Edinburgh seems like such a long time ago now but I still want to tell you about our second day in this beautiful city as it involves some seriously fab shopping. After enjoying a rather delicious breakfast of granola, croissants and fresh fruit in the hotel restaurant we headed out into what eventually turned into a lovely sunny day.
We set off heading south towards the Grassmarket area, a place renowned for its cafes, alternative shops and boutiques and walked down King’s Stables Road past this beautiful graveyard that belongs to The Parish Church of St Cuthbert. It was full of gorgeous large gothic headstones which instantly made me think of Interview With The Vampire and I had hoped that Lestast or Louis were lurking somewhere. We did say it would be a great idea to do one of the ghost tours one evening but, unfortunately, we didn’t get around to it. If I ever go back I will definitely do one.
Grassmarket is a lovely area with lots of pedestrianised spaces where many of the cafes and pubs have tables out on the street and there is often some kind of market going on. It has a real alternative vibe to it and I felt as if I fitted in better here than in the other shopping areas in the city. I certainly wasn’t getting the ‘Oh my God, she’s wearing a dress!’ looks I’d had the day before.
I particularly loved this sign for Edinburgh’s oldest pub right in the heart of Grassmarket. It’s an absolute genius piece of marketing!
At the end of the pedestrianised area is the biggest of the two Armstrong shops. It has so many rooms and is stuffed full of vintage clothing and accessories, so much so that a lot of it you can’t even get to to which is a real shame. This is the one that has the most pre-1960s clothing in it and is pretty reasonably priced. I tried on a couple of dresses, one from the 50s and one from the 60s, both in good condition, and were about £35 – £40 each. Unfortunately neither of them fitted me and I was particularly upset about the 60s one because it was a baby blue Joan Holloway style dress.
The room at the back on the right is full of things for colder climates such as jumpers (hundreds of cashmere ones!) and coats. Again, I tried on a few coats but none of them quite fitted right. I always hate that when it happens.
After having a good rummage at Armstrong’s we headed up the hill out of Grassmarket towards the Royal Mile as the other vintage shops in the area weren’t open until later. We then headed across to Nicholson Street. I can’t imagine it’s an area most tourists wander to when visiting Edinburgh but my mum and I were on a mission. Before going away I had discovered a blog called Oranges and Apples run by a lovely lady called Franca who actually lives in Edinburgh. She had put together a truly amazing, and unbelievably comprehensive, guide to all the vintage and charity shops in the city and if there’s one thing we love to do, it’s charity shopping.
Nicholson Street is in the heart of the student area, although there weren’t many students around because it was still the summer break, and has the highest population charity shops in the city. They are literally one after another after another and we went in all of them!
I bought this lovely Art Deco style glass perfume bottle and trinket box in the Cancer Research shop. I should imagine it is from the 1970s rather than the 20s as it is in pristine condition. There was also two matching candlesticks and a tray but they just weren’t as nice. These cost me the bargain price of £2 each and will eventually sit on my dressing table once I’ve got it built.
Leading from Nicholson Street is Clerk Street where the second of the Armstrong shops is located. This one isn’t as big as the other but it is just as stuffed with clothing. There’s a lot of 70s – 90s stuff and even pieces that are less than ten years old in here so some of it is just secondhand clothing, which does annoy me especially when you see labels like TopShop, Monsoon and Zara. To me, this isn’t vintage.
Again, I didn’t manage to find anything that fitted me and I really wanted a good look through their lingerie and nightwear section but it was just far too high to reach. Why don’t they think about these things? However, my mum picked up a lovely winter jumper and a fantastic plaid 70s jacket in red, white and blue.
We had lunch in the cutest cafe/bakery on Clerk Street called The Wee Boulangerie where we both had fougasse, which is a baked sandwich, full of cheese and peppers. It was so good! We then headed back up Nicholson Street and back to Grassmarket where the shops we wanted to visit earlier were now open. One of these was Herman Brown, a place we spent ages in.
Herman Brown is a much smaller than Armstrong’s but has everything out on display so that you don’t have to dig through piles of clothes to get to the ones you want and it was all really good quality stuff. I tried on a gorgeous 1960s linen dress that had a real 1920s style to it but it was just too tight across my backside. It was about £60 but it was in immaculate condition so I’d of had no problems paying that for it. The lady who runs the shop was so friendly and even told us about an antiques fair that was happening the next day. We didn’t make it though as Sunday was our tourist day!
My favourite vintage shop, though, had to be Iconic (sorry about the photo, I forgot to take one when I was there!). It is a tiny shop but is packed full of home wares and knick knacks from all different eras. Again, the owner was extremely friendly and we had a really good chat about our love of all things vintage. We spent ages looking through everything and eventually my mum picked out a really lovely Mackintosh ginger jar.
I, on the other hand, had spotted the huge collection of compacts they had and after choosing from very average looking ones I saw the most stunning one I’ve seen in my quest for the perfect compact. I’ve had an obsession about “kamra” style compacts for years and have never found one in the sort of condition I’d want. I know I will have to pay a lot of money for one but I’m prepared to when the day arrives.
Well, instead of a “kamra” style one there was this beautiful Park Lane one which is more like a little purse than just an everyday, run of the mill compact. Both sides open and it has a mirror, rouge, powder and a bullet lipstick on one side and a cigarette, matches and money holder on the other. I am going to do a separate post on this because it is too unique to be stuck in amongst this post.
It was labelled at £60 which I would’ve happily paid for it due to it’s really good condition but my mum, who is amazing at haggling, got him down to £45. He said he was happy to let it go to me at that price because he knew I would take care of it!
After a long day of shopping we slowly wandered back to the hotel to rest our weary feet for a while. After a quick change and spruce up we headed out to Jamie’s Italian in George Street. The atmosphere was really buzzing and I’m glad we booked because it was really busy.
The restaurant is located in the old Assembly Rooms and is just so stunning. The Georgian ceilings are really high which allows giant chandeliers to hang from the centre of each ornate panel. The walls are a warming dining room red and all the seating is in a plush red velvet.
We were based in the middle section (there’s three sections in total including the bar area) and had a great view of some of the chefs busily working away in their enclosed area right in the centre of everything. Some of the diners were sat around this area and it reminded me a little bit of the eating areas in Harrods Food Hall.
My mum insisted on taking a photo of me wearing my Stop Staring dress that I bought from Deadly Is The Female a few months beforehand but the lighting was so subdued that she really couldn’t get a good shot.
We had cocktails to drink (obviously!) and to eat I had the sausage pappardelle, a sausage ragu on pasta, and mum had the featherblade steak. We both followed the main course with the epic brownie, a seriously chocolatey brownie served with ice cream and caramelised popcorn. Although it was a really great meal, I have to say, it wasn’t as good as Brown’s from the night before.
The two main shopping streets, George Street and Princes Street, run parallel to each other and every 20 metres or so there is a road that cut through them and runs down from one to the other. As we passed one of these roads we spotted this rather eerie image of Edinburgh Castle illuminated in purple light with the moon hovering about it. Suddenly, we though we we’d been transported to Transylvania and, once again, we cursed ourselves for not booking a ghost tour.
Of course, we finished the night with another round of drinks in what had become a very lively hotel bar with my mum having another cocktail and I tried the Cragganmore whisky, which is definitely one to add to my favourites!