Tuesday, November 28, 2017

calling all book lovers to the book village

On the way to our Thanksgiving weekend Airbnb rental, the American friend driving the car was a bit flustered when an oncoming car appeared in front of her on the narrow street running through a charming village near the end of our journey. She managed to back up to a slight indentation in the buildings on one side of the street, and the other car squeezed past. After this car, still more cars brushed past us on the short stretch of village road, suggesting we weren't just in some sleepy little hamlet.

The next day we had to drive back through the two-way traffic on streets barely wide enough for one car, let alone two. But slowing down had us ogling the charming village and gave me time to suggest that we park and wander the village for a few minutes. I was happy when my friends readily agreed to the spontaneous pit stop. We pulled into a small, crowded, and tree-covered parking lot where we encountered our next clue that this village was special: a sculpture of flying books!

Then the town map mounted across the street told us more about what we were in for. Montolieu, near Carcassonne in southern France, has taken on the moniker "village du livre," or village of the book. It has 17 bookstores! -- in a town of fewer than 900 inhabitants! (so says the internet's population records) There are also workshops and museums centered around bookbinding and the art of bookmaking. Our time in Montolieu was short but we're eager for a fuller visit! Such a lovely accidental find!

This water is specifically for dogs who know how to read. :-)
More info from the town's tourist brochure: Since 1990, the book village of Montolieu has become renowned for its numerous booksellers, craftsmen, it's Museum of Book Arts and Crafts, and now, the Cérès Franco art collection. All began in 1989 when Michel Braibant, bookbinder in Carcassonne, came up with the idea of creating a European Conservatory of Book Arts and Crafts. He wanted to bring the public to learn about traditional book arts and crafts by meeting craftsmen directly in their workshops. Thanks to his personal collection, to donations and to the active support of volunteers, the museum was opened in 1991. At the same time, antique booksellers and craftsmen started setting up shops in the village. The Montolieu Village of Books and Graphic Arts association started promoting activities in the village, organising cultural and pedagogical activities and running the museum. Since then, Montolieu's focus on the world of books has proven very successful.

Today Montolieu counts about 17 bookshops and hundreds of thousands of used books in all areas of human knowledge and imagination. For bibliophiles, there is a large choice of first or limited editions, antique, rare or illustrated books, and more.

There's a salon du livre, of ancient and used books, every year during the weekend of Easter.