On the way back to the hotel- which by the way was One Aldwych - still pinching myself about that - I walked down Cecil Court. It is another beyond charming Antiquarian bookshop block right out of a hundred years ago , with the exception of a Chipotle on the corner.
|Alice in Burritoland!|
Well, there's the bookshop highlights. Because of my madly blistered feet, I was unable to get to the British Library once again. Trip the Eleventh will have to rectify this!
Finally, here's the book I brought with me to London. I think it was a masterful pairing, don't you?