Thursday, August 5, 2010


By Claire
August 4

It was a test of our fortitude that we finally found our campground, Moorhampton Caravan Club, €20.28. Susan took us through the villages and farmlands of Hereford—square Norman towers with arrow-slits, thatched pubs, tiny Victorian railway stations resting in a countryside of high hedges and a patchwork quilt of fields dotted with sheep.

As we bounced down a rabbit warren of roads, I was taken with the town of Hope-Under-Dinmore. What exactly does that mean? Would you say you were from Hope or use the entire name? We cut in and out of Wales and England, the River Wye separating a portion of the two countries. With a map open on my lap, the directions in the camping book, a little GPS assistance from Susan and a fair amount of cursing, we arrived at 5:05 pm, 5 minutes after closing. Lucky for us, there was a sign on the reception door letting us know we could pick any spot and pay up in the morning.

Exhausted, we collapsed with our books and went to bed early. We had a big day planned yet again for the next day, but couldn’t leave until after 9:30 when the office opened—so, getting up early as usual, we read for 2 hours.

We drove into Hay-on-Wye, “The Book Town,” with the idea of selling all our books. Fortunately, there was a huge, 400-car parking lot at the top of town. We loaded our backpacks and, hunched over with the weight of 38 books, approached the first of the 31 possible bookstores in town.


We sold 3 at the first shop, then most of the rest at another, Richard Booth’s Bookstore, which carries 500,000 books on all subjects. Richard Booth, in 1962, came up with the idea of turning the town into a booklovers attraction. We talked with the current owner, a woman from Marin County in California. She and her husband are retired and bought the bookstore for fun. I wish we’d had the time and the ability to browse and scoop up a few dozen more books. The shop was incredible.

With just a few of our beloved books left, mostly old ones that we had picked up elsewhere, we made our way to the local Oxfam and donated them. When I asked the woman how far Hay is from Wales, she told us we were in Wales but the grocery store down the block was in England. She has a friend whose house is in England but her backyard is in Wales. We now have an empty shelf inside Homer—we are beginning to divest ourselves of things we cannot bring home.

Driving on to our next destination, Bath, we stopped at a Welsh supermarket, Waitrose. We’ve never seen anything like it. We loved the clipboard set up to hold a shopping list. They also had handheld devices to enter the price of each of your items by swiping it across the bar code. When you’re done, you just go through the checkout, handing the device to the checker, pay up and you’re out the door. There was a place to store that on the handlebar, too. The devices are checked out at a desk in the front of the store.

Moving back into England, we crossed the bridge over the River Severn. Beautiful!

This time, we had the GPS coordinates for our campground and found it easily. It’s been far more difficult to find campgrounds in Britain. The coordinates do not always work for us—they often use minus numbers and our TomTom will not accept them. We were reminded of how much easier it was in Europe.

With our fridge and stove working again, we had one of our favorite meals, chicken with an Indian sauce over Basmati rice. The sauce is out of a jar and the rice is whole grain and boil-in-the-bag. Delicious!



Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore? ~ Henry Ward Beecher

1 comment:

Elle said...

You guys so rock, as do the couple from Marin who opened that awesome bookstore. Leave it to Northern Californians to be connected to the good-stuff-of-life.
I read 3 hist'l novels while in Crete last week.
Re: that bridge, check out a (google) foto of the ultra modern bridge at RIO, a bus ride from Patras in the Peloponese, Greece. Might be nearly identical architecture.

Dinner looked awesome!! I actually brought back Indian spices from my last trip to U.S., and need to use them up before I depart Umbria so thnx for reminding me.
Getting psyched about Cali, hope to reunion there with you at "my" restaurant in Lafayette, "Metro!"
Ciao 4 niao ~