Category Archives: USA

A Year of Travel 2018 Review


January 2018

Museum of Appalachia, Clinton, Tennessee
Museum of Appalachia, Clinton, Tennessee

January 2018 begins as it always does, with travel to Florida, bracketed by stops in Kentucky or Tennessee.  This year, I stopped in Nashville on the way south, and Knoxville on the way north.

I visited the Museum of Appalachia in Clinton, TN,  Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, and the Stones River National Battlefield.  Another interesting thing discovered:  Nashville has a replica of the Parthenon!


February 2018

Ha'penny Bridge, Dublin, Ireland
Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, Ireland

I had booked a fare using WestJet and British Airways to travel to Dublin from London, Ontario.  A very cheap fare is US funds.  I arrived at the airport early to find a minor delay on departure, which grew as the afternoon wore on.  Clearly, I would not make my connection to the BA flight.  Westjet sent me on a two-hour taxi ride to the next airport.

I stayed at the Maple Hotel on Lower Gardiner Street.  Reasonable, considering the high cost of hotels in Dublin.  There are lots of bars to hang around, but I quite enjoyed the Palace Bar – a beautiful Victorian heritage pub on Fleet Street.

Temple Bar area was touristy as expected, but I liked Hanley’s Cornish Pasties in Merchant’s Arch.  The General Post Office and the Epic Museum are well worth your time, and I took in a show at the Abbey theatre.

Belfast, Northern Ireland
Belfast, Northern Ireland

I took a day trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland.  The guides from Wild Rover Tours were quite informative, and there’s some concern about the effects of Brexit.  There are currently no physical borders between the two countries.  I took a Black Taxi tour of “The Troubles”, and spent time at Giant’s Causeway.

April 2018

The Musée d'Orsay, Paris France
The Musée d’Orsay, Paris France

This trip I made a huge mistake, inadvertently booking “basic economy” on TAP airlines for a flight YYZ – ORY – OPO – YYZ.  Their carry-on restrictions are so tight, I had to pay an extra $140.00 for luggage.  Live and learn.

We were a bit late arriving in Paris, and there was a long wait for luggage, and then about two hundred waiting for a taxi.  I ventured forth and took the metro, arriving after the dinner hour at my hotel.

I split my time in Paris in two – for the first four days I stayed near the Opera, and for the last four days, I stayed near the Bastille.  It’s like getting two trips in one!

Everything in Paris is expensive, but there are lots of small streets to wander and take in the sights.  I visited the Louvre,  Musée d’Orsay, Palais Garnier, and stopped for lunch in a cafe in the Tuileries garden.  Versailles is an easy metro ride through the city, and a good afternoon was spent at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Hotel Aliados, Porto, Portugal
Hotel Aliados, Porto, Portugal

Part two of this trip brought a stopover in Porto, Portugal.  Just as beautiful as Lisbon.


June 2018

Peggy's Point Lighthouse was built in 1915
Peggy’s Point Lighthouse

June brought me to Nova Scotia for a brief, unexpected trip.  We stayed in Halifax the entire time, except for a brief day trip to Peggy’s Cove.  I’ll be returning to Nova Scotia (by way of Newfoundland) in June 2019.

August 2018

Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg, MB
Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg, MB

Swoop Airlines launched earlier in 2018, and part of their promotion was a free flight two three different destinations – just pay the taxes and baggage fees.

I spent four days in Winnipeg and there’s lots to see.  Many historic buildings remain intact or a being renovated.  It’s easy to get around on foot and felt safe.  The underground walkways around Portage & Main are a disaster.

The Museum of Human Rights was free one evening, and I also went to the Dalnavert Museum.  Lots of places to eat and bars to attend.  I also took a day trip to Gimli, the Icelandic settlement not far north.

September 2018

Olkiombo Airstrip, Masai Mara National Reserve
Olkiombo Airstrip, Masai Mara National Reserve

September I spent three weeks in Kenya, Tanzania and the Netherlands.  More on that in another post.

December 2018

Jackson Square, New Orleans, LA
Jackson Square, New Orleans, LA

Lastly, a week in New Orleans.  The offseason, just before the holidays, so not very crowded.  Stayed at the Blake House on Charles Avenue.

Lots of exciting places to wander, and history to see.  I wasn’t far from the French Quarter which is an interesting place, although Bourbon Street itself is shit.

Dropped into the 1850 House Museum, the Presbytere and the Cabildo.

Interesting note:  Lafayette Square does not have a statue of the general and Lee Tower has nothing on top.  “Never turn your back on a Yankee”



Cemetery Tourism

I have always been fascinated by a cemetery.

There is a huge one near where I live, which dates to about one hundred years ago.  Many graves were moved here, and at the time it was considered so far out in the country it would last forever.  They estimate it will last another hundred years, but the city has grown around it.

There has been some neglect over time, and they have summer students doing research, and finding markers that have toppled sometime in the past and are completely grown over with grass.

Here, I look at a couple of historic cemeteries.

St Thomas Anglican Church

The Chisholm Monument
The Chisholm Monument

The Anglican church and cemetery date back to the early 1800s, and this is the most extravagant marker in the plot.  The Chisolm family have seven names attached to this marker, three of whom died in 1832.

Lafayette Cemetery #1

Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans

Located in the Garden District of New Orleans, this active working cemetery was established in 1833.

“Society Tombs” were established in the days before government-sponsored children’s services. Orphans and foster children were relegated to children’s homes and orphanages and would be interred here due to the high mortality rate.

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery

Santa Maria Cemetery, San Juan
Santa Maria Cemetery, San Juan
Santa Maria Cemetery, San Juan
Santa Maria Cemetery, San Juan

Located in San Juan, Puerto Rico,  construction for Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis began in 1863 and was administered by Carmelite nuns.  It is on the Atlantic shore at the foot of  Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

St Louis Cemetery #1

St Louis Cemetery, New Orleans
St Louis Cemetery, New Orleans

There’s a reason that I have saved this one for last.

The photo was taken from a tour bus as we drove by.  The cemetery is located on Basin Street and was established by the Catholic church in 1789.

I’m sure it is lovely inside.  However, it is a private operation, and not open for viewing unless you pay for a tour, something I was not prepared to do.  Not because I’m cheap, I just believe that charging for access like it is a tourist attraction is wrong.


Photo Essay: The Royal Mail Ship Olympic

The Royal Mail Ship Olympic  1910-1935


The RMS Olympic in New York CIty, 1911
The RMS Olympic in New York City, 1911

The RMS Olympic was a cruise ship on the White Star Line.  Launched in 1910, it would be in service until 1935 – part of that as a troop ship in WWI.  It was the largest liner in the world from 1911 – 1913, except for the Titanic (also a White Star Line).

Her maiden voyage began on 14 June, 1911 in Southampton, England and finished in New York City on 21 June, 1911, seven days later.

RMS Olympic Grand Staircase, 1911
RMS Olympic Grand Staircase, 1911
RMS Olympic - another view of the stairs - 1911
RMS Olympic – another view of the stairs – 1911
RMS Olympic – 1st Class Dining Room – 1911
RMS Olympic reading room - 1911
RMS Olympic reading room – 1911
RMS Olympic Palm Court, 1911
RMS Olympic Palm Court, 1911
RMS Olympic 2nd class entry and deck - 1911
RMS Olympic 2nd class entry and deck – 1911

The Olympic was retired in 1935 and sold for scrap  Olympic had completed 257 round trips across the Atlantic, transporting 430,000 passengers on her commercial voyages, travelling 1.8 million miles.


Photos from:  Library of Congress

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.

Get Directions

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.

Get Directions



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.

Get Directions




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”

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.