Category Archives: Hotel

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.

 

 

 

Warren Pennsylvania Weekend

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.

This building is located in downtown Warren. Referred to by locals as "The Point"
This building is located in downtown Warren. Referred to by locals as “The Point”
Fountain outside The Point
Fountain outside The Point – not working, likely do to the time of year of my visit.

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.

Plaza Diner downtown Warren, PA
Plaza Diner downtown Warren, PA

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.

Duffy's - Ghost Sign
Duffy’s – on a side street just of the main
The nearby Kinzua Dam
The nearby Kinzua Dam

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.

Road Sign - Longhouse Scenic Byway
Longhouse Scenic Byway

Almost unannounced, this appears.  Pennsylvania was a major producer of oil, and this is one of the few remaining power houses, long decommissioned.

Powerhouse Historic Site
Powerhouse Historic Site

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.

Kinzua Bridge, Mt Jewett
Kinzua Bridge, Mt Jewett

Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania is located about half an hour from Warren.

Loading
Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit
Google MapsGet Directions

Hastings Street, Vancouver

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.

Streetscape - East Hastings Street, Vancouver
Streetscape – East Hastings Street, Vancouver
Afton Hotel/Ovaltine Cafe
Afton Hotel/Ovaltine Cafe on 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.

Hotel Pennsylvania, corner of East Hastings Street and Carrall
Hotel Pennsylvania, corner of East Hastings Street and Carrall

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.

The Only Sea Foods
The Only Sea Foods

This twenty seat diner opened in 1924, and closed in 2009.

The Shaldon Hotel
The Shaldon Hotel

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.

Blue Eagle Cafe
Blue Eagle Cafe

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.

Balmoral Hotel
Balmoral Hotel

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.

Loading
Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit
Google MapsGet Directions

 

San Francisco Hotel Signs

San Francisco has done a wonderful job preserving heritage signs.

Many of the hotels shown below no longer take bookings, or are even hotels.  At least one is an active hostel, and many now fall under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.

Columbia Hotel San Francisco
Columbia Hotel
San Francisco

The Columbia Hotel now operates as the Orange Village Hostel.  Short term and long term stays are available.

Ambassador Hotel San Francisco
Ambassador Hotel
San Francisco

The Ambassador Hotel was built in 1911, on the location of the Tivoli Opera House which was destroyed in the 1908 earthquake and fire.  It was used as an informal aids hospice during the 1980’s and was renovated in 2003.  It is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and is currently part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.

Hotel Potter, San Francisco
Hotel Potter, San Francisco

The Hotel Potter, on Mission Street, also part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.

Hotel Senator, San Francisco
Hotel Senator, San Francisco

Part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource, a well maintained building with a beautiful original sign.  The exterior fire escape is a nice touch.

Seneca Hotel, San Francisco
Seneca Hotel, San Francisco
Hartland Hotel, San Francisco
Hartland Hotel, San Francisco

All except one of these hotels is available to the public for booking.  These are used by homeless resource agencies in the city of San Francisco.  The hotels are referred to as SRO’s – single room occupancy.  The signs, most of which have been restored, are called blade signs.

Much like Vancouver, Canada, the city has done a great job of preserving the heritage of their signage, both in neon form and painted.  Here in Toronto, there’s not much to find in the old sign department.  Sam the Record Man’s sign was to be preserved and installed by Ryerson University, but they failed to live up to their agreement.

Last I heard the sign will be installed somewhere on a building overlooking Yonge/Dundas Square downtown, across from The Eaton Centre.

 

 

Puerto Rico 2010

Way back in 2010, I happened to stumble upon a great deal to Puerto Rico.  I was living in Sarasota, Florida at the time.  The trip was for a four day weekend, included return flight, hotel, and a car rental for $500.00.  I couldn’t resist.

The flight was uneventful.  I arrived at the airport and went outside looking for the car rental place.  The heat and humidity hit me like a sledgehammer.  Turns out, there are no car rentals at the airport (although there was a closed casino).  I had to take a shuttle to somewhere in San Juan to pick up my vehicle.  This also meant I had to remember where this place was to return the car.

Lucky me, I got a white Toyota Yaris.

Coral by the Sea
Coral by the Sea, Carolina, Puerto Rico

This was my hotel on the coast, east of Puerto Rico.  Two short blocks from the ocean, and free parking.  I had a decent room on the top floor, facing the street.  On the lower left of the building was an ice cream parlour, on the left a restaurant.  This was used a lot by people for an overnight stay before boarding a cruise ship.  I have never seen travellers with so much luggage before.  I brought a backpack.

101 Bar
101 Bar, Carolina, Puerto Rico

Between the Coral by the Sea and the Ritz Carlton, this was my hangout.  Wonderful owners and patrons, cold beer, good food, inexpensive.  A quick search today tells me it has since been closed.

El Morrow
El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Guard Station, El Morrow, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Guard Station, El Morrow, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Castillo San Filipe del Morro is a Spanish citadel built to guard the entrance to San Juan Bay in the 1600’s.  Construction began in 1539 by order of King Charles V of Spain.  Many improvements were made over time.  The original 1.8M thick walls were increased to 5.5M by the end of the 18th century.  Puerto Rico was awarded to the US at the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898.

In 1961, the US Army officially retired El Morro, and the citadel was declared a World Heritage Site by the UN, and is a US National Park.

Guard Station, El Morro, Puerto Rico
Guard Station, El Morro, Puerto Rico
Entrance to El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Entrance to El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

 

Abandoned Hotel, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Abandoned Hotel, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan is mix of modern structures and also a place where time has stood still.  This old hotel had been abandoned for some time.

North Shore, San Juan, Puerto RIco
North Shore, San Juan, Puerto RIco

The rocky shore of San Juan, Puerto RIco, below El Morro.

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

 

 

 

 

Hotel Cadillac Today

Hotel Cadillac, Rochester, NY

The Hotel Cadillac likely started out as a very posh place in Rochester, NY.

Hotel Cadillac in its heyday
Postcard of the Hotel Cadillac

Perhaps it was built in the 1930’s – 1940’s, when Rochester’s elite would meet for a drink on Chestnut Street downtown.

Hotel Cadillac Bar
Hotel Cadillac Bar

The elegant Lounge Bar at the Hotel Cadillac.

Hotel Cadillac Today

This is the Hotel Cadillac today.  Most of the businesses on the street are empty.  The Lounge Bar, which faced the street on the left side of the photo, is empty, as is the small restaurant to the right of the front door.

The fire escape from the second floors exits on top of the entrance canopy.

It’s now October 2014.  The glory days of this hotel are long past, but right now there is massive construction happening in Rochester as the city attempts a rebuild.

 

 

 

Rochester, NY September 2014

 

DSCN7142

IHG Hotels had one of their point breaks specials, and I didn’t want to travel too far.  Rochester is about three hours away and looked like a good fit for two days.

I crossed the border at Queenston without incident, and proceeded north to HWY 18, taking the scenic parkway that follows the south shore of Lake Ontario.  Close to Rochester, the road was closed and detoured off.  I found out later that portions of the parkway get shut down in the winter to avoid maintenance costs.  I can understand why, there was almost no traffic in either direction the entire length.

Rochester was interesting enough, but it has a nasty loop road around the centre of town making driving a awkward.  Street parking was plentiful.  

The Holiday Inn express was in the south end of town, but easy to get to.  Lots of promotion inside as it is being re-invented as a Country Inn & Suites by Carlson.  It was a very basic hotel without much going for it.

Probably the most interesting place to visit was the Susan B Anthony House on Madison Avenue.  I was the only person there so I got a private docent tour.  Walked around the neighbourhood afterward and had a long chat with one of the local homeowners.  It’s a nice neighbourhood and she had recently purchased a massive older home across the street from the park.

I did go downtown, but I think I hit the wrong area. Some huge old buildings, but the ground levels are mostly empty.  Lots of construction downtown and almost everywhere.

The former Erie and Genesee Canals have been made into a park.

DSCN7135 

Hung out a few times at the Avenue Bar.  All in, a decent way to kill a couple of days.

DSCN7151

 

 

DSCN7157

The University has a lovely art gallery built in the early 20th century, and the surrounding neighbourhood of the arts includes the van Gogh themed Starry Nites Cafe!

 

 

 

Warren, Ohio 2013

DSCN4027

Once I left Cleveland, OH I had a specific destination in mind.  I love museums, and have a fondness for automobile museums.  I’ve been to both the Chrysler and Ford museums near Detroit.  While researching, I found the National Packard Museum.

Having left Cleveland in disgust over the traffic situation (many, many roads closed for the filming of Captain America), I took a leisurely drive to Warren, OH, the birthplace of Mr. Packard.  It was here that the Packard Automobiles were first manufactured.

DSCN4031

Warren, OH is a small town near the PA border, steeped in history.  The National Packard Museum is quite small, mostly confined to two large public rooms.  The first room houses some displays, signs, check-in and the gift shop.  The larger room houses the automobile collection.  It was a bit crowded when I was there, although with cars, not visitors.

The wonderful people at Best Western had given me a free night which I had to use before it expired, so I stayed at the Best Western Penn-Ohio Inn, located in Hubbard, OH.  A very nice choice.  Welcoming (with cookies!), spotlessly clean, and an indoor pool.  I never actually went in to Hubbard, but ate at a local restaurant which wasn’t so good.

PA is just minutes away, so my stop the next morning was in the town of Sharon.  Another place that reeks of turn of the last century beginnings.  There, I found Ryer’s Shoe Store.  Self-promoted as “The World’s Largest Shoe Store”.  They had a good sale on ECCO shoes, and in PA clothing and footware are exempt from state taxes.  Bonus!

Next stop:  Jamestown, OH

[twitter-follow screen_name='overlaid']

Future Travel:

August:  Fort Wayne, IN; Little Rock, AK; Oklahoma City, OK; Albuquerque, NM; Colorado Springs, CO

November:  Istanbul, Turkey

April:  Amsterdam, NE; Lisbon, PT

Travelling to Canada (2)

The trip didn’t go precisely as planned.

There was no stop in South Carolina, Delaware or Pennsylvania.  Instead, my first overnight stop was in Statesville, NC.  I arrived early in the evening while the sun was still shining.  Took a small tour through town, which looks pleasant enough.  Stopped at a Mexican restaurant near the hotel, then done for the night.

Day two had me stopping, late afternoon, in Youngstown, Ohio, where I met up with a friend.  Some hanging out at the hotel, which had an onsite restaurant and bar.  Across the parking lot was another Mexican restaurant.  Food was excellent as was the service.

Weather played a large part in changing my return trip.

We left Youngstown after only one night.  The temperature was 21C when we left.  Forty minutes later it was 8C.  There was a huge rainstorm after we crossed the border into Canada, and by the following day everything was covered with snow.

Now I’m back in Toronto, high in the sky while I plan my next trip.

[twitter-follow screen_name='overlaid']