Marcia Mayne travels a world full of books, music, art, fun people and great food. She raves about them constantly. Currently, she is journeying through Jamaica, her home country, to discover the places she missed.
Jamaica had a fantastic few weeks on American television when two reality shows, The Real Housewives of Atlanta and The Bachelor, filmed some of their episodes there. Although neither show appeals to me, I swallowed my distaste and allowed the storyline to take a backseat to the view unfolding on my television screen. I ended up catching more of The Bachelor than of the Housewives. Here are some of the places they featured (not in oder):
YS Falls, St. Elizabeth
The show centers around a young man who’s trying to find a marriage bride. In the episodes that were filmed in Jamaica, the prospective groom travels with one of the two female finalists to YS Falls. Located on a 2,00-acre spread in southwestern Jamaica, YS Estate and Falls is a former sugarcane and logwood tree (a natural dye) farm and privately owned stud farm. YS has its own waterfall – seven, to be exact – that reach to 120 meters with several natural pools.
The area surrounding the falls is lush and green. Visitors can swim, do canopy rides or just relax. There are also activities for children.
Good Hope Great House
I saw only a part of the episode that was shot at Good Hope Great House. When I tuned in, the couple was standing outside the house. Although the grounds are beautiful, I think the interior is even more stunning.
The Blue Lagoon
When they showed the couple at the Blue Lagoon, also called the Blue Hole, the popular local destination was unusually devoid of people but still recognizable. Located between the parishes of St. Ann and St. Mary, the Blue Lagoon, was not quite ready for international visitors when I visited a few years ago. It’s possible that the show could have rented it for filming.
It was great to see the Blue Lagoon on television. I was a little sad though as it’s one of those places that, given the choice, I’d keep for local use.
Do you ever go out of your way to watch a show that featured your country?
President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba later this month has its many detractors both here in the U.S. and in Cuba. Normalizing relationships is beneficial for both countries, for the region, and especially for ordinary Cubans, but Cuba will no doubt change. I wonder what will be lost.
I visited Havana in 2009 so I could see it as it is before America, with its fast food and chain stores, returned and reduced everything to bland sameness. Here are a few things I hope won’t disappear.
Callejón de Hamel
Located between Calle Arumburu and Calle Hospital and about 10 minutes’ walking distance from the US Interest Section (now the consulate) in Vedado, Callejón de Hamel pulses with Afro-Cuban music starting at about 11 a.m. on Sundays. The rhythms, the vibe uniquely Cuban.
Located about 20 minutes’ drive from Havana, the Centro de los Orishas in Regla is an open-air museum with wooden sculptures that depict the santería gods, Obbatala, Yemaya, Chango, Ochun, Babalu Aye, Eleggua and Ochun.
Billboard Free Cuba
Probably the first thing you’ll notice in Cuba is that there is no commercial advertising, no billboards hawking products. Instead, there are murals and signs extolling the revolution, and the country’s achievements.
We I found this 300m mural on Mercaderes Street, across from the Marqués de Arcos mansion. Created by the artist, Andrés Carrillo, along with the architect Jaime Rodríguez, sculptor Nicolás Ramos Guiardinú and students from the San Alejandro Art Academy, the mural is made up of 52 panels that depict 67 outstanding historical and artistic figures in Cuba.
Translated, this mural proclaims, “I live in a free country.” I’m sure the irony isn’t lost on the Cuban people.
Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara
I found this etching of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, the Argentine-born doctor, guerrilla leader and a major figure in the Cuban Revolution on a sidewalk.
And this one across from Plaza de la Revolución (if you’ve ever seen video of Fidel Castro speaking to a multitude of people, that’s where they’d gather). Interestingly, it almost faces the statue of José Martí, another important historical figure.
José Julián Martí y Pérez
There are several memorials to José Julián Martí y Pérez, a poet, journalist, revolutionary and national hero who was born in Havana more than 160 years ago and is revered as the father of the revolution.
However, to me, this one shows Martí’s humanity.
The inscription at the base reads, “to timely prevent with the independence of Cuba that is spreading through the Antilles the United States and fall with that additional force over our American lands. All I have done so far, and will do, is for that.” – Jose Marti, May 18, 1895, hours before dying in combat.
Havana’s Classic Cars
You’ll see these classic American made cars all over Cuba. Some, like this one, are surprisingly in pretty good condition. I wonder how quickly their Cuban owners will exchange them for much needed cash (and if the government will allow it).
One thing that, thankfully, has disappeared are the Black Flags. On February 6, 2009, the Cuban Government hoisted 138 black flags, each with a star, to commemorate the lives that were lost during the Bay of Pigs and other tragic events that the Cubans have attributed to the U.S. Government. Although the U.S. had no diplomatic relations with Cuba since 1961, it maintained a presence in Havana.
This photo doesn’t show it but the U.S. Interest Section is to the left of the flags. The building is several floors high and on the outside, near the roof, which lined up near the top of the flags, was a crawling informational sign with news and political information (Cuba controls information its citizens are exposed to). The thinking is that the government placed the flags there to obscure the crawling sign. The flags were removed in 2011 so the president will not see them when he arrives in Cuba later this month.
Change is inevitable, even in a communist country like Cuba. The challenge for the government is to manage the change as well as the expectation of its citizens, many of whom are like my friend, Emilio, who’s happy to establish relations with the U.S. As Emilio said, “La gente esta muy contenta por el restablesimiento de las relaciones entre los dos paises.”
Electric Avenue is the Brixton, South London street that gave its name to the song that was No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1983. I know the song and started humming it immediately after I spotted this sign above a row of stalls in Brixton Market last summer. However, I did not know about the street.
What a happy coincidence, I thought as I stopped to take this photo. I looked forward to sharing my find with family and friends when I returned home.
A few days later, as I walked down Electric Avenue with one of my cousins, a history buff and a child of Brixton, he pointed to the sign and waving his hand towards the street, announced quite proudly, “This is the first market street in all of Britain to get electricity, that’s why it’s called Electric Avenue. It doesn’t look like much now but can you imagine how it would have looked then?” I couldn’t but he had my attention.
Electric Avenue runs between Brixton Road and Atlantic Avenue. It has had electricity since 1888. Old photos show an elegant, gently curved street of Victorian row houses with distinctive iron canopies.
Now part of Brixton Market, Electric Avenue is a bustling area of street and indoor markets with restaurants, coffee shops, and stalls selling clothing, household goods, meat, fish, vegetables, and produce from Africa, South Asia and the Caribbean. Except for the canopies, which were removed in the 1980s because of damages they had sustained from World War II bombs, Electric Avenue looks much like it did in 1912. The row houses are still there though they’re now partly obscured by vending stalls.
By the time the British Guyanese singer, songwriter and producer, Eddy Grant’s eponymous song became a hit (in 1982 in Britain, 1983 in the US), Brixton had been home to thousands of Caribbean and African immigrants who began pouring into the area in 1948.
With few jobs and poor housing, crime spiraled. In 1981, the police instituted the ‘sus law’ that allowed them to stop and search anyone they suspected of criminal activity. A riot broke out causing hundreds of injuries, damage to property and scores of arrests. Although there is no mention of the word ‘riot’ in Electric Avenue (the song), and no rioting on Electric Avenue (the street) , it is this riot that Grant references.
Electric Avenue is easily accessible from the Brixton Underground and several London bus routes, including the 109, 250, 333 and 415.
For those seeking a memorable holiday that won’t break the bank, in this piece we’ve selected 5 budget destinations for 2016. These fabulous locations offer value for money while ensuring you get some indulgent luxury on your holiday.
With some of the most affordable beach resorts in Europe, sun-kissed Bulgaria may not remain a well-kept secret for long. The famed resort town of Sunny Beach offers a hedonistic mix of nightlife, beachside restaurants and luxury resorts. It’s all available at half the cost of the more popular coastal hangouts of Spain, Greece and Italy. Aside from beachside bliss, visitors can travel further inland for adventurous pursuits from skiing to rock climbing and caving.
Travelling to a far flung paradise may seem like a costly option but the great value all-inclusive resorts of Mexico remain an exception. In the lively region of Cancun, you can stay in luxury without the price tag and there are plenty of nearby attractions to enjoy. Swim with dolphins at Mexico’s largest eco park, admire the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and scuba dive the crystal waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Whether you’re planning a family vacation or seeking a romantic retreat, Portugal’s rugged coast is guaranteed to impress. The Algarve is home to a selection of resorts with something to cater for all budgets. In a region famed for its endless days of sunshine, it’s a great choice for fans of the outdoors. Hiking the many coastal paths promises stunning scenery that won’t cost you a penny.
Few places in Europe offer the scenic beauty and romantic allure of the Greek Islands. Although you’ll be spoilt for choice, Corfu remains one of the more affordable options and there are plenty of secluded places to stay. San Stefanos on the north of the island remains quiet throughout much of the year and features hidden coves without the crowds of tourists. Alternatively, those who enjoy some nightlife should stay at the town of Kos where megaclubs regularly host international DJs.
Spain’s Costa Del Sol which translates to ‘Coast of the Sun’ is a holidaymaker’s haven. With scores of boutique hotels and sprawling resorts to choose from, prices remain competitive throughout much of the year. For an authentic taste of the region, travel to Estepona which has kept its traditional charm intact. The winding streets of this coastal town are home to stunning historical architecture and some of the best tapas restaurants in the region.
Travel to one of these destinations on your next adventure, save some money and create some lasting memories. A trip to any of these destinations can be organised quickly and easily online. Once you go, you’ll never look at budget holidays the same way again.
Images by Redeo and Μanu used under Creative Commons License.
Several times a month, especially in the summer, I see ‘No Parking’ signs like these taped to utility poles in my neighborhood. I always stop and read them.
Which movie or television show will they be filming?
According to the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment’s website, New York City had a supporting role in 46 television series and 256 movies during the 2014-2015 season. The industry contributed $8.7 billion to the local economy.
With this much filmed entertainment, it’s not surprising to spot a star or two. But the city, with its many iconic locations, is without doubt, the real attraction.
Late last year, I took the When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour, which On Location Tour organizes. Starting from 55th Street near 8th Avenue, the bus tour winds it way around the Columbus Circle area into Upper Manhattan revealing 30 spots that were featured in classic and contemporary movies or television shows.
Tour guides are local actors and actresses who know all about the City’s rich movie history and share them eagerly.
As the tour got underway, our guide (sorry, I neglected to note his name) asked us to share where we were from. There were people from Toronto, Tokyo, Australia, Brazil, the Midwest, California and other parts of the US but I was the only person from New York.
The first location our guide pointed out was the Soup Man. You might remember it from Seinfeld. About the size of a New York deli, I had passed it without even noticing.
Towards Columbus Circle, our guide drew our attention to the statue of Christopher Columbus, which can be seen in several movies, including Ghostbusters.
Leaving Columbus Circle, we headed to the Upper West Side and Lincoln Center’s famous fountain. It’s really an impressive sight, especially at night. We didn’t stop but if you get a chance, go see it or look for it in Moonstruck, Glee, Sweet Home Alabama and Pitch Perfect.
At 69th Street and Columbus Avenue, we found the location, now an organic cleaners, of Meg Ryan’s bookstore in You’ve Got Mail.
We stopped for photos of Tom’s Restaurant at Broadway and 112th Street. Seinfeld fans will recognize it as Monks.
Still on the Upper West Side, we cruised pass Café Luxemborg, which you might remember from When Harry Met Sally, then stopped at long enough at Café Lalo for those who wanted to could get coffee. Café Lalo is where Tom Hanks attempted to meet Meg Ryan for their date in You’ve Got Mail.
If you’ve seen Manhattan, with Diane Keaton and Woody Allen, you might have seen Zabar’s on 80th & Broadway. Carmine’s on 91st was in Keeping the Faith with Ed Norton and Ben Stiller.
Central Park has played supporting roles in movies like Home Alone II, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Smurfs, Friends with Benefits, Angels in America, Elf, Kramer vs Kramer, and The Avengers.
On the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile, you’ll find the Museum of the City of New York where the star of television’s Gossip Girl goes to school; the Guggenheim Museum where Isaac and Mary meet in Manhattan; also Men in Black, When in Rome, and other movies.
Further down Fifth Avenue is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, our last stop. Who doesn’t want to sit on the graceful Met Steps, like the Gossip Girl did? The Met was also the setting for I Am Legend, When Harry Met Sally, Hitch and Maid in Manhattan.
The Carnegie Mansion was the backdrop for films like Arthur, Working Girl and Marathon Man.
We passed by these other Upper East Side locations before returning to 55th & 8th Avenue: the Lutheran Church featured in the Devil’s Advocate, the New York Armory in Boardwalk Empire (television show), the Met Life Building in Superman, Barney’s in Will and Grace, the Pierre Hotel in Scent of a Woman and the St. Regis Hotel from Miss Congeniality.
Current shows that are filmed in New York: the Blacklist, Blue Bloods, Elementary, Good Wife, Law & Order SVU, Limitless, Madam Secretary, Mysteries of Laura. Morning and late night shows such as Saturday Night Live, the Today Show, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Good Morning America, Live with Kelly & Michael, The View, The Chew, the Rachel Ray Show.
Also filmed in New York: Bridge of Spies, On the Town, On the Waterfront and West Side Story.
When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour Particulars
Duration: Approximately 2 hours
Cost: $37 (adults), $21 (children)
You meet the tour bus at McGhee’s on 55th between Broadway and 8th Avenue
The When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour was complimentary; this recap my own.
Mail and Fly is a service that sends you your items that have been confiscated by airport security.
Last August, I watched as my knapsack glided down the conveyor belt at Heathrow Airport and suddenly veered into another lane. It stopped behind a few others that were being hand checked by a security agent.
What did I have in my bag that caused it to need further inspection?
I searched my brain trying to remember what I’d stuffed into my bag. Nothing I could think of caused me to be concerned.
May I search your bag? she asked as she got to my bag.
You may, I replied.
I was impressed that she even asked but did I really have a choice? Not if I wanted to fly that day.
She pulled out my small cosmetic bag, took out my liquid lipstick, mascara, eye drops and a small tube (30 ml) of hand cream and put them into a clear plastic bag. Even though there was room to spare, she still weighed them.
I can’t tell you how many international airports I’ve traveled through with roughly the same items (which are as essential as food for some of us women) and they never raised an eyebrow – sculpted or not.
She continued rifling through my bag and when she took out two bottles of jam and said ‘we have to take these,’ I realized why my bag was flagged.
It’s jam, I said. Like surely, that can’t be prohibited.
No liquids, aerosols or gels, she replied dryly.
But it’s jam, I protested. It’s not exactly a liquid, neither is it an aerosol or gel. I was baffled and steaming.
I had bought the jams at the Jane Austen Center in Bath. Mindful of weight and airport security, I had selected the smallest size – about 3 ounces. The bottle, with the Jane Austen Centre label and its little fabric cover was charming. I was looking forward to spreading some on crackers and enjoying it with a soothing pot of tea when I returned to New York. Now they were being confiscated.
According to the UK Government website, liquid and semi-liquid foods such as soups, jams, honey and syrups are not allowed in hand luggage.
The question I’d love an answer to is, how can anyone use jam to take down a plane?
She must have seen my disappointment.
If you really want them, she said, you can have them sent to you.
I perked up. Really?
We can send them to you via Mail and Fly.
I’d never heard of Mail and Fly, which operates only in the UK, US and Sweden at the moment. She explained that it is a service that sends you your items that have been confiscated by airport security.
What a fantastic idea, I thought.
She walked away and returned a few minutes later with a large plastic bag into which she put my jam, sealed it and gave me its detachable flap that had a number and barcode.
Enter this number at the website and follow the instructions to get your jam mailed to you.
I logged into the site a few days after I returned to New York, mostly curious to see what it would cost to have my jams, which I paid about $5 each for, shipped.
Except for a little glitch with entering the item number (their instruction said to include the airport code but I discovered that it wasn’t necessary), the site was easy to navigate.
However, instead of the $30 or so I was willing to pay, my total was now a whopping £80.94! Back in August, it would have been $124.88.
Had this been a treasured item, sure, I’d grit my teeth and spend the money. But jam, even Jane Austen jam, couldn’t pry that money from my hands.
Mail and Fly keeps your item for up to 42 days. On October 7th, I received a follow-up email from Mail and Fly that the status of my item had changed. I logged in to find out that my jams were discarded. I wonder if it was or if it ended up in a store that sells items that have been confiscated by airport security.
Leaving Chastleton House, we drove directly to the Secret Cottage, which is about 5 minutes away. Built in 1580, the cottage has the typical thatched roof, with kitchen and living room downstairs, and sleeping quarters upstairs.
When we arrived, we were greeted with a colorful spread of scones, clotted cream, cookies, jams, coffee and tea.
With its crackling fire (sorry, no pics of the fireplace or the family’s living space), the cottage felt so cozy, I could have been tempted to stay but we had a full itinerary. Leaving the cottage, we stopped to admire Becky’s garden with its beautiful blooms. (Wish I knew more about flowering plants.)
I took a few shots of the flowers but I was most interested in the thatched roof. According to Robin, our driver, the roof is made from Norfolk or water reed and costs approximately £30,000 (about $45,000).
The reed, which is waterproof, is cut, dried and installed in layers. Once installed, the roof keeps the home warm in winter and cool in summer. I was surprised to hear that these roofs can last about 50 years. The ridge, however, must be replaced every 20 years. (Wonder how long a conventional roof lasts?)
Our next stop was the village of Lower Oddington, a preserved area with no new buildings.
The two villages, Upper and Lower Oddington, have about 400 residents. We exchanged waves and hellos to a few of them as we left the car.
Next was Adlestrop, a pretty little village of about 120 people. Adlestrop has a post office and a church, St. Mary Magdalene.
The poet, Edward Thomas (1878-1917) wrote a poem around 1912 which celebrated its beauty. Sadly, Thomas died in WWI, 5 years after the poem was published.
Jane Austen stayed at Adlestrop House, which was then the rectory where her mother’s cousin, the Rev. Thomas Leigh, lived. Adlestrop House was Austen’s inspiration for her novel, Mansfield Park.
When Mr. Boulton, the owner of the manor house died in 1914, he didn’t leave an heir. Fifty years later, they found someone to assume ownership but in the intervening years, many of the cottages fell into disrepair, some swallowed by thick vegetation.
Robin said that the new lord sold two of the paintings from the manor and got enough to renovate. Of 100 cottages, 80 are thatched, 90 are owned by the manor.
Approximately 150 people live in the village, which has a pub, the Falkland Arms.
The Rollright Stones
Near Chippen Norton, Robin slowed and pointed to the location of the Rollright Stones, a monument about the same age as Stonehenge. The Rollright Stones further establishes that this type of monument construction was common in prehistoric Britain.
Cotswolds Dry Stone Walls
Dry stone walls, like these are an enduring feature of the Cotswolds. Surprisingly, they are made without mortar or cement and can last for many years with little attention.
We drove through this picturesque town that is large enough (approximately 3,000 people live there) to accommodate tour buses, hence it receives lots of visitors. Bourton-On-The-Water is located on the River Windrush.
Upper and Lower Slaughter
Upper and Lower Slaughter (from the Old English word, Slohtre, which means muddy place) are two pretty villages located on the River Eye. Upper Slaughter is called a “sainted village” because it lost no one in WWI. `
Lower Slaughter has a waterwheel, and an old mill which has been converted into a tea shop and store. Although it is located near Bourton-On-The-Water, because of the narrow streets to the village, Lower Slaughter isn’t accessible to large tour buses.
Approximately 170 people live in Upper Slaughter, 200 in Lower Slaughter.
We also drove through the villages of Wyck Rissenton and Cornwell before returning to Secret Cottage for coffee and tea. Robin took us back to the train station at Merton-in-Marsh in time to catch the train to London.
Some Old English Words and Meaning
Chest, Shire – fortified settlement.
Chipping, from ‘cheapen’ – market.
City – has a cathedral.
Comb or Combe – valley.
Cots – sheep.
Dovecot or dovecote – a place for doves and pigeons. The scrapings are collected and used to fertilize the fields. Its size is usually a sign of the wealth of the landowner.
Ford, as in Oxford – a way across a river.
Ham, e.g., Cheltenham – a settlement.
Slaughter, e.g., Upper Slaughter – from Slohtre meaning a marshy, muddy area.
Staddle stones – used to prop up graneries to keep the rats out.
Ton, e.g., Oddington – an enclosure.
Town – a community of 1,000 people or more.
Wold, Wolde – a hill.
Some Famous Residents of The Cotswolds
David Cameron, PM
Secret Cottage Tour Details
6-hour guided tour of select Northern Cotswolds villages, tea, coffee, pastries, buffet lunch, and traditional cream tea – £85 or US122. For more info, check out the Secret Cottage site. Enjoy!
The Cotswolds covers an area of approximately 100 miles from Chipping Campden in the north to Bath in the south, and about 25 miles from Oxford in the east to Cheltenham in the west.
The region is covered in oolitic limestone, called Cotswold stone, which varies from honey colored in the north, to golden in the central areas, and cream or white in the south.
The stone is mined from local quarries (some still in operation) and used in building the distinctive cottages and churches, and walls, made without mortar or cement, that crisscross the area. Full of rolling hills and open spaces, The Cotswolds was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1966.
The Cotswolds has been on my radar for a few years and as soon as I decided to visit relatives in London, I started looking for tours to the area. I opted for a walking tour so that, like a delicious meal, I could move slowly and savor the experience.
Unfortunately, after one too many glasses of wine at my cousin’s birthday party the night before, my enthusiasm lost the battle to exhaustion. Although I woke up on time, I felt tired and instead of pushing myself, I relaxed.
Later, as my energy and reasoning returned, I started to regret not forcing myself to go. I knew I’d kick myself when I returned to New York so I pulled out my iPad and began another search.
I looked for tours of no more than 15 people that offered pickup from a railway station. Several fit the bill. I was about to book one I thought I’d like when I saw Secret Cottage‘s 6-hour guided tour of “hidden villages that are inaccessible to public transport.” I was sold.
In addition, according to Secret Cottage’s website, Becky, the owner, would invite us in for a peek at her cottage offer traditional English cream tea and pastries, as well as lunch.
I was excited (did a little Happy Dance), relieved and justified that I didn’t push myself to do the walking tour. The Secret Cottage tour would definitely be better – I knew it!
A few days later, I was on the 7:50 a.m. train from Paddington Station for the 90-minute ride to Moreton-in-Marsh (such a descriptive name, isn’t it?) in the Northern Cotswolds where Becky’s driver would pick me up at 10:15.
Two Mercedes SUVs pulled into the station’s parking lot at 10:15 sharp. Once the drivers sorted out who was waiting for the tour, we split into two groups of seven and got into the cars.
As Robin, our driver, eased out of the parking lot, he explained that the name Cotswolds comes from the Old English words, Cots (sheep, sheep pen) and Wold (hill). He also gave us a brief history of wool and its impact on the area.
A Wooly History of The Cotswolds
England, in the Middle Ages, was famous for its wool and the best fleece came from the Cotswolds, from the local Cotswold sheep. By the 15th century, wool was the country’s main industry.
England was so wrapped up in wool that the Lord Chancellor of the House of Lords sat on a woolsack, a chair made of wool.
During Charles II’s reign, the Burial in Wool Act of 1667 and 1678 directed that all bodies (except those who died from the Plague) had to be buried in wool; the coffins lined with the material. Anyone who violated the Act had to pay a fine. This Act stayed in effect until 1814!
The demand for wool created great wealth for The Cotswolds area merchants built lavish homes and fine churches. Many of these churches (called wool churches) were so large they dwarfed the villages in which they were located.
By the 1700-1800s, however, competition from wool production in other parts of the world caused a decline in the English wool industry and without a diversified economy, the country and The Cotswolds suffered. The decline had another effect: that of preserving much of The Cotswolds architecture that now makes it special.
Though wool is no longer its primary product, you can still see sheep grazing in the fields, as well as acres of barley, wheat, corn and rapeseed.
Chastleton Village, Chastleton House
As we drove from Moreton-in-Marsh to Chastleton Village, which has about 30 homes and 75 residents, Robin explained that villages have about 100 people, towns about 1,000, and a city has a cathedral.
Villages typically had a large house for the landowner, smaller cottages for the workers as well as a church, a shop and a school. The cottages traditionally had a room with a fireplace and kitchen on the main floor, living quarters on the upper floor that were accessible by a ladder.
Though it wasn’t open yet, we stopped to have a look at Chastleton House, which was built between 1607 and 1612 for Walter Jones. The house stayed in the family until 1991, when the National Trust acquired it. Seen from the main gate, it is quite impressive.
Robin led us round the back of Chastleton House, which was protected by a wall however, I was able to climb up and snap a photo. The best view was of the Topiary Garden.
A church, St. Mary’s, which dates to the 12th century, is located near the house.
Across the street, there’s a dovecot or dovecote, basically a large birdhouse for pigeons and doves where workers collect the droppings to use as fertilizer. The size of the dovecote is usually a pretty good indicator of the wealth of the owner.
One famous resident of Chastleton House was Robert Catesby, the leader of the famous Gunpowder Plot, the failed 1605 assassination plot against King James I.
In 1866, croquet rules were standardized at Chastleton House. It was also one of the locations for the 2015 BBC series, Wolf Hall.
Chastleton House is open Wednesday to Sunday, 12:30 – 3 from March to October, 12:30 – 4 from April to September.
In Part II, we’ll go on a tour of Upper Oddington, Adlestrop, Great Tew, and Upper and Lower Slaughter. Hope you stay tuned.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Photo Review of 2015’s Memorable Eats
Aren’t these cupcakes eye-catching?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This needs little explanation.
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.
I look forward to flying into Laguardia Airport for one reason – this incredible view of New York City.
Aerial View of New York City
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Christmas is only a day away but with temperatures in the 60s here in New York, if the city hadn’t decked itself out for the season as spectacularly as it has, you might be tempted to think it’s Spring.
To be honest, I’ve been a little preoccupied with work – and a cold that for the last two weeks has stubbornly refused to clear up. A few weeks ago, though, I read Michele at Malaysian Meanders’ post about Saks Fifth Avenue’s Enchanting Holiday Windows and was inspired.
I was also surprised, pleasantly so, to see a place I’m familiar with through someone else’s eyes. Instead of rushing past Saks’ window, as I normally do, after reading Michele’s post, I slowed down and looked, not just at Saks but also at the city.
I started looking at the decorations with different eyes – how long it takes to plan each show, how many people and time it takes to decorate and dismantle each display, what electrical cost might be, etc.
One Friday evening after work, I walked by Saks to take some photos and was surprised by the crush of people who had gathered outside the store to look at the windows. There was hardly room to walk as people stood cameras in hand, mesmerized by the light show which is synchronized to Christmas music. Being rush hour, traffic practically inched along Fifth Ave.
But it was worth standing on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-Ninth Street and watch for while. As the music washed over me, I felt my somewhat indifferent feeling towards Christmas lift. I smiled as I remembered Christmases past.
As I walked towards the bus stop that evening, I decided to get out by 7 a.m. to take some photos without the crowds and the traffic.
The following morning, I hit the main spots: Rockefeller Center, Saks, 59th Street.
Across the street from Saks is Rockefeller Center and the famous Christmas tree. This is the view towards the Rockefeller Center skating rink.
And the view towards Saks.
The corner of Fifty-Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue is lined with high end stores, like Tiffany, Bulgari, Bendel’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Burberry, Piaget – you get the idea – and they’re awash in lights.
Harry Winston shimmers like diamonds – each window a well thought out setting.