I’ve never been all that big on shopping while traveling. If a place is new, I like to get a Christmas ornament. And/or some little tourist site print. I do like to look at things, so I’ll nose about. But somehow, there’s seldom anything that leaps out screaming “buy me, buy me.” Maybe it’s because, in this day and age, you can pretty much get anything (other than Christmas ornaments and little prints being peddled by side walk artists) anywhere. So what’s the big deal?
Edinburgh was no different than any other tourist mecca I’ve ?been to. Oodles of really schlocky crap: fridge magnets, key chains, shot glasses, snow globes, mugs, tee-shirts, stuffed toys…The themes change from country to country, so there was, of course, a lot of Loch Ness monster, sheep, kilt and bagpipe stuff. And plenty of junk featuring the darling long-haired Highland cattle (coos).
It was, in fact, a darling long-haired coo Christmas ornament that almost got my wallet out when we were in the gift store at Edinburgh Castle. But at ten pounds – $16 – it seemed a tad expensive. I (incorrectly) figured that I would see plenty of other equally darling Christmas ornaments once we hit one of the many gift/souvenir shops on the Royal Mile (the main tourist shopping drag).
The gift store at the Castle was actually quite nice, but this was the first shop we’d stopped in, and no one was ready to declare quite yet.
One funny thing did occur there.
I overheard a clerk telling a patron that earlier in the day, “a stupid American” had purchased some dog treats thinking that they were for human consumption. “Stupid American!” I gave the clerk the stink eye, and I think she was afraid that I might rat her out, as she hustled over to me and went over-sweet, over-solicitous on me. (By the way, honey, those dog treats weren’t all that clearly marked. Forget “stupid American.” If some tourist had broken a tooth on one of those treats, you’d be hearing from a “litigious American.”)
There were plenty of dog treats around, as the UK is a dog lover’s paradise.
One dog-related gift we came across was a Harris Tweed pouch that held poop bags. Cute but way pricey.
Harris Tweed everything is at the higher end of the tourist marketplace. In addition to the jackets and caps, there were very nice slippers and very, very nice bags. But I figured I could make do with my trusty old L.L. Bean mocs and, while I know that the word need should never factor into the shopper’s vocabulary, so I really need another bag?
Well, you never have enough bags, but I still gave the bags a pass. I figured if I had a change of heart, there might well be a store at the airport where I could pick one up.
Alongside Harris Tweed, other good goods include wool – cashmere and lambs wool.
Lots of sweaters and sweater sets that would put you right at home with Queen E on a weekend visit to Balmoral. Throw on a Barbour jacket and a pair of Wellies, and you’d be all set to head of with the royals and stalk grouse, or whatever it is that they do when they’re on vakay.
Lots of scarves, too. And no end to the choice of plaids available, many just beautiful, many I’d never seen before. I considered buying myself a scarf, but I need another scarf about as much as I need another bag. I did spring for one for a Christmas gift.
As we swung in and out of the shops on the Royal Mile, everything started to look alike. Many of the shops carried identical goods.
Those Harris Tweed slippers that were novel in Store A where ‘oh, no, not those again’ by Store D.
As for the schlock shops, seen one, seen ‘em all, so after one, we pretty much took a pass.
We also didn’t look at the kilt stores, where you can kit yourself out in full formal regalia, which I guess is de rigueur for high end Scots. (Like a tux, you can also rent kilt kit for formal occasions.) If you want to go really seedy low-end on the kilts, there are very cheesy polyester numbers, including skimpy naughty lass ones.
If you’d rather eat than wear your Edinburgh souvenirs, there were plenty of places where you could buy Walker shortbread and other sweet stuff. Plus cans of Haggis. (By the way, I did try it. It just tasted like spicy fried dough. You couldn’t taste the offal at all. Which was a good thing. It was fine. I’m glad I took a go at it. But I wouldn’t run out and buy a can of it.)
The store we liked the best was a shop called Ness, a nice Scotland-based chain with nice, reasonably priced, interesting clothing and accessories. We broke a bit of ground there, with my sister, my niece and I all getting a little something.
But, for me, the Edinburgh shopping experience was mostly a desultory one.
Part of it is age. The older you get, the less you want anything, and you’re just as interested in de-accessioning as your are in acquiring.
I do have a bit of buyer’s remorse, however. I wish I hadn’t cheaped out and had gotten that Highland coo Christmas ornament.
Och, what was I thinking?