Hello from Edinburgh, Scotland, the first stop in my little trip around UK and Europe (far away from Melbourne suburbia!). Edinburgh is an absolutely beautiful city – it has wonderful old buildings, including an amazing castle, a relaxed atmosphere, and very friendly people. I would thoroughly recommend it (not the least because it is socially acceptable to have whisky in your porridge for breakfast – I am serious!).
Of course, a committed op-shopper such as myself could not visit a new city without checking out the op-shops (or charity shops as they are referred to here in the UK). I am embarrassed to say that rather than visit Edinburgh Castle like any good tourist would have done, I spent my first few hours in the city at a lovely op-shop close to my guest-house. In my defence, I did have to make an urgent trip to the launderette! (I had to pack very light on this trip, which means having to wash clothes occasionally). It was a stroke of genius though, as the op-shop I discovered on my way to the launderette was absolutely delightful.
The op-shop is called St Columba's Hospice Shop and is one of the prettiest, most organized op-shops I have ever visited. It was full of treasure, including 5-6 sets of vintage crockery (the good English stuff – I was heartbroken that I couldn’t take it home with me!), a lovely bevelled edge mirror and a large collection of beautiful linen pieces (embroidered tablecloths and runners – divine). The store was beautifully laid out and the clothes were all in great condition and very clean. I was a bit shy about asking the ladies there about taking photos of the inside of the shop but I did get a photo of the dressing room to give you an idea of its prettiness.
So what treasure did I snag at this lovely place? Five fantastic vintage brooches – thank you very much (who needs to visit Edinburgh Castle when you can buy vintage jewellery)! I love vintage brooches so when I saw one of the volunteers putting these in the window I snapped them up very quickly indeed.
As you will notice from the photo, the prices at this shop were extremely reasonable. Most things in the shop (including these brooches) were in the £3-5 range (which equates to about AUS4-5 – the exchange rate against the pound is absolutely fantastic at the moment). I struck up a little conversation with the volunteer who was putting out these brooches, she was very friendly and interested in op-shopping in Australia . Actually, she made an interesting comment about op-shopping - when I mentioned that I love op-shopping in Australia and how popular it is there she asked me what ‘op shop’ meant (as I said earlier, they are referred to as ‘charity’ shops in the UK). When I explained that it was short for ‘Opportunity shop’ she thought it was great that we called them that rather than ‘charity’ shops. I had never really thought of it like that, and when I think about it now, I guess it is much nicer and more positive to refer to shops as ‘opportunity’ rather than ‘charity’ shops. I had such a lovely time at this store – part of my brain was saying ‘I should really be sightseeing rather than op-shopping’ but it is a lovely way to meet the locals so I am glad I did it.
Unfortunately, the other op shops in Edinburgh did not yield any such treasure. On my way around the city in the next two days I visited several other op-shops in Edinburgh, including Oxfam, Save the Children, Cancer Research, Heart Research and Vets for Pets (there are many many op shops in the UK!). These were located off the High Street so a lot more central than St Columba's and they mainly sold contemporary fashion and had no real treasure. There was one op-shop that specialized in vintage, Barnados Vintage, in the city centre which had some treasure, but this was priced more like a vintage store than an op-shop.
So what did I learn about op-shopping overseas? Essentially the rules are the same as for Australia: visit the smaller, suburban op shops a little off the beaten track and that are associated with a church or other similar organization. I also visited a few vintage stores in Edinburgh so stay tuned for a post on that in the next few days. Goodbye for now from beautiful Edinburgh!
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