Aldeburgh in Suffolk: Authors, Books, and Tea for Two

Aldeburgh Cinema

Following our London interlude and return from the U.S., we stepped back into apartment projects:  the guest loo (Part 3 to come after the carpenter’s work this week), and, much more thrillingly, Clive’s building of our new study, which arrived in 45 boxes and will be the subject of my next post.

In our continuing desire to prevent renovation projects from completely dominating our daily life, we took some time off to visit Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. I previously featured this lovely town, its association with composer Benjamin Britten, and its wide shingle beaches in ‘Walking in Suffolk, Part 3: A Musical Influence’.

A Literary Festival

Aldeburgh, once a medieval fishing village and shipbuilding port, plays host to many visitor-friendly activities — walking and relaxing beside the sea, exploring historic sites, eating and shopping on the long high street, or attending music and arts festivals.

We had tickets to the opening program at the Aldeburgh Literary Festival, organised by Mary and Johnny James of the Aldeburgh Bookshop. The festival runs over an event-filled weekend each March. Writers speaking this year included Roddy Doyle, Alexandra Harris, Jon Cantor, and Victoria Hislop.

In the Aldeburgh Cinema auditorium, we enjoyed the literary conversation of writers Kathryn Hughes and William Fiennes, both of whom teach graduate studies at the University of East Anglia. They spoke about their writing passions as well as moral and market-driven issues involved in writing biography (Kathryn) and creative non-fiction (William). They also responded to questions from the audience.

Quote of the day, from William Fiennes: ‘Genre anxiety is capitalism’s contribution to literary criticism.’

A Nice Cup of Tea

We had planned to have lunch at a well-known fish and chip shop that’s been highly recommended by a number of friends.

However, emerging from the festival discussion, we found ourselves drawn instead to one of several cozy teashops on High St.  We weren’t hungry enough for a meal, but couldn’t resist a cup of tea accompanied by a slice of coffee-walnut cake. 

Tea for two

There really is something soothing and restorative about a nice cup of tea. We decided to save the fish and chips for our next visit to Aldeburgh.

A Local, Independent Bookshop

Refreshed by our tea break, it was time for a proper browse at the Aldeburgh Bookshop. We’d driven past the burgundy storefront on a number of previous occasions but never had time for a leisurely exploration.

The shop is a bit smaller inside than I anticipated, but offers a wonderful array of reading choices and one of better travel narrative sections around — three floor-to-ceiling shelves — and a terrific local interest section.  In fact, the bookshop fits my idea of what makes a great local bookshop, described in more detail in ‘Travel and Books, Part 4: No Two Bookshops Are the Same’.

Thank you to Mary and Johnny from the bookshop for organising the Aldeburgh Literary Festival. I wish we could have attended the entire weekend. Maybe next year.

Aldeburgh Bookshop

Cheers for now and more soon.

7 Responses

  1. Well, there is nothing more enjoyable than a trip to a fine bookstore. Not too long ago I went to an attractive second hand bookstore in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh and I was delighted to find a volume of a children’s book series that I have long collected. As a matter of fact years ago, I was with you Carol in a bookstore in Connecticut and I found 2 more of that same series. Any reader leaves a bookstore happy when there is a find in the bag, whether it is brand new or second hand.

  2. This sounds like a perfect way to spend some time, I would love to have the opportunity to attend something like this, maybe one day.

  3. Eleanor, so true nothing beats a browse at a good bookstore! Definitely one of life’s pleasures 🙂

    LindyLouMac, hello! and thanks — with all the reading you do I’m sure you’d love this sort of weekend ‘lit fest!

    Cheers and happy reading.

  4. Hi Carolyn & Clive,

    Just passing through to say Bonjour. Hoping the life is fine for you both.
    Aldeburg in Suffolk looks like a quaint place to go for a visit. I share your fascination in bookstores! I remember during a greater part of our trips having succombed to the bookstore bug.

    Hoping that your traveling brings you to Paris this year.


  5. Bonjour Barb! You’re so right that on trips it’s always so easy to succumb to the bookstore bug – great phrase!!

    Great to ‘see’ you and hope to do so in person in Paris this year.

    Cheers and hugs to you and your hubby.

  6. Looks like the perfect place for a weekend getaway!

  7. ParisPaulP, it’s definitely a great weekend getaway, and I think the town markets itself that way to stressed-out London workers 🙂

    Also great for those of us already smart enough to live in Suffolk!

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