I took the day off work for my birthday treat and we drove up to Alnwick in Northumberland. My main aim for the day was to pay a visit to Barter Books, one of the largest second hand bookshops in the country and certainly one of the most interesting.
It’s located inside an old train station, complete with a great little cafe in the old waiting room and a small model railway whirring around a track above the bookshelves. There are good stocks of many specialist non-fiction books alongside a comprehensive collection of old and contemporary fiction and a children’s section. I was there on the hunt for Ruby Ferguson first editions, vintage Penguin paperbacks and books on Antarctica, although the joy of pottering around a second hand bookshop never diminishes for me, so even if I had come away empty handed, I’d still have loved every minute.
After a long, and fairly extensive search around the shop, and a little talking to myself about how I couldn’t really buy anything that cost over £100, I ended up with a History of the Royal Navy (for David) a map of North Yorkshire and a copy of ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. This book ticked two boxes, being both a vintage Penguin and a book about Antarctic exploration. I’m quite excited about this, having seen the notes that would form the original manuscript in the Scott Polar Research Institute in May. The old Bartholemew map is in three pieces, but will be getting cut up anyway and used as backing for some of the spaces in my letterpress drawer, a birthday gift this year. This will be put on the wall of my bedroom eventually for holding little trinkets and mementoes.
Our other stop in Alnwick was at the lovely Bari Tea. Now, I know that I’ve written about coffee on this blog before, and I will do so again. But as much as I flirt with coffee, my heart really belongs to tea. And if you’re a tea lover as much as I am, there can be no better place to spend some time than in Bari Tea. Impeccably clean and with great cakes and customer service, the crowning glory is the almost-overwhelming list of teas. To make your decision easier, little jars of each of them are available for inspecting and if you tell them what you’re going to eat, they will recommend a tea that would be particularly suitable. I love the ritual of the tea making, complete with a little timer to tell you when it will be perfectly brewed and ready to drink. A great place and one I will definitely return to on my next visit to Alnwick.
After a really lovely and tranquil day, we drove back home along the coast road, stopping in Craster for a blast of sea air and the for a supper of fish and chips.
A lovely birthday. Only four years until my fortieth. Perhaps I’d better start planning that one now?…