Toronto’s Walk of Fame vs. Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

Walking in the Entertainment District of Downtown Toronto, I discovered their Walk of Fame.  It’s actually called Canada’s Walk of Fame, and it honors well known Canadians with a tile on the pavement, just like in Hollywood.  People like Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Jim Carrey, Wayne Gretzky, Alex Trebek, Shania Twain, and Joni Mitchell.  Or Robbie Robertson, the guitar player for The Band:


Looking at these names really pointed out to me what influence Canadians have had in the entertainment industry.  Sure, I knew a lot of America’s well known comedians are actually Canadian (Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, Mike Myers), but there are some seriously heavy hitting entertainers from Canada.  Louis B. Mayer?  As in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer?  As in the founder of MGM?  Dude’s Canadian.  I’m just glad he cut that hockey scene from The Wizard of Oz.


Since I live in Los Angeles, I couldn’t stop myself from comparing Canada’s Walk of Fame to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.  I made a pros/cons list for Canada’s.  Here it is:


-Doesn’t smell like urine.

-No homeless guys sleeping in doorways.

-Refreshing lack of racist cartoon characters posing for pictures.

-Next to a lovely park.

-Traffic not congested and the drivers are very polite.

-You always feel safe walking down the street.

-Not even one juiced up dude reeking of cologne.

-Aspiring, amateur “musicians” aren’t busking on the street hoping to be discovered by an agent.

-Devoid of party girls drunkenly stumbling along the sidewalk on a “girls night out” bender.


-It’s not Hollywood.

Jun 2013
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Hotel Alone

So I’m up in Toronto for a travel blogging convention called TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange).  Yeah, they actually have a convention for travel bloggers.  Go figure.  But I guess it’s pretty easy to fill an international travel convention with travel bloggers, since travel bloggers like to travel.  This could be the most meta convention there is, unless steel workers are having one at a construction site somewhere.

That’s not why I’m writing this post.  I’m writing this post because for the first time in my life, I’m staying in a hotel room by myself.  Here’s a picture:


Here’s another one:


Huge, right?  Now, this isn’t me bragging.  First off, I wouldn’t be staying at this place if it weren’t for the incredible TBEX discount I got.  And still, even with the discount, I’m spending more on accommodations than I’ve ever spent before anywhere.  But the price does include a hot breakfast, free internet, and the hotel is right in downtown Toronto, a few minutes walk from the convention.  As the TV show Parks and Recreation says, “Treat yourself.”  The room is twice as expensive as a hostel, but I would argue it’s at least three times as luxurious.  So if I go by my sound, mathematical logic, I’m making out pret-ty well.

I’ve stayed in hotel rooms before, but I’ve always shared them.  I’ve had to share the bathroom and the closet space and argue over what to watch on TV.  And when I stayed in hostels?  Forget it.  It’s communal everything in those places.  Not so in Toronto.  Right now, I feel like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone after he happily realizes he has the entire house to himself.  And then he has that really fun montage of all the awesome stuff he does, like ordering a cheese pizza and scaring the delivery guy with firecrackers.

I’m basically living that movie.  I have a lovely hotel room just for me.  Already, I’ve taken advantage of my independence.  Just scattered my luggage throughout the room.  I’ve got the space!  Why not?  And it’s not like someone’s going to tell me to put it away neatly.  I can do whatever I want!  I’m an adult!  Yeah, I don’t need six pillows on my bed, but they gave me six pillows.  I’m going to sleep with six pillows!  It’s possible.  I’ll figure out how.  Don’t have to close the door when I use the bathroom.  Who’s going to look?  No one!  I’m an adult!

I know later in Home Alone, Kevin gets incredibly lonely and realizes he can’t live without his family.  But that’s after, like, a lot of real fun scenes.  Remember when he buys the toothpaste and has to run onto the skating rink to escape a policeman?  Or when he scares off bumbling burglars with his quick thinking and keen use of shadow puppets?  I mean, yeah, eventually Kevin looks deep within himself and realizes human connections are crucial to experiencing life at its fullest, but I’m not going to get all existential over one weekend alone in a hotel room.  Nope.  It’s just giant bowls of ice cream and watching late night scary movies for me.

May 2013
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Does 5 Cent Coffee Still Exist?

Yes it does, Travel Bugger.  It exists at Wall Drug.  What is Wall Drug?  Take a tacky, roadside souvenir shop and then make it the size of a city block.  And then add some creepy animatronic robots singing cowboy songs and a place where you can pan for gold and a “train station water show.”  That’s kind of what it is.

It’s in South Dakota, mere miles outside of Badlands National Park, and very close to Mount Rushmore, so if you map it right, you can hit all three on your road trip.  What really compelled me to visit Wall Drug was their promise of five cent coffee.  All along the drive on Interstate 90, they have signs advertising for the place.

One sign (unfortunately one I was unable to take a picture of while driving) promised five cent coffee.  I like coffee, and I like a good deal, so they had me.

Sure enough, when I got there, there it was.  Five cent coffee.  Though buying it is more of an honor system than I would have liked.  I wanted a receipt that told me I spent five cents for coffee.  It would have been the complete opposite of this receipt.  Instead of paying at the cash register, though, you put a nickel in a little box.

Was it good coffee?  No.  It was pretty bad.  I may have overpaid.  But they didn’t promise good five cent coffee, so it wasn’t false advertising.  I will say, though, when driving through rural Washington, I got a cup of coffee at a gas station, and boy, was that not as good as a cup at a local coffeeshop.  It was a buck or so more expensive than Wall Drug’s, but still.  It was at a gas station.  They know how to brew a Cup o’ Joe in Washington, even next to an aisle of Slim Jim’s.

But it didn’t look like this.  For this, you have to drive into Seattle.

Oct 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Geyser Envy

People visit Yellowstone National Park to see Old Faithful.  They see other sights there, too, but that cash cow moneymaker that those park ranger fatcats make those piles of money with is Old Faithful.  They even built a lodge overlooking the thing.

I enjoyed watching Old Faithful erupt, sure.  I would think it difficult to find someone who doesn’t like watching boiling hot water shoot out of the earth hundreds of feet in the air.  That’s pretty cool.  (By the way, if you know someone who hates geysers, don’t be his friend.  He’s got problems).  But what I didn’t enjoy was the fact there was a perfectly good geyser very close to Old Faithful that no stopped to look at: Castle Geyser.

A really solid geyser.  It has character, this geyser.  But no one will ever know, because they’re focused on the established geyser and the well-known tricks that geyser can do.  They don’t want to take a chance with this scrappy, unknown geyser.  But Castle Geyser’s got dreams, darn it!

It’s got a bad location, that’s the problem.  Right next to the most famous geyser in the world!  Sadly, that means it’ll always play second banana to the Big Man.  Always opening, never headlining.  How can anyone live a successful geyser life under the massive shadow of Old Faithful?  It’s flashy, it’s punctual, it’s iconic.  You can’t compete with that.  Well, I’m rooting for you, Castle Geyser.  You’ll get your shot one day, and not your regular, “every 10-12 hours” one.

Oct 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert

Travel Tales: Solvang, or The Sassy Bartender

Have you ever seen the movie Sideways?  If you haven’t, you should.  And if you don’t believe me, Rotten Tomatoes has it at 96% fresh, so… yeah.  I forgive you if you thought I was lying.  On paper, I don’t think I would like the movie.  It follows two unlikeable, middle aged men on a road trip to Central California wine country as they celebrate the last week of bachelorhood before one of them gets married.  Despite the unrelatable subject matter to me given that I’m not middle aged or about to get married, I still loved the film.  First, it’s hilarious.  I still remember watching it in a packed theater and laughing along with all the middle-aged wine aficionados surrounding me (according to some, the movie even had an effect on wine sales).  But aside from the comedy, it’s shot beautifully and really showcases Central California in a golden-hued, magical light.  Like any good travelogue-y movie, it made me want to visit.

I’ve watched a lot of movies where I wanted to visit the locations.  The Sound of Music’s Austria, Lord of the Ring’s New Zealand, Vicky Cristina Barcelona’s Spain.  I have yet to visit any of these places, but as far as Sideways went, it was just two hours north from Los Angeles.  A little easier than a twelve hour flight.  And two of my good friends who also loved the movie also wanted to visit.  So we took our own Sideways road trip, minus the mid-life crises.

We thought we were so cool.  No one could possibly have done this before.  So what if there’s a map online listing all of the Sideways locations?  This was an original road trip idea.

We stayed in Solvang at Hotel Corque.  Went on a wine tour.  It was great.  We were the only people there younger than 35-years-old, but that’s what made us trailblazers.  Then we ate at the Hitching Post, a restaurant integral to the plot of the movie.

We get seated, and who should be sitting next to us but another friend of mine from Los Angeles!  He explains he goes up here pretty often, always making sure to hit the big Sideways locations.  Great.  We’re just another group doing the same thing as everyone else.  Our feeling of lameness continued when we visited a wine bar later that night.  The female bartender gave us one look and said, “Let me guess.  You’re all from LA and came up here because of Sideways?”  Of course we lied and said that wasn’t the reason, but she knew.

We still had a good time, though.  And really, how was our Sideways road trip any different than taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower or the Sydney Opera House?  It’s what people do.  In some small way, doing the same thing as everyone else connects us together.  And what better way to feel closer to your fellow man than to get drunk in Wine Country?

Oct 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert