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HOME AT FIRST's

ADVENTURE

MID-WALES

Twice Told Tales & A Photo from WalesA
a
Honesty Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye, Mid-Wales. Photo courtesy Home At First traveler Lynne S.
                                           photo courtesy Lynne S., Richmond, VA

          Hay-on-Wye, on the English border in Mid-Wales, is the world’s greatest place to find used books. The twenty-plus bookshops of Hay are the legacy of the eccentric Richard Booth. Booth’s successful shop brought a renaissance of attention to the once obscure town and the little-visited region — so much so that Mr. Booth wished Hay to secede from the United Kingdom and put him on the throne as King Richard.
          Hay’s fame has, to the disappointment of King Richard, led to its civilizing. Each May, the annual
Hay Festival of Literature draws more than 80,000 to Hay-on-Wye to hear poets recite, novelists discuss, and pundits pursue profundity. Meanwhile, around Hay a healthy outdoors recreation industry has sprung up, taking advantage of the town’s central location by the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons National Park, and along the River Wye and other Wild Welsh white waters.
          If all this, plus its close proximity to England’s Shakespeare country and the Cotswolds, have made Hay-on-Wye both popular and respectable, we happily report that not all of Hay’s eccentricities have been gilded by success. There are still several lively pubs in town, some more likely to be boisterous than subdued on an evening. Fishermen and long-distance walkers still come to Hay as they have for centuries. The town’s ruined castle and its narrow, one-way, cobbled streets haven’t been changed by the sometime throngs who must park outside of Hay and come into town on foot.
          Best of all, the bookshops themselves, though they have multiplied in number, still look like what they sell — used books. There’s always a pervasive, faint, musty smell. The shelves, the counter, and even the shopkeepers, have a distinct worn appearance, yet remain practical, useful, and without any detectable decoration or frill. In Hay at least, the used book business lacks the bistros like Borders and the bustle and ballyhoo of Barnes and Noble. More’s the charm.

Catch Hay Fever at HOME AT FIRST's MID-WALES.

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