If you’re a bookworm, the charismatic village of Montolieu is where you should go. Perched in the foothills of the Montagne Noire and overlooking the river Alzeau, this village is entirely dedicated to books and art. You will find secondhand books in every corner of Montolieu, displayed inside some lovely village houses and even on the streets!
Strolling through the picturesque streets of Montolieu is like walking through a giant bookcase. This tiny village has more books than it has inhabitants, among them rare editions and true collector’s items. A mere 18 bookshops for 800 residents, it hardly seems enough… However, since the Belgian bookbinder Michel Braibant made a book village of Montolieu in 1990, many people have found their way to this paradise of the printed word. As Oldest and Youngest are the real book lovers in our family, I took them with me on my visit to Montolieu.
After our lunch at the ultra-cool Manufacture Royale, the former textile factory transformed into a hotbed for art, we were ready to explore Montolieu. First stop was the Musée des Art & Métiers du Livre, also known as the Musée Michel Braibant. This small museum led us through the history of writing and printing. It displays fierce-looking old printing presses, but also beautiful examples of typography, calligraphy and illustrations. At one point, I saw Oldest and Youngest standing in front of a machine with a puzzled look, asking me what on earth it was. It was a typewriter, the kind on which I learned how to type ages ago. It made me feel really old, lol!
Michel Braibant aimed to set up a cooperative for book arts and trades, and he choose Montolieu to do so. Therefore, you will also find workshops of craftspeople and galleries dotted around the medieval centre. As well as many events around books and art that take place yearly. We roamed the streets for a while, although the kids didn’t really want to until Oldest discovered some rare mangas, the Japanese comics he is hooked on, and Youngest started searching for animal books.
Art of writing
Needless to say that our visit to Montolieu took a bit longer than expected, with the kids going in and out of every bookstore looking for treasures. Meanwhile, I had time to look around Montolieu and its hidden winks to the art of writing. Even the bench where the local petanque players rest on the square at Rue des Arts has words punched out of it. Next time, I’ll make sure to visit the art museum Coopérative-Collection Cérèss Franco as well. The drive back home was a bit long though, with the kids reading their new additions instead of talking to me…