New York usually has the biggest of everything: skyscrapers, harbor, subway system, store. But one thing it doesn’t have is the largest arts festival in the world.
That honor goes to Edinburgh Festival. Started in 1947 as a post-war effort to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”, it stages approximately 46,000 performances of 3000 different shows over three weeks in August.
New York performers have been making the pilgrimage since its inception, in the hope of getting discovered or launching their careers on the international stage.
In this special edition of Boo York City, we’re going to show you the town, vintage-style.
So if you’re one of the thousands of Americans who fly to Scotland for the festival, you can enjoy the best of Edinburgh with a New York flavor – and the chance to win afternoon tea and cocktails at one of the most beautiful bars in the world.
Our Top 10 tour starts in the city’s most bohemian place: St Stephen Street, in the Stockbridge district. It is packed with independent vintage and antique shops, Victorian basement bars, record shops and art galleries.
Those Were The Days – One-of-a-kind vintage clothes for men and women, as well as bridal wear, jewelry, and accessories. This basement store is expertly curated, with collections ranging from the 20s to the 90s, which are all carefully cleaned and restored before sale.
The Shop With No Name – Otherwise known Elaine’s, after it’s friendly owner, this tiny, beautifully presented shop has its walls swathed in stunning vintage finds, such as 1950s dirndl dresses, top hats, naval jackets, and velvet Edwardian gowns. In keeping with true vintage style, it doesn’t have a website, but can be found at No. 55 St Stephen Street.
Mr Purves – This eccentric shop is next door to Elaine’s and sells antique oil lamps of every kind. Its higgledy-piggledy interior is hung with Victorian brass pulley lamps, and displays oil burners, sconces and glass shades on every surface.
Kay’s Bar – This hidden pub, with deep-red walls and ruby velvet seats, is known mainly to locals and is a great spot for lunch if you’ve been shopping in St Stephen St. It was originally a Georgian coach house that was turned into a bar in Victorian times, and still sports its original fixtures and fittings. Go through to the back to the library – a wood-paneled gem, stuffed with old books.
The Georgian House – A short walk up the hill from Kay’s is this 1796 Robert Adam masterpiece, across the street from the Book Festival, in Charlotte Square. It has been restored to show a typical Edinburgh New Town House of the late 18th-19th century, with a collection of period furniture, porcelain, silver and glass.
Herman Brown – From the Georgian House, walk to the West Port, where Herman Brown nestles amongst the second-hand book shops and strip clubs. It sells mostly clothes from the 60s to the 80s, and has a good selection of shoes, accessories and jewelry.
Edinburgh Books – Next to Herman Brown’s, you can dip into the city’s largest second-hand bookstore and pick up a classic by Jack Kerouac, James Jones or Budd Schulberg to enjoy during your afternoon tea.
Armstrong’s – From Edinburgh Books, walk downhill to the Grassmarket, where this Aladdin’s Cave is situated. There are 150-year-old ball-gowns and military uniforms hanging from the ceiling, and clothes, shoes and hats for sale from Victorian times to the 1980s. The largest vintage clothes shop in the UK, it’s possible to lose hours, or even days, within its walls.
Old Town Bookshop – Walk up the winding West Bow from Armstrong’s to this dearly loved Edinburgh institution, which specializes in original prints from the Georgian and Victorian times, as well as rare first-edition books and more modern works.
Pommery Champagne Café Bar – This is where the vintage tour ends, with delicious afternoon tea and cocktails or champagne. Set in the historic Signet Library, which was built in 1820, the Pommery Bar is Edinburgh’s most glamorous pop-up throughout August, and wouldn’t look out of place on 5th Avenue.
The Pommery Champagne Afternoon Tea has a tempting tower of sweet and savoury treats, including delicious sandwiches, irresistible homebaking, a pot of leaf-tea or coffee, and a chilled glass of Pommery Royal or a New York cocktail.
And now Boo York City readers can win afternoon tea for two with cocktails – worth £80 – for a perfect ending to your vintage tour of Edinburgh. Why not try an Old Fashioned, or a Gin Rickey, which was drunk by F Scott Fitzgerald in the Roaring Twenties, or Dorothy Parker’s favourite tipple, a Whisky Sour?
To enter, just retweet this story on our Twitter page, @booyorkcity, or share it from our Facebook by August 7, 2014.
Kirsty Hepburn from the pop-up’s organisers, Heritage Portfolio, said: “We know that locals and tourists alike enjoy the peace of our surroundings as a superb place to enjoy some refined refreshments before or after the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
“We like to think we are a bit of a vintage hidden gem – many locals visit the bar during August and we are always busy with champagne afternoon teas and early evening cocktails.
“Welcoming visitors from the US who want to relax over a chilled glass of fizz is always a pleasure and I know the sophistication and history of our surroundings is a real attraction for them.”
*T&Cs: Afternoon tea for two worth £80 including a tempting tower of sweet and savoury treats; a pot of tea or specially made coffee and one glass of chilled Pommery Brut Royal, a Pommery Elderbubbles, Old Fashioned, Gin Ricky or Whisky Sour cocktail per person. (Cocktail retails individually for £12.50. Afternoon tea with champagne costs £28 per person).
Prize must be claimed by 25 August, 2014, when the pop-up closes. Advance reservation essential, subject to availability, strictly over 18’s. Winner will be selected at random from Twitter and Facebook shares.