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.
Every quarter, IHG Rewards has a special called PointBreaks. Hotels across the world are available for booking at five thousand points nightly. I’ve taken advantage of this many times. Sometimes the hotels are inconveniently located, sometimes they have just been renovated, at other times the hotel is about to be reflagged.
My recent stay was in Warren, Pennsylvania – I though a small town retreat would be good. Warren is located near the Allegheny National Forest.
The Holiday Inn is located on the outskirts of town – at first look I thought it was a converted government building. This hotel was quite large, with a restaurant and a bar.
The Plaza Diner came recommended by the clerk at the Holiday Inn. I could have eaten at the hotel, but I was looking for something local. It was quite packed, given the size of the town. I sat at the counter, watching the work. There are two kitchens – one in the front window, the other hidden from view.
Duffy’s came recommended by one of the local bartenders. Long and narrow, I sat at the bar at the back. Famous for their grilled vegetables, which were excellent. There are many ghost signs in Warren – the one beside Duffy’s is for a previous business, advertising an Oyster and Chop House.
On my way out of town, the hotel staff recommended that I stop and see the Kinzua Bridge, so I took a trip through the National Forest to find it.
Almost unannounced, this appears. Pennsylvania was a major producer of oil, and this is one of the few remaining power houses, long decommissioned.
I reach my destination – the Kinzua Bridge in Mt Jewett, PA. Originally a railroad bridge, three hundred feet high and two thousand feet long, it was opened in 1882 and closed permanently in 2003. A tornado went through the valley, collapsing the supports.
It’s now becoming a state tourist attraction. One can walk out the train tracks, and there’s a viewing platform at the end, with a glass floor.
Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania is located about half an hour from Warren.
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.
Five years ago I spent a weekend in Detroit. My friends waved me off, hoping that I’d return with more than a toe tag. I returned to Detroit in 2015 to be surprised how good the city is now looking. My first stop was the Detroit Institute of Arts, followed by a stroll down Woodward Avenue, then a trip into downtown.
The DIA was my first stop in Detroit. I always seek out major art venues, and I’ve been here before. It does not disappoint.
Founded in 1885, the gallery moved to the current address on Woodward Avenue in 1927. Many major galleries have vast, expansive entrances which have long been shuttered for a smaller entrance of more recent vintage. The Albright-Knox in Buffalo comes to mind – they have a magnificent entrance facing the park, which is unused.
Here in Detroit, the massive original entrance remains in use.
The Detroit Industry fresco cycle was completed by Diego Rivera in March of 1933. It is one of the most famous works in the gallery. It is considered the finest example of Mexican mural art in the US, and encompasses all four walls within the gallery.
The DIA is located at 5200 Woodward Ave in Detroit, closed Mondays.