Monthly Archives: November 2014

Pensacola, FL

IHG Hotels has a program called “points breaks”.  Several times yearly a number of hotels are available for the bargain rate of 5,000 points nightly.  For my third time, I spent two days at a Holiday Inn Express in Destin, Florida.

I drove due north on I-75, then travelled west on HWY-10, a boring journey only rivaled by the trip from London, ON to Detroit, MI on HWY-401.  There were two surprises along the way.  There are cotton fields along the way, and west of Tallahassee there’s a time change.

Destin is one town among a number along the panhandle, frequently referred to as the Emerald Coast.  Truthfully, not much there.  A short trip to nearby Pensacola proved quite interesting.

 

Fountain
Fountain in Plaza Ferdinand  VII, Pensacola, FL

The architecture on Palafox Street reminds me of Ybor City in Tampa.  Exterior galleries on the street and balconies above, with intricate fretwork.  The street contains more than a few interesting visuals.

Meyer
Original storefront showing the tile entrance
Storefront
Storefront

The above are two examples.  The first shows how the original storefront has been maintained, down to the original store’s name in the tile.  The second photo shows a new business that has had their name incorporated into the tile store front.

Saenger Theatre
Saenger Theatre

What at first glance I thought was a storefront was actually the beautifully restored Saenger Theatre.  Originally opened in 1925, it was finally closed in 1975 and donated to the City of Pensacola.  It was re-opened after restoration in 1981.

Fountain
Fountain in Plaza Ferdinand VII, Pensacola, FL

Plaza Ferdinand VII is a small park on Palafox Street.  It was here, in 1821, that General Andrew Jackson received West Florida from Spain.  The park has a bust of General Jackson and an obelisk in the centre.

And finally, on your way out of town:

Marlin Sign
Visit Pensacola Beach with a 1960’s flair

Make a slight right turn and visit Pensacola Beach.  Cross over a long bridge, pay a toll, and you’re there.  From here you have easy access to Gulf Islands National Seashore.

 

White Hall, Kentucky

Twice yearly I make the trek from Toronto, Canada to Sarasota, Florida, where I spend the winter.  It’s a trip that can be done fast or slow, as the mood strikes.  I have made the trip in slightly more than eighteen hours, but I now prefer to take three days.  There’s lots to see along the way.

Spyder
My Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, outside the gate to White Hall in Kentucky
Sign Post
White Hall, Kentucky

Not that long ago I had this little red convertible.  It lasted for thirteen years before catching fire while I was waiting at a red light in Florida.  White Hall is located just off I75 near Richmond, Kentucky.  It was closed for the season when I arrived.

 

White Hall is a state historic site in Kentucky.  The grounds were open and I was able to walk around, and also managed to get a glimpse of the interior through those huge windows.

From the official website:

Nestled in rolling farmland, the home was built in the late 1700’s, with a major addition constructed in the 1860’s. The mansion, built in Georgian and Italianate styles, boasts nearly ten thousand square feet with modern innovations of the time such as central heating and indoor plumbing.

November 1 through March 31 the mansion is closed to the public except for A Victorian Christmas the first two weekends of December.

White Hall
White Hall

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Deer at White Hall
Deer at White Hall

This was a pleasant way to spend a break on the long trip south.  The grounds are quite large, and I was the only person there that afternoon.

White Hall had been abandoned for some time.  Pictures are difficult to find, however here is one from 1968 showing the windows boarded.

 

 

White Hall, 1968
Historic White Hall, 1968, thanks to A Grave Interest 

How did I find this?  Driving down the highway, there’s a sign that says “White Hall Next Exit” or something similar.  I took a chance and made the exit.

 

Passport Story

It’s my first big trip to Europe.  I’ve never been before, and I’m going alone on a partially escorted tour.  London, Paris, Venice, Florence, and the tour finishes in Rome.  Except I’m staying on,  spending the weekend in Sorrento before returning to Toronto.

The entire trip went smoothly.  I chose a Monograms Tour because they look after the hotels, transfers, and luggage, and leave you with nothing but free time to do what you like in each city.

I’m staying at the Hotel Cicerone in Rome.  After goodbyes to my tour friends, I’m on my own.  I settle in for a long train trip to Naples, followed by a strange train ride to Sorrento.  It was more like riding a subway system, stopping in every small town along the way, before arriving at my destination.  I’m excited to go past Pompeii, knowing I’ll be returning this weekend.

In Sorrento, I’m staying at the Hotel Central.  It’s a bit of a long walk along the Corso Italia along the cobbled streets.  They are happy to see me, since I had booked this hotel so far in advance.

They ask for my passport, as every hotel does, and that’s when I discover it is gone.  Nowhere to be found.

The police are called, and I have an appointment for later that afternoon.  They give me a lovely room with french doors opening to a balcony.  My room faces the street, with a view of the mountains in the background.

Now it’s time to prepare.  I do the one thing I hate, which is paying for hotel WiFi – and send a mass letter to friends asking for names, addresses and phone numbers, so I’m prepared to get a new passport.  I leave the hotel and go to the police station, where a pleasant officer takes my information and gives me a copy of the police report.  Back at my hotel, I contact the Canadian Embassy in Rome, but they remain non-committal.  I may or may not get a replacement passport, but they are certain I should be there first thing the next morning with five references and any ID that I may have.

I wander around Sorrento for a while, have dinner, then return to the Hotel Central.  They are very understanding as I cancel my reservation, and assign me a small fee, which I felt was more than generous of them.  I book a taxi for 6:00AM, since that’s the only way to get one.

The next morning, I take the taxi to the Sorrento train station, pass by Pompeii again, change trains in Naples, then get a taxi to the Canadian Embassy in Rome, arrive shortly after 9:00AM – it’s a long trip.

Forms are filled out, then I’m sent to get my passport picture taken.  Having no sense of direction, I get lost trying to find my way back to the embassy.  Once I am there, I hand in the pictures.  It’s now noon, and the embassy closes for two hours for lunch.  Everybody must leave, and take all your stuff with you.

Rome is having a nasty August heat wave, and I’m dragging a huge piece of luggage through the cobbled streets.  I find a place for lunch, where I’m seated at a table for six by myself.  It’s early by Italian standards, so I’m one of only three in the restaurant.  Within an hour it’s full.

Once I’ve left, I still have time to kill.  In the heat.  A man walking by senses my plight, and speaks English.  He directs me to a nearby park, which is very close to the embassy.  I sit there for some time watching the world go by.

Back at the embassy, I go through security again, then up to the passport office, where I given my new passport, with a white cover!  It’s a temporary document, if memory serves good for thirty days.  My new official passport, which will only be valid for two years, will be waiting for me back in Canada.

It’s now Friday, and my return flight to Canada is Monday afternoon.  I’m already booked at a hotel in Fiumicino near the airport for Sunday night, so I call them and arrange to spend the weekend.

There wasn’t much in Fiumicino, but there was lots of places to walk around, a bar, a grocery store to get beer to take back to the hotel, which had a nice outdoor patio on the third floor.  They also had free bicycle rentals, and of course there was a very long beach along the Mediterranean Sea.

Relating my story when I got back to Canada, I got no sympathy.

Where did you spend the weekend?  A beach motel on the Mediterranean.

Across the street from the Hotel Riviera
Across the street from the Hotel Riviera, Fiumicino, IT