Fenella Holt looks over towards the snowy peaks of the Maritime Alps, lit by the last rays of the winter sun.
“I can’t imagine ever wanting to go back to London," she says. “I’ve been in Antibes six years now, and I love it.”
Fenella, 54, has decided to cement her roots firmly into the local landscape by opening a new English bookshop in Antibes, a replacement for the retiring Heidi Lee’s famous literary emporium.
Although not quite as big as Heidi’s old place, the new Antibes Books at 13 rue Georges Clemenceau, which opens for business on Valentine’s Day, 2015, will have a range to equal that of Fenella’s previous employer.
“I enjoyed my three years working for Heidi and, of course, she taught me an awful lot about bookselling.
“The new shop is a more manageable size, I needed a place that could be run by just one person most of the time. We are putting together a wide range of books, with all the same sections that Heidi had.
“The books will be almost exclusively in English. I will be selling DVDs alongside various books that have been adapted for the screen, such as Pride and Prejudice and Hunger Games. We will also offer a selection of ebooks.
“We are setting up a website so that customers can pre-order books before their arrival in the South of France.”
This will be a real boon for the busy yacht crews, who will be able to order necessary books such as up-to-date travel guides and newly published cookery books in advance of their arrival in port.
Fenella moved here from Palma de Mallorca with her photographer husband Ed, who will be helping out in the new bookshop.
“I wanted to take over the running of the English bookshop in Palma but it didn’t work out, so now I am delighted to be able to fulfil that particular desire.
“I am really looking forward to welcoming our first customers,” says Fenella.
Although you would have to use the word “brave” to describe someone who plans to open a bookshop in a world increasingly dominated by online retailers, it seems to me that Fenella’s enthusiasm and personal touch will win the day in the battle for increasingly scarce euros.
“I have always been an avid reader,” she says, “and I had no greater pleasure while working at Heidi’s than when customers to whom I had recommended a book would come back in especially to tell me how much they had enjoyed it.”
The February 14th opening promises to be a social as well as a commercial event not to be missed, and Merde! author Stephen Clarke will be on hand for the occasion to sign books.
And what will Fenella be recommending to her first customers?
“Naturally that depends on an individual’s tastes and habits but, for me, one of the best reads around at the moment is The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop, it is so moving.”
The Reporter team wish Fenella and Ed every success with this significant new chapter in their lives.
The new English bookshop at 13 rue Georges Clemenceau, Antibes, will open Tues to Sat: 10 to 18.30 and Sun to Mon: 11 to 17.30. See www.antibesbooks.com or call 04 93 61 96 47.