Quirky Bookstores & Libraries: Sokol Boosktore in Chelsea

I have always loved looking for quirky buildings which add a little character to London – and Sokol Bookshop does just that. This is a bright red bookshop I found while wandering past in Chelsea which looks more like a giant, old-school Toy Store, adding a splash of colour to the area. Interestingly enough, this bookshop specialises in medieval texts and manuscipts, which I saw a glimpse of in the window display.

Is it me, or does this book-store seem like something found in the middle of a traditional European village?

Giant Books & Giant Shoeboxes

I love seeing quirky installations around London, especially when it’s giant out-of-proportion things – so you can imagine how much I loved seeing these huge pieces in North Greenwich outside the O2 Venue, by the Empathy Museum. Even better, these were to raise awareness for great causes – in this case to get people to be empathetic and see the world from someone else’s perspective.

There were two installations in place – a huge series of books disguising a walk-in library and a huge shoe-box where you could go in to try on shoes. My favourite was the books lined up below (and it was fun to spot which titles I’ve read!) which looked huge in the empty square, but also beautifully colourful. There’s a door hidden on the side to walk into the room inside, where you can read and browse the books inside, or simply donate books.

I’ve always had a soft spots for book places like these – as someone who devoured books as a child, my sisters and I were constantly in and out of libraries borrowing books that we couldn’t read fast enough (and if we had bought all the books we’ve ever read we’d probably fill several book shops!) I love that there’s a place like this for people who can walk by and pick up a book, especially if it’s something left by a reader who has loved the book and left it for someone else to enjoy.

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The second giant installation was this shoe box below, which was another room for people to come in and try to walk in someone else’s shoes – something to help change your perspective, read stories about people from all over the world and their professions and background. I didn’t get a chance to try anything on because the shoebox was closed when I turned, but I loved that this gives people a chance to explore different backgrounds.

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I’ll be keeping an eye out for more things like this around London – one of the things I love about living in this city is the amount of changing artwork, advertising and opportunities to try something new. I’m sure I’ll be seeing more things like this over the summer, and it’s given me more incentive to explore more parts of London (and take my camera with me too!)

Beautiful Bergen – Part 2

While staying in Bergen we managed to see quite a lot of sites in the few days that we stayed there, and tried to make the most of the long days and various attractions. One of the things which really struck my husband and myself was how well-spoken the Norwegian citizens are, and also how healthy and fit they seem – we spoke to several inhabitants who told us about regular walks up and down the mountain, the beautiful fresh air and various fresh fish they had for meals which was caught by the wharf.

There’s quite a few things which stood out for me in Bergen, so I’ll list some of my favourite below – let me know what you think of these!

Bergenhus Fortress, Rosenkrantz Tower & Haakon’s Hall
One of the things I was looking forward to seeing in Bergen was the historical sites, which were medieval buildings which go back as far as the 13th century. Begenhus Fortress is mainly the hall (Haakon’s Hall) and the Rosenkrant Tower (which is an old keep which used to have dungeons), which ares apparently a throwback to the Viking days, although the Hall was properly used for weddings and feasts from the 13th century. We didn’t get to see inside the Hall because we arrived too late, but we did get to wander around the grounds which we loved (and you can see the inside of the Hall here), where there were plenty of old structures, statues and large walkways to explore.

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Statues
There are several statues around the city of Bergen, which can be found in various spots, some of which are a commentary on society, with a certain message from the artist. The most memorable one was this hidden away, nameless statue of a homeless person below, which is apparently the most photographed statue in the city – it is meant to make the viewer think about why it is there and what it means. There are also several statue tributes to Norwegian historical figures – generals, presidents and well-loved figures whose images are around the city with plaques and scripts. There was one which always made me jump every time I saw it, because I kept thinking it was a real person – it was a statue of a young girl (below) at the corner of a doorway to a McDonalds restaurant – it catches your attention from the corner of your eye and makes you think there is someone standing there waiting for a friend!

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The Bookcafe
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love quirky libraries and bookshops – I make it a point to look out for beautiful bookstores while abroad and haven’t been disappointed yet! It took me a while to find a pretty bookstore like this one, as I saw a few scattered in different areas but some were shut, and the others were not very memorable. I found this one the day before we left Bergen, with beautiful decoration, hanging books, scripts on walls and seating inside which showed it was a cafe for people to read and relax.

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Town square
I’ve already written about the town square, which is surrounded by colourful hotels and restaurants, and further along the high street you come to the more modern part of the street, which is a street lined with designer shops, and has a giant water-feature with a sort of stone obelisk in the middle, with carvings and statues on it. I loved the carvings along the stone faces of this landmark, it seems to show the story of settlers and Viking boats travelling to new places, as well as various religious pictures which seem to be a big feature with Norwegian history. Similarly, the statues were all dressed in different eras to reflect the different centuries, which looked great.

Anne Madam
One of the biggest problems my husband and I found was the expense of the food – a lot of the normal restaurants ended up costing around £30-40 per person for a normal meal, and even the usual burger-chains like Burger King and McDonalds were pricier than we expected – more than they cost in the UK! Luckily, we managed to find a new restaurant which had opened a few days after our arrival, and which was offering traditional Norwegian food at a discounted price. The traditional food in Bergen is mainly various types of fish, since it is a fishing town, so naturally we wanted to try some, and managed to get some at Anne Madame, which is in the heart of the city opposite the wharf. This plate is a traditional hake and potato pieces which were given with a light tartar sauce and coleslaw, and which was delicious – we loved it enough to come back here again before we left!

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Things to look out for
We went to Bergen in the first week of May, which is  one of the warmest months to visit, and the start of the tourist season – so there is plenty of things happening for tourists to see. We were lucky enough to see a drummer’s parade going through the town (I love the sound of loud drums, it always makes me want to dance!), and found plenty of quirky shops like a moose shop (below), a troll shop (the trolls are not the cute 90s kind but uglier ones!) and shops with beautiful hand-crafted goods and clothes. We also saw a lot of beautiful buildings, mixed against a backdrop of green mountains and beautiful lakes, which made it a really peaceful place to spend the day.

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All in all, my husband and I loved the beauty of Bergen – it is one of those places where you feel like there is every natural beautiful landscape to be found. A friend of mine visited Oslo recently, and complained that it was less beautiful than Bergen – there are most commercial buildings, more lights and less colour, and I certainly agree – there is a lot of beautiful colour and nature to be found in this city.

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Quirky Bookstores & Libraries: A bookstore in Oia

One of the things I look out for whenever I go somewhere new are bookstores and libraries. I’ve been lucky enough so far to find some beautiful examples, such as this lovely bookstore in Istanbul which I found while strolling around in the New City, and which was beautifully put together.

I was pretty delightly, then, to find this colourful, quirky bookstore in Greece one on of the Islands, in the area called Oia which is famous for its beautiful sunsets and landscapes, (and which is a very popular tourist spot for honeymooners) – it was hidden away along the main street with stairs leading down into the bookshop inside. What I loved about this bookstore what the the outside was just as pretty as its interior – there were plenty of paintings and decor around the building so there was something to catch your eye wherever you look.

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I loved the random pieces scattered around – bookshelves, plants, typewriters and handwitten signs to give the personal touch and make it feel homely. I always love finding places like this, and it was great to see the effort put into decorating this bookshop.

The interior of the bookshop was a little dark (excuse the grainy pictures!) but it felt a little like a personal dreamland – hundreds of books in various languages crammed together on bookshelves, with some hanging from the ceiling, piled up on the cabinets and generally giving plenty of invitation for passerbys to come and immerse themselves in the world of books.

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We left this place with a big smile on our face (myself more than anyone else) because it was such a beautiful corner of a beautiful city, and I loved the fact that it seemed untouched by commercial values, instead asking customers to give what they can and to make the most of seeing the books. It’s made me keep an eye out for more of these places around the city, and of course, I’ll be posting more of these when I find them!

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Happy Places: Libraries & Bookshops

I have a few places which I’d call my happy place (a shop with colourful pens, for example!) but one I think are one of my go-to happy places are libraries. I don’t go to libraries as often as I used to since I got my electronic book reader, which I use (when I do get time to myself!) or I end up forgetting I have a pile of books in my room (I currently have five next to my bed) and start reading something else.

I went to a local library yesterday, and loved the fact that although there are many changes to libraries, there’s still that magic of hundreds of books and the potential of a new world to step into. It reminds me of my childhood a little as well, since my sisters and I used to visit the library every week (and take out the maximum number of books allowed) – one of my earliest memories of the library is my dad taking me to the library as a child, and the estatic joy at seeing all the children books – so it’s no wonder that this feeling has stayed with me.

Whenever hubster and I go somewhere new, I always look for a bookstore or library to make myself home. This is a picture of one of my favourite discoveries – a beautifully quirky bookshop we found in the city of Istanbul, which had art, beautiful old books and a big curved staircase which just made the whole thing amazing.

So here’s one of my happy places, being surrounded by books. I just need to find that library which had the huuuuge books in them, so I can stand on top and pretend to be a tiny person lost in Book Land…!

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Honeymoon Travels…Turkish Delight

I haven’t been posting for a few days, but dont worry, I haven’t disappeared! My husband and I went on a delayed honeymoon last week to the wonderful city of Istanbul, and we only just got back! I’m still putting together our pictures (we took over a thousand on my camera!) but here’s one of my favourite – a bookshop that we found in Istanbul in the New City – mixed together with old and new books, art work and lots of old machinery which I though was beautiful among the winding stairs.

Our holiday in Istanbul was in a word, brilliant, and it was a big achievement for me since I haven’t been abroad for years and this was something new for both of us. We made the most of our time there, and literally tried to visit everywhere and see everything – naturally we missed out a few places, but we saw some amazing sights and ate some even more amazing food.

More pictures coming soon!

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