Thursday, 11 April 2013

Ding ding! All aboard for Book Town!

Imagine a town with 23 book shops. Who wouldn’t want to go there? Well, people who hate reading, for a start. Ok, discounting them, how many bibliophiles would think they had died and gone to Heaven? Answer: ALL of THEM.

We are that sort of people-- the kind who love books and enjoy pottering around bookshops and browsing endless shelves and lazy days lying about reading. We’ve lived in England for over 9 years and, would you believe it, we had never been before. What are you on about, Spidergrrl, I hear you ask. Hay-on-Wye. The Book Town. A town made of bookshops. A town filled with enough paper that it could have once been a forest. That is where we have been for the past week. HEAVEN.

Hay-on-Wye is in Wales and as the name suggests the town of Hay sits on the River Wye. It is pretty tricky to get there being the car-free eco-people that we are, but we managed it. We had to train to Kings Cross station, tube to Paddington station, train to Worcester Foregate, change trains and then train to Hereford and then bus for 1 hour into Hay. All in all, it was about 7 hours, which sounds like a lot, but the pleasure of taking the train is you don’t have to drive or navigate so you can just sit and read or chill out listening to tunes on your I-pod. We weren’t tired, cranky or crooked (I have lots of back issues--more on that later)  the way we used to be after driving so it makes for a pleasant journey.  On the way home we went a different way--bus to Hereford, train to Newport Gwent, change trains and then train to Paddington station, tube to Kings Cross and then train home. It took about the same amount of time, but the reason we went a different way was it made the train tickets cheaper. Go figure.

Anyway, we arrived in Hay (which always makes me want to say, “Hay the official snack food of the reindeer games”--if you’ve seen the animated Christmas film Robbie the Reindeer you’ll know what I am talking about) and were greeted with the sight of our lovely front door.

It was a lovely duck egg blue (my Granny Blair’s favourite colour--which is fitting as she was a children’s author and fellow bibliophile) and the cottage did not disappoint. It was a nice sized “two up, two down” and was perfectly comfortable for our needs.

A very blurry photo (it looks like Spiderman sneezed as he took it) of the lovely and comfortable living room--with a sofa for me to lie on and a chair for Spiderman--just the way we like to read. Or rather, the way I like to be selfish and take up all the space and Spiderman accommodates me. 

Here is the conservatory round the back of the kitchen. On two of the days it was warm enough to eat our lunch out here, but the rest of the days it was *freezing.*

Here is the sign warning you as you come down the stairs. There’s a reason for this.

Here is me (all 5”3 of me) and can you see how I am taller than the sign? I was very proud of this--as if this were some sort of accomplishment of me growing taller rather than being part of the design of the house--but as Spiderman pointed out it was the house and not me. Which is a shame as it made me feel like a giant. But if  I could hit my head coming downstairs, then imagine poor Spiderman who is head and shoulders taller then me. Yikes! You had to be really careful in the middle of the night as the bedroom was upstairs but the toilet was down! But hey--it added to the fun!

Here is the beautiful bed with about a dozen decorative pillows. Sadly, it was a VERY soft mattress which does not sit very well with my bad back. I have a mild case of scoliosis, plus a twice broken coccyx which needs very firm support. To (badly) paraphrase Shakespeare, “All the pillows of Arabia will not strengthen this little bed.”   I managed it for the first few nights but soon, waking up all crooked persuaded me that I needed a firmer place to sleep. Luckily, there was a single bed in the spare room with a much firmer mattress. I was sad to not sleep with Spiderman, but my back demanded it. Luckily, I was not alone. If you noticed the teddy in the photo, I had my trusty, old, well-loved friend Laurence with me. I am so thankful to be married to a man who is not bothered that after 20 years of marriage I still sleep with a teddy bear.

After a bit of a rest and an unpacking session we walked back to England to the Co-op to “make groceries” (as they say in Louisiana) which is not as impressive as it sounds as England was only a 10 minute walk--Hay being right over the Welsh border. I had meticulously planned our menus to be cheap and easy, bringing with us many things like bags of lentils and rice so we’d only have to buy the fresh stuff.

Look at the lovely display of fruit and veg. We each had 3 pieces of fruit a day to snack on and then some onions and two kinds of potatoes for meals. Lemons for cooking and for making water taste better and the lone garlic.

Just so you don’t think we were *completely* healthy on the trip--we had brought along some of our favourite vegan, fair trade dark chocolate bars. These come in amazing flavours like (from L to R) lemon and cardamom, Sicilian hazelnut, coffee espresso, lavender, raspberry and coconut. Every night we would get 2 squares of each flavour--they smell as good as they taste--and savour them as we watched mindless telly. A treat for us as we don’t have a television at home--and  a CSI marathon until well past midnight reminded us why.

Well, that’s just day one of the Book Town tour. Stay tuned!


  1. I think you ARE a GIANT!!! You have been deceiving us for years with MAGIC!!!
    Seriously though, I can't wait to read more. Sounds like a perfect vacation!

  2. okay..........glad to see it's just day one because this is the town of books, but you didn't mention what books you discovered and came away with or left regretfully behind. I'll stay tuned.