May 1, 2022

Portobello Road

Way back, when I was in college, the last summer before graduation, I decided to do a study abroad session courtesy of the UNO Innsbruck International Summer School. This is a 7 week summer school program in Innsbruck, Austria. I was in need of 2 courses of “fine arts” to complete my engineering degree, and this seemed like a great way to get that done.

As part of the study program, they were offering a 3 week tour starting in London, heading down through Paris, across through Pisa and finally winding up in Innsbruck.

So the summer began with a plane ride to London with the 40 or so other attendees of the program. We landed mid week, and met up with our tour guide and two bus drivers the day to set up the schedule for the remainder of our time in London. We were to start the next day and do all the various toursity things while under the guide of David, our docent. The schedule had us departing London on Sunday morning.

We had a couple of days in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminister Abbey and such, but on Friday afternoon we were released on our own to see London. After dinner, I was reading through one of the guidebooks which were so common in the day, and stumbled across a listing for the open market on Portobello Road held every Saturday.

On Saturday, after sharing breakfast with the troupe I headed out to see what Portobello Road was all about. Getting there, I was absolutely gobsmacked by the breadth of displays and the number of people in attendance. It was a wondrous place full of things exotic and it left quite the impression on this then 20 something young man.

Fast forward to the modern day, and Portobello Road is still a thing on Saturday. I’ve been traveling to London every other year for Oceanology since 2010, except for 2020 of course, and have made the opportunity to visit Portobello Road whenever I can.

This year was no exception. After a prolonged UBER ride from Heathrow to the Melia White House, luckily my room was open for check in, so I left my bag in the room, grabbed the camera and headed out. The cool thing about the Melia White House, it’s within a block of 3 metro stations, so it’s easy to pick the most efficient route to wherever you are going. As a sidebar, the Melia White House is a very nice hotel and I can recommend it for those looking for a hotel in London. It’s not the cheapest thing in the world, but it’s much better than other places I’ve stayed that were the same price or higher. Highly recommended!

Getting on the Paddington Metro at Great Portland I headed out to Notting Hill. It was mid afternoon by this juncture, but the market was in full swing.

Walking the length of it, it was definitely more commercial than I remembered, with many of the displays being fronted by established businesses and such. It has expanded into the side streets and such from what I remember, so walking the entirety of it took an hour or so.

As this is a photography forum, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Fuji X-T2 with the XF18-55 OIS zoom was my trusty companion on this trip:

When packing, I made a decision that I was going to travel light this time, with only my trusty ebags Mother Lode Travel Backpack to carry. Still not certain this was the right choice, but it definitely limited the amount of clothes and stuff I could carry, and the camera decision was crucial one.

Originally my plans were to bring the X-T2 with the triumvirate of lenses as discussed in a previous post, but that option was quick shelved for shear lack of space (and weight) . So the the X-T2 went into a Think Tank Slim Changer which fit into the Mother Lode quite nicely. I threw a couple of batteries, the Nitecore FX-1 charger and a spare SD card into the bag and that was it. Light travelling.

Saying that, if I was to do all this again, I would figure out a way to bring the XF10-24 OIS UWA. We can talk more about that later.

So, back to Portobello road. It is a couple of blocks from the Notting Hill metro station, and as I got closer, the crowds began to build and signs began to appear. The excitement was building!

My entrance to the market was in the middle, so turning right, I headed north and just began meandering. Just to make certain I remembered where I was (it was the afternoon of a red-eye flight with limited sleep overnight), I grabbed this shot:

One of the things that fascinated me about Portobello Road the first time I was there were the stalls of cameras. While the numbers of stalls have dwindled over the years, the camera vendors still have a presence at the market. There was a young lady with her family looking at cameras here and she picked up an Olympus OM-10 as she was looking for a film camera. She was looking through it, and it was clear that neither she nor her family had ever picked up a vintage film camera before, so, as best I could, provided some guidance. I mentioned to her that the OM-10 was fairly electronic and if she was looking for something as a starter, it might not be the best choice due to the electronics and really having no way to test them for functionality within the confines of the stall. There was an OM-1 at the other end of the table that I pointed her to saying it was a much simpler camera, and much more likely to work properly. I told her I started my photographic life with an OM-1 and could highly recommend it to someone starting that journey. Her father asked if I was a photographer, so I showed him the Fuji at the end of arm and he smiled a big smile at me.

I made a point to visit as many of the stalls of folks doing handwork and offering vintage items for sale as the flea market was in my memories from years past.

These folks were selling old books and such.

The scarves and linens offered here were lovely, although this was a fixed shop and not a stall.

And of course, the ubiquitous china and silverware stalls.

After getting all the way to the North end, I turned around and headed toward the south end. Once past where I entered the market, the crowds and displays thinned a bit, and there was brick wall with murals mounted painted on them which I found very interesting.

At that point, the day was getting a bit long, and with it I was withering as well. Heading back toward the metro, I grabbed a few shots:

Not quite certain what to make of this, but I had to grab a shot while walking by.

That’s all for today. Next time we will delve further into the London scene starting at Regent’s Park and ending at the home of the worlds most famous detective.

Stay tuned