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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Seeing these teapots, cups and saucers made me wish for a pot of tea.
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).
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.
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
Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog and for taking this look back through 2015 with me.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
The Queen’s Theatre production of Les Misérables is a thrilling musical experience that has been shared by thousands of theatre-goers over the course of many years. Indeed, the show has seen over 10,000 performances in London, over 3000 of them at the Queen’s Theatre.
Based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo, the musical stage production of Les Misérables has been delighting audiences all over the world for over 25 years. Written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel and Herbert Kretzmer, the play follows the story of convict 24601, Jean Valjean, over the course of two decades. Over the years, Valjean attempts to redeem himself for his past crimes by becoming a respectable pillar of the community, a fair-minded employer and a loving father, all while being persistently followed by Javert, a man of the law whose strict beliefs allow no room for mercy or compassion.
Whenever you decide to book into a hotel in London, the first thing you’ll consider is the location. This is everything when you want to be sure you spend as much time exploring and as little time getting from A to B as possible. St Ermin’s Hotel in central London is popular for this reason, situated as it is close to St James’ Park. However it isn’t the only reason a stay here is an experience in itself.
Attention to detail at St Ermin’s
As soon as you walk into St Ermin’s Hotel you’ll realise why it is much loved by many people. Everywhere you look there are fine details that make this hotel a refined and comfortable choice to stay in. From the beautifully carpeted hallways and rooms to the relaxing chairs and the antique books filling the walls of the library, you’ll certainly be in for a thrilling experience.
There are special and attentive details to look for in other ways as well. For instance if you happen to be staying in one of the spacious and appealing suites we have to offer at St Ermin’s Hotel, you’ll be able to make use of the Club Lounge. This is where a tempting buffet breakfast can be found each day, along with the day’s newspapers. What better way could there be to start the day?
Dining at the Caxton Grill
Many people look for a hotel that provides a tempting restaurant as well. You’ll certainly get that at St Ermin’s, as the Caxton Grill is close by. Whether you want a light meal or something more substantial, you can be sure of finding just the right dish at the right time.
The hotel is also used to catering for all kinds of guests. There are those in a hurry to make a business meeting, who like the convenience of the Wake & Take breakfast from the hotel lobby. And there are those who are in London to enjoy the sights it has to offer. Whichever group you fall into you can be sure of enjoying the surroundings the hotel is known for.
Down to the finest detail
From the stunning welcome you get as you approach the hotel itself, to the staircase that sweeps up to the first floor, you’ll notice the finest details in every area of the hotel.
You can eat your meals in beautifully modern surroundings, and relax in stunningly appointed rooms. Everything has been taken care of in these four star surroundings, so whatever you get up to during the day you can be assured of returning to a relaxing, calming and laid back room to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
If the highlights are in the details, you can be sure of seeing many highlights as you settle into the hotel for your stay in London. St Ermin’s is a hotel you’ll want to come back to over and over again, so make that first booking today and you’ll see what there is to appreciate.
If you can’t beat ‘em, confound them! That seemed to be Danny Boyle’s mantra as he unleashed his fantastically whimsical, crazy-mad, nostalgic bells-and-whistles-of-a-British-history-lesson to an astonished world at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London.
Remember Beijing? So pristine, dignified, awesome and, well, staid? There was no way that ‘Great’ Britain could even come close to matching the jaw-dropping spectacle, precision, and spending power of the Chinese, so why even try?
That seemed to be Boyle’s attitude as he elected to celebrate Britain in its glorious idiosyncratic miscellany. Hence, the spectacle of a ‘parachuting’ reigning monarch, appearances by real, fictional and hackneyed ‘celebs’, a hodgepodge of musical genres and the biggest faux self-mocking cum self-aggrandising, barnstorming circus in town.
Last year was another fabulous travel year for me. I visited London for the third time and Paris for the first time, though it was my second trip to France. So here’s my Best of Travel 2011 roundup —
Best Domestic Travel Destination: To me, Washington, DC is the best domestic travel destination because it has so much to offer. The National Mall, the White House, galleries and (free!) museums, theater (not as many as NYC but still good and good bargains), restaurants, festivals like the Folk Life Festival, the National Book Festival, etc. Whether you’re looking for history or entertainment, Washington DC is the best place to be and the best part? It’s compact – you can cover a lot of territory over a few days.
Best Travel Experience: I’ve been fascinated by Stonehenge since I saw a documentary about it several years ago and added it to my Must See List. As soon as I decided on the dates for my UK trip, I booked a tour. The best part was that the group was small enough so that we weren’t tripping over each other. We could go into the circle and get up close (but not touch) the monument. The tour also took us through the bucolic English countryside and Bath, a very historical and picturesque town.
Best International Destination: My best international destination for 2011 was, without question, Paris. I love Paris – it’s all of the things we’ve heard, and more — romantic, picturesque, fashionable, etc., and though I felt a bit intimidated by the stories I’ve heard about Parisians looking down their noses at people dressed in jeans, I never felt out of place or slighted. In fact, I met quite a number of friendly Parisians. One night, I got talking to a waiter and when he found out where I was staying and that I was traveling alone — it was nearly 10 p.m. when I finished dinner — he called one of the waitresses who was taking the same train and told me to wait for her so we could travel together. Although I could have found my way back to the hotel on my own, I was very touched by his kindness.
Worst Travel Experience: My worst travel experience in 2011 happened before I even left my destination. I turned up at the airport to board my flight on Spirit Airlines and got a huge surprise. I owed $93 in baggage fees! I was so furious at myself for not paying attention to the fine print — I know better (or should) — that I forgot that I wanted to buy a few gifts in the duty free shop. The worst part is that on the return leg, I couldn’t figure out how to pre-pay and ended up paying again. Suddenly, the deal that I thought I had worked out to be one of the most expensive New York/Montego Bay tickets I’ve ever bought.
Most Embarrassing Travel Experience: Last year, my travel was embarrassment-free but 2010 wasn’t. I started to feel sick the day I was scheduled to return to the US from Johannesburg, South Africa. My body felt weak and I began to sweat. I didn’t know what was wrong – I didn’t think it was a cold but by the time I got on the flight, I was sneezing. I was so petrified of coughing that before I finished a cough drop, I’d pop another one. I felt awful. I still think of the people I know I passed my cold on to. Thanks goodness, it was a night flight so (hopefully) my no one remembers my face! The best part was, I was traveling with two friends who were also coming down with colds so I didn’t infect the people on either side of me. The worst part is, our row probably passed our colds on to everyone in coach.
Best Local Destination: Since I relocated from New York City to Jamaica last year, I’m going to take the liberty to name two best local destinations. In New York, the best location destination is Coney Island. It’s a place where you’ll find everyone – toddlers, young adults, couples, singles, grandparents – and there’s a variety of activities for everyone, from the hot dog eating contest over the July 4th weekend to summertime fireworks displays to roller coaster rides.
My best travel location in Jamaica is Treasure Beach. It’s laid back, it’s funky, it’s fun. It’s just a charming location that I’ve written about several times.
Best Travel Lesson: When I visited Paris last year, it was the first time that I traveled on my own to a place to a place where I didn’t know a soul and no one was meeting me when I arrived. Thank goodness, I know some French so I didn’t feel completely at sea. Interestingly enough, I was very excited the morning I left for Paris — it’s probably the most excited I’d been in a while about a trip. It turned out to be a very liberating experience and surprisingly, made me feel very grown up.
Now, I get the pleasure of inviting the following 5 bloggers to write about their Best of Travel 2011.
I love to see places I recognize in my favorite films or movies. In Die Another Day, I was tickled when I saw the press conference Gustave Grave, the villain in this film, held in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace. The Palace Press Office handles all requests for permission to film on the grounds.
This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!
Designed by Norman Foster, London House also known as London City Hall, was opened in 2002. Because of its unusual shape, it has been referred to by the former mayor as “The Glass Testicle” and as “The Glass Gonad” by the current mayor, Boris Johnson. It’s popularly called The Onion.