Hamilton – you surprised me 

Imagine having stayed in Sheffield for a bit, and then you decide to have three days in Rotherham before you go home . Well I really did feel like that was happening to me. The bus journey from Toronto was unremarkable but whizzing through the town centre I thought it looked promising. That bit disappeared when I boarded the local bus and disembarked in a distinctively dodgy area. After walking a couple of blocks past piles of rubbish bags stinking on the heat, broken down verandas and myriad auto body repairs, I found the Hamilton Guest House. I thought –  I’m staying here?  It smelt when I went in – the sort of smell a house gets when an old person has been living there a while with no help.

But the building was quirky, the staff were nice – but oh did it need a good clean. But in a way,  it was a third of the cost of the HI Toronto hostel and you pay for what you get.  So I’d seen an open mic on th Internet at a place called Zyla’s. It looked not far – so I thought I’d do my intial walkabout thing to check it out.  I walked down Cannon – thinking I’d come to the back end of nowhere . But then I hit James St. It was like walking through some kind of a portal. Suddenly there were bistros, coffee shops and all things I like. Zyla’s was open at 6. I turned back on to Barton and here we were again in Rotherham . Weird. 

I went back for the guitar and a cuppa in the very scary kitchen and off I headed. Well what a night!  I played a full set and how quickly Zyla’s went from demure ladies’ birthday dinner to a really lively buzzing music bar with everybody spilling onto the street in the nicest possible way. A full four piece funk band – Monkley Cascade were a tip-top professional outfit and in such a small venue were less noisy that some guys with acoustics at open mic night!

Had to do a bit of bridgespotting before I left, and the next day I took the number 1 bus towards Burlington to see the Thomas McQuesten. It felt great jumping a fence to access the now closed staircase that goes underneath it. Some fine old ironworks on this Scottish design steel arch. And later I hopped on the number 2 and 11 to get to the Beach Boulevard area to photograph the Skyway though arch build. Got footage of the canal bridge going up and down – superb!  Click here

And then there was the beach. A  strange Costa del Hamilton – folks bringing their own little ecosystems of music and bars – not a destination for the affluent. But a thin sliver of really soft forgiving sand and the warmest of water adjunct to the cycle path. Very pleasant when you find a spot of your own.

Despite the strange lack of suitable accommodation for backpackers – I’d go again.


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