After I cleaned up my feet, I grabbed my trusty flip flops, which would be much more polite to my feet. I had seen a new and used bookstore when I had gone to Vodafone, and, alone in a new place, of course the most logical place to go was to the bookstore. I popped in, and spent an hour browsing. The shop had a beautiful smell to it, one that oddly reminded me of the lower floor at the house Mommie, my grandmother, owned when I was a little girl. There was a tiny bit of an old smell, a hint of woodfire, and then the blissful smell of the pages of hundreds of books. The shop was small, but filled to overflowing with books–they were even stacked on the stairs and the landing, so deep that it was obvious no one had used the stairs in a long while. I wonder what was up there, and why it wasn’t turned into more book space, too, but then there were enough books to look at downstairs. There were books ranging from the classics, which reminded me of how much I missed my own copies of the classics, to anthologies to books in nearly a dozen different languages. After browsing for nearly an hour, I realized that I either needed to choose a book, or go. Being a confirmed bibliophile, I narrowed my selection down to three, grumbling at the price of books. There was an anthology that I had returned to several times, about a man who built schools in Pakistan. I popped it open in a few places to read, and finally grew a bit annoyed with the author’s handling of the cultural clashes and interactions, so I passed it up. Next up was a beautiful French volume, set in the 18th century, with a little bit of cross-dressing and a lot of piratey goodness, but I finally set it aside. Although I could read the dust jacket with ease, handling an entire text in my not-first-language was more than I wanted. So I settled on The Hound of the Baskervilles & The Valley of Fear, one of the Sherlock stories missing from my collection.
I paid for the book, fumbling with the unfamiliar money (1 and 2 euros are both coins. Who knew?), then hid a smile as the elderly lady who ran the establishment handed me my book, wrapped in brown paper. I slipped it in my bag and headed out. I still needed to get food, and if I spent any more time near the bookshop, well, I would probably end up buying something else. Still, it smelled so good.
Even though I now had an amazing smelling book, I still needed food. The only place that had really come up in my searches was the Cork English Market, which was only a couple blocks away and also on my way home. The entrance to the Market was a modest black gate, which filled an archway. Stepping through the archway, one would find oneself in a comparatively dim and oddly scented ally. In truth, the English Market is reminiscent of an indoor Farmer’s Market. There are about six entrances, which wind through adjoining buildings and shops, which give way to permanent market stalls. If you enter from Grand Parade, the street I came from, you start off by all the baked goods, progress by the fruits and veggies, and then circle through the meat market. There are multiple butcher shops, and each shop specializes in a particular animal (and a couple cheese shops with them). If you turn and continue to wander, you eventually find yourself in the seafood aisle, with everything from fish to shrimp laid out on cold tables. I think the fish, at least, are brought in fresh every day, because the closer it gets to closing time, the less there is available for sale.
Sprinkled in among all of these different shops, then, are a variety of street vendor-ish places, a fine chocolate ship, a T-shirt shop (with shirts hung across the walkway), a coffee place, an organic goods shop, several spice shops, tea shops (which, like the spice shops, have signs asking parents not to let their children handle the loose leaves and powders), a fountain, pottery shops, and goodness knows what else. On top of this, throw in a hundred people or so, and you have the teaming, crowded, noisy English Market.
I took a few laps around the market, then settled in to get some fruits, since I deemed those “safe” for the time being. I’m pretty sure it is going to take a little while to figure out food, but I had a bit left from my short shopping trip in Dublin, and tomorrow was another day. Hopefully I would find a suitable shopping center then. At least, now, I had a book. It makes my skimpy stack of books look a little less skimpy.