I just had a birthday, and it was a BIG one, I have been gracing this earth for a grand total of 40 years!
So to celebrate this momentous occasion what did I want to do? A grand party? A weekend city break? Major Shopping spree? Bungee jumping? Nope, my main request for my birthday was a trip to the British Library!
There is a back story to this. I’m sure if you’re a fellow bibliophile you have a ‘bucket list’ of bookish places you’d like to visit. Well the British library is on mine. For most of my life I have lived within a 30 minute journey to the library, and I have even walked past it on several occasions promising myself to ‘pop in’ there one day. Then about 10 years ago I moved to Suffolk and just ‘popping in’ was no longer a possibility. We have had the occasional trip to London over the years but with my husbands abject phobia of anything bookish (or boring as he puts it) we never quite made it to the Library. So seeing as my birthday was going to be all about ME, it warranted a trip to the Library with no complaining from my dear husband.
The British Library was amazing, we saw the exhibit of ‘Treasures of the British Library’. This is a display of many works ranging from the Magna Carta to latter day theatre costume designs. The penmanship on the Magna Carta is truly amazing, and even my husband could not help being impressed with the Gutenberg Bible. We saw the awe inspiring ‘Kings collection‘, well stood in front of it really as you’re not allowed in, but its still an awesome sight. We wandered about a bit until we found the exhibit of ‘A Child of Books’ (which I may be purchasing a copy of for one of my nieces/nephews for Christmas). I was a little disappointed that you couldn’t go into the reading rooms without a pass, but that was my own fault for not reading the website properly and thinking that needing a pass to ‘use’ the reading rooms actually meant requesting books. Oh well, lesson learnt for next time. I would also recommend booking a tour if you ever visit, as we did wander around aimlessly a fair bit and I’m sure we missed some of the sights, but all in all I enjoyed it.
That’s not all. Wanting to make the most of my husbands magnanimity I had actually searched for ‘independent bookshops in London’ on the internet and found an interesting one called ‘Word on the Water’ just around the corner from the Library. It’s a bookshop on a boat!! It was fantastic, such a quaint little bookshop with seating areas aswell, selling a combination of new and old books. I could have happily spent the rest of the day there.
In fact I was so swept up in the atmosphere of this little bookshop I felt compelled to buy something, so I purchased a lovely edition of ‘Watership Down’ and skipped on my merry way, thinking that even if we went home now I’d be happy.
We did have a couple more ‘bookish stops’, one being Waterstones in Piccadilly a shop I used to love and spend a lot of time in. I’m afraid I’ve been spoilt by the lovely independent bookshops I’ve seen along my travels, and the large Waterstones doesn’t thrill me as much as it used to, it doesn’t seem to have any personality or heart. I did buy two books and a bookmark though (well, I had a gift card it would be rude not to)
We also had an adventure to find a little side alley. It’s a street called ‘Cecil court’ also known as ‘Booksellers row’. With second-hand and antiquarian bookshops on either side of the whole row of shops, what else would you call it. With the quaint old fashioned swinging shop signs out front aswell, it’s also been described as Diagon Alley for booklovers. So, egged on by my bookclub, of course I had to visit and take a picture of myself in this iconic little alley.
Unfortunately reality was a far cry from fantasy, as on our visit both sides of the street were covered with scaffolding, so no pictures of me ‘loving life’ surrounded by quaint little bookshops. The shops themselves were lovely though, and it has prompted discussion within the bookclub of a visit nearer Christmas.
The rest of the day was spent just wandering round London. Ice cream at Covent Garden, Mojitos in Leicester Square, and Donuts in Borough Market. Before heading home, tired but very, very satisfied.