Montmorillon is to France what Hay-on-Wye is to Britain : Bookshop heaven. An attractive little town on a river in a rural region with more second hand bookshops than you can point a stick at.
In August we were on a family holiday in the area and late in the week took a trip to the town to revisit the scene of a favourite photo that sits on our lounge window sill and features Philippa and I pushing a pram with our then 3 month old eldest daughter, Charlotte, up through a steep narrow street in the town with two churches visible in the background. We wanted to recreate the scene, this time with Charlotte (now 9) and her sister Georgie (7).
With the mission-accomplished quite quickly we ventured up into the network of streets where the bookshops reside, on the higher reaches of the hill . I turned a corner and there was a rather nice British Racing Green MGA parked beside a shop with a suitably Bugatti-Blue painted front (that’s me in the red T shirt,below left with my two girls sitting by the “ouvert” sign). You don’t actually see many classic cars in France for some reason so it was a sight that instantly drew me.
I raised my camera and an English voice from within joked “We only charge 5 Euro a photo…” Turning to see where the voice came from I found a rack of books in front of me with familiar names on the covers : Jack Brabham, Jacky Ickx, Jochen Rindt, Francois Cevert. We’d stumbled on the town’s best kept secret : “Numero 10” a shop specialising in “Autos – Motos -Avions” .
What a gem. A Triumph Bonneville sat just inside the door and a Bugatti alloy wheel rested against a display stand. A Citroen grille was propped by the door and a row of seats from a long grounded airliner provided somewhere to sit and peruse the stock. The walls were hung with posters for the nearby Angouleme “Circuit des Remparts” events and there were more car books on one shelf then we had seen in the rest of the town put together. Now this is what I call a proper shop!
English ex pat Scott Bevis is the proprietor and by coincidence we had actually done business in the past by mail order. I think he was in Belgium at the time and just a collector back then. Scott’s father appeared later on and he too had bought books from me before. What are the odds?
Aside from the identical nature of the businesses, all three of us have raced cars. Scott , a VSCC member, has a neat little vintage Amilcar with a Riley 9 engine (left) and an Allard J2. My racing was in rather more modern machinery a decade ago (Rover 220 Turbo, MG Maestro Turbo) .
The rest of my family, including sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Cheryl and Nigel, recognised the fact I wasn’t likely to do much sight-seeing for some time so left me to it for an hour or so, talking and browsing the shelves. Rather quickly I set about amassing enough books to use up all my available euros – almost to the last cent. Luckily we were flying home the following day…who needs money for food when you have books? I even picked up a paperback edition of Jack Kerouac’s famous ‘Beatnik’ novel “On The Road” which later kept me from boredom in the airport departure lounge. A result all round.
NUMERO 10 is a new venture for 2015 and as yet has no website in place but if you happen to be in central France , west of Limoges, south of Tours, I’d highly recommend a visit to this “City of Writers” and a visit to the shop. Just follow the trail of leaves painted in white on the roads and you’ll find it. There are some lovely items within although one that’s not for sale is an original crash helmet worn by Scott’s hero Jacques Laffite in the Long Beach GP of 1976 when he drove a suitably all-French Ligier Matra. That’s definitely just for display purposes.
NUMERO 10 can be contacted on email@example.com
Across the bridge, near the town centre is a rather nice cafe & bar, LA TERRASSE SALON , (below left) which is right beside the river and run by Kim Stupple. It’s popular with visiting and ex pat Brits, especially as they do a lovely cream tea.
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