A year in review: The disappointments and surprises of my travels

St. Mary's Cathedral
Interior of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Covington, Kentucky. |

Another year of travel produced travel surprises and disappointments.

Following are the highlights and lowlights of my travels in 2022.

Travel disappointments

Going to Toronto was disappointing.

Growing up across the US-Canadian border in Michigan at a time when no one went to Detroit for a big-city experience, visiting Canada’s biggest city always had some appeal.

However, like San Francisco and other American cities, homelessness and increased crime negatively affected Toronto. I experienced this during the summer.

While there are still plenty of things to do and see in Toronto, those who remember the clean and safe streets of old will be disappointed by what they see today: homeless encampments, parks overrun by vagrants, semi-occupying panhandlers and that distinctive smell of marijuana (thanks to legalization) everywhere and everywhere on the city’s streets.

However, my biggest disappointment this year was the hotels.

While hotels have mostly recovered from the dark days of the pandemic, the guest experience these days is normal.

Hotels across the quality spectrum and among all the major brands have done everything possible to cut costs and increase profits. At the same time, the brand standards the chains are using to enforce on franchisees look like Marriott’s recommendations at the Hyatt Place and Courtyard.

Daily housekeeping is a thing of the past with many brands. One consequence of reduced housekeeping is dirty guest rooms, as room attendants are not given extra time to clean a room that has not been serviced for two or three days. There are small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash that have been replaced by unsanitary wall-mounted dispensers in many chain hotels, which are often empty or half-empty.

Travel surprises

In all my travels, two places really stand out.

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

One is St. George, Utah.

In this once sleepy college town with a historically dominant Mormon or Latter-day Saint — today commonly known as adherents of the Trinitarian faith — the community surprised me.

For starters, its location near Utah’s borders with Arizona and Nevada makes the surrounding Washington County seat a gateway to outdoor recreation in national parks and classified public lands. These are places where even non-believers marvel at the endless beauty of God’s creation.

In short, St. George has to be one of the most underrated destinations anywhere in the Southwest.

Streets of the National Register of Historic Places listed village of Mainstrasse in Covington, Kentucky. |

And then there’s Covington, Kentucky.

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

The ministry operates two major attractions: the Creation Museum, which tells the story of biblical creation through young-earth creationism, and the Ark Encounter, a full-scale interpretation of the ark Noah built to escape the flood of Genesis, Book One. The Bible.

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

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

Another big attraction 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 on travel, politics and religious affairs. He has been published in the Financial Times, Independent, The Detroit News, Toronto Sun and other publications. Follow along @dennislennox on Twitter.

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