Thursday, 18 December 2014

A moment in a market town

Market towns are great. They're small enough to explore in a couple of hours, diverse enough to meet most shopping needs, liberally sprinkled with independent shops and one hundred times easier to park in than your average town or shopping centre.

They're even lovelier when right in the middle of them is an independent bookshop. With cake.

Located in the heart of its market town home, Jaffé & Neale ticked both of those boxes. Unfortunately Chipping Norton isn't quite in the heart of Oxfordshire (it's a lot further west than I'd anticipated) but the excitement of the bookshop more than made up for the long detour on my drive home from a weekend away. And the ease of parking when I found the bookshop (right next to a car park that doubles up as a market square) more than made up for the detour.

Tired from the drive, my first priority was to recover with a coffee and slice of clementine cake, both of which were every bit as delicious as you'd expect from an indie bookshop cafe. Making the most of a beautiful but chilly afternoon, I relaxed into a window seat from which I could enjoy the sunlight on my face, watch the world go by and – most importantly of all – take in my bookshop surroundings.

A bright bookshop, the light from the large windows made the main room feel larger than it was as I sat and people-watched while customers came and went, dithered over which of the many cakes to try and happily browsed the books. Very few people seemed to know each other, but all were friends as they shared in the common pleasure of the shop, meaning it didn't take long before I regained the energy to explore.

My favourite area was the first main room, where cake and books come together in the heart of the bookshop. This was where I spent most of my time and could easily imagine myself returning to daily, were I living a couple of hours closer. Then through to the back, past a selection of gifts and trinkets, a second room leads into the children's section, with secondhand books and more gifts upstairs.

Returning to the front room I browsed the recommendations and lost myself in the fiction, simply enjoying the moment. So it seemed appropriate when I stumbled across Claire Dyer's The Moment.

I loved exploring Jaffé & Neal and finding this gorgeous bookshop in a lovely English town, and okay, maybe it wasn't quite where I'd expected it to be on a map. But as much as bookshops are places to grow and learn, the journey to them can be an education too.


Jaffé & Neale
1 Middle Row, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 5NH
Tel: 01608 641033
@jaffeandneale

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