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The Red Telephone Booth

The red telephone booth was ubiquitous in the Jamaica I grew up in. You’d find them outside post offices in districts and towns across the island. There was one outside our post office too. It stood like a sentinel at the intersection of the two main roads that dissected our district, looking square at the Anglican Church on the opposite side. To its right were the parish council office, shops, a movie theater, gas station and the market that was active from Thursday to Saturday and where we Anglicans had our annual Maypole Dance.

The phone in the red telephone booth was our district’s only connection to the world where it had sent scores of its children – to the ‘Big War’ (World War II), to England, Canada, the United States and beyond.

Iconic Red Phone Booths

Red Telephone Booths, near Burlington Gardens, London

When the phone in the red telephone booth rang, anyone nearby would answer, ask the caller to call back at an agreed upon time then rush (or send someone else) to deliver the news to the family. (One of the good things about a small community is that everyone knows everyone.)

To make a call, you gave the operator the number and she (it was mostly young women) would place the call for you and tell you how much to deposit into the coin slot for the first 3 minutes. Public phones took only coins then so you had to have a pocketful in case you exceeded the time. If you were calling a private number, you would tell the operator to ‘reverse the charges,’ that is, have the person on the other end pay for the call.

Because it was illuminated, the red telephone booth attracted moths and young people – and some older folks too. During the rainy season, children (as many as possible) would cram themselves into the booth to wait out the rain. It was near the phone booth that my first boyfriend broke up with me on a Sunday afternoon after church. I was devastated and convinced that my world had ended.

Red telephone booths, London

My cousin in a telephone booth in London. Notice the homeless man?

I never thought much of the red phone booth beyond its use as a means of communication until I saw one in the Cotswolds that had been repurposed as a defibrillator. I wondered what had happened to the booth that had occupied such a prominent spot in our district and our lives.  

A little research on Google revealed that the red telephone booth was the creation of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect who also designed Waterloo Bridge. There were several versions over the years and even the red color, BS381C-B539, was defined. The design, or an adaptation, was exported to the colonies, which is how they got to Jamaica.

Repurposed red telephone booth, The Cotswolds

Repurposed red telephone booth, The Cotswolds

Our telephone booths had 4 large panes of thick, clear glass on each side that were framed by red strips. They were not soundproof so people nearby could hear your conversation if you were a loud talker and during the day, they got quite hot.  

I don’t know when the red telephone booth was removed (it was still there in the 1980s when I took a photo of it), but it sure occupies a special place in my memory.

 

Linking with Travel Photo Thursday and The Weekly Postcard.

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Van Gogh’s Ear at Rockefeller Center

Van Gogh’s Ear (and art) have fascinated the public for years. As the story goes, in 1888, Vincent van Gogh moved to Arles in the south of France to create a space for artists to live and work. He found said place and convinced his friend and fellow painter, Paul Gaugin, to join him. The two worked together successfully for months before the friendship soured and Gaugin decided to return to Paris. Van Gogh was so upset about the failure of the friendship that he took a knife and cut off his left ear lobe. After bandaging himself, he wrapped the lobe in newspaper and took it to a brothel where he asked Rachel, the girl he gave it to, to guard it carefully.

Van Gogh's Ear 1

Now, 163 years after van Gogh’s death, the artists Elmgreen and Dragset have created a public art piece they call Van Gogh’s Ear, in tribute the famous artist’s most famous external organ. The piece, located at the Fifth Avenue entrance to Rockefeller Center’s Channel Garden (across from Saks Fifth Avenue), is on display until June 3rd.

Van Gogh's Ear 3

An ear was not the first thing that came to mind when I saw Van Gogh’s Ear close up this week. The shape made me think, at first, of a gigantic bean (or giant foot) but with its Tiffany blue-looking interior and striking white edges, I decided that it looked more like a pool. But the silver steps on the right, the elongated strip at the top (the diving board) and the small circular lights at the bottom, convinced me.

Van Gogh's Ear.

But how does a pool become an ear? According to The Guardian, the artists, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, who have been working together since 1995 (longer than van Gogh and Gaugin were able to do), are fascinated with swimming pools. They’re also known for taking ordinary objects out of their usual context, like Prada Marfa, their installation of a Prada store in the middle of the Texan desert.

Van Gogh's Ear plaque

Van Gogh’s Ear is a pool, and it’s also an ear. When you look at the backside of the 30-foot installation, which stands upright on its wider end, you definitely see the outline of an ear. Bracketed as it is by towering brick buildings, the shock of color, whether viewed from the front (blue), or the back (white) where it seems to sit in a flower garden with two small pools, is eye-catching, and incongruous. But then, that’s the idea.

Van Gogh’s Ear Particulars

Location: Fifth Avenue entrance (between 49th & 50th Streets) to Rockefeller Center
Dates: April 13- June 3, 2016
Free

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday and The Weekly Postcard.  

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Portobello Road Market

If you like antique or flea markets, a trip to Portobello Road Market is a must if you’re visiting London. Portobello Road Market is a series of shops and stalls that run for almost two miles on Portobello Road in London’s fashionable Notting Hill area. At Portobello, you’ll find not just antiques and collectables but also vintage and new clothing, furniture, household goods, bric-a-brac, fruits and vegetables, restaurants and pubs. 

I went to Portobello Road Market in August on my last full day in London. Since Fridays and Saturdays are the Market’s busiest days, I decided to go during the week to avoid the crowds. I took the train from Paddington Station to Notting Hill Gate (you can also use the Ladbroke Grove station), and followed the signs – about a 10 minute walk – to the market. 

Portobello Road Market Dir

Even though it was a Tuesday, the Market was abuzz with activity and people and delivery trucks rumbling down the narrow street. I didn’t plan to shop but I knew if I saw something I liked, I’d buy it. An antique silver stall was my first stop. Several items caught my eye but I couldn’t decide and ended up buying souvenirs and gifts for family and friends at another stall.

Portobello Road Market flags                                                                                     

Portobello Road Market The Castle

I don’t remember where I saw this sign but its quirkiness drew my attention. I was surprised when I researched the name to discover that there really had been a Sir Edwin Saunders, who was Queen Victoria’s personal dentist. He was knighted in 1883. 

Portobello Road Marekt sign

Seeing these teapots, cups and saucers made me wish for a pot of tea. 

Portobello Road Market - Crockery

Colorful crockery at Portobello Road Market

If you go to Portobello Road Market, give yourself time – there’s quite a lot to see.  

Before You Go:

Portobello Road has five main markets: Antiques (Chepstow Villas to Elgin Crescent), Fruit & Vegetable (Elgin Crescent – Talbot Road), New Goods (Talbot Road to Westway), fashion (Westway), and second hand (Westway to Golbourne Road). 

Opening Hours:
Monday to Wednesday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest days at the market.

 

Linking with Travel Photo Thursday with hosts Nancie of Budget Travelers Sandbox, Ruth at Tanama Tales, Jan at Budget Travel Talk and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations.

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Also linking with Weekend Travel Inspiration. 
 

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This article was also featured on The Weekly Postcard at As We See It. 
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A Spectacular Approach to LaGuardia Airport

We were coming in to land at LaGuardia Airport on a particularly sunny afternoon a few months ago when I looked out the window – I always get the window seat for precisely this reason – and saw this:

Approaching LaGuardia Airport1

New York City

It was such a spectacular view, I grabbed my cell phone and moved closer to avoid the sun’s glare on the window. (Thank goodness, there was no dust and no watermarks.)

Approaching LaGuardia Airport2

The Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges cross the East River and connect the east side of Manhattan to Brooklyn.

Approaching LaGuardia Airport3

That patch of land in the foreground is Governor’s Island, a 172-acre island 800 yards south of Manhattan, which is on the left. To the north, is Brooklyn, one of New York’s five boroughs. (Staten Island, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx are the other four.) 

Approaching LaGuardia Airport4

Governor’s Island

Here we’re almost flying over Governor’s Island, moving towards Manhattan’s southern tip.

Approaching LaGuardia Airport5

Over Buttermilk Channel, which separates Governor’s Island from Brooklyn, going towards the East River. Governor’s Island to your left, Brooklyn on your right.  Manhattan ahead. 

Approaching LaGuardia Airport7

Continuing over Brooklyn towards Queens. That’s the East River on the left, Manhattan is across the river.

Approaching LaGuardia Airport8

Getting closer to the airport; getting closer to land.

Approaching LaGuardia Airport9

Named for the former New York mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, LaGuardia Airport is located in East Elmhurst, Queens, and overlooks Flushing Bay. Whenever I fly in to LaGuardia, I always look out the window and watch the approach. Since the bay is so close, it looks like we’re heading straight for the water. Finally, the runway comes into view. I always say a prayer of gratitude for the pilot’s skill. (If you’ve landed at Laguardia, you know what I mean.)

New York City from LaGuardia approach

LaGuardia is the smallest of the three major airports (JFK International and Newark Liberty International are the other two) that service the New York City area. It also has no immigration or border control so if you’re flying in from Canada, for example, you clear immigration before your flight departs.

Have you ever landed at an airport that has a tricky or unusual approach?

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday that Nancie of Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales, and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations.

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Also linking with The Weekly Postcard hosted by A Hole in my Shoe

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Be sure to head over to these linkups for more travel photos from around the world.