Thursday, October 17, 2013

My Vacation in Bookstores Part 2- Ireland and Belfast

After departing London, Jeff and I headed to Ireland, one of my favorite places in the world. No one beats the Irish for friendliness and hospitality; when you go to Ireland, you're treated like one of the family. Especially if like me you are Irish-American!

I spent a summer in Dublin when I was 22 and the country has stayed with me every day since then. This trip was my first return since that time and I sincerely hope it will not be my last.

When I lived in Dublin I positively haunted the Secret Book and Record Store on Wicklow Street. I was so delighted to find them still open after a lot of years. It's a great place to browse and poke for all kinds of used books. I bought books there all those years ago that I still own. I love that place!

Another store I visited back then is Books Upstairs, just around the corner (ish) at 36 College Green. It's a small store but full of new and used books with a good selection of Irish history.  I was delighted to find it again!

Dublin's Waterstone's is gone away but over on Dawson Street you can still find Hodges Figgis, a wonderful new-books store specializing in all things Irish. Jeff and I had a good long browse here. It's a beautiful store with elegant fixtures and a lovely atmosphere.

You can find books in English and Irish here, and the signage is all bilingual, too.

Wandering over to the lively Temple Bar part of town, you can find The Gutter Bookshop, a beautiful suburban-style independent store full of new releases and idiosyncratic favorites. This store more than any other reminded me of Porter Square Books, the indie where I work. It was just adorable.

On the day we arrived we were lucky enough to run into an open book market in Temple Bar. Several tables were laid out with books of all descriptions- everything from romance novels to rare Irish classics. It was so much fun to browse!

Cross the River Liffey and you'll find The Winding Stair, a charming, cramped used bookshop with all kinds of treasures. They also sell small-press Irish books you won't likely find anywhere else, and they have a cute tea room as well.


Here are some vintage Penguin paperbacks from their shelves, to give you an idea:
 On the same side of the river, around the corner from O'Connell Street on Parnell, you'll find Chapters, the queen of Dublin independent bookstores. Oh. My. God.

The first floor is a huge and endless array of new books, but that doesn't begin to hint at the wonders that await you in the second-floor used emporium. My husband collects first edition Terry Pratchett books, and let's just say that after visiting Chapters we visited the Dublin post office. Ohhh myyy.

After leaving Dublin we proceeded to drive around the country, stopping in at various cities and towns along the way, sometimes for a couple of days, sometimes just for lunch. We visited bookstores in Kilkenny, Killarney, Dingle, Galway, Ennis, Donegal, Letterkenny and Belfast. Here are my favorites:

The Ennis Bookshop, in Ennis, Co. Clare, was beautiful and friendly and adorable. I would love to work here! They had a nice range of new books and I felt very at-home there. Ennis also had a great Oxfam shop we enjoyed browsing. Walking around Ennis we got heckled for not wearing Co. Clare's official colors- they were about to head into a national hurling championship, I think- but we loved Ennis anyway.

Dingle Bookshop in County Kerry was great and had a remarkable selection of local-interest books. There was lots to admire and covet, and Dingle is an adorable village.

Kenny's in Galway is one of those pilgrimage bookstores. It's enormous, cavernous and crazy, but you'll love it. It's a drive outside of the city center but if you go to Galway you must go to Kenny's. If you go to Galway and don't go to Kenny's, we're not friends anymore.

I loved No Alibis, a crime and mystery bookstore in Belfast featuring a great selection of crime but also some of the friendliest booksellers on the island. They are a small store and carry lots besides crime, but that's the real reason to go of course.

Speaking of Belfast, I had a good time browsing St. George's market and Coppice Books, a fun used bookstall there. I had a nice chat with the proprietor and really enjoyed checking out the selection.

Back in the IRL, Manor Books in Malahide is another delightful indie with a great selection and friendly booksellers. I had a wonderful visit here on a Saturday evening, my last night in the country.

On our last morning in Ireland we managed to squeeze in one more bookstore before we left for the airport, the Little Shop of Books in the picturesque seaside community of Howth.

They win for best shop sign, right? We enjoyed browsing this used bookstore and chatting with the owner, who treated us with great Irish hospitality and provided a fitting end to our wonderful trip around this loveliest of countries.

And yes, along the way we did buy some books. I didn't buy books at every store I visited, but I wanted to! Come back soon for that post!