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A year in review: Disappointments and surprises from my travels

St. Mary's Cathedral
The interior of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky. |

Another year of travel produced another year of travel surprises and disappointments.

The following are the highlights and lowlights of my travels in 2022.

Travel disappointments

Visiting Toronto was a disappointment.

Having grown up just across the American-Canadian border in Michigan at a time when nobody went to Detroit for a big-city experience, there was always some appeal in going to Canada’s largest city.

However, as with San Francisco and other U.S. cities, homelessness and increased crime have negatively impacted Toronto. I experienced this back in the summer.

While Toronto still has a tremendous number of things to do and see, those remembering the clean and safe streets of yore will surely be disappointed by what they see today: homeless encampments, parks overtaken by vagabonds, semi-aggressive panhandlers and that distinctive smell of marijuana (thanks to legalization) everywhere and anywhere on the streets of downtown.

However, my biggest disappointment this year was the hotels.

While hotels have mostly recovered from the darkest days of the pandemic, the experience that guests are receiving these days is anything but normal.

Hotels across the quality spectrum and among all major brands have done everything possible to cut costs and increase profits. At the same time, brand standards that chains used to enforce upon franchisees seem more like suggestions at Hyatt Place and Courtyard by Marriott.

Daily housekeeping at many brands is a thing of the past. One consequence of reduced housekeeping is dirtier guest rooms, as room attendants generally aren’t allocated extra time to clean a room that hasn’t been serviced for two or three days. Then there are the little bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash, which at many chain hotels have been replaced by unsanitary wall-mounted dispensers that, more often than not, are empty or half-empty.

Travel surprises

Across all my trips, two destinations really stood out.

St. George
St. George, Utah, is a gateway to national parks and outdoor recreation. |

One was St. George, Utah.

This once-sleepy college town with its historically dominant Mormon or Latter-day Saint — as adherents of the nontrinitarian faith are generally called today — community surprised me.

For starters, the location near Utah’s borders with Arizona and Nevada makes the seat of surrounding Washington County a gateway to national parks and outdoor recreation on assorted public lands. These are the kind of places where even nonbelievers are amazed at the endless beauty of God’s creation.

In short, St. George must be one of the most underrated places anywhere in the Southwest.

Covington
The streets of the National Register of Historic Places-listed Mainstrasse Village in Covington, Kentucky. |

Then there’s Covington, Kentucky.

Located across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, it’s become a destination in its own right, thanks to Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis.

The ministry operates two big attractions: the Creation Museum, which tells the story of biblical creation through Young-Earth Creationism, and Ark Encounter, a full-scale interpretation of the vessel that Noah built to escape the flood of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

Beyond the museum and ark is downtown Covington itself, which punches above its weight.

A major landmark is St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. The west front of the Roman Catholic cathedral is a one-third-scale copy of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Another big draw is Mainstrasse Village, a quaint National Register of Historic Places-listed district. Today, shops and restaurants occupy 19th-century buildings that were once the homes and businesses of the German community.

Dennis Lennox writes a travel column for The Christian Post.

Dennis Lennox writes about travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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