Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Book Mill at Montague

I spent two years at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, getting a masters degree. Amherst is a sleepy little New England hamlet in Western Massachusetts, surrounded by rolling hills and farms. You know, all the good stuff. To the north of Amherst, there is a smaller village called Montague, which has this amazingly picturesque unused grist mill, which is now used as a book store. Its called the Montague Book Mill and it is the stuff of picture post cards. It is also my favorite bookstore in the world. I actually discovered it by accident.

It was the summer of 99, me and a buddy of mine decided to spend a weekend biking the rural roads around Amherst. So, accordingly, having cajoled / flicked a couple of bikes from the Indian room-mate community in Amherst, we started off on our quest. We decided we should take state highway 63, which goes north and just follow it till it either meets the Arctic ocean or our legs give out, whichever occurs first. This is a very picturesque country road which rambles along hills and forests, meadows, stud farms and the occasional babbling brook. After getting out of Amherst, we settled down to a nice rhythm of pedalling and wheezing, since both of us had not biked, probably since time immemorial. We passed Mt. Toby, presumably named by someone who wasnt really giving it his best shot. A short distance later, there appeared a small side road with a sign on it saying "Guru Ramdas Ashram". Guru Ramdas Ashram in the middle of nowhere in western Massachusetts? You gotta be kidding me. The road then came to an intersection, where, I learned later, one of my roommates had almost had an accident with a car coming from the other direction, him spinning around in his car and coming to rest facing the opposite direction. There, we saw a sign pointing to the left, saying "Montague". We hadn't really passed a single village till now, and we could have done with a nice cup of coffee, so we took this road and made our way to this enigmatic village. Montague is a very nice very small village containing, as if it were a rule in western Massachusetts, a church, a small general store, a post office and a small central grassy commons. Nothing more, nothing less. We kept biking and finally, came to a small turn in the road and a sign that said "The Book Mill". This sounded interesting, and so we followed this sign and reached the place. The Book Mill is perched on the banks of the SawMill river. There are the ruins of a small dam which was used to power the former grist mill. Inside, there are lots and lots of books at amazingly budget-friendly prices, which you can either browse through, sitting inside the bookmill, or on a deck outside, while listening to the sounds of the rushing water. Its also got a cafe, as well as a dining area. But, the real asset of this place, apart from its picturesqueness, is the books. So, if ever you are in western Massachusetts, make sure you visit this place. Its worth it.

Update: Here are a couple of pictures I found of the Sawmill river as seen from the Book Mill.

No comments: