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Remember when a night in a decent hotel cost less than a new car?

Two years ago, I got my first whiff that hotels cost staggeringly more than they did before the pandemic.

Some American friends were coming to Toronto for a family event in 2022. I said I’d cover their two nights here and set about booking a mid-price hotel. All I could get was the Delta Chelsea Inn in downtown Toronto, by no means five-star, for $500 a night.

That was nothing. Today, global hotel rates are like Toronto housing prices.

The big issue is supply and demand. Millions more of us are breaking free not just from our homes to travel, but from our home and native lands.

This is especially true with luxury hotels. As this week’s Air Mail points out: “The rich are continuing to get richer, and there are many, many more of them. Today, according to Statista, there are 59 million millionaires on the planet; in 2000, there were only 15 million.”

I remember growing up in Edmonton where my father had a flower shop in the Fairmont Hotel  Macdonald. One night, a wholesaler took a display room at the hotel and invited my dad up to see his wares. All I remember is that the room cost $80 a night. Ever since then, I’ve used $80 a night as my baseline for what a luxury hotel room should cost. I know that makes no sense. It was 65 years ago. But we all carry these childhood markers for value, just as I search in vain today for bacon and eggs and coffee for $5.

Today, the cheapest room at the Royal York in Toronto costs $957 per night, while the Four Seasons is $875. The Chateau Lake Louise is $1,427 and the Fogo Island Inn is $2,875.

If I ever booked a room at any of these places, I’d be paralyzed with anxiety that I wasn’t getting the value I’d paid for. Meanwhile, every other guest in the lobby would treat the cost like the reality it is.

So what about avoiding hotels completely and staying in Airbnbs?

There was a day when they cost less than hotels. Then, when we weren’t looking, Airbnb pulled even with hotel rates, and now, Airbnb costs more than hotels.

Yes, hotels are outrageously expensive. But Airbnbs are worse.

There is only one solution. It’s been around for thousands of years, and it can dramatically cut your accommodation costs when you take a trip.

Stay with friends.

And if you want to visit Paris and you have no friends who live in Paris, why not put your social media networks to their original use? Remember the promise of technology? That we’d be able to create super-strong communities of people with common interests the world over.

Meanwhile….

1. History lessons. First, the history of making artificial eyes. Next, the history of counting calories. Next, Day 1 of capitalism. Finally, crafting a eulogy when all you want to do is crawl in a hole.

2. The 10 worst roads in Ontario. The CAA began compiling this annual list in 2003. The 2024 list includes 4 Toronto roads, among them the one I live on.

It seems the sanitizing effect of sunlight shines through.. Says the CAA: “We know that the campaign works; time and time again, we see roads and infrastructure projects being moved up and budgets prioritized after the road has appeared on the list.”

3. Where are all the women? Cate Blanchett calls out their absence at Cannes. But not all women are competent saints. For example, you do not want Paula Vennels leading your company.

4. Five takes on forgiveness. A father apologizes to his children. Plus returning anger to where it belongs. Plus, is mental illness transmissible? Plus the u-shaped curve of happiness…..and bonus, the hill-shaped curve of unhappiness. Finally, petrified guilt.

5. Two great Canadian nonagenarians. Norman Jewison (1926-2024) on creatingmovies, art, fun and the Canadian Film Centre. And Christopher Plummer (1929-2021) on Toronto in 1962.

Plus a Brit near-centenarian, David Attenborough, who turned 98 last month and whose latest BBC series, Mammals, is drawing raves.

Finally, who wrote the most-played tune on earth? Richard M. Sherman. And what is that tune? It’s a Small World (After All). Sherman was one half of the pair of brothers, along with Robert Sherman, who penned the instantly memorable songs for Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Richard Sherman died last month at 95.

6. A world without. Many people want all mining and oil extraction to shut down because it scars and degrades the earth and its workers. But these same people could not live a day without their iPhones, computer screens and other mod cons. The answer is not to do away with mining, but to do mining better. Here, the mining industry fights back, and back and back.

7. AI Hype, Robotic Hope. Hope first, a robotic surgeon in action on a kernel of corn. Now, AI hype, which I’m as prone to falling for as the next optimist. No surprise, it’s led first and loudest by industry sources.

8. Free Luminato Event. Hear architect Don Schmitt, and critic Kate Wagner, on the new book, Set Pieces: Architecture for the Performing Arts in Fifteen Fragments.

Wednesday, June 12th, 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in the Lobby of the Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street.

Free tickets here.

9. Please tell us your position. Russian-Israel author Dina Rubina was asked where she stands on the “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict. Meanwhile, filmmaker Ken Burns also made things clear at Brandeis University’s commencement.

10. The biggest fast food chains. Like everything, their rankings are changing faster than ever. Back in 1960, the biggest by far was Dairy Queen, followed by A&W.

11. One Met. One week. Four women. For the first 133 years in the Metropolitan Opera’s history, the company only hosted four women conductors. Then one week in April, it hosted four more.

Sadly, the people who review their performances are dying off, especially here in Toronto.

12. What I’m liking. The American historian Heather Cox Richardson, whose daily blog on US politics comforted us through the early days of COVID and seemingly the last days of Trump.

She’s on the Trump trail again in a post this week, quoting sports talk host Colin Cowherd: “Donald Trump is now a felon. His campaign chairman was a felon. So is his deputy campaign manager, his personal lawyer, his chief strategist, his National Security Adviser, his Trade Advisor, his Foreign Policy Adviser, his campaign fixer, and his company CFO. They’re all felons.”

You can subscribe to Letters From An American for USD $50 a year. Worth it and more.

_________________

IT WASN’T RAINING WHEN NOAH BUILT THE ARC

 

 

It’s June right now and summer is almost here. Time’s running short to book the trip of a lifetime in your home and native land.

So join us …in BC’s fabled Great Bear Rainforest…. aboard the National Geographic Venture… on a Lindblad Expedition.  The adventure starts in Ketchikan, Alaska, on September 2nd, 2024, and ends on September 9th, 2024  in Prince Rupert, BC.

Here are the details of the trip.

You can register in one of two ways:

1.  Download the application form and fill it out by hand, click here and then email it to the Lindblad Groups at groups@expeditions.com.

2.  Fill  out the form online, click here and your completed copy will automatically be sent to Lindblad Groups and to RamsayTravel.

Onward,

Bob

 

 

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