In recent years, the historic heart of Edinburgh’s'Old Town has been transformed into an area filled with trendy, upmarket specialist shops. Alan Morrison does some early Christmas shopping in Victoria Street and the Grassmarket.
Resting in the shadow of the Castle, Edinburgh’s Grassmarket was the city‘s original trading centre. Over five hundred years ago, the area held its first weekly market after being granted a charter by James III, and the buying and selling of a variety of goods continued in the 230ft-long rectangle until 1911. Now the role of the market has been taken over by the highly specialised shops that pepper the area from the bottom of West Port right up to the top of Victoria Street.
The wide cross-section of items on sale has brought a dynamic edge to a site that was previously an antique dealers‘ stronghold. Because most of the traders are fairly young, a genuine sense ofcommunity spirit is evident as you wander from shop to shop; in fact, the impression is ofan area that has undergone both a spiritual and a structural facelift.
It is also fitting that the historical site of the Old Town‘s well and primary water source should still hold an enviable reputation as one of the city’s foremost watering holes. Many of the pubs reflect the area‘s history, particularly at the former site of the public gallows — hence the aptly named Last Drop.
If the pubs range from the traditional to the trendy. then the cafes and restaurants also cater for widely different palates — crisp American-style pizzas, fine Italian and French cuisine, hearty meat platters and tasty vegetarian dishes. In fact, the area makes for a productive. self-contained day‘s shopping, as it provides a host of eateries which are open for lunch. dinner or just a quick restorative snack. Add to that the fact that it‘s usually easier to find the odd parking space either in King‘s Stables Road or near the university. and Victoria Street/Grassmarket becomes a serious alternative to the chain store commercialism of Princes Street and the tacky tourist traps on parts of the Royal Mile.
Still not made up your mind what to putin your sihllng's stocking? The List otters a few suggestions tor Christmas gitls.
I Porcelain egg-cups at £3.85 are part of an extended range of fine porcelain items
illustrated with Celtic designs from Pictish stones and from manuscripts. Also bangles and brooches (£4.75). various dishes. containers and clock (£17.85). Entire range at MacDonald Nelson Trading Co.
I Handcarved ornaments — dolphins and whales beautifully handcarved from fine wood ranging in size and price from stocking ﬁller (£2.95) to work ofart (£950). Also range of carved animals and traditional designs. All at Bali-Hi, Byzantium.
I Holly and pine wreaths £4.65 at Helios Fountain. Also wide range ofcolourful Christmas decorations and toys. and a competition to win a big teddy bear by guessing the number of Santas in the shop window.
I Guatemalan hats. handwovcn one-offs in various styles — tams (£5). pill hats (£5.50). baggy caps (£6.95) — at Rana.
I Wooden slugs. the most desirable pets for Christmas. come with feeding and care manuals. Various models. some hanging by their heads. others dipping their tales into coffee cups. From £4.50 at Loco.
I Juggling halls. a set of three for undera tenner at Wind Things. Alsojuggling clubs from £25.
I Sequined bum bag in sultry black or sparkling rainbow hues makes an interesting alternative to evening bags at those formal affairs. £9.99 at Loud.
I Needlecratt Christmas cards in contemporary or Victorian designs. with instructions. threads, cards and envelopes — from £3.25 at West Bow Needle Art.
I Ponery animals — black etched and painted pottery cats. birds. moles and owls made in Mexico. Sizes from 3in to about 14in. and prices from £3.99 at Azteca.
I Wooden train and individually lettered carriages to spell out a name or special message. £1.25 each at Helios Fountain. I Tartan cuttlinlts and earrings hand-painted in various tartans (£5.95) or made to order in the tartan of your choice
CHRISTMAS GIFI' GUIDE
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t MacDonald Nelson TradingC I Flying birds wind up rubber-band motor and watch it ﬂy across the room . causing Christmas chaos. £5 at Wind Things.
I Wooden earrings in bright parrot. tiger. fish, Christmas and traditional designs— £3.95 at Bali-Hi. Byzantium. Also wide range ofjewellery, including exquisite opal collection.
I Framed Winnie-The-Pooh stretches. prints of original drawings from £4.50—£17.95 at Loco.
I Fiorelli handbags — sturdy but stylish city-wise designs in black man-made material. with chrome fittings— from£10 at Arch Leather. Also leather bags. some manufactured by shop. with extensive range of harness leather folio cases and other top quality leather goods.
I Printed lycra dresses in Loud‘s own design bring a hint of summer warmth to winter months — £24.99. Also a range of sequined and beaded black lycra dresses to jazz up New Year parties. £29.99 at Loud.
I Vegetarian and vegan cookbooks— cxtensive range by likes of Rose Elliot and others at Helios Fountain. Also specialist Christmas, children‘s and new age titles. I Onyx chess set carved in Aztec or English designs — from £19.95 at Azteca.
' I Tea-cup cushions made of French fabric
from Chinese catalogue design. Available in four colours. priced £29.50 at
Ampersand. Also full interior design
service, fabric and wallpaper materials from this experienced design shop.
I Central American waistcoats. unique designs chosen personally in Central America by the proprietors. then handwovcn in local cottage industries and imported to UK - from £9.95 (childrens) to £29.95 (adults). Also shirts (£22.95). All at Rana.
I Ring watches. fully working. guaranteed timepieces that fit around your finger—
£16.95 from Arch Leather. Also Alexander‘s bizarre hi-tech watches. ranging from £20-£30.
I Diamante and pearl clustered lewellery by Alicia Maclnnes — from £20 at Swing. Also full range of jewellery accessories.
I Stunt kites — brave the winter winds with the incredible range of colours and models at Wind Things, which begin at £10 and go up to over £200. Also check out the unique range of hand-painted silk kites from China.
I Saltlllo rugs made from recycled mixed rags and available in a number of dominant colours. From £12.95 (4ft by 2ft) to £24.95 (8ft by 6ft) at Azteca.
I DIY pot plant kit contains terracotta pot and synthetic plant to be assembled and painted by those of us without green fingers. £22 from Ampersand.
I Mexican chime halls — silver tinkling balls from the size ofa hazelnut to 1ft. Available on their own or already made into small items of jewellery. from £15 at Arch Leather.
I Espresso matters come in models for individual cups (£1 1 .95) or for two (£16.95) at Round The World. Also full coffee-making range of cafctieres, etc, right up to La Pavone models at£399.
I Studio 21 lacket original design for men— £195. Wide range of Studio 21 dresswear, traditionally cut suits with a trendy edge. Also quality Gabicci-style knitwear from Duffer of St George. From £75 at Swing. I Stylish waistcoats. hand-tailored and lined. suitable for men or women and available in a range of colours. Can be worn under suits or on their own. £65 at Bill Baber.
I Bayeaux tapestry in individual kit sections. Significant scenes (eg Harold and the comet) with all necessary materials and instructions for original stitch and colours. From £33.95 at West Bow Needle Art.
I Shirts by Colin Harvey. Also jackets by this up and coming London designer— from £50 at Traders. Items in this and all other exclusive ranges in shop stocked only in small numbers. with no repeats once sold out.
I Bloating sheep. white or black faced. munching happily on grass. Large cuddly model (£38.95). playful lamb (£21 .95) or minaturc (£1 1 .85) at MacDonald Nelson Trading Co.
I Tribe jackets in bright. totally individual, one-off designs. £50 at Loud.
I Designer knitwear by Edinburgh‘s Alison Curr — beautiful crocheted tops from £45—£150 at Swing.
I Hundertwasser posters — superb range of designs by the environmentally aware German artist at around £37.50. Same designs in card form (£1.50) and various others by renowned Scottish artists— all at Loco.
I Silk shirts in exclusive. one-offdesigns incorporating finest Thai silk and genuine turn-of—thc-century panels from Japanese kimonos. From £150—£350 at Bali-Hi. Byzantium.
I Footwear by Alain Videau — exclusive designs from France. never seen before in Edinburgh. From £44 at Traders.
I Linen jumpers. a unique range in Britain. ideal for those who can‘t wear wool. Suitable for indoors or for summer. From£120 at Bill Baber.
I Standing on racks in black Mackintoshesque design will hold from
46—72 CDs. From £42.50 at Round The
World. Also wall-mounted CD and ' cassette racks (£22.95).
I Original 20s/30s telephones. now fully reconditioned to fit into standard sockets. From £89.50 at Round The World.
The List6— 19 December 1991 85