Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Literary Tour: Day 10

Day 10: Hay-on-Wye

Today we are going to shop until we drop. And then shop some more. For booklovers, this is the ultimate shopping trip. On the English-Welsh border not far from Hereford is the little town of Hay-on-Wye. Book town! Here we are going to spend the day browsing through nearly forty bookshops of all shapes, sizes and flavours. "Book town" was the brainchild of eccentric bookseller Richard Booth. With the help of occasional publicity stunts - in 1977 he declared Hay an independent state and appointed himself king - the idea took off. You can whet your appetite by checking out the list of bookshops on the Hay website. The majority sell used books, ranging from specialist antiquarian booksellers, through children's bookshops, to giant book treasure houses with hundreds of thousands of volumes stacked on shelves, in piles, in dusty corners, in outhouses ... even in a ruined castle. Whatever book you want you have a chance of finding it here. But where? This is a booklover's paradise.

One of my most memorable weekends was spent at Hay with a group of six homeschooling mothers ... there is nothing more fun than bookshopping at Hay with like minded friends. After a day of treasure hunting we had the pleasure of inspecting each other's finds and admiring bargains. Then we celebrated with a good meal and a restorative bottle or two of wine. Between the six of us we accumulated over three hundred books in the course of the weekend! The reticent British women in the party also learned a lesson from our American expatriate friends (we were a mixed bag bunch) ... if you ask for an educational discount, most of the shops will give you one.

Be warned. By the end of the day you will have seriously aching feet!