Very early in 2017, I learned about the Thunder Bay Blues Fest. The event features 100% Canadian talent, so I booked a VIP pass and began making plans. Held during the first weekend of July, I made this into a road trip, planning to do a circle tour of Lake Superior. Two days driving, but it realistically should have taken three.
Day one was an extremely long, tiresome day, having to first drive partly through the traffic mess that Toronto has become. North on the highway, and by about 16:00 I was settled into the Watertower Inn in Sault Ste Marie.
First stop was Batchawana Bay, which is 71km north and west of the Sault. Two centuries ago you would see voyageurs here, sheltered from the storms of Lake Superior.
Moving 43km north, my next stop was Alona Bay. Here is Theano Point, believed to be the first uranium find in Canada. Also nearby, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Move along another 90km north, through Lake Superior Provincial Park, and the next stop is Old Woman Bay. There are cliffs with forests, and a beach for your pleasure.
We now move inland, through the small town of White River (with a cute coffee shop) and travel 284km north and east to Aguasabon Falls, just west of Terrace Bay. There is a well-built viewing platform to take you near the falls.
Travelling 204km west, we are nearing our destination. We know we’ve arrived when we’re at the Terry Fox Memorial, just outside of Thunder Bay. His goal was to run across Canada, beginning in Newfoundland. This is where he was forced to end his journey.
The Lyceum Theatre opened its doors in the former Port Arthur in 1908, with seating for one thousand. There have been many changes of ownership and usage, with the ground floor being used for office/retail.
Remodeled in 1932 for “talking pictures”, it closed permanently in 1955.
The Prince Arthur Hotel originally built by CN, is on the same street, and dates from 1911.
Thirty kilometers west of Thunder Bay is Kakabeka Falls, a waterfall on the Kaministiquia River. It is the highest waterfall in North America.
September of 2016, I spent three wonderful weeks in England. I arrived at Gatwick Airport, hopped a train to St Pancras International Station, crossed the street to King’s Cross, and boarded another train north. My visit included York, Lincoln, Sheffield, London, Stratford and Bath.
I was staying in Lincoln for a few days, and one afternoon when I had nothing to do, I checked out the train schedule. For a small sum, and little travel time, a visit to Sheffield was in order.
On arrival at the train station, I exited away from the city centre. Up a rather steep hill, then a walk down Norfolk Avenue past the Shrewsbury Hospital Estate.
Further on, is the Cholera Monument Grounds and Clay Wood, part of Sheaf Valley Park.
First thing I notice is that it is very quiet. There are a few people jogging around the path, but not much else. A vast expanse of green, with the monument in the distance.
This park was used as a burial ground during the cholera epidemic of 1832. 402 victims are buried here, and the monument was erected in 1835.
This area is also the home of Clay Wood and Norfolk Park. The park opened in 1848 on land owned by the Duke of Norfolk. The park was officially given to the city of Sheffield in 1910.
At the entrance to Norfolk Park on Granville Road, exists an original Victorian light standard. Although originally gas, it has been converted to electric.
The Cholera Monument and grounds, Norfolk Park and the Lamp Standard have all been listed Grade II
2016 was not a great year for travel. Due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to spend my usual winter at my condo in Florida. I was in Canada from October until April 1st, when I went to Florida for one week.
Eartha Kitty stayed home for this trip. I took I75 south to Kentucky, where I turned onto secondary highways, passing through Crittenden, Dry Ridge, Williamstown, Mason, Corinth, Sadieville, Georgetown, Lexington, Nicholasville, Lancaster and Crab Orchard, finally settling in at Barbourville, KY.
Towards the closing of April, I went to Cincinnati for a long weekend, thanks to IHG Rewards Points. I stayed at the Staybridge Suites in West Chester out in the suburbs. No complaint; it was a decent hotel, and mostly free.
Surprisingly lots to do in Cincinnati. The American Sign Museum was a treat, situated near the old Crossley factory. The Taft Museum, Smashburger, the Findlay Market, the OTR Candy Bar and the Over The Rhine neighbourhood all worth a vist. Bonus for crossing the border to Newport, KY.
May brought a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. I stayed in a condo, on the top floor of an apartment building with a great view of English bay Beach. There was a new Nordstrom on Robson Street, and my first full day I had lunch at the Ovaltine Cafe on East Hastings Street. Late that afternoon, a trip to Horseshoe Bay and the Spirit Gallery.
Stanley Park, the Lennox Pub, Chinatown, the Vogue Theatre, Fountainhead Pub among the places I went. I rented a car and went to Whistler (Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre), Squamish, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Harrison Hot Springs.
June 22nd I arrived in Los Angeles for the first time, staying in Westwood. Budget provided me with a Kia Soul for the week, which turned out fairly good. Not nice to look at, but easy to drive and comfortable inside.
The Getty Center was a great trip, as was Santa Monica. Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills, The Walk of Fame, LACMA and the Petersen Automotive Museum were visited. Pueblo de Los Angeles, The Museum of Tolerance (Anne Frank exhibit) and the LaBrea Tar Pits were also included.
A side trip with friends took me to Santa Barbara and the Old Mission. I bought a painting, now hanging above my fireplace at the craft market at the waterfront.
Iceland Air had a seat sale, so in September I flew to England, landing in Gatwick on the 20th. From there, I boarded a train to St Pancras Station, switched to King’s Cross, and I was off to York.
I stayed at the Wheatlands Lodge Hotel – a series of Victorian town homes converted to a hotel; an easy walk to the Mickelgate Bar. York itself is a magnificent city dating to Roman times. One can walk the wall, visit the York Minster, the Yorkshire Museum and many other features. The Viking Museum was closed due to floods.
Highly recommended: a day trip through the Yorkshire Dales with BOB Holidays. It takes nine hours, and well worth it. Includes a stop at the “Oldest Sweet Shop in the World” in Harrogate and The Falcon Inn in Arncliffe.
A two hour train ride, four days later, and I’m in Lincoln. Everything seems to be uphill from here. I stayed at a B&B called The Poplars. Nice place with friendly cats.
Lincoln Cathedral is the highlight, as is the high street for shopping. While here, I took a side trip to Sheffield, checking out the Cholera Monument and Lime Avenue.
Four days later, I travel to London, where I stay for eight days.
One of the perks of travel with Iceland air is a free stopover in Iceland. I chose to take mine at the end of my trip, arriving on 4th October.
The entire stay was dogged with pounding rain, cold and violent winds. The Blue Lagoon was a wonderful respite, despite the weather. The Golden Circle Tour heavily marred by the storms.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Five years ago I spent a decent week in Vancouver. A slight chill in the air, most days were a combination of rain and sun. I stayed at the Empire Landmark Hotel, a huge place (a former Sheraton, I believe), with breakfast served in the revolving restaurant on top. There was a lot to see in Vancouver, but I particularly liked East Hastings Street.
The Ovaltine Cafe was opened in 1942 and has been used as a film set many times, including the movie I, Robot and the original X Files series. The hanging sign dates from 1948 and the lettering across the front from 1943.
The building was constructed in 1912 in the Edwardian Italian Renaissance Revival style as an apartment building. It was home to government offices and a postal station, but subsequently used as a rooming house since 1925.
One of the sharper places on the street, The Pennsylvania Hotel opened as the Woods Hotel in 1906. Through the years the hotel fell on hard times and had changed names. It closed as the Portland Hotel.
In 2008, after $12M in renovations, the Hotel Pennsylvania re-opened as a residence for low-income earners.
This twenty seat diner opened in 1924, and closed in 2009.
Totally decrepit in 2009, the Hotel Shaldon is a single room occupancy hotel for the homeless or those with a history of homelessness. 55 rooms with support staff available.
This cafe was in operation of East Hastings Street from 1944 to 1999. In 2010 the property owner donated the sign to the Vancouver Museum.
The first class Balmoral Hotel opened in September, 1912, with commercial entities on the ground floor and accommodation above. The sign dates from the 1940’s.
Now, one of the worst single room occupancy hotels in the city.
So there it is…a trip down historic Hastings Street in Vancouver. Sandwiched between Gastown and Chinatown, it’s difficult to miss, but well worth the trip. Get out of your car, and go for a walk.
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.
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 Island current falls under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Service. There is no charge for admission. Food service is not available.
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 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
Now closed, it was a dive bar located on Taylor Street.
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 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.
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.
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 has done a wonderful job preserving heritage signs.
Many of the hotels shown below no longer take bookings, or are even hotels. At least one is an active hostel, and many now fall under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.
The Columbia Hotel now operates as the Orange Village Hostel. Short term and long term stays are available.
The Ambassador Hotel was built in 1911, on the location of the Tivoli Opera House which was destroyed in the 1908 earthquake and fire. It was used as an informal aids hospice during the 1980’s and was renovated in 2003. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and is currently part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.
The Hotel Potter, on Mission Street, also part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource.
Part of the San Francisco Homeless Resource, a well maintained building with a beautiful original sign. The exterior fire escape is a nice touch.
All except one of these hotels is available to the public for booking. These are used by homeless resource agencies in the city of San Francisco. The hotels are referred to as SRO’s – single room occupancy. The signs, most of which have been restored, are called blade signs.
Much like Vancouver, Canada, the city has done a great job of preserving the heritage of their signage, both in neon form and painted. Here in Toronto, there’s not much to find in the old sign department. Sam the Record Man’s sign was to be preserved and installed by Ryerson University, but they failed to live up to their agreement.
Last I heard the sign will be installed somewhere on a building overlooking Yonge/Dundas Square downtown, across from The Eaton Centre.
I arrived in Lisbon late in the afternoon on a pleasant April day after a flight from Amsterdam. My taxi drops me at my address, after what seemed a very long drive. I have rented an apartment for my twelve day stay. It’s a very old three story building, with three doorbells. I ring them all. No answer.
A voice from around the corner: “Mr. George! Mr. George!” and here is Ana Paula, the owner. We go around the corner and stop in at Leitaria Confianca.
Owned by Ana Paula, it’s a combination variety store, coffee shop, restaurant and neighbourhood hangout. I have a beer and a chat, and get the keys to my new temporary flat. Ana Paula will run a tab for my entire stay.
The street is only one block long, and I’m in door number two. Up a flight of stairs and I’m inside. I have a living room with two juliette balconies, a bedroom with a closet, a kitchen with a very odd stove I didn’t use during my stay, and a very tiny and inconvenient bathroom. Lots of HD channels on the television, and working WiFi.
There is another apartment above me. The apartment below is entered through door number four.
Now I’m safely in the Santa Catarina district of Lisbon, a short walk to Miradouro de Santa Catarina, when everybody gets a great view of the Tagus River and can drink a beer, or have a coffee in the park. Further on is Rua do Loreto, where there is a small grocery store, and lots of local shops. Near the end of this street is Praça Luís de Camões.
I return to my apartment in the early evening, having walked around to get a feel for the area, stocked up on a few foods, stopped at the nearest bar (Le Marais), and begin planning activities for the next day.