Featured Post

Dreaming of France: 29 Avenue Rapp

Image
Scrolling through my Instagram& finding this image, I’m surprised I haven’t shared this particular French door for Dreaming of France before. 29 Avenue Rapp boasts what might be the most famous door in Paris. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful.



Designed by Jules Lavirotte in 1901 it’s a striking example of Art Nouveau architecture and features the very risque sculpted Adam and Eve above the door. I first saw the building in the movie Gigi as the building where Gigi's Aunt Alicia lives and where Gigi goes for her lessons in how to catch the right man. Preferably someone rich like Gaston.

Naturally when Mark and I visited Paris, we had to pay the building a visit. What struck us about 29 Avenue Rapp was how many people just walk on by, as if were nothing special, just another old stone edifice, the door, just another entry. I think even if I lived on the block, even if I saw the building and its door every single day, I would still have to pause and take it in. Not a whole …

Above Ground on the London Underground—Day 39: 5 Bloomsbury Book Shops


If it's Friday we must be back in London. Every Friday I take a virtual walking tour ‘above ground’ on the London Underground. Using my Tube guide & my fitbit® device, my goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day roughly following along the Underground route, reporting back here on Fridays with my findings. Here are the previous days. This week I'm following the Piccadilly Line. This is Day 39.

I'm sorry. What else can I say? I took off on an impromptu road trip with my hubby last week, abandoning my weekly London walk on Friday, ditching my commitment to Joy's British Isles Friday meme, and leaving you, gentle reader, in the lurch. Well, not in the lurch exactly, more like the environs of Bloomsbury where I was supposedly off in search of a bookstore to buy a novel by Virginia Woolf. In reality, I was off with my hubby on a trip up the coast of California and I forgot to pack a book altogether! Instead of reading in the evening in our motel room, I spent a lot of time going through my Instagram photos and playing brain games on Lumosity —keeping my fingers crossed that a brain game a day keeps the Alzheimers away.

So today it's back to Bloomsbury and my quest to find a good bookstore or two. From the Museum Tavern—where I killed a pint (just one, I'm a lightweight) it's a mini-stroll over to the home of the acclaimed literary journal the London Review of Books which is more than just a publishing house...it's a bookstore AND even better, a bookstore with a cake shop! Like the best book stores, the LRB hosts frequent writerly events—looking through their calendar the eclectic evenings range from the uber intellectual to the delicious—
What have the French ever done for us? (Gastronomically speaking) in which food critic and writer Dino Joannides chairs an evening of debate and dining. 
Food will be provided by award-winning greengrocer Andreas of Chelsea, with charcuterie from The Ham & Cheese Company and cheese from Beillevaire; wine will be provided by Aubert & Mascoli.
The events typically sell out quickly but the London Book Review posts past events online so that anyone can can check them out. As a 'memoirist'—although that is too high fallutin' sounding for my scribbles—I'm intrigued by the Alchemy event coming up on August 31: 
AlchemyThe competing claims of fiction and reality have provided, of late, one of the most heated and productive literary debates. Where do the boundaries between them lie? And who has the right, the ability, even the desire, to draw them?



Besides tea and lunch, the cake shop boasts beautiful creations that you can order for your own special event, just like a real bakery.




In the opposite direction is Arthur Probsthain's on Great Russell Street, a bookseller specializing in books from and about Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Not quite your cup of tea? They've got tea too, at their own little Tea & Tattle Cafe.




Tea & Tattle Cafe

Further down Russell Road and turning onto Bloomsbury Road itself, you'll find Bookmarks which calls itself a socialist bookstore.


You'll find books on Marxist Theory, British History, the Black Struggle, LGBT and even childrens books for your budding socialists. What you won't find is a tea room.

BookMarks

Foyles at 107 Charing Cross Road is the flagship of the Foyles chain of bookstores. More Barnes and Noble than your local indie bookstore (if you're lucky enough to have an indie bookstore in your town). But as Meg Ryan learned in You've Got Mail, that doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing; there are author events, storybook times for the kiddies, signed copies of best sellers and, yep, a cafe. The bookstore is hosting the prestigious sci fi book award, the Arthur C. Clarke award, this August.


Foyles ©Rob Grieg

Before we head off to St. Pancras, the next stop on the Picadilly line, we'll end our tour of Bloomsbury area bookshops with a visit to Gay's the Word which is, according to Wikipedia, the only specifically gay & lesbian bookstore in the U.K.  




As you might expect, the store is not just about the books; right from the start Gay's the Word has been a information and resource center for the gay and lesbian community. Named after a musical of the same name, Gay's the Word has been in business since 1979 when gay themed books weren't readily available at all bookstores in the UK. Most of their stock had to be imported from the U.S. It hasn't always been easy. In 1984 the shop was raided by Customs who, labeling the bookstore a porn store, confiscated thousands of pounds of literature including work by Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, and Christopher Isherwood. Thank goodness, times have changed. I wish my uncle, who lived his entire life as a closeted gay man in the suburbs of England, was still around to see the brave new world. 






Bookshops in and around Bloomsbury


London Review of Books Shop
14 Bury Place, London, WC1A 2JL
+44 (0) 20 7269 9030

Arthur Probsthain
Tea & Tattle Cafe
41 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3PE 
+44 20 7636 1096

Bookmarks
1 Bloomsbury St, London WC1B 3QE
+44 20 7637 1848

Foyles
07 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0DT 

+44 (0) 20 7440 3265
(the store and selection are so mammoth, each department has its own phone extension. I've given you the number for bestsellers.)

Gay's the Word
66 Marchmont Street, WC1N 1AB London
+44 20 7278 7654



Counting the Fitbit steps



Day 1-38:                                                                              
 279,190 steps/120 miles      


Day 39:  Bookstore tour                               5,000 steps /2 miles    
                                                           

Total Imaginary Miles to Date                                         284,190 steps/126.25 miles 





Days 1 —38


It's British Isles Friday when I link up with Joy Weese 

Moll for #BriFri. Check it out.





All images, except as noted, via the bookstore's web gallery

Comments

  1. That is a great trip you took with your hubby and I love the photos. I immediately signed up to follow you on my public Instagram account. Love the photos.
    Ooooo....so many bookstores! Great tour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, cool Tina! I'm going to go take a look at Instagram right now!

      Delete
  2. I completely forgot about British Isles Friday this week!!

    Nothing like poking about in bookstores in London!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love the Alchemy event. Your London Underground series fits right in, doesn't it? I mean, it's not fiction but it's not reality, either.

    I kept looking in British bookstores for the equivalent of the African-American section that we find in American bookstores. Who knew that I needed to head to a socialist bookstore to find that?

    I love the zig-zaggy route you took.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comments. Insecure writer at work.

Popular Posts

A + for The A-Word

As Seen in Britain

Time to slay your own dragons, ladies.

Dreaming of France: Picturing Paris

Above Ground on the London Underground—Day 28: Sloane Rangers