Pois Café, Lisboa, Portugal
Thanks to a tip-off from a fellow tour guide, I was introduced to this cozy café in the ancient Alfama district of Portugal, where we met on a Thursday evening to enjoy a jazz evening, (and some wine and over-priced tea, it turned out). The staff were friendly, the sofas looked comfortable, (they were all taken, so we ended up on stools), but you can probably guess what got my attention: the walls were covered with books.
Not in a wall-paper sense, (although I recently visited the José Saramago museum, where the walls are indeed covered with his books, each area of the museum dedicated to a different work and featuring dozens of copies of that book in different languages). In Pois Café there were simply shelves around the entire circumference of the place jam supporting hundreds of books in various languages.
Did they exchange books? They did, at a very generous exchange rate of one-for-one. But even more excitingly they sold them.
They sold them by weight.
Selling things which aren’t food by weight has struck me as a fantastic idea ever since I first encountered it in second hand clothes shops in the south of France. This was the first time I’d seen books offered in this way, and it sent a shiver of amusement down my spine, (no pun intended).
I didn’t actually buy any of the three books I wanted to read after my lap of the café, (a beginner’s guide to Claude Lévi-Strauss, a Yann Martel novel which isn’t ‘Life Of Pi‘ and an Ayn Rand sampler), choosing instead to hide them in the darker corners and to go back over the next few days to read them whilst sipping wine, (and chewing on the free goldfish crackers they cunningly give you with them: it’s not coincidence that you can’t spell ‘crackers’ without ‘crack,’ and I was soon so addicted to the nibbles that I was ordering the wine solely for the side dish).
At €5 per kilo, I wonder what my stash of bound paper at home would be worth…