“Not all those who wander are lost.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
My family does not follow a straight line when we go vacation. We meander down side streets, peek through windows, and visit obscure attractions. And always, we are drawn, as if by magnetic force, to the nearest bookstore.
Last summer, while visiting Québec City, we found this gem inside the historic stone walls of old Quebec/Vieux Québec.
Librairie Pantoute, 1100, rue Saint-Jean in Vieux-Québec, Quebec, Canada
Now in its 40th year, Pantoute is one of the largest bookstores in Québec. As such, it has an extensive collection of French language fiction and nonfiction, classic and cutting-edge authors, children’s literature, graphic novels, art books, maps, encyclopedias — the works.
Even though my French is (sadly) conversational, I really enjoyed exploring the art, history and culture of la belle province through their literature.
Here’s why I love being a literary tourist:
1. Immerse yourself in living local culture: Bookstores help you learn about a place, its history and its people, through the eyes of those who live there (writers & readers). And it’s a good place to meet interesting people.
2. Learn a new language.
3. Find beloved classics that you can’t get at home.
4. Pick up a few books to read on vacation (look for the English language section if #2 isn’t for you).
5. Be part of the action: bookstores are often situated in interesting neighbourhoods, and connect you to cultural and literary events. (Pantoute is located on the vibrant rue Saint-Jean).
6. Escape the crowds: bookstores offer refuge from the noise, heat and crowds in tourist areas.
7. Browse beautiful coffee table books, maps and calendars, and take home a thoughtful memento or gift.
8. Eat well: good bookstores are almost always located near a tempting eatery!
I’m sure there are more than 8 reasons to be a literary tourist. For inspiration and information, check out the Literary Tourist — the place to find bookstores, literary events and landmarks around the world.
In my next post, I will take you on a tour of of Québec City’s English language literary landmark, the Morrin Centre.