Having policed Kent and had to travel to Tunbridge Wells on a number of occasions I knew I didn’t want to drive there and yet one Friday morning I found myself in my car and nearly there. Nearing the town limits I hit the traffic, the traffic I had expected to hit but hoped not to. After sitting for 15 minutes in it and not seeing any break in it I drove home. It took me about two hours to get to my local Tesco that day.
Fortunately I had stumbled across the Two Together Railcard a few weeks before on the Tesco Clubcard website and ordered it and we had got it through that week. This gives us a 1/3 off rail travel – together. So my failed expedition in a car turned into a train adventure with hubby! To get to Tunbridge Wells from Ashford you need to change at Tonbridge but we were ready, we had our headphones and our books and we started our journey.
We decided once we reached Tunbridge Wells that we would, as usual, retire to our nearest Costa and take stock of where we were going. This required a hill climb that at points seemed to necessitate crampons though a chap wearing some cheap beach shoes and shorts overtook and summitted long before we did. Always the way. Can you tell I’ve been spending too much times reading and watching documentaries about mountains recently?
In Costa we got our map out and sought out the bookshop we particularly wanted to visit. I was excited to see that it was where we had come from, down the hill. Fabulous.
Halls Bookshop is near The Pantiles which are a famous bit of Tunbridge Wells. Halls is on a pretty corner of a pretty street, surrounded by coffee shops and quaint shops filled with useless things to fill your home with. Oh and little art galleries. Outside the shop were lots and lots of cheap books, £1 each. Having sold books on the High Street myself I know those sort of things help pay the rent, bring in a daily amount of money to make it seem like it is worth opening. Inside the shop was a different matter though. There are three floors in the shop, ground, 1st and basement. You walk into the shop from the corner and are greeted by magnificently high bookcases made from beautiful looking wood. In the windows that surround you are cabinets of books. A pretty stair case takes you upstairs to shelves upon shelves of stunning and expensive books but if you collect books or want a special copy of your favourite book you will doubtless find it here. I found a stunning Jane Austen set but there were also lots of Tolkien books to choose from including a few lovely first edition sets. Downstairs in the window hubby found a British First Edition of The Crucible which is a favourite of both of us since it is a view of the events of The Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts.
We overheard a lady ask why there was so much James Bond material in the shop and whether it indicated a special anniversary was coming up. She was told that the shop always had a good selection of James Bond as the shop owner had written a biography on Ian Fleming. Well that’s interesting.
There were some stunning books in this shop, some gorgeous copies of some of my favourite books including some lovely children’s books. I think we shall be back for a copy of The Crucible one day! This was a gorgeous shop with wonderful bookcases, a bright space with plenty of room to browse.
In the area around the shop we found a couple of charity bookshops as well including an Oxfam one and I am a big fan of an Oxfam bookshop. They always have nice copies of good books in good condition for very reasonable prices. Can’t fault it! And for some reason Oxfam seem to really know how to sensibly set out a bookshop ensuring space for browsing and good lighting.
We had a lovely adventure in Tunbridge Wells and even diverted to see what The Pantiles were. Strangely, for being so far from home, we bumped into one of my very good Ashford vintage pals who had popped over for a vintage fair nearby. So we got to visit a vintage fair into the bargain
All in all a very bookish day out with a bit of vintage mixed in for good measure.