Books Abroad

Traveling in a flight pod

If you ever get to travel in a “pod” be sure to do it. Marvelous!

Please, please, please!  If you ever hear me say I don’t like to travel, just slap my face.  OMG!  The past couple of weeks have given me such a wealth of experiences, drawing visions, and writing ideas that I could kick myself for the bad attitude I’ve had about traveling before.

Over the past couple of weeks, my family and I went to England and Italy, and there was so much to see and do that I was able to write a list of about 16 blog posts I could conjure up–everything from reporting on the Dr. Who Experience in Bristol to seeing the crypts under St. Peter’s Basilica; from partying with friends and family in England to flirting with strangers in Rome (“Gramma!  That’s forbidden.  You’re a married woman!”)

WH Smith Booksellers

Even at the airport the WH Smiths are there to welcome you.

One of my happiest thoughts, though, is of the books and bookstores everywhere we went.  Looks like Europe hasn’t embraced the electronic revolution that we have in the States.  People everywhere were reading, especially on public transport.  What a thrill for someone like me to see.  Unfortunately, I’m horrid with a camera, and didn’t think to ask travelers if I could take a snap of them reading the newspapers, the books, the magazines I saw them with.  But believe me, they were there.

Now, I have to admit, I don’t ride a lot of public transport back here in Littleton.  Part of the reason for this is because I own and use a car for just about every errand I have, and part is because Littleton, unlike London, doesn’t have a lot of public transport (oh, and don’t get me started on London’s “Oyster Cards.” Wonderful!)

Visiting Foyles New Bookstore

London’s magnet for readers!

But not only do people seem to read a lot “over there,” the brick-&-motar stores seem to be doing well also.  I saw several W.H.Smith stores sprinkled about, just as when I lived in England in the ’70s, and I made a pilgrimage to the great and newly relocated “Foyles” bookstore.  Foyles is no longer the largest bookstore in Europe, but there were still several floors (floors!) of books on all sorts of subjects. The link I’ve inserted here leads to a webpage that claims this store has over 6.5 kilometers of books–200,000 titles, and I believe it.

My good guy knows how important books and bookstores are to me, and even though he shakes his head sadly about my archaic drive for the printed book, he was kind enough to help me find the new Foyles.  How very cool!

We went on a typically drizzly day via bus. This was after a stop in a ballroom dance store for a couple of pair of shoes.  As we neared the book shop, I could almost feel the breath of readers permeate the air.  Reading has a certain rhythm, and I think it come from the relaxed breathing people have when engaged with a good book.  My guy was heads down on his phone, using GPS to find the place (and he almost missed it) when a squeal escaped me.  There it was, bold as a modern building tends to be in an ancient city like London.

We strode up and in.  I went to the information desk to see if picture-taking would be okay.  I expected a rejection (many stores in the US have a problem with people taking photos–a little old woman like me might be stealing corporate secrets or something).  At the very least I knew there would be a delay while the Information clerk went to check on okays from management.

Books, books, everywhere!

Books, books, everywhere!

The young man smiled at my question.  “Of course, madam, you may take photos. We’re very proud of our update.” Wow! I almost jumped in the air. Then he continued. “As for a history of mystery writing, I’m not quite sure what we have.  Please check on the first floor (in American, that’s the second floor).  I believe we have a section on commentary regarding mystery.  You might find something there.”

I was blown away.  I gave my good guy permission to sit on one of the comfy benches in the stair area and ran to the “first” floor.  I am without words.  I know mystery is a popular genre, but even my local Barnes and Nobel can’t compete.  Shelf after shelf and book after book appeared before me.  I was in heaven, and had to keep reminding myself that I only had a small suitcase in which to bring back these treasures. Darn it.

I found the commentary section, and while there wasn’t a specific history per se, I did find a book called “The Cambridge Companion to American Crime Fiction” among others.  Needless to say, I picked that book up before leaving . . . and I left a couple of copies of my brochure with the kind folks in the store.  You never know.

This small perspective is just one of the several great travel experiences I had.  How’s your summer shaping up?  Are you planning any travels?  Please look forward to them and come back to share your adventures with us all.