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Report 136: Edinburgh in Two

By Alice Twain from Italy, Summer 2003

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Page 9 of 10: Chapter VIII. Shopping

Luca and I are strange creatures. We are absolutely not interesed in clothing, make up, jewelry, furniture and other stuff, but we may spend all our money on books, CDs and so on. We walked Edinburgh quite thoroughly while we were there, and we found ourselves astonished by the incredible amount (by Italian standards) of bookshops. Large chain bookshops on Princes Street, selling new books, smaller bookshops literally packed with used books, remainders.

We spent a couple of hours at the James Thin bookshop in front of the University: there is a larger shop somewhere in the New Town, but this shop was easier to reach for us and it had a quite big room of children books, where we bought several Anthoiny Horowitz novelettes (both Luca and I loved his “The Falcon's Maltsers”, and enjoyed some of his other stuff in Italian). RATING: ****

We also shopped for books in some of the used books places in the Grassmarket area: there is a row of 3-4 used books shops that was one almost daily stop from home to the old town. These shops sell both plain modern used paperbacks, usually in a good shape and with good but not exceptionally good prices (Luca bought a complete collection of John Cheever's stories for 6 pounds, which is just slightly less than he would have paid an Italian new paperback just as big) and XIX century books that looked a real threat for a collector, but we are not collectors, luckily. RATING: *****

I also visited the Cook's Bookshop, the bookshop owned by one of the famous "two fat ladies", still in the Grassmarket area, and found it lovely. Is is just a tiny one room shop, but it has a really very good collection of cookbooks. Maybe it might have had more books about food history and culture, than I was interested in, but I still ended up by spending 5 pounds there too. RATING: ****

For records, we visited the large stores in the New Town, but ended up doing our shopping in smaller places. Avalance has two shops (AFAIK): the first and easier to find is near the Royal Mile, but the CDs on sale there are mainly brit-pop and indie, so of little interest to us, the other shop is in West Nicholson street and it has a wider selection of both new and used CDs ranging in more or less all kinds of rock and pop. Browsing the shop could easily make a rock lover poorer, but there are also many often interesting baraigns to be made. A vinyl section. RATING: ****

Yet, our favorite was Backbeat, a small shop in East Crosscauseway with stakes of crates of CDs and old vinyl records that fill up all the walking space. Anything can be found, if one has the patience and phiysical strength to browse the shop. Rock, pop, soul, blues, jazz, rythm and blues, folk and much more, all hidden in the many crates of this shop. RATING: *****

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