Sep 18, 2015

Summer Travels, Part Three: The South

For the last instalment of my summer 2015 travelling adventures (until I go off to Spain, that is — I’m pretending it’s still summer until I come back), I want to tell you what I did down south after returning from Edinburgh and Manchester. This part of my trip included visits to places associated with some of my absolute favourite writers (Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones) and more feelings than I know what to do with.
To begin in, I spend a few days in London loitering around the South Bank. There I finally got to go to the Book Market under Waterloo Bridge, which I’d been hearing about for ages.

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I also went to the Southbank Centre’s Foyles, and spent the better part of a morning browsing their very impressive children’s section. So many gorgeous picture books we don’t have at my library! Their comics selection was amazing too, especially for a bookshop that size.

I got to peek into the British Film Institute’s impressive Reuben Library...

...and in another serendipitous moment, I came across a free photo exhibition about Agatha Christie’s life, which was on its final days.


Terrible photo, but: Agatha Christie’s typewriter!




Finally, I visited the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre, the UK’s “major library for modern and contemporary poetry”.




After London I made my way down to Brighton, where I walked around The Lanes, went into its quirky shops, caved and got myself some books (Goodbye Stranger and Fans of the Impossible Life, both of which got promptly read, for a change), and of course sat by the seaside.






Then came Salisbury: this had been top of my list of UK places I really wanted to visit for at least a year, but it’s too far away for a day trip and finding the time and energy for a full weekend out is hard. As I had to be in Bristol on the Sunday and Salisbury is more or less halfway there from Brighton, this proved the perfect opportunity. I visited the beautiful Cathedral and saw one of the four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta, which was really impressive. But to be honest, the thing that got me the most about being in Salisbury was that I kept thinking, “I’m in The Chalk Wiltshire”. It was especially moving to visit the area that inspired Tiffany Aching’s stead barely a week after I finished The Shepherd’s Crown. Also, I spotted a chalk figure on a hill from the train on Sunday and it was amazing. One day I’ll go back and see the horses properly.









The best thing of all, though, was coming across the Discworld Knight that was part of the Baron’s Trail — “a unique art trail displaying 25 life-sized individually decorated medieval barons”. The Discworld Knight was made by Discworld cover artist Paul Kidby, with the front resembling Sir PTerry and the back decorated with Discworld characters.




SOB.


MOAR SOBS.

A few more photos of Salisbury, just because it was beautiful:








An old building converted into a tea shop. I liked it so much I went back twice in a day and a half.




The Chalk from the train.

The last stop of my trip was Bristol, which I loved so much more than I was expecting. I only saw a small fraction of everything there was to see, but I fell hard for its canals and hills with gorgeous views. I’m sure it helped it was a beautiful sunny day, but I just really enjoyed the feel of the city in general.




An art piece on one of the city’s bridges.

I’m sure you will be unsurprised to hear that one of the first things I did was go to the Central Library, whose gorgeous Reference Reading Room I’d heard great things about. Sadly (in what is proving a common refrain whenever I talk about UK public libraries I’ve visited), the library is to lose two whole floors (!) in the coming months.


Entrance to the library.


The amazing Reading Room.



The Children’s Library. We have a “Story Express” at mine, but this “Book Trove” gave me serious library envy.



The main thing I knew about Bristol is that it was Diana Wynne Jones’ city, so of course one of the things I desperately wanted to do was go to Clifton to see the Suspension Bridge, which is famously featured in Deep Secret and also in Fire and Hemlock. The area around the cliff and the views of Somerset and the Avon Gorge are seriously stunning, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it even without this story connection. But having read her books made it so much better — I couldn’t help but think of what Catherine Butler says in her essay “Enchanting Places”, which really gets to the heart of this sort of experience:
It is of course possible to enjoy and understand Archer's Goon, Fire and Hemlock, or Deep Secret without having visited Bristol, but if one is familiar with the city then one's experience of both it and the texts that use it will be enhanced—indeed, enchanted; and if one visits later, "it will chime somewhere." Intertextuality and intertopicality have in common the shock, and pleasure, of perceiving a phrase or place within two conflicting frames of reference simultaneously, of attempting to reconcile their differences, and of enjoying one's inability to do so. But intertopicality inevitably foregrounds the physical aspects of the encounter, the sights and sounds, the weather, the feeling of being out of breath from a long climb. These aspects of experience embed themselves differently in memory and in one's body, but are no less part of a reading life. Indeed, they remind us that reading is always a physical activity as well an intellectual one.
I did feel out of the breath from the climb, and that and and the sun on my face plus all those story memories made the world feel so alive.




I salute you, Polly and Maree.


Me doing the Witchy Dance for Luck by the bridge, because of course. Of course I had to.




Gorgeous Georgian buildings in Clifton, which is a lot like Bath.




An arts venue I have a membership to despite living on the other side of the country. FOR REASONS.


Balloons over Bristol.

20 comments:

  1. Thank you again for all of these, especially Bristol. And thanks to the link to that essay, I didn't know any proceedings from the conference were available online.

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    1. I only found the essay a couple of weeks ago and the timing couldn't have been more perfect!

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  2. One of my closest friends in the who wide world lives there! I've visited several times (studied in Glasgow once upon a time) but never actually went to the Book Festival. I think I'm going to make that an objective for 2016. I might even dedicate a raisin to it on New Year's ;)

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    1. Edinburgh, you mean? It's definitely worth going in the summer, especially if you have a friend you can stay with. Accommodation tends to be a lot pricier than at other times unless you book super early, which is hard when the Book Festival programme only comes out in June! Then again, you could take a gamble and pretty much be guaranteed to catch something interesting regardless of the dates you pick.

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  3. I waited the whole post for you to get to the bridge! You are so fortunate to have been able to go to those places. Someday.

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    1. Hahaha - I promise it wasn't for the suspense, it's just that I was doing it chronologically and my visit to Clifton came at the end :P Anyway, I do feel very fortunate.

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  4. Replies
    1. It was so pretty! So glad I made it there at last.

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  5. I love The Lanes in Brighton and I would like to go to Salisbury. Looks like you had an amazing time!

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  6. Oh, oh! How beautiful! Just seeing that tea shop makes me both nostalgic for my UK travels (rare for me to nostalgic about traveling!) and envious. I now work in a part of NYC that's aggressively SHINY AND MODERN instead of a part of NYC where everyday business and life must be staged in old, beautiful buildings, like that tea shop. I always love when there's a little history in the everyday.

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    1. I do love seeing historical buildings with everyday uses. On a side note, it makes me sad that you and Jenny and Memory all came to the UK a) before I was here and b) before I knew you all. ONE DAY I'll make it across the pond :P

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  7. Oh my. I do believe you've done more, seen more, lived more this summer than I have in my entire life! I don't say that enviously (okay, a tinge of envy ;) ), but with a feeling of utter joy for you. Which of course leads to vast quantities of vicarious happiness for myself. And just think, you still have Spain and more Sufjan to come!!! :D :D :D

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  8. I have a tremendously important Bristol question for you! Oh it is so important. Do they really truly say "Evil, Idle, and Normal"? DO THEY DO THEY OH DO THEY DO IT LIKE THEY SAID IN FIRE AND HEMLOCK?

    PS I am really thrilled you did the Witchy Dance for luck. Way to go madam.

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    1. ARGH I should have checked! I feel like I've failed on my mission :P

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  9. I've been to Bristol which I really enjoyed but missed out on doing the witchy dance. I guess I have to go back one of these days :)

    Can't wait to hear about your upcoming adventures in Spain. Where in Spain will you go?

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    1. Barcelona and Madrid! Only for a week split between the two, but still! I've never been to either despite growing up "next door", which seems a bit absurd :P

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  10. I've been to the book market! I didn't know it was a thing! My husband and I found it by accident when were in London well over 10 years ago now. There was a Slavador Dali exhibition in a museum not far from there and we stumbled on all those books quite by accident. You may have heard our squeals of delight still echoing around ;) Love the Discworld Knight! Loved all your photos. Thanks for sharing them!

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    1. Unexpected discoveries are the best :D And is THAT what that sound was? I did wonder ;)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.