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.

 

 

 

Vancouver Heritage

 

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.

 

The Henry Birk's Store, Downtown Vancouver Heritage Property
The Henry Birk’s Store, Downtown Vancouver

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.

Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue - part of Simon Fraser University
Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue – part of Simon Fraser University

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.

Heritage detail above the entrance to the former TD Bank
TD Bank Detail

Detail of the door on the right in the previous photo.

 

Former Post Office
Former Post Office

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.

Return to Vancouver, BC, Spring 2016

WestJet had a seat sale, so I thought it was time for another trip to Vancouver, BC.

I usually book trips based on a seat sale and where I want to go.  One of the conditions of this sale required me to take a flight with three stops.  I departed from London, ON (YXU), next stop was Winnipeg, MB (YWG), followed by Calgary, AB (YYC), where we had an opportunity to deplane for thirty minutes, finally arriving in Vancouver, BC (YVR).  Not a terrible way to spend an afternoon.

I had booked accommodation through EBAB – a site I have used before, although mostly in Europe.  I just off Davie Street, within walking distance of English Bay Beach.

The view from my balcony in Vancouver, near English Bay Beach.
The view from my balcony in Vancouver, near English Bay Beach.

It was evening when I arrived.  The apartment owner picked me up at the airport, and made dinner.  I settled in for the night.

Early the next morning, it was time to venture out.  I took a wander down Robson Street, where I had stayed on my previous trip.  Locals are making a big deal over a new Nordstrom store that recently opened.  Lunch brought me to the Ovaltine Cafe on East Hastings Street.  It’s easy to see that gentrification is encroaching.

The Ovaltine Cafe on East Hasting Street - in business since 1943.
The Ovaltine Cafe on East Hastings Street – in business since 1943.

Late afternoon the apartment owner calls, asks if I want to take a trip!  He picks me up downtown, and we’re off to Horseshoe Bay.  It’s a small village nearby in West Vancouver.  We stopped into the Spirit Gallery, where I bought a piece of native art for my home.  It barely fit in my carry-on.

The BC Ferries dock at Horseshoe Bar
The BC Ferries dock at Horseshoe Bay

We returned to Vancouver and had dinner at the apartment.  I went for a walk in the dark, toward the Pacific Ocean, where I discovered that at the end of Davie Street is English Bay Beach.  Great for a little evening relaxation.

My trip starts out well, with a packed first day.  Six more days to go.  Early mornings, late evenings, lots of walking, a car rental, and side trips to Harrison Hot Springs, Chilliwack and Whistler.

More to come…

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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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The Old St Thomas Church

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.

 

Gateway to the Old St Thomas Church
Gateway to the Old St Thomas Church
Gateway to the Old St Thomas Church
Your first view of the Old St Thomas Church from inside the gate.
The St Thomas Historical Board commemorated the 100th anniversary of the church in 1924.
The Elgin Historical Board commemorated the 100th anniversary of the church in 1924.

The interior of the church remains much as it did when built.  Cubicle style pews, a prisoner’s box, historical artifacts and original windows.

http://oldstthomaschurch.com/
The church was closed when I was there, and this was the only picture I could get through a reachable window. The rear of the church is on a hill and is not accessible.

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.

The Chisholm Monument
The Chisholm Monument
The gravestone of Ann Payne, born in 1762 and dies in 1834.
The gravestone of Ann Payne, born in 1762 and died in 1834.

Many of the graves have suffered the effects of age, acid rain, and even vandalism.

Old St Thomas Church Graveyard
Old St Thomas Church Graveyard

Buried here are the son of Daniel Rapelje (founder of St Thomas), Judge Hugh Richardson (sentenced Louis Riel to death) and Octavius Wallace (Canadian, fought as a corporal during the US Civil War).

Sometimes, small towns and cities hold the most memorable treasures.

 

 

** UPDATE **

Doors Open Ontario came to St Thomas early in October, 2014, and I was able to tour the interior of the church.

Interior, stained glass window, Old St Thomas Church
Interior, stained glass window, Old St Thomas Church

The interior of the church, from above the front door.  the rear of the church backs onto a ravine.  These are the only (not original) stained glass windows.

Interior, Old St Thomas Church
Interior, Old St Thomas Church

Early in its history, the church did not have stained glass windows.  The windows were painted to resemble them.  This is the last one remaining, still in place.

The last remaining painted window in the Old St Thomas Church
The last remaining painted window in the Old St Thomas Church

 

 

Art Gallery of Ontario

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto

Sign beside the door of the Art Gallery of Ontario
Sign beside the door of the Art Gallery of Ontario
Art Gallery of Ontario streetscape, fronting Dundas Street in Toronto
Art Gallery of Ontario streetscape, fronting Dundas Street in Toronto

The Art Gallery of Ontario began as the Art Museum of Toronto in a historic Georgian manor in downtown Toronto.  The building was left as a bequest of Harriet Boulton (nee Dixon) in 1909.

The building has had numerous upgrades and expansions over the years.  The current structure looks like a dirigible facing the street.  The original mansion is behind and serves as the members lounge.

The gallery has seen many travelling exhibitions through the years, including the 1979 King Tutankhamun Exhibition.

The Barnes Foundation in 1994, the Courtald Collection in 1998.

Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts
Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts – Silver Rolls Royce
Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts
Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts

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.

Haute Culture: General Idea
Haute Culture: General Idea at the Art Gallery of Ontario

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.

Alex Colville retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Alex Colville retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario

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.

Landscape Exhibition
Landscape Exhibition
The Grange
The Grange

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.

Tom Thompson:  The West Wind
Tom Thompson: The West Wind

Part of the permanent collection, this iconic image was created in 1917.  It was the artist’s final painting:  he drowned later that year.

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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.

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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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Sherbourne Street Toronto

There’s lots to see and do in Toronto, some off the well worn tourist path.  Sherbourne Street stretches from Bloor to the lakeshore (where it’s called “Lower Sherbourne”.  I took a stroll from Carlton Street to Richmond.

Parish of the Sacred Heart
Parish of the Sacred Heart, at the corner of Carlton and Sherbourne

Located on the northeast corner, Paroisse du Sacre Coeur was built in 1936, despite looking significantly older.  The building was expanded in 1951, and remains an active French language church.

St Luke's United Church
St Luke’s United Church, at the corner of Carlton and Sherbourne

Located on the southwest side of Sherbourne, St Luke’s United Church.  Opened in 1887 as Sherbourne Street Methodist, later Sherbourne United.  This church amalgamated with Carlton United to form the present entity.

Allen Gardens Conservatory
Allan Gardens Conservatory

One of Toronto’s oldest parks, Allan Gardens is situated between Carlton, Sherbourne, Gerrard and Horticultural streets.  The conservatory was built in 1910 and is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Robbie Burns
Robbie Burns

Allan Gardens has had significant changes over the years, including two wings to the conservatory.  There was a massive fountain in front of the conservatory which has long been lost to history.

In 1902, the Toronto Burns Monument Committee gave the city a life size statue of Robbie Burns which still stands.  Located midway down Sherbourne Street, the statue faces into the park.

John Ross Robertson House
John Ross Robertson House

John Ross Robertson was a philanthropist and publisher who lived in this house from 1881 – 1918.  He published the first school newspaper, was city editor and The Globe and later founded The Daily Telegraph.  In 1876 he founded The Evening Telegraph which became on of Toronto’s most influential newspapers.

True Love Cafe
True Love Cafe

The exotic purple and red True Love Cafe, located at Sherbourne and Dundas.  They have an extensive reasonably priced menu, and acoustic jams on the weekends.  A large space that’s good for the neighbourhood.

Mansion at 230 Sherbourne Street
Mansion at 230 Sherbourne Street

Located just south of Dundas Street, this mansion was derelict for many years.  Dating from appoximately 1872, it housed William Dineen, a prominent furrier.  As the neighbourhood declined, it became a rooming house, and eventually was an empty, boarded up shell.  The absentee landlord applied for a demolition  permit, which was denied, and the building received heritage status.

The home has been restored within the last five years, but remains vacant.

Sherbourne and Queen
Sherbourne and Queen

Toronto has many buildings similar to this in various states of repair.  Although most still have residential occupants and businesses at ground level, this location has been abandoned for years.

A 2008 Toronto Star article refers to the area as “skid row”.  Even today, this area is laced with trendy boutiques and million dollar condos within sight.

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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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