Cool It

When doing research regarding abandonements, I try not to spend too much time studying photographs that other photographers have taken at that particular location.  While I want to ensure that a place may be worth visiting, I want to limit the influence that seeing those images will have on me.  As a result, I think that allows me to explore and get a feel for a place without subconsciously thinking about those images I've seen.  I try and give myself the best chance of allowing the creative process to occur naturally.

Having said that, there are some locations where images framed in a certain way simply scream to be taken.  Such was the case at this power plant cooling tower I'd visited on my last trip to Europe.  While the explore was fairly quick, it's likely one of the most photogenic places I've ever visited on my explorations.

Cool It


Repurposing Abandonements

As an urban explorer I sometimes have mixed feelings when I see abandoned locations being repurposed.  I am sad to see a location be no longer available for exploration.  On the other hand, I am glad to see the location be preserved and actually be used again instead of completely deteriorating.

Such a scenario is in the process of unfolding at an abandoned veterinary school I visited on my last trip to Europe.  The photograph below is from a classroom within a complex of buildings that's being repurposed into a residential community.  This particular building is the last building that can still be considered abandoned, the others have been renovated and repurposed already.  Maybe one day I will be able to visit this site and see how it presents itself as a residential space.  Very cool.

Repurposing Abandonements


Wasted Light

The natural light coming through this pristine skylight is now only enjoyed by the urban explorers who visit this European chateau.

Wasted Light


Pristine Decay

Throughout my urban exploration trip in Europe I made it a point to be conscious of whether or not there were differences in exploring in Europe versus in North America.  Obviously, Europe's further reaching history means that many of the sites that could be explored are much much older than anything we could find at home.  Of course, you don't need to actually explore there to make that assertion.

One clear difference that I noticed is, in general, the sites that get explored in Europe are in really good condition.  Obviously the urban exploration community treats these places with respect.  However, on top of that, there seems to be minimal vandalism, very little scrapping, etc.  As such, the natural processes of decay are much more noticeable.

As an example, take the chateau pictured below.  While it certainly shows some signs of decay (it's been abandoned for quite a number of years now), it's still in fantastic shape.  In North America, such a beautiful place would be in ruins within a year.

Pristine Decay


In a New York minute

We had a slightly later start in the morning since we already knew the water treatment plant was off our list. The sites for the rest of the day included 2 abandoned county jails, another abandoned hospital facility, and a theatre. Little did we know it would be a dismal day for urban exploration. The first county jail was in the middle of a new construction suburban development. From the looks of it, it had recently been torn down. The hospital facility could no longer be located on updated local satellite maps. The second county jail was still standing. However, the strong police enforcement presence in the area was enough to give us second thoughts on the site and we left quickly. The theatre was located fairly close to the second county jail. As we drove up to it, we saw three police patrol cars parked directly in front of the theatre’s boarded up entrance.

We were amazed at our 100% failure rate for the day. We decided that we would be tourists for the rest of the day and drove to Manhattan. We had a satisfying brunch at Jerry’s Cafe and spent the rest of the day wandering around lower Manhattan, the Soho district, and the midtown district.

We left the city before it started to get dark. We checked in at our hotel for the night and then headed out again for dinner. We ate at an establishment called the Powerhouse. It was formerly a powerhouse that had been converted into a restaurant. How appropriate. =) Tomorrow we will attempt one more urban exploration before starting our trek home.


A prescription for adventure

The shortened daylight hours at this time of the year leaves us no choice to but get up early and be on the road as soon as possible. Before we headed out, we indulged in the complimentary breakfast offered by our hotel. We were pleasantly surprised. There were 5 available hot items on top of breads, cereals, and assorted pastries. Pretty impressive!

Our first stop of the day was a large complex of buildings that were previously used as a state psychiatric hospital. We could see the buildings from the parking lot of a strip mall on the adjoining property. They were a short distance away across a forested area. We cautiously made our way through the forested area. Halfway through, we were approached by a man on an all-terrain vehicle. We patiently waited for him to reach us. He simply wanted to let us know that he had seen some hunters in the area and that we should keep an eye out for them. We breathed a sigh of relief, thanked him, and then parted ways. We continued on through the forest towards the complex. Once we arrived, we spent several hours on the property exploring various buildings. The main building was several stories tall and contained administrative offices. There was also a small chapel with colourful stained glass windows. When we moved from the main building to one of the smaller buildings, we caught sight of a pickup truck driving around the property.  This put us on edge. We knew that all the local roads leading in to the complex were gated and chained shut. We continued on with greater caution. We explored one more building and then decided to head back to the car. We retraced our steps back through the complex and the forested area. We emerged at the strip mall parking lot and walked casually towards the car. As we walked, a white pickup truck drove towards us and then stopped. The driver rolled down his passenger window and leaned over to say a few words to us. He claimed to be a property manager of the complex we just left and warned us not to return in the near future or we would risk dealing with law enforcement. We assured him that we had no plans to return any time soon. The conversation continued for a few more minutes after which we quickly packed up and left.

We had originally planned to go to a second hospital complex but decided to skip it as we had spent so much time at the first hospital complex. We headed to our hotel instead. We had chosen the hotel location based on its proximity to the next site, an abandoned water treatment plant, which we planned to visit in the morning. Since it was already dark, we decided this was the perfect opportunity to quickly scout out that location to ensure we would not have any difficulties in the morning. The building was in the middle of a residential area so entering and leaving the building would be tricky during daylight hours. After the scouting, it was decided the building interior was not interesting enough for us to return in the morning. We continued to our hotel and ordered pizza delivery for dinner. It was a shorter day than we expected.


It's your berfday!

How am I celebrating my birthday this year? By taking a road trip to the US with Matt and a couple of friends to do more urban exploration. ;)

We left Toronto on Thursday evening after having a quick dinner near our place. This way, we would have reliable access to good food and kill some time. Leaving during rush hour would have been a bad idea. After dinner, we packed up the rental car and headed out. The border crossing was short and virtually hassle free. We arrived at our hotel shortly before midnight. After settling in, we decided we would try to leave by 7am the next morning.

After a mostly leisurely breakfast, we headed to our first urbex location. It was located beside a correctional facility. When we arrived, we immediately noticed the very new looking fence around the property. We did a walk around the building and did not discover any easy access through the fence. We decided it would be too much hassle to attempt entering the property and headed to our next location.

Our second urbex location was not any better. We arrived at the parking lot outside the building and it was practically full. This was a bad sign. We slowly circled the building in the car. It did not look abandoned and a small construction trailer was also present. Well. We suddenly had a lot of time on our hands. We hit the road once more and stopped at a coffee shop to review our plan for the rest of the day. Once we finished our beverages, we headed out.

Our next stop was successful. We explored an abandoned public bath house building and an abandoned hotel that were a few blocks apart. The bath house had many small rooms for spa treatments. Many of the rooms still contained massage tables and chairs. The hotel was a u-shaped building that had 5 floors. All the rooms were still intact with almost complete furnishings: beds, chairs, dressers, old television sets, lamps, and telephones. The beds were mostly bare but some bedding remained. Some of the mattresses looked almost brand new. Many of the rooms had very colourful wallpapers and equally colourful carpeting. One of the rooms contained wall to wall television sets, all of them stacked neatly in rows on top of each other. Someone went through a lot of time and effort to arrange them this way for their own amusement. There were obvious signs that people lived in the hotel rooms after it was abandoned.

When we were done, we continued our trek to two more destinations. They too, were inacessible. With a success rate of 30%, we headed to our next hotel. Since we had finished up earlier than anticipated, we had time to do a bit of research on where to go for dinner and book our next hotel. We settled on a local Belgian restaurant called the Merry Monk for dinner that had favourable reviews. On our way to the restaurant, we passed a gentleman sitting on a park bench with a grocery cart full of belongings and ... a laptop. He was chatting with someone using a webcam. Wow. When we finished dinner, we passed him again. He was still chatting.

When we returned to our hotel, the lobby was bustling with activity. An auction had just finshed up and people were leaving with their purchases. Very strange.

It had been an interesting and eventful day. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings.


No More Secrets

No More Secrets


Former Glory

This European castle, built in the mid to late 19th century, has been left to decay for the last 20+ years.  Despite the great decay that has taken place here, walking through it one can see reminders of this castle's former glory: a grand staircase, vaulted ceilings, towers, etc.  Even now, the beauty of this place still manages to capture the imaginations and curiousities of urban explorers.

Former Glory


Days 13 and 14: ... And they rode off into the sunset ...

We had a pretty lazy day. We got up, had breakfast, and headed to a wifi zone with our laptops that was both close by and offered caffeinated beverages. We spent about an hour or so catching up on emails, reading and posting on threads on various forums, generally enjoying our beverages, and doing a bit of planning for the rest of the day. Once we were done, we dropped off our laptops at the hotel and headed out again. Our missions for today were to do some shopping and to have Indian cuisine for dinner.

We started off at Harrods and then wandered over to Oxford Street. Matt and I joked that Bart would have to wear all of his purchases since his luggage was already slightly over the weight allowance when he originally arrived in Europe. We shopped in quite a few stores and managed to make some decent purchases for ourselves.

 We used Trip Advisor one final time for our last meal together in London. We narrowed our restaurant choices down to three possibilities. We settled on Chettinad ( based on the restaurant’s proximity to our hotel … or so we thought. It turns out that it was very close to our previous London hotel, not our current one. Oops! Regardless, we managed to get ourselves there for our 6pm reservation. Bart took all of his things with him as Matt and I would be leaving London the next morning, and Bart would be staying elsewhere. The food was fantastic. I worried that it would be too spicy for me and cautiously ordered a milder lamb dish. I probably would have been ok ordering a dish similar to the curries that Matt and Bart had ordered. It was better to be safe than sorry!

After dinner, we walked back to the nearby Tube station, and Matt and I said our goodbyes to Bart. Bart would be staying another day and night in London and then travelling on to other parts of Europe while Matt and I returned home. Matt and I spent the remainder of the evening carefully repacking our luggage to ensure everything would fit together nicely.

In the morning, we returned to Gatwick Airport via St. Pancras Station. We basically took the same route, in reverse, which we did on the day we had arrived. Everything about our return trip went smoothly. We experienced no delays while on the Tube. When we arrived at St. Pancras and purchased our train tickets, we only waited a few minutes before the train arrived. We went through the check-in, security check, and to the gate with no problems. We even had time to spare to grab some snacks and a coffee for Matt before boarding the plane. Oh wait, there was one small hiccup: we were not able to sit side-by-side together on the plane. In the grand scheme of things, this was a very small price to pay. When we arrived at Pearson, our luggage arrived as well. The sun was shining, and it was a balmy 18C. We also got a “welcome home” text message from Matt’s mom. We caught the first TTC bus and arrived home by 4pm. At home, we discovered a “welcome home” note in the kitchen. We had asked some friends to take care of our plants while we were away. They had left us some treats in the fridge!

It’s so nice to be home! =)