Ghost Signs

These are a reminder of the past.  Usually on the side of a building and painted by hand, early in the twentieth century.  Many are visible, but so weather damaged they can’t be read.  Others are quite clear with faded portions.  Some others have had windows installed in the wall.  A few I’ve photographed have since been demolished.

Most of the ghost signs I’ve encountered have been in the US – mostly in smaller towns, but even larger centres, like New Orleans.

 

Chattanooga, TNGhost sign for the Grand Hotel, Chattanooga, TN

This one is a good example.  Located on Market Street in Chattanooga, the once stately Grand Hotel had fire proof rooms.  The third line has been decayed by time.  The Coca-Cola sign on the smaller building has had windows put through.

The former Grand Hotel was converted to apartments in the 1990’s.

 

Cincinnati, OH

Dennison Hotel, Cincinnati, OH
Ghost sign for the Dennison Hotel, Cincinnati, OH

The Dennison Hotel was originally built in 1892, but was not used as a hotel until about 1931. The hotel offered 105 rooms and 60 baths. In 1963 the building was sold, with the intention of converting it into studio apartments.  That did not happen.  Demolition came in 2017.

Read more here:  Death of the Dennison Hotel

 

St Thomas, ON

Ghost Sign Sutherland Press
Ghost Sign Sutherland Press

The Sutherland Press was located on Talbot Street in downtown St Thomas, Ontario, Canada.  Built sometime in the late 1800’s it had been abandoned for years.  There was an effort made to convert the building to apartments, hence the new windows.  These plans did not come to fruition.  Abandoned again, the city had to block the sidewalk in case the front of the building collapsed.  Demolition took place in 2018.

 

 

 

Swoop Airlines Keeps All Your Money

In February 2020, Swoop Airlines had a great sale for flights from London Ontario (YXU) to Winnipeg, Manitoba (YWG).  All in the cost was about $150, including baggage. I booked a flight for late May.

I have flown with Swoop twice before without issue.  It’s a budget airline.  I have flown to both Winnipeg and Edmonton, Alberta.

Swoop Airlines
Swoop Airlines is a budget service in Canada, owned by Westjet which in turn is owned by Onex Corporation

So…in April I’m sent an email – they are offering free rebooking.  This actually worked in my favour, as changing dates a few days in advance would free up time for something else.  I did, in fact, make a change.

Two weeks later I receive a second email.  My flight has been cancelled.  No explanation.  I can rebook (again, without charge) or take a credit.  I tried to rebook, except now the flight would cost 2.5 times more than I’ve already paid.  Under current Canadian law, if an airline cancels your flight, the consumer is entitled to a full refund.

Unfortunately, the Canadian government doesn’t see it that way, allowing all of our major airlines to sit on millions of dollars in money owned to consumers.

Three months later, I still have my credit.  Swoop no longer flies out of YXU.  They have repeatedly refused a refund.  Will I be flying with them again?  Very likely not.

The airlines (all of them) turn these canceled flights in “credits”. These expire after two years.  What’s lost in this scenario is the fact that we have paid good money for services that were never provided, and probably never will be.  I’m unlikely to get the same flight at the same rate in the future.  These “credits”, which expire, are consumers money.

Airlines are notorious for treating their non-status customers like dirt.  This is something that will never change.

After the Covid19 pandemic is behind us, consumers would be wise to remember those companies that did not treat us well.

 

In addition to Swoop – I am owed a refund by Iceland Air.  It has been promised since March, but has yet to arrive.    Condor Air cancelled my flight for October – one phone call and one week later I was refunded in full.

 

Airline Pin

 

Coronavirus and my Germany Trip

Everyone knows about the state of the world and Coronavirus.  It has had an effect on what we do in many ways.  Some things will be changed forever.

I spent January and February of 2020 in Tarpon Springs, Florida.  This had been arranged months in advance.  I had a lovely condo on a lake, almost like a small townhouse.  Although I call it small, it is actually larger than my permanent home in Canada.  Towards the end, information about the virus was just beginning to filter through.

I drove back to Canada slowly, stopping to see the Tuskegee Airmen NHS in Alabama, and spent a night in the elegant Hotel Finial in Anniston.  I was home two days later.

All things were fine until 12 March, when the hammer came down.  All stores and non-essential services were forced to close.  No explanation for why weed shops were considered essential.

Hamburg Travel Poster
Hamburg Travel Poster

Here’s where the fun begins!

I had a wonderful trip booked, departing 21 March, to Hamburg and Bremen, Germany.  I already have full knowledge that I won’t be going, so I begin the cancellation process.  Flixbus was easy, issuing full credit for future use.  It was a small amount, so if I never use it there’s no real loss.

The Hotel Novem was also not an issue, and neither was the Best Western in Hamburg.  Both reservations cancelled without question.

I was flying with Iceland Air.  YYZ-KEF-HAM and return.  Their first offer was to rebook, but I would be limited to booking the exact same trip.  Easy enough, but to rebook I’d have to invest another $500 for the flight – throwing good money after bad.

On 19 March they sent me the “you’re flight has changed” letter.  I’m now departing a day early, flying Air Canada to Zurich and then Swissair to Hamburg.  Not acceptable.   Although they again offered a credit, I explained that under Canadian law, because they have changed my flights, I am entitled to a full refund.  No exceptions.

It has been promised, but I’m still waiting six weeks later.

I had booked two nights at the Best Western Bremen City Centre, and decided to save a few dollars by booking the advance pay rate.  No reason to expect I wouldn’t be going.

Most of the major hotel chains were offering full refunds, even on advance paid reservations by now.  Not so Best Western.  Their offer did not apply to international hotels.

Their first missive was a flat no refund. Policy.

Their second missive was a request for a doctor’s note!

Their third missive was that I could cancel if I was travelling on business, but not for pleasure.

Finally, the caved, but not fully.  They kept $80 as a “cancellation fee”, which given the current world conditions was despicable.  Someday, if I book this trip a second time, this hotel will not be under consideration.

 

Next, I’ll tell my story about Swoop Air – another despicable company.

 

 

 

 

 

Cemetery Tourism

Ghoulish, some would think.

Many places we travel to are burial sites or monuments to a deceased ruler, politician, or somebody of importance. Cemeteries can be located beside the historic site one is visiting or can be found quite by chance.

Cholera Monument

Cholera Monument

Vacationing in England a few years ago, I took the train from Lincoln to visit Sheffield one afternoon. This time I chose to exit the train station away from the city centre.

Located near Park Hill and Norfolk Park stands the Cholera Monument. The cholera epidemic happened in 1832, and the monument was erected in 1850. Three hundred and thirty-two victims are buried nearby.

St Thomas Anglican Cemetery

St Thomas Anglican
St Thomas Anglican

The Old St Thomas Church was built in 1824, and was in regular service for worship until 1877. It is surrounded by a pioneer cemetery.

The church is open for service and tours during the summer, while the cemetery is available all year.

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery
Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery

Located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this cemetery has the Atlantic for a backdrop (and on this day, a beautiful blue sky), and immediately to the west the  Castillo San Felipe del Morro 

The cemetery dates to 1863 and was originally administered by Carmelite Nuns. Free for you to wander.

Pierce Brothers – Westwood Village

Marilyn Monroe Grave Marker
Marilyn Monroe Grave Marker

Established in the 1880’s as an unnamed cemetery, in 1905 it became the Sunset Cemetery, and in the 1920’s the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Many Hollywood celebrities and regular folx are here.

Cemetery Tourism Pin

New York City – Historic Hotel Pennsylvania

I took a two week holiday to Spain and Morocco, exiting JFK.  Looking to extend my trip, I decided that four days in New York City wouldn’t be a bad idea.  Looking for a hotel proved daunting.  Expensive, as expected, but hotels are starting to add an “urban fee”, which is the equivalent of the “resort fee” in Las Vegas.  Charging you for something that used to be included.

I selected the Hotel Pennsylvania for a number of reasons.  The location is hard to beat, the price was reasonable (the highest night was $150.00), and I like places that have history.  It is located directly across from the former Penn Station.

Exterior, Hotel Pennsylvania
New York City

 The exterior of the Hotel Pennsylvania the evening of my arrival in NYC.

It isn’t much to look at from street level, just some columns and an expanse of doors.  Lots of people and traffic, mostly because Madison Square Garden is across the street.

Interior
Hotel Pennsylvania
New York City

Here’s an unused hallway on the ground floor.  An unused bank of telephones on the wall, some elegant lighting, leading to the doors for the restaurant and lounge, which is long closed.

Many buildings dating from the early 1900s have their own internal mail system, and the Hotel Pennsylvania is no different.  Although not in use, it remains polished and a reminder of the past.

Ballroom Stairwell
Hotel Pennsylvania
New York City

 Entrance from West 33rd Street – access to ballrooms

This, I believe was the access to the ballrooms on the upper level.  Possibly the counter in the background was used for the coat check.  Once again, everything remains clean and polished and a tribute to the past.

Entrance to the Penn 5000 Club
Hotel Pennsylvania
New York City
Entrance to the Penn 5000 Lounge

Lastly, the Penn 5000 Lounge, also located on the ground floor, and long out of use.

Background

The Hotel Pennsylvania was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and opened in 1919, and at one point was called the Hotel Statler.  It was also a Hilton, and the Hotel Penta, before returning to Hotel Pennsylvania in 1991.

Massive renovations took place in the 1980s, effectively covering over many of the historic aspects.

There was a threat of demolition during the 1990s, but as of this writing, the hotel is having massive renovations to its rooms, which are advertised as Penn 5000.

Pennsylvania 6-5000

The hotel’s phone number (212-735-5000) is original, and in the longest continuous use in NYC.  Celebrated in the song of the above name by Jerry Gray and Carl Sigman, performed by Glenn Miller, who would perform in the Café Rouge in the 1940s.

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