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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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A Hole In My Shoe

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. 
As We Saw It travel photo blog

A Photo Review of 2015

The end of the year usually inspires reflection on the year that’s ending and a look forward to the one that’s approaching.

Maybe it’s getting older, but it seems like time moves more quickly now (I’m beginning to hear myself lamenting its rapid passage just like my mother did. I, however, prefer to think that I’m packing in 1000% more into my life, and this makes the days, weeks and months zip by in a blur). So it’s good to have this time to slow down and look back.

Photos are great for doing that. Think of them as moments of emotions frozen in time, that are re-released each time you look at them.

Unlike previous years, I didn’t have many new travel experiences in 2015 – or so it seemed until I started looking at my photos, a lot of which never made it to the blog because I didn’t post as often as I used to.

Still, whether I’m in Montego Bay or New York, I’m in a prime vacation destination. People, lots of them, leave home to see the things I pass by without noticing.

A Photo Review of New York

Take Times Square, for example. I avoid it as much as I can but every so often, it surprises me. Like the night I was hurrying through after seeing a play and saw this: two giant, colorfully illuminated lights wishing Happy Birthday to the late Bob Marley, the reggae superstar who would have been 70 last February 6th.

Times Square Marks Bob Marley's 70th

Times Square Marks Bob Marley’s 70th

Later that month, during Japan Week, I watched as a bride-to-be (winner of a contest) was dressed in a traditional wedding kimono, called uchikake, in Grand Central Station. Japan is a country steeped in culture and tradition so it was fascinating to watch this demonstration. 

On a personal note: I started learning Japanese this year. Hopefully, by the time I make it to Tokyo, I’ll know enough to get around.  

Bride-to-be being dressed in traditional wedding kimono

Bride-to-be being dressed in a traditional wedding kimono – Japan Week 2015

It goes without saying that the arts are big in New York. Here’s a look back at a few of the exhibitions I saw last year. 

I went twice to Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery to see Romare Bearden’s collages, drawings and watercolors that he based on Homer’s epic poem, The Odessy. I’m a Bearden fan – I even have one of his collages – but this piece touched me to the core. 

House in Cotton Field, Romare Bearden

House in Cotton Field, Romare Bearden

At the Brooklyn Museum, I revisited Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, which is on permanent display. Each time I see it, I marvel at Chicago’s vision and her celebration of womanhood.

The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago

The Dinner Party, Judy Chicago

Also at BAM, I saw Kehinde Wiley’s, A New Republic – portraits of contemporary blacks painted against Old Master backgrounds, like the one below of Michael Jackson on a horse. I also breezed through (the museum was closing) Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Unknown Notebooks

Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson) Kehinde Wiley

Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson) Kehinde Wiley

I rush to see Cecile McLorin Salvant, who at 25, has been called a jazz “phenom.” The Grammy Award winning artist has a voice that recalls Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Betty Carter. She grabs hold of your attention whether she’s singing in English or French, her own compositions or jazz standards.

Cecile McLorin Salvant performing at Ginny's Supper Club

Cecile McLorin Salvant performing at Ginny’s Supper Club

When the Whitney Museum of American Art relocated to its new building in the Meatpacking District this spring, it hosted a Block Party that drew thousands of visitors. Although I hate crowds, I was curious to see the new space. Plus, the warm temperature made it the perfect weekend – the one where you linger over brunch, look at art and take long walks. 

Museum goers at the Whitney Museum's Block Party

Museum goers at the Whitney Museum’s Block Party

We waited on line for close to an hour (the museum handed out bottled water) however, by the time we got to the inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See, I was so over stimulated visually, I couldn’t appreciate anything I saw. I just wanted to get back outside. 

High Line Park

High Line Park

We walked the length of the High Line from the Whitney (Gansevoort Street, south entrance) to the north end at 34th Street. It was a glorious day to be out.  

In June, we saw Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, run the 200 meters at the Adidas Grand Prix at Ichan Stadium. 

Usain Bolt after winning the 200m, Ichan Stadium

Usain Bolt after winning the 200m, Ichan Stadium

I love going to Coney Island but I prefer the quiet of the off-season when there are no crowds and I can hear the sounds of the waves crashing to shore, birds cawing overhead, walk the beach and look for shells.  

Luna Park, Coney Island

Luna Park, Coney Island

Coney Island beach. Where's Everyone?

Coney Island beach. Where’s Everyone?

Soon the hectic pace of summer gives way to the calm of fall. This year, we hosted Pope Francis, as well as more than 150 heads of state, including President Barack Obama, at the UN General Assembly.

Since my office is close to the UN and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the Pope celebrated mass, I had to plan ahead to avoid street closures and ‘frozen zones.’ I’ve never seen Fifth Avenue so deserted. 

Fifth Avenue closed for the Pope's visit

Fifth Avenue closed for the Pope’s visit

The first Sunday in November, the city slows down for elite and everyday runners and wheelchair athletes who come from all over the world to participate in the New York City Marathon.  

Wheelchair athletes

Wheelchair athlete – I doubt this is as simple as it looks

Marathoners

Marathoners, photo taken from my window 

New York does it up big for Christmas and the UNICEF Snowflake Star at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue is an important symbol of the season. 

The Star

The Star

A Photo Review of 2015’s Memorable Eats

Aren’t these cupcakes eye-catching? 

St. Patrick's Day Cupcakes

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

When I lived in DC, my colleagues and I would go to Cristfield Seafood for lunch every payday. My favorite thing on the menu: a cup of lobster bisque and a shrimp salad sandwich. The salad was so stuffed with shrimp, I’d save half for dinner.

I returned to Cristfield’s after my White House tour and was pleasantly surprised to find the bisque and the sandwich taste exactly the same as they did the last time I had them – more than 10 years ago.

Shrimp Salad Sandwich

Shrimp Salad Sandwich

Whenever we visit my friends in Toronto, they always have a hot, new restaurant for us to check out. Last time, it was Quatrefoil and I selected this entree.

Year in Review - Quatrefoil Restaurant, Toronto

Salmon Meal, Quatrefoil Restaurant, Toronto 

The first time I had bangers and mash was at The Shakespeare in New York City, just before my trip to London. My writing group had one of our social events here. 

Bangers and Mash, The Shakespeare

Bangers and Mash, The Shakespeare

My 2015 Travels in Review

So where did I go in 2015? I visited Toronto a few times but my major trip was to London. I’ve written several posts about London, Stonehenge and Oxford. Stay tuned for my posts about Edinburgh, where I spent a day. 

If you read paperbacks, I’m sure you recognize the logo. This plaque marks the location where Penguin published its first paperback. 

Penguin

Penguin

Ede & Ravenscroft, London’s oldest tailor and robe makers, has been around since 1689. In case you’re wondering, they also do women’s clothing.

Ede & Ravenscroft Royal Robe Makers

Ede & Ravenscroft Royal Robe Makers

This needs little explanation.

Look Right

Look Right 

Red phone boxes similar to these probably made their way to all of Britain’s colonies – we had some in Jamaica. But with cellphones so ubiquitous these days, phone boxes are not so necessary anymore. After I took this photo, I noticed that there was a guy sleeping in the middle booth. 

Iconic Red Phone Booths

Iconic Red Phone Booths

I look forward to flying into Laguardia Airport for one reason – this incredible view of New York City.

Aerial View of New York CityAerial View of New York City

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog and for taking this look back through 2015 with me. 

In appreciation for your support, I’d like to offer you a chance to win one of ten GPSMyCity‘s Self-Guided City Walks Apps. The app is available on iOS and Android and you can select one for the city of your choice (Please check the GPSMyCity for a list of cities). 

If you’re one of the ten lucky winners, you’ll receive a promo code that will allow you to download a full, FREE version of a City Walks app. The app includes a detailed, fully functional city map and several carefully selected self-guided city walks.

 
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Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday, hosted by Nancie at Budget Travellers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales, and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations. Be sure to check them out!

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London: A gateway to the UK’s other cities

The majority of people that travel to the UK seem to settle for just seeing London. It’s a shame, because the UK has a lot more to offer than just the business capital of the world. One thing London can be extremely useful for is it can act as a gateway for extensive travel if you wish to venture out of the urban metropolis that is London.

London, Manchester

Manchester

With direct bus routes and trains to practically everywhere in England, Wales and Scotland there are so many places that are attainable to visit – even if it’s only for a day trip. In England alone, the options available are boundless with cities like Oxford, Cambridge and York steeped in tradition. However, when it comes to recent cultural significance, Manchester could potentially be one of the most interesting options to consider.

Manchester has a vibrant nightlife, a bevvy of world-renowned restaurants ran by some of Europe’s most ambitious and creative executive chefs as well as a bustling music scene. It’s a cauldron of artsy types that have been making waves since the 80s when it was arguably the city’s most creative period.

The music scene…

Back in the 80s, Manchester was the home to the acid-house movement as well as producing some of the indie world’s most successful bands. The majority of which got their start as the famous Hacienda which was ran by Factory Records and indie band New Order. Unfortunately the site has now been turned into flats, but you can still walk round the region and take in what was the birthplace of many iconic British bands. Joy Division, New Order and Stone Roses all got their start at the Hacienda among others.

The Universities…

Manchester Metropolitan and the University of Manchester all add to the live entertainment offerings of the city. Built into the University of Manchester campus the various Manchester Academies host some of the best in new music and are worth checking out. In total there are 4 venues, which differ in size and host clubs nights as well that are open to tourists, locals and students.

Art Galleries…

Manchester has a significant amount of well-respected art houses that regularly put on exhibitions. Among the most visited is Manchester Art Gallery, which is located just off Princess Street in the centre of Manchester. It’s open 7-days a week between the hours of 10am-5pm.

The rich sporting history of Manchester…

Aside from its recognisable cricket ground, Old Trafford which regularly holds England test matches, the city is also home to two of English football’s most famous teams. Manchester City and Manchester United have an illustrious past with the latter being one of the most successful clubs in world football. Manchester United’s stadium holds 70,000 people and is a fantastic sight if you get chance to pass by the area.

Accessing Manchester from London…

There are direct trains and buses that run straight from London. If you are to get a train, these run throughout the day from London’s Kings Cross. However, this can be quite an expensive form of travel especially if you’re booking tickets last minute or during rush hour periods.

For alternative travel you could look at considering flying from London to Manchester. Many low budget airlines fly out of Heathrow and Gatwick directly to Manchester International Airport, which is considered one of the busiest airports in the UK. If you can find a cheap flight, this is probably the most efficient option as the airport is only a stones through from the city centre.