I’m not one prone to haunt beaches. I did spend a few days on Ambergris Caye in Belize a few years ago, but that’s about the extent of my tropical vacations. My visit to Puerto Rico was mostly limited to San Juan and a few outlying areas, including El Yunque Rain Forest.
I do like wandering cities. Walking the streets, enjoying the street art and graffiti (Athens), but mostly for the history. Old neighbourhoods and buildings are a delight, sometimes even more so when looking up.
Shanghai Pudong Airport
It’s modern, and it’s huge. Standard airport with lots of glass and seemingly endless shopping and eating experiences available, if you have time to kill. Looking up, this was the delightful ceiling in departures.
Keleti Station, Budapest
My last day in Budapest. I have checked out of my apartment rental, and took the long walk, suitcase dragging, to the train station, bound for Vienna. Keleti station opened in 1884 – a glorious building from outside. Inside it’s another story. The platforms seemed a bit grimy and dark, but looking up provided two lines of sky.
Located in England, building began in 1088 and it was consecrated in 1092. Part of the original cathedral remains, although there were many additions throughout the Medieval period. It was the tallest building in the world for 238 years. Perfect symmetry, even at this height.
Hyde Park, London
Sometimes, symmetry can be found right in front of you. Hyde Park was directly across the street from my hotel when I stayed in London in 2011. I was at Bayswater Road & St Petersburgh Place, and the bike share was immediately inside the entrance.
The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York, known by it’s common name, York Minster. Although there were previous churches on this site, this building was began in 1230 and completed in 1472. Note the dragon on the right.
So I have provided a sample of some of my favourites encountered during my travels. There are many more.
It was a long winter in Florida. The temperature was hot, which is expected, but after eight years of spending winter in the same location, I was seriously bored. Adding to that was America’s abrupt turn to the right with the election of Trump. After an internal review, I sold my condo in February, and I left Florida for good at the end of March.
My first major trip began in May. Although I originally booked with Air Canada, my flight was changed to Air Canada Rouge sometime before departure, which is a significant difference. Thirteen uncomfortable hours to Athens, Greece.
I stayed at the Best Western Museum Hotel, near the National Archaeological Museum. A decent area, very easy to get around. Four days later, I was off to the island of Santorini.
Both flights on Olympic Air were short but dreadful. Excessive baggage charges both ways. I was in Santorini for three days, then returned to an apartment in Athens.
I had a wonderful apartment, lots of room, a balcony off the rear bedroom and a huge balcony at the front with this view.
July brought a road trip to Thunder Bay, which turned into a circle tour of Lake Superior. First stop was in Sault Ste Marie. The next day I passed through Alona Bay, Batchewana Bay, White River, Schreiber (where they have a cute railroad museum), and the Terry Fox Monument before arriving. Should have scheduled more time, this was much too long.
I spent three days in Thunder Bay for the Blues Festival, before moving on to the south shore of Lake Superior, with stops at Split Rock and Iron Mountain. Drove through the upper peninsula of Michigan (No phone signal!) and spent my final night in Alpena.
Lastly, in November, I made my first trip to China.
I had booked this eleven months prior – Sinorama has a yearly sale in December and these trips are very cheap.
Air Canada again – and another thirteen hour flight over the pole.
We started in Beijing, then flew to Chongqing. We were four days (ugh) on a river cruise down the Yangtze and the Three Gorges Project. Spent one night in Wuhan, than took a train to Shanghai.
Those were the big trips of 2017. I’ve eliminated the smaller ones for space consideration, but there were several road trips around Florida, once to Kingston and twice into Michigan.
The RMS Olympic was a cruise ship on the White Star Line. Launched in 1910, it would be in service until 1935 – part of that as a troop ship in WWI. It was the largest liner in the world from 1911 – 1913, except for the Titanic (also a White Star Line).
Her maiden voyage began on 14 June, 1911 in Southampton, England and finished in New York City on 21 June, 1911, seven days later.
The Olympic was retired in 1935 and sold for scrap Olympic had completed 257 round trips across the Atlantic, transporting 430,000 passengers on her commercial voyages, travelling 1.8 million miles.
Very early in 2017, I learned about the Thunder Bay Blues Fest. The event features 100% Canadian talent, so I booked a VIP pass and began making plans. Held during the first weekend of July, I made this into a road trip, planning to do a circle tour of Lake Superior. Two days driving, but it realistically should have taken three.
Day one was an extremely long, tiresome day, having to first drive partly through the traffic mess that Toronto has become. North on the highway, and by about 16:00 I was settled into the Watertower Inn in Sault Ste Marie.
First stop was Batchawana Bay, which is 71km north and west of the Sault. Two centuries ago you would see voyageurs here, sheltered from the storms of Lake Superior.
Moving 43km north, my next stop was Alona Bay. Here is Theano Point, believed to be the first uranium find in Canada. Also nearby, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Move along another 90km north, through Lake Superior Provincial Park, and the next stop is Old Woman Bay. There are cliffs with forests, and a beach for your pleasure.
We now move inland, through the small town of White River (with a cute coffee shop) and travel 284km north and east to Aguasabon Falls, just west of Terrace Bay. There is a well-built viewing platform to take you near the falls.
Travelling 204km west, we are nearing our destination. We know we’ve arrived when we’re at the Terry Fox Memorial, just outside of Thunder Bay. His goal was to run across Canada, beginning in Newfoundland. This is where he was forced to end his journey.
The Lyceum Theatre opened its doors in the former Port Arthur in 1908, with seating for one thousand. There have been many changes of ownership and usage, with the ground floor being used for office/retail.
Remodeled in 1932 for “talking pictures”, it closed permanently in 1955.
The Prince Arthur Hotel originally built by CN, is on the same street, and dates from 1911.
Thirty kilometers west of Thunder Bay is Kakabeka Falls, a waterfall on the Kaministiquia River. It is the highest waterfall in North America.
Early in 2016, Iceland Air had a seat sale to London. I waffled over this for some time, and left it up on my screen. $650 was a good price for a flight from YYZ – LGW, including a stopover in KEF on my return. Finally, after three days I went for it. Refreshed my screen, and the price is now $502. I would be on my way to York in a few months.
During the planning process, I thought I’d spend time in London and Manchester. My friend said why? They’re just two big cities. She’d go to York. Then somebody else chimed in that if you’re going to York, you should do Lincoln also.
I arrived in London Gatwick at 11:45 and easily sailed through customs. I had pre-purchased most of my train tickets, so my next stop was St Pancras International. King’s Cross was right across the street, and I was on the 15:08 to York.
I had some rudimentary instructions to get to my hotel, so I decided to walk it. I had to go past the Mickelgate Bar, and look for Scarcroft road. Down that street would be the Wheatlands Lodge Hotel.
Here we have a number of town homes converted into a hotel. There is a bar and they serve a great breakfast. My room was in one of the dormer windows. No elevator!
The second largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, construction began in the 1200’s. This is the main attraction in the centre of town, however there is still the original wall, and various gates (called BARS).
The Micklegate Bar is the original Royal Entrance. Think of King Henry VIII coming through here, or the severed heads of his enemies staked upon it.
St Mary’s Abbey
Located in the gardens of the Yorkshire Museum, the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, which was a Benedictine Order established in 1088. The Abbey was closed and substantially destroyed during the dissolution of the church by King Henry VIII.
September of 2016, I spent three wonderful weeks in England. I arrived at Gatwick Airport, hopped a train to St Pancras International Station, crossed the street to King’s Cross, and boarded another train north. My visit included York, Lincoln, Sheffield, London, Stratford and Bath.
I was staying in Lincoln for a few days, and one afternoon when I had nothing to do, I checked out the train schedule. For a small sum, and little travel time, a visit to Sheffield was in order.
On arrival at the train station, I exited away from the city centre. Up a rather steep hill, then a walk down Norfolk Avenue past the Shrewsbury Hospital Estate.
Further on, is the Cholera Monument Grounds and Clay Wood, part of Sheaf Valley Park.
First thing I notice is that it is very quiet. There are a few people jogging around the path, but not much else. A vast expanse of green, with the monument in the distance.
This park was used as a burial ground during the cholera epidemic of 1832. 402 victims are buried here, and the monument was erected in 1835.
This area is also the home of Clay Wood and Norfolk Park. The park opened in 1848 on land owned by the Duke of Norfolk. The park was officially given to the city of Sheffield in 1910.
At the entrance to Norfolk Park on Granville Road, exists an original Victorian light standard. Although originally gas, it has been converted to electric.
The Cholera Monument and grounds, Norfolk Park and the Lamp Standard have all been listed Grade II
It’s early 2017. We’re having decent weather on the sunshine coast of Florida. Mostly sunny, and starting to get warm. There has been very little rain, and only a couple of storms. My only travel has been local – to Orlando, Tampa and St Petersburg.
I’ve been spending my winters in Florida for the past eight years. I bought a condo in an adult only development. From here, I have been able to fly or drive to Puerto Rico, Belize, Las Vegas, Turkey, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Panama City.
Now, it’s time to go. The US government has made a sharp turn to the right, and I think it will get worse. I’ve sold my condo, and will be departing on 16th March, not to return.
Packing up the house is a chore, and most of what I own has been sold. I’ll be spending one night in Corbin, Kentucky, and should arrive in Canada by the 18th of March.
25th April – This is a bit up in the air at the moment. I have booked a few days in Lansing, MI, thanks to IHG Points Breaks. Since then, an event has come up in Warrendale, PA that I’d like to attend. Can’t do both, but I have some time to decide.
9th May – Today I depart for my first trip to Greece. I’ll be based in Athens, and have a trip to Delphi scheduled. There is a travel break to Santorini, then back to Athens. I have booked an apartment through Ebab which has a view of the Acropolis.
6th July – This week I’ll be doing a circle tour of Lake Superior, by car. First stop is Sault Ste Marie, then three days in Thunder Bay.
I’ll be at the festival for all three days, then departing on Monday for a leisurely drive to a place called Iron Mountain, MI. Two days later I’ll be back home.
7th November – This day I depart Toronto for twelve days in China. In addition to Beijing, I have a balcony cabin for a cruise on the Yangtze River.
That’s all that I have planned for this year, however I’m quite certain some smaller trips will work their way in. Beyond this list, I travel to Kenya and Tanzania in October, 2018.
2016 was not a great year for travel. Due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to spend my usual winter at my condo in Florida. I was in Canada from October until April 1st, when I went to Florida for one week.
Eartha Kitty stayed home for this trip. I took I75 south to Kentucky, where I turned onto secondary highways, passing through Crittenden, Dry Ridge, Williamstown, Mason, Corinth, Sadieville, Georgetown, Lexington, Nicholasville, Lancaster and Crab Orchard, finally settling in at Barbourville, KY.
Towards the closing of April, I went to Cincinnati for a long weekend, thanks to IHG Rewards Points. I stayed at the Staybridge Suites in West Chester out in the suburbs. No complaint; it was a decent hotel, and mostly free.
Surprisingly lots to do in Cincinnati. The American Sign Museum was a treat, situated near the old Crossley factory. The Taft Museum, Smashburger, the Findlay Market, the OTR Candy Bar and the Over The Rhine neighbourhood all worth a vist. Bonus for crossing the border to Newport, KY.
May brought a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. I stayed in a condo, on the top floor of an apartment building with a great view of English bay Beach. There was a new Nordstrom on Robson Street, and my first full day I had lunch at the Ovaltine Cafe on East Hastings Street. Late that afternoon, a trip to Horseshoe Bay and the Spirit Gallery.
Stanley Park, the Lennox Pub, Chinatown, the Vogue Theatre, Fountainhead Pub among the places I went. I rented a car and went to Whistler (Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre), Squamish, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Harrison Hot Springs.
June 22nd I arrived in Los Angeles for the first time, staying in Westwood. Budget provided me with a Kia Soul for the week, which turned out fairly good. Not nice to look at, but easy to drive and comfortable inside.
The Getty Center was a great trip, as was Santa Monica. Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills, The Walk of Fame, LACMA and the Petersen Automotive Museum were visited. Pueblo de Los Angeles, The Museum of Tolerance (Anne Frank exhibit) and the LaBrea Tar Pits were also included.
A side trip with friends took me to Santa Barbara and the Old Mission. I bought a painting, now hanging above my fireplace at the craft market at the waterfront.
Iceland Air had a seat sale, so in September I flew to England, landing in Gatwick on the 20th. From there, I boarded a train to St Pancras Station, switched to King’s Cross, and I was off to York.
I stayed at the Wheatlands Lodge Hotel – a series of Victorian town homes converted to a hotel; an easy walk to the Mickelgate Bar. York itself is a magnificent city dating to Roman times. One can walk the wall, visit the York Minster, the Yorkshire Museum and many other features. The Viking Museum was closed due to floods.
Highly recommended: a day trip through the Yorkshire Dales with BOB Holidays. It takes nine hours, and well worth it. Includes a stop at the “Oldest Sweet Shop in the World” in Harrogate and The Falcon Inn in Arncliffe.
A two hour train ride, four days later, and I’m in Lincoln. Everything seems to be uphill from here. I stayed at a B&B called The Poplars. Nice place with friendly cats.
Lincoln Cathedral is the highlight, as is the high street for shopping. While here, I took a side trip to Sheffield, checking out the Cholera Monument and Lime Avenue.
Four days later, I travel to London, where I stay for eight days.
One of the perks of travel with Iceland air is a free stopover in Iceland. I chose to take mine at the end of my trip, arriving on 4th October.
The entire stay was dogged with pounding rain, cold and violent winds. The Blue Lagoon was a wonderful respite, despite the weather. The Golden Circle Tour heavily marred by the storms.
There are a number of magnificent heritage buildings in downtown Vancouver, many of which are re-purposed banks.
At the turn of the 1900’s, banks gave their depositors a show of strength by building these monuments. By the end of the 19th century, most of these had been sold off and the banks now rented properties.
Henry Birk’s store was built in 1908 as a show of strength by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. It is located at Granville and West Hastings.
This was originally built as a Toronto-Dominion Bank in 1910. The bank abandoned this location in 1984 and the building became derelict. It was donated to the University in 2000.
Detail of the door on the right in the previous photo.
The former post office is located at the corner of Granville and West Hastings. Construction began in 1905 and the building was completed in 1910. The four clocks in the tower are twelve feet in diameter and were restored in the 1980’s. Similar to the banks, the post office (then ROYAL MAIL) built monuments.
The building was incorporated into the Sinclair Centre, part of a downtown Vancouver shopping centre, which incorporated several other heritage properties.
Vancouver is probably the most beautiful city in Canada. Easily walkable, with lots of neighbourhoods, parks and beaches to occupy your time.
They have demonstrated an interest in preserving heritage properties. I can only hope that this continues as gentrification comes to East Hastings Street.
WestJet had a seat sale, so I thought it was time for another trip to Vancouver, BC.
I usually book trips based on a seat sale and where I want to go. One of the conditions of this sale required me to take a flight with three stops. I departed from London, ON (YXU), next stop was Winnipeg, MB (YWG), followed by Calgary, AB (YYC), where we had an opportunity to deplane for thirty minutes, finally arriving in Vancouver, BC (YVR). Not a terrible way to spend an afternoon.
I had booked accommodation through EBAB – a site I have used before, although mostly in Europe. I just off Davie Street, within walking distance of English Bay Beach.
It was evening when I arrived. The apartment owner picked me up at the airport, and made dinner. I settled in for the night.
Early the next morning, it was time to venture out. I took a wander down Robson Street, where I had stayed on my previous trip. Locals are making a big deal over a new Nordstrom store that recently opened. Lunch brought me to the Ovaltine Cafe on East Hastings Street. It’s easy to see that gentrification is encroaching.
Late afternoon the apartment owner calls, asks if I want to take a trip! He picks me up downtown, and we’re off to Horseshoe Bay. It’s a small village nearby in West Vancouver. We stopped into the Spirit Gallery, where I bought a piece of native art for my home. It barely fit in my carry-on.
We returned to Vancouver and had dinner at the apartment. I went for a walk in the dark, toward the Pacific Ocean, where I discovered that at the end of Davie Street is English Bay Beach. Great for a little evening relaxation.
My trip starts out well, with a packed first day. Six more days to go. Early mornings, late evenings, lots of walking, a car rental, and side trips to Harrison Hot Springs, Chilliwack and Whistler.