Category Archives: Europe

Four Days in York, UK

York, UK

I just can’t resist a seat sale.

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.

Wheatlands Lodge, York UK
My hotel in York – Wheatlands Lodge

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!

York Minster

York Minster
The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York

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

The remains of St Mary's Abbey
The remains of 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.

 

Day Trip to Sheffield, UK

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.

Gated entry to Shrewsbury Hospital Estate, Sheffield
Gated entry to Shrewsbury Hospital Estate, Sheffield

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.

Cholera Monument, Sheffield, UK.  Erected in 1835 after the epidemic of 1832.
Cholera Monument, Sheffield, UK. Erected in 1835 after the epidemic of 1832.

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.

Cholera Monument, Sheffield, UK.  Erected in 1835 after the epidemic of 1832.
Archway in Norfolk Park, Sheffield, UK
Lime Avenue, a beautiful laneway of trees planted in the 1800's
Lime Avenue, a beautiful laneway of trees planted in the 1800’s

At the entrance to Norfolk Park on Granville Road, exists an original Victorian light standard.  Although originally gas, it has been converted to electric.

Victorian Light Standard at entrance to Norfolk Park on Granville Road
Victorian Light Standard at entrance to Norfolk Park on Granville Road

The Cholera Monument and grounds, Norfolk Park and the Lamp Standard have all been listed Grade II

.

 

 

Preview of Changes and Upcoming Travel

New Developments

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.

2017 Travel

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.

Poster for the 2017 Thunder Bay Blues Fest - last year attendance was over 18,000
Summer travel to the 2017 Thunder Bay Blues Fest – last year attendance was over 18,000

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.

 

Travel Review 2016

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.

Downtown Barbourville, Kentucky. An interesting place, the Magic Theatre has been closed for ages.
Downtown Barbourville, Kentucky. An interesting place, the Magic Theatre has been closed for ages.

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.

GhostSign for the former Dennison Hotel, downtown Cincinnati, Ohio
GhostSign for the former Dennison Hotel, downtown Cincinnati, Ohio

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.

The view from my condo, just off Davie Street in Vancouver.
The view from my condo, just off Davie Street in Vancouver.

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 Hammer Museum was almost across the street.

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.

Interior of historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, opened in 1939.
Interior of historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, opened in 1939.

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.

The Norman House, in Lincoln, UK, dated to 1170.
The Norman House, in Lincoln, UK, dated to 1170.

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.

When visiting Iceland, take tons of money.

Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran Church and one of the tallest buildings in the country.
Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran Church and one of the tallest buildings in the country.

 

 

 

Pompeii at the ROM

There’s a story you can read here, about my first, and only, trip to Italy.  I could have gone to Pompeii as a day trip from Rome, but since I was travelling south to Sorrento, it was much closer to go from there.

I remember passing by Pompeii on the train, and on my arrival in Sorrento, THIS HAPPENED.  The next morning I was on the train, and passed by Pompeii again, never to return (so far).

Now, it’s the summer of 2015.  The Royal Ontario Museum has another huge touring show coming in for six months.  Pompeii:  In the Shadow of the Volcano.  Two hundred artifacts that tell the story.

Here are a few:

Pompeii:  garden statue
Pompeii: garden statue originally at the end of a wall.
Pompeii:  Bakery
Pompeii: Politicians would hand out bread in exchange for votes.  This generosity happened both before and after an election.  This painting was found in the home of a baker.  There were about thirty bakeries in the city to satisfy demand.
Pompeii:  Garden Statues
Pompeii: These statues were found at the entrance to a private garden near the theatres.  Made from terracotta, they were originally brightly painted.
Pompeii: Apollo
Pompeii: Apollo was the Greek and Roman god of music, prophecy and poetry.  His temple in the city dated back six hundred years.  The pose indicates that Apollo was worshiped here long before the Romans took over.
Pompeii: Oscilla
Pompeii: Oscilla were marble discs which were hung from the ceiling to twist in the breeze.  
Pompeii: Bronze
Few bronze sculptures survived from antiquity, usually having been melted down and the material re-purposed, although some survived being buried in ash.  This sculpture was one of five surrounding a residential pool in the city of Herculaneum, which was also destroyed by the volcano in the year 79.  

This represents a small sample on display at the ROM, which is a far cry from what would be a fascinating trip to the ruins of the city.

I’ll leave you with this, also quite common in the city.

Pompeii:  Porn
Images like this were very common in homes in Pompeii

Lisbon Tile

One of the things one notices almost everywhere in Lisbon, are the tiles, called Azulejos.

Indoors, outside, there is even a National Tile Museum.  Located in the former Convent of Madres Deus, has tiles dating back to the fifteenth century.  The intact chapel is spectacular.  The museum is also fully accessible.

Yellow Tiles
Beautiful yellow tiles surround a blue mural.
Exterior Blue
Exterior tiles on a wall and over a doorway. Although untouched, outdoor tiles are subject to graffiti, which is rampant in Lisbon.
Rat
Although not ceramic tile, this was on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant.
Lobby Tiles
Traditional blue tiles in a lobby.
Blue Tile
Detail of a traditional blue tile.

These pictures were randomly taken during my many walks around Lisbon while on vacation.  The only downside to the exterior tile work is the graffiti which is all over Lisbon, and doesn’t get removed.

 

Lisbon Arrival

I arrived in Lisbon late in the afternoon on a pleasant April day after a flight from Amsterdam.  My taxi drops me at my address, after what seemed a very long drive.  I have rented an apartment for my twelve day stay.  It’s a very old three story building, with three doorbells.  I ring them all.  No answer.

A voice from around the corner:  “Mr. George! Mr. George!” and here is Ana Paula, the owner.  We go around the corner and stop in at Leitaria Confianca.

Leitaria Confianca
Leitaria Confianca, Lisbon, Portugal

Owned by Ana Paula, it’s a combination variety store, coffee shop, restaurant and neighbourhood hangout.  I have a beer and a chat, and get the keys to my new temporary flat.  Ana Paula will run a tab for my entire stay.

The street is only one block long, and I’m in door number two.  Up a flight of stairs and I’m inside.  I have a living room with two juliette balconies, a bedroom with a closet, a kitchen with a very odd stove I didn’t use during my stay, and a very tiny and inconvenient bathroom.  Lots of HD channels on the television, and working WiFi.

There is another apartment above me.  The apartment below is entered through door number four.

#2 Travessa do Caldeira
#2 Travessa do Caldeira, my apartment in Lisbon, Portugal

Now I’m safely in the Santa Catarina district of Lisbon, a short walk to Miradouro de Santa Catarina, when everybody gets a great view of the Tagus River and can drink a beer, or have a coffee in the park.  Further on is Rua do Loreto, where there is a small grocery store, and lots of local shops.  Near the end of this street is Praça Luís de Camões.

Travessa do Caldeira
Travessa do Caldeira, my residence in Lisbon, Portugal.

I return to my apartment in the early evening, having walked around to get a feel for the area, stocked up on a few foods, stopped at the nearest bar (Le Marais),  and begin planning activities for the next day.

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

 

 

 

 

Travelling to Canada

Time to leave the sunshine coast of Florida.  I’ve been here since early December, and usually leave late in March.  Unfortunately, Easter arrived so bloody early I got stuck here.  My travel day is set for Sunday, the 7th of April.

My first stop will likely be at the Best Western in Bennettsville, South Carolina.  No particular reason, except I’m trying to keep my Diamond member status, and driving on I95 through the southern states is rather bleak.  Most cities are located well off the highway.

From there, I’ll arrive in Bear, DE to visit a friend for a few days.

The next stop will be the Genetti Inn & Suites in Hazle Township, PA.  A friend is staying there on a short golf vacation.  I’ll be catching up with him for one day.  After that, I should be in Canada on 12th April.


2013 is the first summer in some time that I don’t already have travel plans in place.  I’m town between visiting the east coast of Canada or taking a trip down Route 66 in the US.  The cost difference between the two is substantial.

The big event for 2013 has already been booked.  I’ll be leaving for Turkey on 31st October, visiting Istanbul, Ankara, Cappadocia and a few other cities.

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Frequent Flyer Follies

 

The adventure continues…

In the previous two days, I have received two emails from Aeroplan, both declining to credit my account for flights previously taken.  The two letters listed ten flights (!).  Although it is possible I mistakenly submitted my claim twice, the letters list ASW-ABS (same flight, ticket) five times and ABS-CAI (same flight, ticket) five times.

Each items says Egypt Air has no record of a passenger using my name.

Now that I have the email address, I’ll submit copies of my eTicket and boarding passes for consideration.

That means the following flights are under review to credit my Aeroplan account.

  • ORD-YYZ
  • JFK-CAI
  • ASW-ABS
  • ABS-CAI
  • CAI-ABS

I don’t have a lot of faith in a system that immediately denies your claim, saying you were never on the flight.  This happened with the YYZ-ORD flight.  To prove my claim I needed a copy of the eTicket.  Air Canada, which denied that I was on the flight sent me a copy of the eTicket two days later.