If It’s Friday, It Must Be France …
Heidi’s English Bookshop, located in my home away from home this summer, Antibes, France, has been a mainstay here for 21 years. It can’t claim to be built upon Roman ruins as can many other buildings in the town, but it most definitely can claim to offer the largest selection of English-language books on the French Riviera.
Even so, the property has quite a history. The foundations in the cellar have been traced to medieval times and were part of the original fortifications erected to protect the village during that period. The vaults were used to store munitions and armaments during the Napoleonic Wars of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The building itself has been a green grocer’s, a wine store, as well as an antique shop, and, since 1992, its walls have been lined with hand-built bookshelves that are filled to overflowing with an amazing selection of literature, new and used.
An inventory of 15,000 titles is standard and any English-language book in print can be ordered, accompanied by a smile at all times.
The owner Heidi Lee, a former actress and an author, arrived here 26 years ago via England and Australia and has never looked back. The “book business” is not easy and to keep an independent bookstore running successfully for so long is most admirable. Ably assisted by Suzie Dean and Louise Vaughan-Arbuckle, the shop is warm and welcoming from the moment you enter. The door is always open unless a winter’s mistral is blowing through. Open 364 days a year, Suzie’s adorable Norwich Terrier, Tiggy, acts as the “official greeter” when on duty.
Along with the most recent modern fiction, there are large sections for Provencal guide books, Cookery, Craft, New Age, Travel and Language books. I was delighted when Heidi agreed to stock some copies of The Bridge Club in the store and was even more honoured when she included it in a special display of “local authors”. I wish!
Antibes has an illustrious literary history. Jacques Audiberti was born into the artistic community here, and is just one name on a cosmopolitan list of writers and painters which, apart from Picasso and Graham Greene, includes Guy de Maupassant, Jules Verne, Scott Fitzgerald, Nicolas de Staël and Nikos Kazantzakis. The latter wrote Zorba The Greek while he lived in Antibes. On my morning walks I often pass a bench where he liked to relax and which is marked by a plaque. Graham Greene lived here for most of the last 25 years of his life until his death in 1991. (Check my blog next Friday for some buzz on the literary history of Antibes!)
Literature by all of these authors is of course available from Heidi’s English Bookshop. Browsing is encouraged. There are no questions either Heidi, Susan, or Louise can’t answer, even if they have to do some investigation and get back to you.
Heidi’s store is situated in one of the best locations in the old town. Once you make your purchases, simply step out the door to find just the right choice of restaurants, cafés and bars to suit you. Pick a spot, place your order … café, rosé, pastis, un bon vin? Enjoy a good read in an ambiance that is hard to duplicate. (Click here to see a map and other important information about the store’s location.)
Where is your favourite bookshop? Is it at home or in some exotic location like Heidi’s? I would love to hear about it and share the info with other readers!