In today’s modern computerised world it is still very satisfying to be able to take a step back to relax and you let your imagination take over as you engross yourself in a good book. The enduring appeal of this humble pastime can be read deeply into with the popularity of the Hay Festival, set in the small town of Hay-On-Wye, “The Town of Books” every May and June. The essence of the festival is summed up beautifully by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who described it as being “the Woodstock of the mind” – a sentiment that is undoubtedly shared by many of the 80,000 visitors, from all walks of life, that attend, this is its 26th year.
Book Shops Offline!
It is not just the annual festival that make the small market town of Hay-on-Wye famous for booklovers; In fact, you could say that it is just the icing on the cake in terms of the towns literary heritage, boasting links to numerous authors, including Jenny Valentine and Jasper Fforde, and being home to more than 30 different bookshops. However, the real plaudits have to go to Richard Booth, a Welsh bookseller, who elevated the small town’s standing amongst the literary community after a publicity stunt he orchestrated in which he declared Hay-on-Wye an independent kingdom with him as its leader!
Another destination that is playing its part in keeping the reputation of one of the world’s favourite pastimes thriving is Dublin. Tourism has grown thanks to numerous restaurants, cafes, bars and attractions such as Dublin Castle or the Guinness storehouse and the old Jameson distillery for those that like a cheeky tipple. However, Dublin – one of only six UNESCO cities of literature – is also a bookworm’s paradise, with the likes of the national print Museum of Ireland and the National library of Ireland.
It is hardly surprising that the city is such a great place to get lost in a good book having produced an impressive array of authors and Nobel laureates that have graced the world with their remarkable writing talents, such as WB Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde (who even has a museum dedicated to him there); the city has even inspired great works such as Ulysses by James Joyce. Pick any of these authors, relax in a sunny park and enjoy the story.
Book a Train
The city of Maastricht in the Netherlands isn’t just famous for the treaty that is named after it, but it is also home to one of the world’s most impressive bookshops – Selexyz Dominicanen. Patrons of the shop enjoy the exquisite beauty, set in a 13th century Dominican church with stunning 14th century ceiling paintings, as they browse the vast selection of books – this store often gets the vote as the world’s most spectacular. (A piece by the Huffington Post agrees).
It seems that the city is no stranger to jaw-dropping scenery with tourists not only able to enjoy the many locals shops and cafes but visit the picturesque selection caves and caverns as well – including the famous St Pietersburg caves and the Maastricht caves. Other attractions that are easy on the eye include the basilica of St. Servatius.
Open a book on the train and head over to Europe to add to you library – the Heathrow Express will allow you to read just a couple of chapters on route to London Heathrow (their homepage is here). Elsewhere in Europe and a contrast to the previous extravagance is the quaint Shakespeare & Company bookshop in Paris.
Book a Flight
Despite its glorious setting, Maastricht’s Selexyz Dominicanen faces stiff competition when it comes to being recognised as one of the world’s most impressive bookshops. Settle down on a flight and get reading whilst heading to some other literary destinations. Others around the world that prove irresistible to flocks of tourists each year include Porto’s Livraria Lello, with stunning neo-Gothic architecture; the phenomenal Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, set in a converted movie palace – usually the movie comes after the book!
So taking advantage of Heathrow airport transfers to visit one of these superb locations is a great way to get lost in a good book and perhaps pick up a few others to fuel your next trip, or just for the journey home.