Thursday, May 20, 2004

Bookstore Tourism

After my post yesterday about Hay, I was browsing through Pages and found a little blurb about Larry Portzline and his "invention" of a new kind of travel, Bookstore Tourism. I could argue that this is not new, at least not to me. My Bookman and I have made forays to Stillwater, a town about an hour from Minneapolis on the banks of the St. Croix river, not for the antique shops like most people go for, but for the bookshops. And when we had the great joy of going to London three years ago we got excited in part because it was our first international trip together, but also because we planned on going book shopping. We stayed with friends of my beloved's family in Kingston Vale. The 500 year old wall of Richmond Park was their backyard fence. When we told them one day we were going to a used book sale on the banks of the Thames across from Parliament, they thought we were nuts. We also spent an afternoon walking up and down Charing Cross Road, both of us having read Helene Hanff's wonderful book, 84, Charing Cross Road. Mark's and Co. is no longer there, in fact we were devasted that there isn't even a bookshop there any longer. Instead, we found an upscale, highly modern cafe. But the British are great for commemoration plaques, and we have pictures of us standing in front of the wall plaque marking where the store used to be. We also took with us on our trip, The Bookshops of London: The Comprehensive Guide for Book Lovers in and Around the Capital, a handy guidebook for sure but like any guidebook, not entirely reliable. After searching for an hour for a tiny side street one afternoon, the shop we were looking for turned out to longer exist. One of our happiest discoveries on that trip was that books are not taxed, at least in London. Our families thought we were nuts too. On our return when they asked about souvenirs we joyously told them about the postcards we'd bought at the National Portrait Gallery that have the portraits of Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters, the matted photo of Virginia Woolf, and the dozen or so books we'd bought. The only non-book related item we bought was a small box of incense from Kew Gardens. The only downside about book shopping on vacation is the weight of the luggage on your return home. I'd love to go to New York someday. I want to go to New York City. Sure, I'd like to see the Statue of Liberty, but when I think of NYC, I think of spending a day browsing at The Strand and visiting the New York Public Library. But I have digressed a bit from Larry Portzline's bookstore tourism. He doesn't arrange the trips for you. His site has a list of trips that people have put together and allows you to post your own trip. He also provides tips on how to plan your own bookstore tour. It's a good site for ideas and if all of your non-bookish friends and family think you're crazy for taking a vacation designed around bookstores, you can go here and not feel like such a freak. It's nice to know I'm not alone.