Tag Archives: holiday

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.

 

 

 

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…

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.

Magnolia Mound

The Magnolia Mound Plantation House is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, near the Mississippi River, located about one mile south of the downtown area.  It was built in the French Creole style in 1791, with an addition in the early 1800’s.

Front of House
Front of House
Front Porch
View of the front porch

The main room has a rare cove ceiling, and many federal accents were added throughout the house.  Like most large homes of the period, the kitchen was a located in a separate building, due to fear of fire.

Kitchen
The kitchen, separate from the main house.

The original grounds of the plantation were six hundred acres, and there were fifty slaves to work them.  Cotton, indigo, tobacco and sugar cane.

By 1966 the house had fallen into disrepair, and the city of Baton Rouge used “eminent domain” to acquire it, and sixteen of the remaining acres.  None of the original slave cabins remained, so one was brought in from the area.

Plantation slave cabin, original to the period.
Plantation slave cabin, original to the period.

Baton Rouge is not a huge tourist draw, even more because New Orleans is less than ninety minutes away.  There are several places here of interest to those who appreciate history and architecture and are worth checking out.

This was my first stop when I arrived, before checking into my hotel.  Well worth a couple of hours of your time, and the guide was most knowledgeable.

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

 

 

 

 

Rochester, NY September 2014

 

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

Cleveland, Ohio 2013

 

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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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Summer Travels Begin

I’ve been back in Toronto since mid-April.  It’s a great time to watch the city transform into summer, however we have had an unusually cold spring.  As I write this it is a chilly 10C and there’s been light rain all day.

Last week was my first venture out of town; one of several I’ll make to the lovely city of Stratford, Ontario.  It’s just slightly over two hours driving one way.

The city is home to the exciting Stratford Festival. one of the greatest classical theatres in North America.  This year marks my fortieth year of attending performances there.  Thursday I attended performances of The Three Musketeers and Blithe Spirit.  There’s nothing like some Noel Coward to end your day with a smile.

I’ll be back before the end of June for two more productions, and probably several times more before their season ends this fall.

This looks like a good year for a summer road trip.  Over the coming months I’ll be in Cleveland, Fort Wayne, Saint Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Little Rock.  More to come, for sure.

 

Stratford Downtown
Stratford Downtown

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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.

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