Thursday, June 13, 2019

The City by the Bay that Knows How

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters. Thank you.

None of the named locations, or anyone for that matter other than my Patreon supporters, 
are paying me for this entry, and in no way have sponsored, endorsed, or have administered me to have written this post.

The City by the Bay that Knows How

Family brought me back west for a week, and I only had a single afternoon (more like less than six hours) to explore all of San Francisco. How does one spend such little time in such a grand and historic city? Well, you cannot, but that did not stop me from trying!

Bonus pre-day

While the week was full of work of moving my family into Sonoma Valley, we were able to take an afternoon to enjoy the natural beauty of northern coastal California. We took the stunning state highway (SR - State Route) 116 that travels along the Russian River, a river that runs through the valley, to its mouth at the Pacific Ocean at Goat Rock Beach.

Panorama of Goat Rock Beach

After spending a good afternoon at the beach, we went to nearby town of Jenner to eat dinner at River's End, a restaurant on a cliff-side that overlooks the mouth of the river.

Panorama of the Russian River flowing into the Pacific Ocean as viewed from the restaurant
Panorama of the Russian River flowing into the Pacific Ocean, separated by Goat Rock Beach. View from River's End restaurant.

Day at the City

My week ended with several hours able to spend exploring San Francisco. We drove south on the SR 101, which means that my first time in the city ever was introduced by driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. True to stereotypical San Franciscan fashion, the fog was so thick that we could not see the towers.

On the Golden Gate Bridge, facing south, with the south tower obscured by the fog
Fog is thicc
The first stop after crossing the bay was the famed Painted Ladies by Alamo Park.

The Painted Ladies
"What ever happened to predictability?"
From there, we drove down the crooked block of Lombard Street.

The crooked block of Lombard Street, looking upwards

After that, we decided to stop at Coit Tower. That was a great choice, as we were able to soak in amazing views of the skyline and the bay.

Alcatraz Island, as seen from Coit Tower, shrouded in San Franciscan fog
Alcatraz Island, as seen from Coit Tower

Onion domes of the ROCOR Holy Virgin CathedralWe parked a bit at the Financial District and walked around for a few minutes, and then went back to Russian Hill and the Richmond District and stopped at the Russian Holy Virgin Cathedral.

Iconostasis of the Holy Virgin Cathedral
Iconostasis of the Holy Virgin Cathedral

After a prayer service for the sick, we went to dinner at a Moroccan restaurant, El Mansour. Not realising that they also had belly dancers, we were surprised to have a dinner and entertainment.

Facade of El Mansour

Thus, my afternoon ended, and I was dropped off at the San Francisco International Airport to go back home.


As I stated above, I really did not have the time to explore for what this place deserves. Since my family now lives in the area, the likelihood of my return is high. And once I return, I will have a lot of the touristy stuff out of the way (minus things like visiting Alcatraz), and can explore more of the local scene. One thing is for sure, I look forward to this future exploration.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Afternoon at Starved Rock

Afternoon at Starved Rock

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters. Thank you.

To say that this winter in Illinois has been strange would be a grave understatement. It started mild, but on November 25 (just after Thanksgiving) we had a sudden temperature drop and a blizzard. Then on December 1 we had a tornado outbreak. It has been mild ever since, but threats of snow storms either than never happened or still to come.

Despite the weirdness of the weather, I took advantage of this time of the year's family gathering tendencies and the mildness and took to hiking at Starved Rock. It is 98 miles from Chicago, 62 miles from Bloomington-Normal, and 64 miles from Peoria, right along the southern bank of the Illinois River. It is a wonderful day trip if you live or are visiting those cities, or a splendid weekend getaway for any family or couple. I have always enjoyed that place, and I am surprised with myself that it took me this long to devote an article to it.
Front door of the Starved Rock Lodge decorated for the holidays
Front door to the Starved Rock Lodge
It is decorated for the holidays

History of the Park

Legend tells that the park got its name from a battle in the 1760's between two Native American tribes : the Illinois and the Ottawa. A brave from the Illinois tribe stabbed Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe. The Illinois fled and hid behind a rock, but then starved to death.

The area surrounding this rock was purchased from the Federal government by Daniel Hunt in 1895. Over time the ownership passed to the State of Illinois who made it into a recreational state park. Then the current trails, campsites, and Lodge were built.

In 1965, the park was name a National Historic Landmark.

To See and Do

Both guided and self-guided hikes are available, and there is much to see. There are two main inter-looping trails: bluff and riverside, and trails in-between to connect them, for a total of 13 miles of hike-able trail. There, you can see the sandstone as it is ornamented by waterfalls by summer or icefalls by winter. The trails visit a number of canyons where the waterfalls flow into.

There are also a number of historical sights near the park to visit; such as the Hegeler-Carus Mansion, Reddick Mansion, the Spirit of Peoria paddleboat (which visits the park during the summer), and much more. There is also an indoor water park at nearby Grand Bear Resort.

Our Day

We took the trails first to Starved Rock (the obvious namesake of the park), and overlooked Plum Island, a preserved island in the middle of the river where bald eagles will make their roost, and which is closed to public visitors.

View of Plum Island from just next to Starved Rock
View of Plum Island from just next to Starved Rock
Then we trekked over to Lover's Leap, named for two lovers from rival Native American tribes who leapt to their deaths instead of spending their lives apart. 

Left: view of Starved Rock from Lover's Leap
Right: view of Lover's Leap from Starved Rock
Then we hiked along the riverside. There we passed Starved Rock Lock and Dam, which allows for water travel between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes along the Illinois River, and we reached an overlook to have a panoramic view of the Illinois River.

From there, we went to Wildcat Canyon, one of the more popular canyons in the park, and for good reason. It is very pretty.

Left: Inside Wildcat Canyon
Right: Looking into Wildcat Canyon
We ended our day back at the Lodge to have dinner, and then we drove back home.


I love this park. It brings back memories of childhood, of scouting, and family trips. Each season brings a different beauty to the park: spring brings everything back to life and a higher rate of waterfalls, summer brings vibrancy, fall brings fall colours and the eagles, and the winter brings snow and ice falls. I plan on going back during the summer, and again next winter for a couple days in the Lodge.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Hotel Omni Mont-Royal - A Review

Hotel Omni Mont-Royal - A Review

This post is made possible in part by my Patreon supporters, and for Rasmussen Travels for setting the trip up. Thank you.

This post is a review of the Hotel Omni Mont-Royal. They are not paying me for this entry, and in no way have sponsored, endorsed, or have administered me to have written this post.

This is the hotel we chose to stay at in the Montréal portion of our French Canada anniversary trip.

First Impressions

Getting into the hotel was a bit rough, but I give that more to the city than the hotel. We had to turn left in the middle of a block while on a fairly busy street when there was a bit of construction on the sidewalk by the parking entrance. When we finally were able to get to the valet, they were extremely helpful. They loaded everything up on the luggage cart, and brought everything up to my room. However, we forgot somethings that we needed in the car, so they ran down and brought them to my room. It was great. Like in Québec, they knew that we were celebrating our honeymoon/anniversary, so they upgraded our room. Also, they gave us a bottle of champagne and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries. This alone puts Omni on top of my list from now on to look for hotels when I go to a new location.

Room details

We booked a Deluxe Room, and ended up with an Omni Suite. This room opens to a living room with a couch, two armchairs, a desk with a coffee maker, and a TV. This room has its own bathroom. Through a set of French doors, you enter the bedroom with a king sized bed, a TV, and its own bathroom. I got a lot of use out of the sofa in the living room as we kept returning to rest between segments of our day. The available Internet was not wired, but there was of course WiFi, and the TVs were cable. Even though we were on the 10th floor, the windows actually opened to let in fresh air (a safe amount; a person cannot fit through)! That was a nice touch. Shout out to housekeeping for keeping the room spectacular as we explored the city.

view of Montréal from hotel room
View from 10th floor of Montréal. See Mont Royal in the background

Hotel Amenities

lobby of Hotel Omni Mont-Royal
"Lobby" Credit to OMNI Hotels & Resorts image library
The hotel included a bar, the aforementioned valet, a fitness centre, a pool, a spa, a restaurant, a business centre, and more. Out of these amenities, we only took advantage of the valet and the bar. At the bar, I tried out a new drink that even the bartender had not done before. I based it off of the Manhattan, only it is Canadian whisky and Sortilège (a whisky based maple liqueur). It was very tasty.

Hotel Location

It was a far walk to Old Montréal, but it was still walkable. Yet, I would not judge anyone who would rather take a cab or public transportation to get there. Mont Royal was only a few blocks away, so we were able to walk there and back in the course of a late morning, early afternoon, and still get to Old Montréal for the rest of the day. It is also in the heart of the financial district, therefore RESO, the underground city, is easily accessible.


This stay was nothing short of amazing. I already know that we have to come back to Montréal to see more. This will not be my last stay at this hotel.

This post is a part of a series. Read more of the series here.

  1. "Le Voyage de canada français"
  2. "Un Jour en Québec"
  3. "Delta Hotels by Marriott Québec - A Review"
  4. "Un Jour en Montréal"
  5. "Hotel Omni Mont-Royal - A Review"
Hotel Omni Mont-Royal - A Review