Friday, January 19, 2018

Bookshops Around the World: Argentina (Buenos Aires)

Before taking over Mostly Books, Sarah took time out from her regular routine to travel the world for a year.  During parts of 2014 & 2015, she travelled through 14 countries, primarily in South East Asia and South America, which gave her the opportunity to relax and prepare for her career change.  

During her travels, Sarah spent a lot of time searching for inspiration by hunting down bookshops in the places that she visited.  These ranged from a beautiful, converted theatre in Buenos Aires to endless numbers of bookstalls covering the streets of Yangon in Myanmar.  Each and every one helped Sarah to shape her thoughts on what she wanted to create in her own bookshop and all have a special place in her heart.

Over the next few weeks, Sarah will be sharing her memories of these shops and photos that she took during her travels.  We hope that you enjoy them.
This week it's Buenos Aires in Argentina.



Argentina was the last country on my trip so, when I arrived in Buenos Aires, my mind was already full of thoughts about what life would be like back in the UK.  Although I still had the best part of a month before heading home, it was inevitable that my mind would move in that direction.

I found out about El Ateneo Grand Splendid from a girl staying at my hostel.  I mentioned that I was hunting down bookshops on my travels and she told me that she had been to El Ateneo earlier that day.   When I looked it up and realised that the shop was housed in an old theatre, I knew that I had to visit.  Unfortunately, I was out of time as I was heading to Patagonia the following day so I noted the details down and left it as a place to visit when I returned to Buenos Aires.  I knew that, when I returned, it would only be a matter of days before I flew back to the UK so it seemed a fitting to end my journey to see such an amazing bookshop.

Fast forward three weeks and I was back in the city and on a bookshop hunt!  When I arrived at the entrance to El Ateneo, I
was greeted with an impressive entrance flanked by two columns.  The first part of the shop was fairly standard, lots of shelving, normal height ceilings and plenty of floor displays but, as I moved into the shop, the former theatre opened in front of me to display a huge number of books in an atrium three stories high.

I was completely bowled over by the beautiful sweeping shelves holding thousands of books.  They were surrounded on three sides by ornate balconies which housed even more books.  Where the stage had previously been, now sat a coffee shop where I went and enjoyed a drink whilst taking the whole place in.

In its heyday, the theatre had welcomed some of the most famous tango dancers in the world and, in a nod to the previous owners' love of cinema, had shown silent films accompanied by amazing displays of tango.  Sitting there and taking it all in, I could just imagine the drama of such performances in this beautiful space.

I don't know how long I spent in Al Ateneo, but it was hours, rather than minutes.  I explored all the floors and balconies, seeing how everything was arranged and what tricks were used to display things well.  The whole place was awe inspiring and I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in Buenos Aires to drop in for a visit.

In a complete contrast, on my penultimate day of my travels, I went in search of a more low-key bookshop that I had heard good things about.  Libros Del Pasaje was situated in a residential neighbourhood and was clearly a working bookshop.  When I entered the shop, I was greeted with floor to ceiling dark wood shelves with (yay!) a ladder on wheels that gave access to the higher shelves (I would love one of those!).  

The display tables were on trolley wheels and were packed into the narrow shop making it feel busy but well organised.  The children's area had a gorgeous little table and some mini chairs for the little ones to enjoy their books (sound familiar?!) and the cafe was housed in a beautiful conservatory and served cold meats and cheese. 

The contrast of the two shops was significant but they were both amazing in their own ways.  I left Buenos Airies completely inspired and ready to start my book adventure back  in the UK.

If you are interested in seeing more about Sarah's experiences in Argentina, you can head to her blog posts on the country which start here.  There are more pictures of the Buenos Aires Bookshops on our Facebook page here and, as always, feel free to pop into the shop for a chat about all things travel.  Sarah is a huge fan of exploring all parts of the world and will happily chat about it with anyone.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bookshops Around the World: Thailand (Pai)

Before taking over Mostly Books, Sarah took time out from her regular routine to travel the world for a year.  During parts of 2014 & 2015, she travelled through 14 countries, primarily in South East Asia and South America, which gave her the opportunity to relax and prepare for her career change.  

During her travels, Sarah spent a lot of time searching for inspiration by hunting down bookshops in the places that she visited.  These ranged from a beautiful, converted theatre in Buenos Aires to endless numbers of bookstalls covering the streets of Yangon in Myanmar.  Each and every one helped Sarah to shape her thoughts on what she wanted to create in her own bookshop and all have a special place in her heart.

Over the next few weeks, Sarah will be sharing her memories of these shops and photos that she took during her travels.  We hope that you enjoy them.
 
This week it's Pai in Thailand. 
 
Pai is a sleepy little town in Northern Thailand that I first visited Pai during a backpacking trip in 2001, when it was the starting point for my white-water rafting trip down the Pai river. When I’d visited back then, there was nothing to the town; basically a crossroad with a couple of guest houses and some places to eat and drink.

Fast forward 14 years and I was back again but this time I was there to take part in a Kung Fu retreat (true story) which was taking place just outside of the main town.  I was only at the retreat for a week but, during that time, I quickly fell back in love with the relaxed charm of Pai.  The town has grown in size, thanks to Thailand’s booming tourist trade, however it still manages to retain a relaxed, traveller, vibe.

When I wasn’t participating in Chi Kung or Kung Fu training, I would make my way into town to familiarise myself with what was on offer.  One day, as I meandered down the Main Street towards the river, I spotted what looked like a large pile of wooden books outside a small shop.  Given my obsession with all things books, I headed straight towards them hoping to find a bookshop (of sorts) nearby.  I wasn't disappointed. 
 
 
It turns out that I had found Siam Books, a second-hand bookshop which serves both the traveller community and locals.  The shop was bursting with a wide range of books, which were all well organised and easy to navigate.  The bargain bin at the front of the shop had books on sale for 100 THB (about £2.30) with an additional 20% off some of the titles.  This place was heaven for a traveller like me!!  Somewhere with a great selection of books at discount prices that I could browse for hours.  In addition to the books, Siam Books also stocked greeting cards, posters and post-cards so it was a great stop-off for all travellers.

When preparing these posts, I always try to look at the websites or social media sites of places that I have visited, to see how the business has changed (if at all) from when I was there.  It was great to see a brilliant selection of images taken in Siam Books on Instagram and some information on their Facebook page.

The atmosphere in Siam Books reflected the town of Pai; a relaxed, friendly and a place that you will want to spend some time.  If you ever find yourself in Pai, be sure to pop in for a visit. 

If you are interested in seeing more about Sarah's experiences in Thailand, you can head to her blog posts on the country which start here.  There are more pictures of Siam Books on our Facebook page here and, as always, feel free to pop into the shop for a chat about all things travel.  Sarah is a huge fan of exploring all parts of the world and will happily chat about it with anyone.