Portobello Road

I’ve been making UK and Mexico comparisons since…well, since forever, I guess. I visited a street in London just before Christmas that deserves a direct comparison with a very obvious Mexican counterpart. I used to regularly walk up Avenida Alvaro Obregon, near Metro Ninos Heroes. It’s one of my favourite places in all of Mexico City. Perhaps my mostest favourite. Especially on Saturdays when the antiques street market is in full swing. And when I could stop and chat football with one of the stallholders.

London’s version of Alvaro Obregon is Portobello Road. It sounds a little Latin, and for good reason. It’s name is derived from a battle in which the British navy seized the town of Puerto Bello in Panama from the Spanish. That town still exists, these days known as Portobelo. It sounds like the sort of town I’d like to visit. Portobello Road is better known these days as the location of the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts movie Notting Hill. And, for Paddington Bear aficionados, the location of Mr Gruber’s antiques store. If you must insist on a non-fictious real life inhabitant, then perhaps George Orwell will do. I know this from the blue plaque outside the house. He lived here in the last 1920’s. There are zillions of these blue plaques on the front of houses across the country, showing where the rich, famous and infamous have been.

Which is better? Alvaro Obregon or Portobello Road? They both have their charms. For the shopping, Portobello Road wins hands down. By a country mile. For the atmosphere, Alvaro Obregon triumphs. Not least because the sun shines, the people are more cheerful and the surrounding plazas are delightful. But like I said, they both have their charms. You can see my Portobello Road photos on Flickr or Google. You can also read about another Londoner’s trip down the road by clicking here – it was this post that reminded me Portobello Market exists.


Street Antiques

There are a fair few ‘informal’ street markets specialising in antiques, bric a brac, junk and plain old rubbish. Some of which desperately needs to be placed unceremoniously in a rubbish bin. There’s a fairly famous one in Zona Rosa, and another in the rather iffy Lagunilla market in Tepito. I regularly go to the Alvaro Obregon market for a wander, but today I turned away from that one and went in a different direction. Only to come across another market just a couple of blocks away. This one running around the four sides of a public park.

You can almost always find some funky stuff at these markets. Old Atari 2600 consoles with games. Old paintings, books and magazine. Flea ridden sofas. Tables and chairs that are being feasted upon by woodworm. Phones from the ’60’s. Watches, glasses, spoons, medals, stamps, coins, posters, sunglasses, toys, rugs….the assortment of stuff that finds its way to market never ceases to amaze me.

But there are two types of ‘antique’ that always fascinate me. Firstly, the amount of Nazi memorabilia. Its just not something you come across that much in the UK. World War 2 and Hitler’s Nazi party were and are a distant and bizarre turn of events in a world far removed for most Mexicans. Nazi helmets are not a rare sight on motorcyclists. And today I came across a mint condition Adolf doll, in box. I was almost tempted to buy it, just as a sort of strange and unusual momento from my Mexican adventure.

There’s also a plethora of old cameras. Really old cameras. Of all sorts of makes. Kodak, Zenit, Pentax, Canon, Yashica cameras. Some of which may still work. Others which may not. However, even if you find one in the former category, they make require a film that’s no longer made. I am really tempted to take a punt on one of these ancient cameras one day, if I can get a fair price on it. Just to see if I can get it to work, and to see what sort of photos I can get out of it. One day….


I have a new item for my Memories Box – a tin of bits and bobs collected in Mexico that I will keep for….well, memory’s sake. There have been a few incidents that have outraged sections of the population north of the border. Recently by Memin stamps, featuring a black charicature that was totally misunderstood by the black community of the US. And also an Absolut Vodka advertisement campaign, which focuses on ‘an ideal’ world, using the map on the beer mats below as an example!

I picked a pair of these mats up yesterday at the Alvaro Obregon market, very near Ninos Heroes metro station. It’s a very cool street market. No fruit, veg and fake clothing here, although there are one or two stalls selling pirate music and DVDs. This market features art and antiques. Well, sort of antiques. Fancy picking up an Atari games console, the one with wooden trim, that introduced Space Invaders to the home telly? It’s here. Along with countless old cameras and all sorts of trinkets. Along with some nice cafes and restaurants along the street, this makes the market a very worthwhile Sunday afternoon out.