I don’t know how it’s never occurred to me to do a blog on Bookends before, because it is truly one of my favourite shops in Northern Ireland; but I have been struggling to start (and more importantly finish) blogs these days, so I’ve been digging in the very hidden recesses of my brain for inspiration.
Also, I was there today, so I am feeling super inspired and babbley. Shut up, it’s a word.
Anyway, Bookends is a very hidden treasure, tucked away down the side of Bangor train station. That’s Bangor, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland…in case any of you are from Outer Mongolia and there happens to be a Bangor there, too. Or Wales. There’s a Bangor in Wales.
You’re welcome for the valuable trivia.
Back on topic; it’s a second hand book shop. The greatest second hand book shop I have ever been in, and trust me, I have been in many. I venture here about twice a year, but today was hands down the most successful visit I’ve ever been on. I GOT SO MUCH STUFF.
And then I made my wonderful other half carry my very heavy bag of books back to the car. I am a lady, I don’t do no carrying.
I can’t really tell you about their stock, because there are many, many, many books, in all imaginable genres, and I only ever really make a bee-line for the Fantasy section…also, it changes A LOT. I can tell you that the shop itself is like something off TV; Black Books really does come to mind, but the staff are much nicer and less likely to scream at you in a drunken rage. Much less likely, I’m sure. Both the owner and his bearded colleague were happy enough to help us dig through PILES of books and comics to find something that suited us, and oh, did I find stuff.
We stumbled in on a good day, too – 50% off loads of different genres (including Sci-Fi/Fantasy) and comics for 50p! 50-freakin’-pence!
Bearing that in mind…here’s what I came away with on this particular visit.
I am a huge David Eddings fan (go read The Belgariad!) and this giant, GIANT book was only £5…minus the 50% from the sale. Wow, right? The teeny picture below is to give you some idea of just how big it actually is. Glorious, but maybe not one for reading on the train. Shoulder ache.
As much as I love David Eddings, my heart will always truly belong to Raymond E. Feist. I quite own a lot of his books, but being the literary hoarder that I am, I figured I might as well start aiming for a full collection of magical and wonderful works.
The eagle eyed among you may have glanced your eyes over the last picture there and noticed ‘Gosh, you have books one, two and four, how silly of you!’, but they didn’t have book three and I can’t turn down a bargain (£1.50 each, including discount, I think). If you happen to come across ‘Rage Of A Demon King’, make a girl’s day and send it this way?
Oh, that rhymed. Neato.
Similar situation here, book two of two, and I don’t own book one…but see that little sticker on the front there?
OH YEAH! Now, I know it’s not actually worth any money, given it’s not a first edition and isn’t in marvellous condition, but it’s a sentimental thing, really. I’ll enjoy owning it and showing it off to people who appreciate my Feist collection.
Like, erm, my Dad.
Finally, I got myself Hannibal Rising, but I reckon the boyf. will get in there before I do. I’m addicted to the Hannibal television series, although I was never a Thomas Harris fan before! Just finished Red Dragon, I couldn’t put it down. I did call in to find Silence Of The Lambs, but it wasn’t there. That’s my excuse for the giant book haul.
As well as books, I had a good rifle through the stacks of comic books that Bookends had to offer. The lovely gentleman working there had me pre-warned that these stacks have been rifled through a lot – but I wasn’t really looking for anything of real worth, just little things that would appeal to my odd collection.
If you are a Marvel fan, get yourself down there- they had boxes upon boxes of Avengers and Mighty Thor…but alas, I would not know where to start with any of these titles, and I’m trying (and failing) to devote myself and my budget to my love of Batgirl.
Oh, also Uncanny X-Men. So many mutants.
These are the comics that I did get. IS THE PICTURE BIG ENOUGH? HUH? Two from the mid-Eighties and one from 2001. Again, nothing I really collect, but these were all the Detective Comics that they had, and for 50p each, I didn’t want to leave them there to gather dust and never know the love of a real home.
Side note: check out the chick on the top issue there…Nocturna. Apparently, her only real reason for becoming a villain was that her skin was slightly paler than that of your average human being. She’s still got nothing on me.
Before this starts to get too long and babbley (still a word), I’ll wrap this up. If you are looking for a nice little day trip, Bangor is well worth it. Some parts of the town look like they exist somewhere out of time and space (could do with a dab of modernization, is all I’m saying), but there’s this incredible little book cave, a brand new shiny CeX and the freakin’ Pickie Park.
They’ve done the Pickie Park up loads since I was a kid. I had a go on a pedalo swan, but I think it’s maybe more for little children. That’s not to say it’s not a whole bunch of fun.
Off to settle down now to read one of my lovely new books…they have that great second-hand, pre-loved smell. Get to Bangor before the weather turns and freezes the marina into a giant iceberg of misery. It’s well worth your time.
And the Paris blogging, it continues. Apologies if you don’t care about my holiday, but I want everyone to know how civilized and cultured I am.
So, yes, Day One was all about the Eiffel Tower and Day Two was Notre Dame, the Pantheon and Shakespeare & Co. Day Three was another geeky one, particularly if you’re into museums and red light districts.
Some people are geeks for prostitutes, right? Maybe geek isn’t the right word…
Anyway, we started with a ridiculously early morning (6:50am, to be precise, although I had been awake from 3am because of all the excitement, so I don’t think it really counts as an early morning. More like a super late night), and got to the Louvre before it even opened. The freakin’ Louvre. It is amazingly awesome to look at, the former palace is beautiful and the pyramids are iconic…although I’m not really sure whether or not I like them. It’s like the Eiffel Tower. You’re told it’s beautiful and you’ve seen it so much that you think you like it, but you don’t really know because, well, it’s Paris and it’s magical. That made more sense in my head.
First up, obligatory bee-line to the Mona Lisa, before the room gets swamped with Asian tourists and you can’t actually see anything. It’s nice to look at, but again you don’t know if you like it, or if it’s the Mona Lisa, so you just think you do. Italian Renaissance paintings aren’t really my thing (and there are really a whole lot of them), but the sheer scale of some of them are astounding. I couldn’t paint something like that with a lifetime to spare, and some of these artists were churning them out like Mills & Boons novels.
I mean, what’s a Mills & Boons novel? Urm, anyway.
After Mona Lisa admiring, we made the executive decision that our morning would be best spent focusing on the Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian sections. You see, if you briefly glanced at everything in the Louvre, it would still take you 100 days (that’s like, four months, without a break), so you really do need a game plan. Game plan in hand, we got lost among the statues (Venus de Milo!), pottery, mummies, armour and oh, oh everything. It was history nerd heaven. The first room we were in took us an hour (it was about gladiators, the bestest and most gory part of ancient history), so we sort of made a little shove on for the rest of it to be out for lunch and off to our next adventure.
After pretending to be Tom Holland for a little while, we made the slog to Montmartre – where the French Can Can was born, and, perhaps, best known for being the area the Moulin Rouge is in. It’s a strange little place, I can tell you that much. It’s all sex shops and sleaze, and not in the nice fun way like Amsterdam. It feels dirty and dodgy and sort of icky.
Until you make the GIANT climb to the highest part of the city and see the Sacre Coeur, that is. It is a hike to get to, but it is worth every leg cramp and sob…the view is unbelievable.
The church itself is worth going in for a look, too. There was next to no queue when we got there right in the middle of the day – although you aren’t allowed to take any pictures inside, and you’re meant to maintain absolute silence while you’re walking around. I guess the guy who stands and shouts ‘NO PICTURES’ at people has a different set of rules, mind you. Ruins the moment a tad. It’s not as grand or ornamental as Notre Dame or the Pantheon, but again, the scale is astounded. And there are real life nuns, which totally adds to the experience.
Once you are out of the church, sit for a bit, and just look out. There are so many places to stand and look at Paris from a great height, but this view is a whole other thing. It’s just incredible. So pretty and crazy romantic. This area of Montmartre feels less tacky than the sex shop street, even when you take all the many, many souvenir shops into account. It’s quaint and lovely, and exactly how your brain pictures Paris when it’s left to its own devices. Cobbles and all.
Hard to think it was a whole week ago, I truly believe I left my head there, because I can’t quite get back into the swing of things back home! Maybe I should stop eating pain au chocolat and drinking Orangina, to be fair…
I already had a rant about the airport and covered the Eiffel Tower in day one – you can go read that here, if you like.
While I had a plan for the weekend in mind before we set off, day two (Saturday) was meant to be a day of wandering and discovering. And oh, it was. I am not a healthy, sporty or fit person, but I think we might have walked about 5 miles. First thing in the morning I hopped out of bed (also something I don’t usually do, at home it’s more of a roll-and-splat motion), and we made a beeline for the Seine. If you are headed to Paris in the future, you really, really have to start your trip with a boat tour. It’s insanely beautiful, very informative and gives you an idea of where everything is in comparison to everything else.
We went with Bateaux Parisian, because it wasn’t raining and we could sit outside and take fifty million pictures.
After our very lovely boat trip, we WALKED from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame, via a whole bunch of bridges and museums and gardens and landmarks. Paris really does need to be done on foot, we would’ve missed so much if I had been more me-like and refused to walk. Notre Dame is spectacular, of course, but they’ve built a viewing platform-thingy for the 850th anniversary (yes! 850 years! That is one OLD, OLD building), which was packed, ruined the view from the ground and looked downright cheap and tacky. Especially when you put it beside on of the most recognizable cathedrals in the world.
RIGHT. On to the real geekery. First up, after getting into Notre Dame and being silent and respectful, we got a little bit lost. Which would’ve been fun, if my legs weren’t about to drop off and if we weren’t literally going in circles. We did stumble across the world’s fanciest toilet, but I don’t think that’s really a feature of the city…
Eventually we found the Pantheon, one of the big tourist attractions that nobody seems to really go to. Except for the French. Good news is, if you are between 18 and 25 and from the EU, you get in for free! Same goes for the Louvre and the Arc De Triomphe. It pays to be from Northern Ireland. Sometimes.
This one time.
I highly recommend a visit to the Pantheon though, it’s really amazing. They have a wonderful exhibition on how the church building is actually crumbling and falling down, which was both interesting and terrifying. Maybe bring a hard hat? The real sights are underneath the church/mausoleum part (it’s changed purpose so many times, thanks to all those revolutions), where there are crypts where the French government bury citizens of note. Of which there are many! Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie and Pierre Curie, Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas, Louis Braille…the list goes on and on. Humbling to visit and fascinating to look at (all the info. panels are in French, by the by, so you might want to get a book or an audio guide if you really want to know what’s going on).
After we went and visited some famous dead people (ah Paris, the city of love), we got lost a little bit more, but again, in the pursuit of something marvellous. If you have been to France/Paris and you are of a geeky persuasion, you really must’ve gone to Album.
Album is sort of like Forbidden Planet. Except, bigger. And better. With newer stock and older stock and displays that nearly put Disneyland to shame. It’s just…wow. They have an English section as well, so if you aren’t fluent in a foreign language (I got by okay, I’d like to point out), you won’t be completely lost.
PICTURES. ALL THE PICTURES.
As we were heading back to the tourist-beaten-track, we stumbled across another store I’d been dying to see – Shakespeare & Company. An English bookstore opened in 1951, named after an even older English language bookshop (that closed during the Second World War), the place is pure, incredible chaos. There are books everywhere, each room leading on to another room, people crammed into every little space. Oh god, I really loved it. I want my house to look like that. So many books. Heavenly, it really was. The outside of the shop is just as lovely, with little benches and trees and tables of books. Everyone who works there seems to be American, which struck me as odd (HIRE ME?!), but at least you don’t have to try and ask for a specific book in broken French!
All in all, a brilliant day of wandering and finding and shopping and romance. And now, I am sitting in Northern Ireland, wishing so badly I could just go back and stay there forever.
Don’t worry though, days three, four and five are on their way!
Oh, I have so many blogs to write. My brain feels all busy and heavy and full of words. It should be full of more important things, like getting myself healthy (yes, I have been ill again, shock shock) or university work or learning to speak Italian.
Maybe not that last one. Anyway, I thought I would start this huge wave of blog-productivity with one about my holiday. From Friday until Tuesday, I was in Paris! And oh, it was amazing. So beautiful and wonderful and picturesque. Between my boyfriend and I, we took around five hundred pictures. Of each other, of buildings, of…everything. I loved it, I really did. I have been sulking like a child since we came home, because I would much rather be in Paris than Lisburn.
Rather than do one blog 2394728934729347289374 words long, I thought it made sense to split my Paris blogging into separate days. That way, I can go into more detail before I get bored and dander off to internet shop or cuddle my cat.
So, day one. Mostly full of airports and waiting, as day ones of holidays always tend to be. Belfast International Airport is not a bad airport, all things considered, but I have one piece of advice. Avoid The Lagan Bar, because it is ridiculously over-priced and bursting with stag and hen parties, who don’t really care that you are trying to have a conversation BECAUSE THEY JUST WANT TO SHOUT AT EACH OTHER. Instead, go and chill out in Fed & Watered – it looks much fancier, but a bottle of Corona will only sting you £3.50, instead of a freakin’ fiver. Rant over.
So, yes, on day one, we arrived in Paris. We stayed in Cambronne, about a ten minute walk away from the Eiffel Tower, with lots of little shops and restaurants around the place. I highly recommend it. Our hotel was TINY. Like, no floor space TINY, but very, very clean. I am not a picky person when it comes to hotels – the boyfriend wasn’t too thrilled with our hotel choice, but I thought it was nice. Cosy.
I am a silver linings sort of lady.
We arrived, dumped our stuff and made a bee line for the Eiffel Tower, expecting to queue for two hours or so. Joy of joys, we got there and there was literally zero queue. Straight to the top (very windy), lovely views, crazy romantic. I had been to Paris before and hadn’t bothered going up the tower (madness, I know), but it really is as incredible as people say it is. The funny thing is, the next morning when we walked past, the queue was ridiculous. Right around the bottom of the Eiffel Tower and out on the road. Take that, American coach tours, we are much smarter than you.
Have some pictures.
The park around the Eiffel Tower is pretty damn lovely as well, no one ever mentions that. Erm, that about sums up our first day though. We had dinner and went to bed, where I did not sleep. I did not sleep the whole time we were there, in case you were wondering. It’s strange though, the sleep deprivation has actually made me a productive hyper wonder-bug.
Day Two was much more interesting…I’ll get right on that, shall I?