Category Archives: USA

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.

 

 

 

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.

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Detroit Institute of Art

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.

Detroit Institute of Art
Detroit Institute of Art

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.

Entrance to Detroit Institute of Arts
Part of the original entrance to the gallery, behind The Thinker.
Detroit Industry
Detroit Industry by Diego Rivera

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.

New York Department Store
New York Department Store, Max Weber, 1915
The Moods of TIme: Evening, 1938
The Moods of TIme: Evening, Paul Manship, 1938
Stained Glass: John LaFarge
Three pieces by John LaFarge:  Helping Angel; Faith and Hope; Abou Ben Adham: Write Me as One That Loves His Fellowmen – all dated 1890
Paneled Room
Paneled room from a chateau near Amiens, France – 1760 – 1770

The DIA is located at 5200 Woodward Ave in Detroit, closed Mondays.

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Walter P Chrysler Museum

In September, 2010, I spent a weekend in Detroit.  My friends wished me away, hoping I’d come back without a toe tag.  I actually had a very good trip, although the conditions in Detroit proper were quite alarming.

I spent an afternoon at the Walter P Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills.  Truly, a splendid museum of beautiful cars, well organized, and with informative staff.

Five years later, I’m back for another visit to Detroit.  The city has vastly improved.  Unfortunately, the Chrysler Museum has closed, due to lack of visitors.

Here are some of the pictures I took at that time.

There are still signs on Chrysler Drive directing you to the museum, although once there, the doors are locked.  It’s only available for private functions and employees.

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Alcatraz Island

The Alcatraz Cruises Ferry
The Alcatraz Cruises Ferry

The Alcatraz Cruises Ferry is the only way to get to the island.  It is a private company under contract to the National Park Service.  The Hornblower hybrid ferry is a catamaran that operates on solar, wind and diesel power.

When planning your trip, keep in mind that the ferry service can sell out weeks in advance.

Alcatraz Island

1850 – President Millard Fillmore declares Alcatraz a military reservation.  Permanent troops begin occupancy in 1859.

1861 – Alcatraz is designated a military prison.

1933 – The army leaves Alcatraz, transferring prisoners to both Fort Leavenworth and Fort Jay, except for thirty-two who were transferred to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

1934 – 1963 – Alcatraz is operated as a prison for kidnappers, racketeers and those guilty of predatory crimes.  Robert Kennedy orders the prison closed to to deteriorating structures and the high cost of housing inmates.

1969 – 1971 – the now abandoned Alcatraz Island is occupied by eighty-nine Native Americans, calling themselves Indians of All Tribes.  This occupation was forcefully ended by government officials.

1972 – Alcatraz becomes a national recreation area.

1986 – Alcatraz Island is designated a National Historic Landmark.

Alcatraz Sign
United States Penitentiary at Alcatraz
A cell inside Alcatraz Prison
A cell inside Alcatraz Prison
Interior at Alcatraz Prison
Interior at Alcatraz Prison
Administration Building, Alcatraz Prison
Administration Building, Alcatraz Prison
Warning sign on your approach to Alcatraz
Warning on your approach to Alcatraz
San Francisco, as seen from Alcatraz Island
San Francisco, as seen from Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island current falls under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service.  There is no charge for admission.  Food service is not available.

San Francisco Signs

San Francisco has an enormous amount of signs, some operational, some not.  I’m not referring to the endless flat signs of modern stores, but historic signs.  Some are neon, some painted, many restored.  Signs where the business no longer exists, signs where the business seems to have been there forever.

John's Grill, San Francisco
John’s Grill, San Francisco

John’s Grill is located on Ellis Street in San Francisco.  Famous patrons include many heavyweight actors and politicians.  Operating since 1908, it was the setting for Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon”.

From John’s Grill website”

SAM SPADE’S LAMB CHOPS 36.95
Served with baked potato and sliced tomatoes

“Sam Spade went to John’s Grill, asked the waiter to hurry his order of chops, baked potato, sliced tomatoes… and was smoking a cigarette with his coffee when…”
– The Maltese Falcon

Club 65 San Francisco
Club 65 San Francisco

Now closed, it was a dive bar located on Taylor Street.

Julie's Supper Club
Julie’s Supper Club

Now closed, Julie’s Supper Club and Lounge was located on Folsom Street.  The link leads to the remnants of their abandoned website.

Original Joe's
Original Joe’s, Taylor Street, San Francisco

Original Joe’s has been in business since 1937.  This picture was taken on Taylor Street,  with a painted sign above and a neon hanging sign in front of the building.  I’m not sure if this exists now, but Original Joe’s is located on Union Street near Washington Square Park.

Marquard's Little Cigar Store
Marquard’s Little Cigar Store, San Francisco

The sign wraps around the corner of Powell & O’Farrell, but the little cigar store is no more.  The building dates from 1907, and I quite like the New York Times logo.  Marguard’s went out of business in 2005.  The city declared the sign a landmark.

San Francisco Provident Loan Association
San Francisco Provident Loan Association

Still in business, this company began as the San Francisco Remedial Loan Association in 1912.  They are still in operation in the same building on Mission Street.

These and other photos of San Francisco were taken on a six day trip that I took back in 2010.  Some might be gone now, as the businesses have folded since I was there.  Others will be preserved into the future for their historic significance.

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.

 

 

Cleveland, Ohio 2013

 

DSCN3998

I was looking for a short getaway, but some place near that I hadn’t already been.  Buffalo, NY was ruled out, so I settled on Cleveland, Ohio, just a morning’s drive away.  Once out of Canada it was an easy drive, with very little traffic.

I drove directly to the Cleveland Museum of Art.  A wonderful old building located on University Circle.  They have installed a vast glass atrium to connect it to a new addition.  Their collection was great, and I spent my entire afternoon here.  Parking at the museum was easy; parking on University circle almost impossible.

Next, I tried to work my way to my hotel.  Similar to Toronto, Cleveland has isolated the waterfront from the city.  The Shoreway seems to be the main road through town.  Unfortunately for me, at the time Cleveland had sold it’s soul to Hollywood.  The shoreway was closed for filming Captain American II.  There’s was a massive amount of detours with a massive amount of police likely collecting massive amounts of overtime.  Definitely not a good time to be in Cleveland.

Dinner that evening was at a place called Melt Bar and Grilled.  They had an excellent beer selection, friendly staff and patrons at the bar.  I had the Westside Monte Cristo – a massive plate of food I couldn’t finish.  They also have The Melt Challenge, featured on Man vs Food

Day two brought me to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  It’s isolated from downtown and just out into Lake Erie.  Pyramid shaped, but not an impressive structure.  I didn’t really know what to expect, but overall I left feeling somewhat dissatisfied.  Nothing really grabbed me – see one guitar, seen them all?

Some artists got way too much attention, others not much at all.  Interesting to note that Aerosmith once opened for the New York Dolls.

From Cleveland, I went on to Warren, Ohio.

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Key West, FL

 

Get familiar with these guys.

Fancy chickens are everywhere in old town Key West.  They wander the streets, enter bars and shops, have fights in public.  They are protected, so you can’t interfere.

The story goes, that long ago, cockfighting on the island was banned.  Since the birds were no longer making money for their owners, out in the street they went.

And there they remain.