Very early in 2017, I learned about the Thunder Bay Blues Fest. The event features 100% Canadian talent, so I booked a VIP pass and began making plans. Held during the first weekend of July, I made this into a road trip, planning to do a circle tour of Lake Superior. Two days driving, but it realistically should have taken three.
Day one was an extremely long, tiresome day, having to first drive partly through the traffic mess that Toronto has become. North on the highway, and by about 16:00 I was settled into the Watertower Inn in Sault Ste Marie.
First stop was Batchawana Bay, which is 71km north and west of the Sault. Two centuries ago you would see voyageurs here, sheltered from the storms of Lake Superior.
Moving 43km north, my next stop was Alona Bay. Here is Theano Point, believed to be the first uranium find in Canada. Also nearby, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Move along another 90km north, through Lake Superior Provincial Park, and the next stop is Old Woman Bay. There are cliffs with forests, and a beach for your pleasure.
We now move inland, through the small town of White River (with a cute coffee shop) and travel 284km north and east to Aguasabon Falls, just west of Terrace Bay. There is a well-built viewing platform to take you near the falls.
Travelling 204km west, we are nearing our destination. We know we’ve arrived when we’re at the Terry Fox Memorial, just outside of Thunder Bay. His goal was to run across Canada, beginning in Newfoundland. This is where he was forced to end his journey.
The Lyceum Theatre opened its doors in the former Port Arthur in 1908, with seating for one thousand. There have been many changes of ownership and usage, with the ground floor being used for office/retail.
Remodeled in 1932 for “talking pictures”, it closed permanently in 1955.
The Prince Arthur Hotel originally built by CN, is on the same street, and dates from 1911.
Thirty kilometers west of Thunder Bay is Kakabeka Falls, a waterfall on the Kaministiquia River. It is the highest waterfall in North America.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Columbia Hotel now operates as the Orange Village Hostel. Short term and long term stays are available.
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.
The Hotel Potter, on Mission Street, also part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.
Part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource, a well maintained building with a beautiful original sign. The exterior fire escape is a nice touch.
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.
Late in 2011, Delta had a seat sale, and I flew Tampa – Atlanta – Belize city at the end of January, 2012.
An uneventful trip, but there is a long taxi ride into Belize City. Eventually, I arrive at the Belcove Hotel on Regent Street, near the swing bridge. I must admit that the street, and the entrance to the hotel, had quite the forlorn appearance.
I had booked a room with air conditioning and a private bath, both of which were unnecessary. The weather was pleasant, and few were staying at the hotel. Each floor had a full length balcony which faced Haulover Creek, which empties in the Caribbean Sea.
Working out the currency was easy. Belizean dollars were interchangeable with US dollars at on two to one ratio. When making a purchase, your change could be a mixture of both currencies. I didn’t see the need to use a credit card any time during my stay.
I had read that Belize City was a bit rough. This was very much an understatement. The desk clerk at my hotel gave me instructions about where not to go, and to be very careful after dark. The city has many run down and derelict buildings, potholes that would swallow a small car, and packs of roving dogs. My local guide, O’Neill, said that should you hit a dog while driving, best to keep going. The feral dog will now have several owners, all demanding compensation.
Marlin’s Restaurant & Bar is located beside the Belcove Hotel. It isn’t much more than a large room with some tables and a kitchen, and a covered patio facing out to the river. However, I ate here every day, and everything was good, the beer was cold, and the people were friendly.
The British Colonial period is also represented here, several structures remain, including the oldest Anglican Church in the Caribbean – St John’s Cathedral.
The Hotel Cadillac likely started out as a very posh place in Rochester, NY.
Perhaps it was built in the 1930’s – 1940’s, when Rochester’s elite would meet for a drink on Chestnut Street downtown.
The elegant Lounge Bar at the Hotel Cadillac.
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.