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.
Completed in 1824, the St Thomas Anglican Church is one of the oldest structures in the city. It was in continuous use until 1877, and designated a heritage property in 1982. In 1877, the significantly larger Trinity Anglican Church was built.
Restoration of the church took place in 1986.
It is still in service as church on special days, is available for tours, and weddings. The graveyard is still active, and has had a scattering garden added recently.
The interior of the church remains much as it did when built. Cubicle style pews, a prisoner’s box, historical artifacts and original windows.
The most significant monument is for the Chisholm family, who had seven family members die within seven years. Constructed of Italian marble on a sandstone base, at the time it cost $5,000 – the price of two homes.
Folklore has it that the family had the Curse of Ireland. In addition to all immediate family members dying within seven years, none died in their beds.
Many of the graves have suffered the effects of age, acid rain, and even vandalism.
In 2010, the Art Gallery of Ontario gave us “Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts. A massive exhibit of sumptuous paintings, jewellery and furniture representing court life. Prior to Toronto, the exhibit had been on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
In 2011, General Idea’s two meter tall AIDS sculture was erected outside at the corner of Dundas West and Beverley Streets. This was the first comprehensive retrospective devoted to the collective.
In 2014, more than one hundred works from Mr. Colville were on display beginning in the summer. and gave graphic representation of his influence on Stanley Kubrick’s films.
The Grange is the original home of the Art Museum of Toronto. Believed to be the oldest standing brick building in Toronto, it faces out to Grange Park. Behind the Grange is the rear of the Art Gallery of Ontario, in glass and titanium.
Part of the permanent collection, this iconic image was created in 1917. It was the artist’s final painting: he drowned later that year.
Five years ago I spent a decent week in Vancouver. A slight chill in the air, most days were a combination of rain and sun. I stayed at the Empire Landmark Hotel, a huge place (a former Sheraton, I believe), with breakfast served in the revolving restaurant on top. There was a lot to see in Vancouver, but I particularly liked East Hastings Street.
The Ovaltine Cafe was opened in 1942 and has been used as a film set many times, including the movie I, Robot and the original X Files series. The hanging sign dates from 1948 and the lettering across the front from 1943.
The building was constructed in 1912 in the Edwardian Italian Renaissance Revival style as an apartment building. It was home to government offices and a postal station, but subsequently used as a rooming house since 1925.
One of the sharper places on the street, The Pennsylvania Hotel opened as the Woods Hotel in 1906. Through the years the hotel fell on hard times and had changed names. It closed as the Portland Hotel.
In 2008, after $12M in renovations, the Hotel Pennsylvania re-opened as a residence for low-income earners.
This twenty seat diner opened in 1924, and closed in 2009.
Totally decrepit in 2009, the Hotel Shaldon is a single room occupancy hotel for the homeless or those with a history of homelessness. 55 rooms with support staff available.
This cafe was in operation of East Hastings Street from 1944 to 1999. In 2010 the property owner donated the sign to the Vancouver Museum.
The first class Balmoral Hotel opened in September, 1912, with commercial entities on the ground floor and accommodation above. The sign dates from the 1940’s.
Now, one of the worst single room occupancy hotels in the city.
So there it is…a trip down historic Hastings Street in Vancouver. Sandwiched between Gastown and Chinatown, it’s difficult to miss, but well worth the trip. Get out of your car, and go for a walk.
There’s lots to see and do in Toronto, some off the well worn tourist path. Sherbourne Street stretches from Bloor to the lakeshore (where it’s called “Lower Sherbourne”. I took a stroll from Carlton Street to Richmond.
Located on the northeast corner, Paroisse du Sacre Coeur was built in 1936, despite looking significantly older. The building was expanded in 1951, and remains an active French language church.
Located on the southwest side of Sherbourne, St Luke’s United Church. Opened in 1887 as Sherbourne Street Methodist, later Sherbourne United. This church amalgamated with Carlton United to form the present entity.
One of Toronto’s oldest parks, Allan Gardens is situated between Carlton, Sherbourne, Gerrard and Horticultural streets. The conservatory was built in 1910 and is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Allan Gardens has had significant changes over the years, including two wings to the conservatory. There was a massive fountain in front of the conservatory which has long been lost to history.
In 1902, the Toronto Burns Monument Committee gave the city a life size statue of Robbie Burns which still stands. Located midway down Sherbourne Street, the statue faces into the park.
John Ross Robertson was a philanthropist and publisher who lived in this house from 1881 – 1918. He published the first school newspaper, was city editor and The Globe and later founded The Daily Telegraph. In 1876 he founded The Evening Telegraph which became on of Toronto’s most influential newspapers.
The exotic purple and red True Love Cafe, located at Sherbourne and Dundas. They have an extensive reasonably priced menu, and acoustic jams on the weekends. A large space that’s good for the neighbourhood.
Located just south of Dundas Street, this mansion was derelict for many years. Dating from appoximately 1872, it housed William Dineen, a prominent furrier. As the neighbourhood declined, it became a rooming house, and eventually was an empty, boarded up shell. The absentee landlord applied for a demolition permit, which was denied, and the building received heritage status.
The home has been restored within the last five years, but remains vacant.
Toronto has many buildings similar to this in various states of repair. Although most still have residential occupants and businesses at ground level, this location has been abandoned for years.
A 2008 Toronto Star article refers to the area as “skid row”. Even today, this area is laced with trendy boutiques and million dollar condos within sight.
Take a trip out the Danforth and then Kennedy Road, way out in Scarborough. Make an exit onto Guildwood Parkway, and you’ll arrive a Guild Park, eighty-eight acres that abut the Scarborough Bluffs.
Originally the location of the Guild Inn, which was built in 1914, later to become an artists colony and subsequently a hotel and restaurant. It stands today in a shabby state of repair, having been closed for ages. Circled by chain-link fence, there’s a sign on one of the doors warning of the danger inside from mould and asbestos.
There is, however, a significant reason to make the journey to Guild Park. Inside are the architectural remains of some of Toronto’s historic, long demolished buildings.
Although many beautiful historic buildings remain throughout the city, Toronto has long been on a mission to destroy the past, no matter how magnificent. These are just some of the pieces scattered throughout Guild Park.
The Aga Khan Museum is situated on Wynford Drive at the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. Land was purchased from the Shell Corporation, and the modernist Bata Shoe Headquarters were demolished. The site is composed of the Museum, the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre. The museum opened in September, 2014.
The museum’s contents include collections from His Highness the Aga Khan, the Institute of Ismaili Studies and Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan.
Intact silk brocade tunic originated in Iran in the 1300’s. Note the extra long sleeves.
A panel of revetment tiles from Damascus, Syria in the 17th century.
The museum is closed on Mondays. On Wednesday, there are extended hours, and admission is free from 16:00 to 20:00. Surface and underground parking is readily available.