Related Posts: See the Toronto folder for more post and pix of my home town.
There are all sorts of reasons why Yonge Street dropped off the map of my Toronto in the past decade or two!
- my music collection went the mp3 route,
- all the bars and clubs with live blues, folk, and rock music closed their doors
- my bookstore – digital as well as analogue – changed to amazon.ca
- the restaurant meal I wanted to order had become vegan
- the Danforth in my Riverdale neighbourhood had most of what I needed
- I was not twenty-five anymore
While I remember with fondness that 18-year-old kid from a mining town of 10,000 walking down the freak show that was Yonge Street in 1969, those days are gone! And so – as the following pix will make clear to anyone over 40 – are an increasing number of the street’s tired and dilapidated buildings – and even some entire blocks.
Standing on Broadview Avenue across from Riverdale’s The Rooster Café I can look west over the Don River Valley and see the new buildings on Yonge that are changing the skyline.
I had some research to do at the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge near Yorkville Avenue – the street which back in the sixties was hippy central! – and figured that afterwards I would do something I hadn’t done in maybe fifteen years – walk down Yonge Street! Along with my laptop I put my Fuji X20 in my backpack and walked over the Bloor Street Viaduct towards Yonge.
The Reference Library – Toronto’s third largest after the main libraries of the U of T and York – has been there for almost forty years, long enough for it to have a $40,000,000. renovation a few years ago! My research done – I think I was reading up on Ojibwe pictographs – I figured I would make use of the 4th floor vantage point for some shots of Yonge Street. Looking south toward Bloor Street here was the view –
Next year at this time there will be a 998′ high condo/retail tower filling the space where you see the sign The One – as in 1 Bloor W. It will be about 150′ higher than the 1 Bloor E tower across the street. Here is a satellite image from two years ago when construction on the 1 Bloor E. tower was just starting. Keep on scrolling to see what is there now!
I looked west over the over the row of buildings that once included The Cookbook Store. It closed in 2014 after thirty years at the corner of Yonge and Yorkville.
While the front face of the buildings is still up there is a cavity behind that will eventually be filled by a 601′ condominium tower with 580 units. The “heritage’ facade is staying! To the right is an image from the developers promo book. See here for the source.
One of my favourite bars on Yonge was the Morrissey Tavern at 817, just a few steps north of the library at 789. It was replaced with a condominium tower – the one at 20 Collier – in the early 2000’s. Already a decade before I had quit smoking and hanging out in bars like the Morrissey had become a lot less desirable!
I talked briefly to a guy wearing a hard hat and holding a clipboard about the excavation going on behind the facade you see in the pic above. I asked him why they were bothering to save such a shabby stretch of brick work. Even creating a fake 1880’s facade would be easier than having to work around the original one. He said it certainly wasn’t the architects’ or builders’ idea and that sometimes you have to make concessions to get permits.
The corner building – the one with Pizza Pizza on the first floor and the “Live right here” sign on the second – is slated for demolition. Safe for now is the Pilot Tavern, another favourite watering hole back in the day. It is admittedly looking a bit tired too!
Britnell’s was THE upscale bookstore in Toronto for decades but by the end of the 1990’s the current generation of the family decided it was time to move on to other things. Visit the Starbucks in the space now and you will see the same solid bookshelves and the eye-catching black and white tiled floor.
The other day as I walked by the Necropolis next to the Riverdale Farm I noticed a historical plague acknowledging “The Early Settlers”. It mentioned that the remains of these early citizens of Toronto had been moved from Potter’s Field to the Necropolis in the 1850’s. And where was Potter’s Field? I was standing in it at the north-west corner of Yonge and Bloor! Across the street was where Stollery’s – a conservative men’s clothing store – used to be. I may have purchased a tweed jacket or two and a Burberry trench coat there before I devolved to Mountain Equipment Co-Op’s “urban camper” style.
Formerly One Bloor East and now just One Bloor – it certainly is a dramatic addition to the skyline. When 1 Bloor West – billed as The One on the sign board above – is up, they can argue about which is truly The One!
Later that week while I was walking along the Danforth – about 3.5 kilometers from the Bloor/Yonge intersection. From this distance you really notice how much taller than the CIBC Building or the Bay Building the newest addition really is.
Now the CIBC “Tower” is just a mid-sized high-rise that will soon – when One Bloor West is up – be even more overwhelmed. Perhaps its owners are already calculating the feasibility of a teardown and rebuild more keeping with the space that Toronto haters across the country will say we think of the centre of the universe.
As I walked toward College Street I saw something I’d never seen before from Yonge Street – The Buddies In Bad Times building! Taking out an entire block’s worth of buildings along Yonge can do that to the view.
To remind myself what had been there before I checked out the Google satellite view which helped a bit. What it shows is an entire nondescript block of vintage two-storey brick buildings.
A block further down and more demolition – the buildings at the SW corner are gone. The billboard on the scaffolding says Canderel. Underneath I see the phrase “Project of the Year”.
I turn to Google again to refresh my fading memory! While the satellite image predates the demolition, already on the doomed building is the tag “Condominium Residences”.
Across the street from the College Park Suites is a parkette, created by closing the last twenty meters of McGill Street from Sheard Street to Yonge. The result is a bit of empty space and a few trees on a bricked terrace right off Yonge Street. Across the street is the Aura, currently the highest condo tower in Canada (but soon, I am sure, to be replaced by another Toronto tower holding the same distinction).
I can hear the arguments for preserving the historical facade of this slice of the old Yonge Street just north of Aden Camera. “It’s a part of our heritage!”
I looked across the street from the west side at a spot I spent hours at in my younger years. Given my obsession, it was almost like a weekly pilgrimage – sometimes on Friday nights, sometimes on Saturday afternoons. No – not the strip club!
The Ryerson building sits were it used to be and even the iconic sign is gone but from my mid-twenties to my mid-thirties I spent more time than I should have leafing through the record bins at Sam The Record Man’s. Occasionally I’d also visit A & A’s next door. Now I just have to wonder – what was I looking for?
I walked up the steps of the Ryerson building and tried to guess if I was anywhere near the space that used to hold the blues and folk sections in the Sam’s store. Memories of walking into the University of Waterloo’s Campus Centre in 1969 as a first-year student flashed by as I walked up these Ryerson steps, looking like a very securely tenured professor who was contemplating imminent retirement!
Just off Yonge on Edward Street was maybe The World’s Biggest Bookstore. In the days before Amazon and its massive online book selection which you can have delivered to your front door within days, The World’s Biggest was one of the regular stops in my ongoing quest for interesting reading – along with BMV next door and Britnell’s and Book City and a number of used bookstores along Spadina and on Queen. Now it is that empty lot to the west of BMV. Originally slated for development as a low-rise row of restaurants, revised plans have a thirty-storey condominium tower there with some retail on the bottom.
A block down from the Ryerson building is Dundas Street and the north end of the Eaton Centre, a 1970’s redevelopment which profoundly altered at least the west side of the stretch of Yonge Street from Dundas all the way down to Queen and the old Simpson’s store (which was bought by the Hudson Bay Co. in 1978 and recently sold by them to Cadillac Fairview, the entity that owns the Eaton Center complex).
I ended my day when I got to Dundas and hopped on the 505 streetcar back to my Riverdale neighbourhood. In the next few days I would return to Yonge Street to finish my walk down to the harbour. While the stretch of Yonge from Dundas down to the lake always seemed to have more substantial buildings, there were still more surprises in store!
Check out the urban Toronto map to appreciate the level of redevelopment going on in the city. It helps make clear why Toronto over the past few years has equaled or surpassed New York as #1 in North America for high-rise construction projects
Previous Post: Tall Ships In Toronto Harbour- July 2016
A Sunday morning training run I’ve done a hundred times is the bike ride from my Riverdale neighbourhood to Port Credit along the lakeshore. The terrain, as the graph below shows, is about as flat as it gets. (It also shows that I lost GPS reception a couple of times!)
Taking advantage of the Lower Don Trail, the Martin Goodman Trail, and an almost-traffic-free Lakeshore Road, I get a good ninety-minute cardio workout which I monitor with my Polar M400 GPS fitness tracker. After a cup of coffee at the Starbucks on Lakeshore in Port Credit, I ride back home.
This morning I would choose to do the second half of the ride to Port Credit on Lakeshore Road instead of on the less-direct and meandering Goodman Trail. The route on the insert map illustrates the difference! On my way back home I would take the more leisurely route.
On this ride I also brought along my Sony A57 and my Zeiss 16-80 lens. However, except for the four images which follow, I did not stop to take many pix on my way there, intent as I was on keeping those pedals moving.
I did stop as I cycled past Ontario Place. It turns out that the 2016 Toronto Triathlon Festival was taking place. From the mess of bikes and wetsuits in the pic above, it looks like the cycling and the swimming have already been done. I would see participants running in the stretch from Ontario Place to the Humber River bridge as I continued on my way.
Before I pulled in to the Starbucks I did get some shots of Port Credit Harbour and the bridge over the river. Then it was off for my caffeine injection and a ten-minute breather at a spot popular with Sunday morning cyclists.
Now for the return ride! After tucking in with a peloton for two or three kilometers as we headed east on Lakeshore Road, I decided to slow down a bit – and escape from the traffic. It was about 11:30 and It had definitely picked up. The Goodman Trail is much more relaxing – and all sorts of great views of the city can be had along the way.
A sunny Sunday morning – and everybody was out. Kayakers, canoeists, joggers, fellow cyclists, folks walking their dogs, parents with strollers, rollerbladers … a veritable fitness commercial in the making!
The route includes bridges over the Don, the Humber, and the Credit Rivers. Also on the list is Mimico Creek. In the two photos below you get to see the view from the bridge towards the lake – quite idyllic – and then the view looking up the creek. Quite a contrast!
I stopped on the west side of the bridge over the Humber River and framed the following half-dozen views of the neighbourhood in my viewfinder. That’s my bike – a “vintage” 2007 carbon fiber Trek Madone 5.0 which is my official Sunday bike! For bike tours I take my 1990 steel frame Miyata 600GT and my everyday bike is another Trek, the 2005 aluminum frame 2100.
It’s 13 kilometers from the bridge to my front door – still 45 minutes or so of work to do! I followed the Goodman Trail as it makes its way east along the lake shore – past Ontario Place where the triathletes were wrapping up their day, past the giant Inukshuk, past all sorts of great photo ops that I’ve stopped for on other occasions.
This time I bombed right past them all – though I should have stopped at Sugar Beach for a nice view of the umbrellas and of the downtown area from the east. I headed right for the junction of the Lower Don Trail with the one which runs on the north side of Lakeshore Blvd. all the way to the Beach(es). The pic below shows the new art on the pillars of the expressway – still new enough for taggers not to have ruined it with their mundane scrawls.
As I cycled up the Don Trail I left it for a few minutes to visit Corktown Common’s Pavilion Terrace. It is a high plateau overlooking the neighbourhood and provides a great view of downtown.
The entire neighbourhood was created to serve as the temporary housing for the Pan-American Games athletes in the summer of 2015 before being turned into mixed-income housing. By all accounts it has been an urban planning success story – and it looks great.
The Lower Don multi-use trail runs along the west side of the Don River all the way up to the Riverdale footbridge that I use to access the trail from Broadview. In the photo below it is hidden by the swath of tree cover on the right-hand side.
To no surprise, my ride back from Port Credit took a bit longer and was less intense than the ride there –
I would take the next day – usually a one-hour workout with weights at the gym – off!
A map of the Waterfront Trail – the Hamilton to Toronto section – can be found at the Waterfront Trail website. (See here for the pdf file.) In years past I have followed the trail all the way from Niagara-On-the-Lake to the Quebec border; it provides an almost-traffic-free way of bicycling along the shore of Lake Ontario. this website can get you started.
Biketrain began as an initiative to make taking bikes on trains easier. From the original Toronto-Niagara Falls VIA route it has expanded to include routes across the province. It allows you to come up with more interesting ride possibilities by making use of train connections. For example, instead of doing the typical “there and back” route, I took the train to Niagara Falls one Saturday morning and then spent the day cycling back to Toronto. It is definitely a nice way to introduce new rides to your repertoire!
Over the years VIA (Canada’s national passenger rail service – it rents track usage from CN) has made it easier to take your bike on the train. It used to be that boxing your dismantled bike was part of the routine . These days they have bike racks on specified trains and you just hand up your bike to the attendant and that’s it. When you get to your destination, he hands down the bike and off you go – no unpacking, no putting everything back together – it’s great! See here for the details.
Another source of information and inspiration on bicycling Ontario is at the Ontario By Bike website.
Twenty years ago none of this existed. All of the above have certainly made it easier to plan and do exciting one-day and multi-day routes in a province whose quiet beauty we take for granted.
Previous Toronto Post: Sakura Hanami: Viewing High Park’s Cherry Blossoms
For the three days of Canada Day weekend (July 1-3) the Toronto harbourfront hosted a number of boats associated with the Tall Ships America Challenge, an annual celebration of sailing vessels from the pre-Industrial Age. Each year the venues change from ports on the Pacific or Atlantic coasts or in the Great lakes region. 2016 was the turn of the Great Lakes to host the ships. The map below shows this year’s ports of call.
I cycled down to the waterfront from the east end of the Martin Goodman Trail early on a blue sky Sunday morning. I was keen on getting some photos of three of the main ships before the crowds started arriving. It would be their last day here before they sailed on to their next port.
The ships were on display at HTO Park, just a bit west of the Harbourfront Centre.
Toronto Harbour is on the southern edge of downtown and is sheltered from Lake Ontario by the Islands and to the east by the Leslie Street Spit. At the western end of the harbour is the increasingly busy Billy Bishop Airport. In the pix below the CN Tower and the Rogers Center, the home of the Blue Jays, are visible, as are some of the many condo towers that have popped up in the past decade or two.
I got there at 8:45 and as the pix above show, there were not too many people around yet. I figured I’d get a few side shots of the ships, pick up my entry ticket at 9:30 and get in line for the first of them – the Viking longship Draken Harald Härfagre.
Next to the waterfront where the Tall Ships were on display is a boat rental area, still fairly quiet when I arrived. A couple of hours later it was a different story! In the photo above are a couple of replicas of the canot du nord, a staple of the fur trade in the 1700’s; also visible is the back end of the Viking longship I had come to see. It had sailed from Norway in early May and, having retraced the path that the Viking explorers took 1000 years ago to reach Newfoundland, it was sitting here!
The above photo shows two sculptures depicting Huginn and Muginn, two birds from Norse myth who roam the world and bring information back to the revered god Óðinn (the Anglo-Saxon Woden).
For particulars on the 115′ long Viking longship, see here. The boat, named the Draken Harald Harfagre (Dragon Harald Fairhair), also has a Wikipedia entry (here) that provides its history and its sailing route.
Next to the longship was a full-scale reconstruction of a Spanish galleon, El Galeón. While the Viking ship had one simple square sail, the Spanish vessel was an elaborate, multi-decked ship with three masts and hectares of sail! Lineups to get on board the ships were long. I waited a half hour to be among the first group of 15 to board the Viking ship and then spent another 45 minutes in the lineup for El Galeón.
Seeing these ships sitting at rest with their sails down is like looking at the skeletons of beautifully-proportioned models and knowing there is way more to them! Here are some web-sourced photos of the ships in all their glory with their sails billowing in the wind.
See here for the story of El Galeón.
The story and details of the Pride of Baltimore – I and II – are provided in this Wikipedia article. (See here.)
Walking around with a camera in the town I live in is something I should do more often! I spent an enjoyable morning seeing some incredible ships and taking in the lively vibe of a Toronto waterfront that has changed dramatically for the better over the past forty years that I have lived nearby and walked and cycled its paths.
I was not born in Toronto but ended up here after teacher’s college and my first teaching job. In a country where Toronto is often the butt of jokes – and occasional target of downright contempt – by Canadians in other towns and provinces, I used to say things like – “I’m from Toronto…but I wasn’t born there” as if that would earn me a measure of acceptance! The day I stopped bothering to apologize was the day I knew I really was from T.O.! And on mornings like this sunny one on the harbourfront, I have to think – this is one great city to be a part of! I’m lucky to have made it my home.
Another Toronto-related Post: Checking Out Downtown Toronto’s Street Art
Each year from late April to mid-May (it depends on the year!) thousands of visitors head for Toronto’s High Park, the home to over one hundred cherry blossom trees. The first of the trees were a gift from the citizens of Tokyo to the people of Toronto in 1959; in that year the Japanese ambassador presented 2000 Somei-Yoshino Sakurathe trees. This varitety is known for its early blossoming and its fluffy white blooms. Over time yet more trees have been donated by the Japanese Consulate and High Park has become Toronto’s prime spot to view the blossoms, a long-time spring ritual in Japan known as Sakura (cherry blossom) Hanami (flower viewing).
map source – see here
This year’s peak viewing will occur between May 6th and 12th, just in time for Mother’s Day.
While the display of blossoms may not be as impressive as some in the past – thanks to the mild winter weather and a cooler than usual spring we’ve had – it will still make for a great outing. To view the blossoms while taking in the energy and joy shown by the many fellow strollers makes the walk along the pathways of High Park worth whatever effort it takes to get there.
I took the following pix in May 2015 shortly after buying a telephoto lens for my Sony A6000. I also brought along my 10-18 wide-angle lens and a 35 mm prime. To no surprise everyone there had some sort of camera – from iPhones to point & shoots to dslrs. Some fussed with tripods while others stretched out with their “selfie” sticks. Everybody was having a good time; some had even dressed up for the occasion!
Later this week I’ll bicycle over to High Park along the Goodman Trail from my Riverdale neighbourhood in east Toronto. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the guy with the camera!
Where Else To Find Cherry Blossom Trees In Ontario
- Exhibition Place
- McMaster University
- York University (near Calumet College and on Ottawa Road near McLaughlin College)
- the University of Toronto’s main (next to Robarts Library) and Scarborough campuses.
- Niagara Falls also has many near the Falls itself.
- The Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington and Hamilton was also the recipient of a number of Somei-Yoshino cherry trees that were donated by the Consulate-General of Japan in Toronto as part of the Sakura Project. The trees are located in the Arboretum and the Rock Garden and were planted to celebrate the continual strengthening of friendship between Japan and Canada. Peak bloom time at Royal Botanical Gardens is normally around the last week of April or the first week of May.
(See here for the Wikipedia page from where the above information was shamelessly copied. The Wiki entry is worth reading in its entirety!)
Links To Other Info:
The High Park Nature Center has a “Cherry Blossom Watch” page. Click here. This website is also where I found the Google map which I started the post with.
A CBC Metro Morning news item from April 28 discusses the state of this year’s blossoms – not spectacular but not hopeless either! See here.
The blog Sakura Cherry Blossoms (click on title to access) looks to be the ultimate source of information on the High Park cherry blossoms. The most recent prediction for 2016 is pretty bleak. The blogger Steven Joniak writes –
Updated May 4, 2016 – The latest Sakura Watch post confirmed, I’m sadly changing my prediction to now state that there will be no peak bloom to view in High Park in 2016. There was only a single blossom on 1 tree in the park today, and a small cluster on another tree nearby – all other trees appear to be going to leaf which leaves very little hope that the remaining buds will develop into cherry blossom – see full post here
Viggo and I set off at nine this morning. A very light covering of snow and a temperature around 0ºC promised to make for a very pleasant walk. We headed for our customary a.m. ramble – a walk down the Broadview hill to the Riverdale footbridge.
My Fuji X10 came along; it hasn’t seen much use in the past three years as I have turned to various Sony cameras, both dslr and compact to capture my pix. They all have aps-c sensors as opposed to much smaller sensor in the Fuji.
The Sonys produce sharper images and have none of the post-processing issues associated with the raw files from the Fuji X10. On the plus side, the X10 is a bit more compact and it has an excellent built-in Fujinon lens with a 28 to 112 mm zoom. It is also a beautiful camera to look at and it is just fun to use.
From Broadview Avenue the Don Valley stretches from south (on the left side of the pic) to the north. When we got down to the footbridge, I decided we’d go down into the valley itself for our walk instead of our usual walk along the fence up to the Adult Learning Center. The snow covering meant that there would be less bicycle traffic down there – a good thing given Viggo’s chase drive.
From the green footbridge I looked over to the off-leash dog area in Riverdale Park East. A dozen or so dogs were at play. We went down the steps of the bridge to the trail on the banks of the Don River and headed north.
As we walked up the valley – Viggo off leash and free to check out things he figured needed to be – I decided that we’d take advantage of a beautiful day and walk all the way to the Brickworks area and up the Mud Creek Trail to Moore Avenue. It is perhaps my favourite city walk.
Given the total absence of sunshine in any of my pix, you’ll probably be wondering what was so alluring about the mostly brown and white scenery we got to be in for the morning! The thing that makes me smile is that we are walking near the downtown area of an urban sprawl of six million and often are able to forget that fact!
Once at Pottery Road, we headed west to Bayview Avenue and then via a short-cut, up to the ridge over-looking the cavity created over a 75-year timespan by the Don Valley Brickworks. The view from there is always a “wow”. Down below is the Brickworks and the three artificial ponds created about 20 years ago when the city turned it into a park and bird sanctuary. On the horizon is downtown T.O. The overcast and somewhat hazy conditions this morning gave it a special feel.
From the ridge it was down to the Mud Creek Trail, taking some time to frame a few shots of the creek as Viggo sniffed around. It was the water from this creek which, when mixed with the top-grade clay deposit closer to the Brickworks, provided the ingredients for the bricks that (it is said) built half of Toronto back in the day. Now Mud Creek flows down into the artificial ponds and then continues on its way to the Don River a bit to the south.
As we walked under the train tressle in the pic below, a CPR train happened to rumble overhead. Unlike a number of the other tracks we walked over or under, this set is still at work!
As we came up to the north end of our walk, I noticed a number of trees with red dots on them. I have seen similar markings on some trees in our neighbourhood. I figured it meant they were to be removed because they were dead. I would soon find out the full reason.
A full explanation of the red dots in front of me, I still had to laugh at the urgency given to the project by the City. The planned start reads “August 14, 2015”. The City workers’ motto of “as much as we have to, as little as we can” came to mind as I calculated how much behind schedule they were.
Looking at my gps watch I noticed that we had walked six kilometers since starting out. In front of us was Moore Avenue. Behind the houses is Mount Pleasant Cemetery. We would not be exploring that world on this walk! Back down the trail we went, meeting again the dog walkers and their critters that we had met on the way up.
We connected to the Lower Don Bike Trail on the west side of Pottery Road and redid our tracks all the way back home – as the sign indicates, a three-kilometer distance. There were definitely more signs of traffic on the path since we had come up earlier – two bike tire tracks! We would eventually see one cyclist making his way downtown. Viggo was on leash as he sped by.
There was a bit of action down in the river that Viggo wanted to check out – a small gathering of ducks seemed to require some herding and he was keen to get the job done. Luckily his treat drive was stronger and he soon came running back to me instead of getting into deep trouble.
An article on the Brickworks informed me that a massive hobos’ camp was situated just south of the Brickworks in the depths of the 1930’s Great Depression. Hundreds of men camped out on the west side of the Don not far from the pillar in the pic above.
We did a small detour to check out the campers in the tent below. The people had been there a month ago. The voices inside again assured me that they were doing okay; they told me this camping trip was only until they were found an apartment.
And that was our morning walk. In the pic below you can see those red dots on the ash trees in wooded area on the east side of the Don River. On top of the snow bank runs Broadview Avenue and the final two-minute walk to our front door.
Viggo had a well-deserved nap when we got home and for a couple of hours he was pretty relaxed. By mid-afternoon we had played indoor “fetch” and some tug games. He would get another walk before this day ended – a short thirty-minute spin around the neighbourhood – another day in the life of our dawg!
If you want to plan your own Lower Don Valley Trail/Moore Park walk, here is the Google Maps link! A dog is optional! There is public transit to the Brickworks as well as a shuttle bus that takes you up to Broadview Station if you want to do just a part of what Viggo and I covered.
Info and a map of the Mud Creek ravine can be accessed at the lostrivers.ca website here. To me the ravine is one of Toronto’s hidden treasures. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that it figures in one or two of Margaret Atwood’s novels.
The lostrivers.ca website mentioned above also has a page on the Don River section between Pottery Road and Riverdale. Well-researched and readable, access it here. I did email a “thank you” for the work that someone put into all the material at the site but it may be that nobody is home! The most recent date I found was 2006 – ten years ago. Still, what is out there for us to read and use is appreciated.
The Brickworks itself may be worth a visit. This Wikipedia article – here – provides useful background info.
Note! My Toronto is only a small slice of that deluxe XL pizza pie with the initials GTA (Greater Toronto Area) but, thanks to Drake, cool folks these days call it The Six. I rarely venture north of Bloor, west of Bathurst, or east of the Beaches. The Danforth from Broadview Avenue to Pape is my Main Street!
Temperatures have been unusually mild in Toronto this week. During mid-afternoons it got up as high as 11ºC and no one is talking of a white Christmas. Still, the Christmas decorations are up – especially in the shopping malls. Residential streets are slowly being lit up. This Friday afternoon (two weeks before Christmas Day) I passed by three Riverdale houses in the process of being festooned with strings of lights and other Xmas artifacts.
Notably absent from both the private and public displays is anything of an overtly religious nature. Christmas trees, lots of coloured lights, candy canes, reindeer, ribbons of red and green…that seems to be the way to go! I did, however, include a church or two in my list of places to photograph. First I cycled over to Church Street and Shuter, just east of the Eaton Center and St. Michael’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic). Unfortunately, the church was closed for what looks like a massive renovation.
St. James Cathedral:
Then I cycled down to St. James Cathedral (High Anglican) on King Street at Church Street, thinking that it might have a Baby Jesus In the Manger display. It is a special place I visit occasionally for its stillness. Alas, no manger to be seen. It may not be an Anglican thing to do.
The Eaton Center:
Then it was off to the Eaton Center. It was about 3:30 so I figured I’d do some interior shots while it was still light out and then head to City Hall at 4:30 when the lights come on. The Eaton Center did not disappoint. It has lots of decorations to get the expected hordes of shoppers in the right mood! If a culture reveals its deepest values by the nature of the buildings it invests a lot of capital putting up, then shopping malls R us!
The tree looks like the same one that the mall has had since 2012, only with the colour changed from the original pink. It has received mixed reviews over the past three years, with some critics pining for a more traditional – and real – tree. (See here for a Toronto Sun opinion piece.)
As I framed the next shot I couldn’t help but think of another Bible story – the one about the Golden Calf fashioned by the Israelites while Moses was up on Mount Sinai getting the Ten Commandments!
The Eaton Center is a wonderful space and the Michael Snow geese installation at the south end cheers me up every time I walk into the mall.
The Christmas Display Windows At the Hudson Bay Store on Queen:
Next up was quick visit across the street to the Hudson Bay store’s Christmas window displays. Back in the day both the Yonge and Queen Street sides of the store would have displays but given the renovations going on at the corner, only five windows on the Queen Street side were decorated with whimsical reenactments. Here are a few of the scenes that caught my eye –
Dundas Square – north end of the Eaton Center
Before I headed for City Hall I cycled up Yonge Street to Dundas Square on the south-east corner. It wasn’t quite dark enough but this is what I found –
The Jewish nine-branched menorah (i.e. the hanukiah) was a nice touch and an actual religious acknowledgement. When I returned a couple of days later two more of the candles were lit. Here is what a change in light can do for a photo!
The Christmas Tree – with its pre-Christian Germanic cultural roots – stood at the other end of the square.
Two days later with darkness it looked like this –
City Hall Square and Skating Rink
City Hall Square gets the full light treatment each December. I was looking forward to lots of lights to make what is already a pretty neat public space even more magical. It would be all that!
The early Christians could not have picked a better time for the birth of their Lord and Saviour than late December. They took the existing Roman festival of Sol Invictus (the Unconquerable Sun) and turned it into a celebration of the Son of God’s incarnation into this world. At the very time of the year when day light is at its shortest, Jesus is born. Add to that the manger story and you’ve got a powerful narrative of hope.
However, as with ancient Rome and the early Christians, an existing festival has been repurposed so that it fits with current cultural values and needs. The tree with its lights has become the central symbol.
Standing in the square is a real tree – and a really tall one at that! As you walk towards Queen Street you approach the skating rink and the TORONTO sign that magically turns snapshots into postcards!
Getting another Toronto icon – the CN Tower – required a bit of backtracking. I walked back up to the Tree and went up the ramp a short distance to frame this shot – and ended up noticing the Hanukkah candles- with one more lit than the display at Dundas Square!.
The Distillery District:
It was now getting dark and I had foolishly left my bike light at home on the dining room table. I did make my way home on some well-lit one-way streets with my rear red light blinking all the way. But first, I stopped for a few minutes at the Distillery District. It was a Tuesday so it was free to get in – as opposed to the $5. they are now charging weekend visitors!
It was already too dark to capture any good shots but I upped the iso to 3200 and did wander around, taking in the scene. I was surprised at how many people were there on a weekday night. Maybe “free” is a real incentive?
Alexandro’s Square at Logan/the Danforth:
Back into the dark – and on the bike! – I headed home with one last detour. A ride along the Danforth to pick up something at The Big Carrot and I remembered the little Alexander Square at corner of Danforth and Logan. I’ll have to visit again when it is a bit less dark out but here is what i found –
Shopping at The Big Carrot done, it was down Broadview Avenue past one of the great views of downtown Toronto. I had to stop and snap a few hand-held shots.
Downtown View From Broadview Avenue:
I pushed my bike across the street and wheeled by the The Rooster Café, stopping to get the blurry shot you see below.
It had been a fun afternoon cycling around my Toronto and looking for festive lights to photograph. On following days I would head out again to see what I could add to the collection. I’ll post right here some of what I found in the next few days.
Yorkville Area and Hazelton Lanes:
What has happened to Hazelton Lanes? Since it is not really my kind of shopping mall – I feel more at home at stores like Europe Bound and Mountain Equipment Co-Op or Home Depot! – I will admit I rarely visit. But I do remember – is it really forty years ago? – a much more vibrant and alive space than the construction site I found when I visited a couple of days ago. If not for Whole Foods the mall would be dead!
I saw as as many guys with hard hats on my quick visit as I did shoppers at the upscale clothing stores that are still open.
Yonge Street From College To Dundas:
The Bloor-Danforth Viaduct has a barrier on each side to prevent suicide attempts. Called The Luminous Veil, it recently was completed when the lights were added to the steel cables. The photo below shows the stream of traffic heading up the Don Valley at the end of another work day in the towers of downtown Toronto. The traffic southbound is a bit more sparse.
Still on my shot list are the following two locations: the Beach(es), especially along Queen Street and Harbourfront.
In the meanwhile, if you can think of any festive light ray spots that I just need to get to, let me know!
Links To Other Sites:
Just before I started uploading the photos this evening I checked my WordPress Reader for blogs I follow. One of them is by Doug Taylor and it focuses on Historical Toronto. Well, wouldn’t you know it! Earlier this week he posted the following collection of images which he titled Downtown Toronto’s Five Best Xmas Displays. Click on the title to access his post and then check out some of the other ones. They make for great reading.
It is December 12 and above freezing temperatures are predicted for the next two weeks. That means no snow in the forecast! December 2014 was a very different story. See the following post for the evidence!
It was an unusually warm and sunny November day here in Toronto. Temperatures reached 20º C by early afternoon. Deciding to play tourist in my own town, I grabbed my camera and ultra wide-angle lens and hopped on the streetcar. The first destination – the north end of Nassau Street in the Kensington Market area. The plan was to spend the morning rambling through Kensington and then find my way to what I had only known as Rick Mercer’s alleyway in his CBC TV program The Mercer Report until a Google search turned up how to get there. What I wanted to focus on was the street art that both areas are famous for.
My stroll through Kensington Market bought back memories of the Sixties’ counter culture of my youth. Head shops, incense shops, Tibetan and Indian handicraft stores, vegetarian restaurants…in spite of the changes, the area has kept its bohemian vibe. However, I’d be hard pressed to explain how the street art I found reflected this.
Almost always striking are the colour combinations that the graffiti writers and painters use. Sometimes the original artists’ intent is lost in the later additions made by other taggers.
I had the feeling early on that the artists were working with a different vocabulary and set of cultural symbols than I was familiar with and I often had no idea what the intended message was – or even if the concept of “message” was an approximate entry point.
As I wandered around and wondered about the meaning of what I was seeing, the Alex Garland novel The Beach came to mind. Reading it in the late 1990’s, I had been struck by the absence of any allusions to the classic icons and symbols from the repository of western civilization. In its place, the writer draws from an image bank of video game sub-culture and tv programs like The Simpsons.
Well, I had the same experience as I stood in front of the various panels of spray-painted imagery.
A pit stop at a Nassau Street vegan restaurant and then it was over to the west side of Spadina Avenue and a walk through Toronto’s original Chinatown as it stretches from College down to Queen Street. The first lane south of Queen is Rush Lane.
Until yesterday I just knew it as the alley that the comedian Rick Mercer regularly walks down in the biting Rant segment on his Mercer Report. Here is an example – a rant about then-Mayor Rob Ford from November 2013 during the depths of the “crack” scandal.
Mercer comes into the alley from Queen Street and then turns east. The Garuda mask at the very beginning is still there two years later!
I came at it from the east end at Spadina and walked all the way down to Portland, where Rush Lane ends. The first thing I saw was a large mural of which the following is only a segment. I wish I had taken more of a panorama shot of the piece; it had the look of a pirate’s treasure map and deserved more time. The “Toronto’ tag definitely takes away from the original.
I guess that’s the thing about this “art”; it is ultra ephemeral by its very nature. Return in six months and you’d have to wonder how many of the ones I took pix of will still be there – or still be relatively unscathed by taggers.
My favourite panel is the one I call “I Miss Hip Hop 1993”. It had a nice touch of whimsy and absurdist humour. You have to wonder if it wasn’t an art project by students at nearby O.C.A.D. (Ontario College of Art and Design).
One statement on top of the other or just one? My need to create meaning somehow fused the tagger’s graffiti to the underlying portrait of a woman and what looks to be a cityscape behind and in front of her. I took the elaborate pattern complete with arrows pointing in various directions as a maze with one goal – that of reaching her heart.
My effort at understanding? Total b.s. of course!
I was struck by how seemingly apolitical almost all the works were. Fantasy and cartoon characters predominate.
Another one of my favourites was what I take to be Death and its all-embracing reach. it is an impressive piece that must fill a 24’x8′ space.
the next two pix – all part of what I called Aquarium Life – remind me of the one I started off with – the corner café in Kensington. Mind you, that one seems to be “Critters with teeth”! In both cases,the mural is crammed with life.
Blog TO website has an August 2012 post “Ten Graffiti Writers Worth Knowing About” by someone who clearly knows the T.O. street art scene. One of the artists he mentioned is Elicser. Of his work the guest contributor writes –
ELICSER’s stylized portraits are a staple of Toronto’s downtown graffiti scene. The most prominent display of ELICSER’s skill is in and around Graffiti Alley (just South of Queen West, between Spadina and Strachan). Here, dozens of his finest pieces can be found. Alternately dark, mysterious, brooding, and beautiful, it’s hard to imagine T.O.’s graffiti scene without ELICSER’s stunning and affective portraits.
Wandering the alleyways of Kensington and Queen West turned out to be a great way to while away a morning. I saw some incredible street art, was sometimes puzzled and sometimes taken by the various pieces I stood in front of. The ultra-wide angle lens proved to be invaluable since all the pix were shot very wide (i.e. 15mm).
My project for the next little while is to find out more about the Toronto street art scene. If you are interested, I have listed a few web sites below that provide more information.
On my way to the Coconut Grove roti shop on Dundas i figured I would cut across City Hall Square. I hadn’t seen the 3-D TORONTO sign up close yet. I like the way it turns everyone’s photos into instant post cards! I hear Councillor Norm Kelly would like three more put up – this time with “THE 6“, “T.O.‘, AND “T.DOT” spelled out. Not sure where he is planning to have them put since City Hall Square is getting kinda crowded!
StreetARToronto is a” City of Toronto program that aims to beautify communities across the city through street art and wall murals”. Its Facebook page has lots of leads to city-sponsored projects and locations.
7 Cool Places To See Great Graffiti In Toronto adds five more spots to check out other than the two ramble covered.
TripAdvisor actually has reviews of Graffiti Alley! See here for the 5/5 star ratings and comments for a tour offered by some locals who call themselves the Tour Guys !
The first touch of winter came in much more gently this year. Instead of the drama of 2013’s “Snowmaggeddon”, the ice storm that knocked out electric power for whole sections of Toronto and had tree branches crashing down on vehicles and sidewalks, we just got seventeen centimetres of snow.
I took advantage of the fresh snow covering to let Viggo do some off- leash rambling down along the stretch of the Don River which runs through our Riverdale neighbourhood. Knowing that meeting cyclists and joggers is close to zero makes it that much more enjoyable as I walk with my Icelandic Sheepdog on the riverside trail.
Here are some pix from our walks – starting with the overcast first morning of snow. We walk up our Riverdale Street to Broadview, head for the footbridge that goes over the Don Valley Parkway, and then take the steps down to the trail that runs along the river.
The snow fell most of the first day. We returned the next day – and as the pix will show – the snow had stopped falling and the sun was out. So were the kids making use of two of the city’s best hills for snow sliding.
We headed over the bridge to the steps that take us down to the valley trail. I looked over to the other excellent sliding hill – the one by the Riverdale Farm – and could see a few kids already at play. Here is what my camera captured as i pointed the lens at the sun!
On thing about the sun in December – when it sets it sure does so in a hurry. As we approached our front steps I looked back up the street and saw a stunning red sky. The afternoon’s ramble was done.
Update: Well, so much for the snow! It stayed for less than a week. And the forecast for Christmas Eve? Plus10°C and rain! So we can forget about that postcard “white” Christmas. It looks like we’ll have to wait until the New Year for the next installment of snow. Here are some other pix of our walks along the river and the neighbourhood on following days –
A little secret revealed here – to get Viggo into the picture I sometimes toss a treat in the spot where I want him to be. Well, this time the treat got lost in the snow and the Veegs is looking none too happy about it. He got a replacement morsel!
It is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and my Saturday began with the usual morning walk with Viggo around the perimeter of Riverdale Park. Given that he’s really meant to be a working sheepdog, I think of our ramble as a pasture patrol. On our rounds we met a handsome Belgian shepherd dog at the off-leash area.
We then headed down Broadview Avenue towards the Rooster Coffeehouse for a drink out of the water bowl they have sitting on the sidewalk – but before we got there it was time for a wee break on the steps of the Ukrainian Catholic Church
After dropping Viggo off at home with Laila, I hopped on my bike for a quick ramble through the downtown area of Toronto, just across the Don River from where we live. First on the list was a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to check out the Mesopotamia exhibit. While there I also visited old friends in the China gallery.
The Mesopotamia exhibit was in the basement of the museum and the lighting was very subdued. I had seen most of the pieces before – most are from the British Museum with some R.O.M. items added. I spent maybe thirty minutes there but found I was getting tired (the lighting?) so decided that I would visit another day. (My R.O.M. membership has its benefits!)
On the way out I thought I’d visit the Native Peoples gallery. At the gallery entrance is this wonderful painting by the Anishinaabe painter Norval Morrisseau. It brought back to mind the photos of some of the canoe pictographs I had taken at Cliff Lake back in July.
The snazzy new $250,000,000. retrofit ( Daniel Libeskind’s Crystal stuck on top of the original building) was finished back in 2008 and it is frankly not a great success. There is now lots of space completely unsuitable to exhibit artifacts.
The once-front entrance on the University Avenue side is now just an interesting little side corner. I stood below the great dome and looked up to the museum’s “mission statement” on the tiles of the mosaic above –
Hopping on my bike, I cycled down University Avenue towards the Eaton Center. I was on my way to the Apple Store to pick up a track pad for my iMac. It was a beautiful sunny day so I ended up stopping at City Hall en route to check out the Ai Weiwei installation piece “Forever Bicycles” again. Nuit Blanche has come and gone for another year but a few pieces remain a bit longer. I had been there a few days previously but it had been overcast – and I was wondering if some sunshine might help the piece make a better impression.
I approached City Hall from the north on Elizabeth Street and, seeing that the gates were open, decided to check out the rooftop terrace that goes around the sides of the square. It is one of the great vantage points from which to take in Toronto’s downtown skyscrape!
I looked over the edge of the terrace and there was Weiwei’s installation piece – and not too far away was Henry Moore’s “The Archer”.
As for Ai Weiwei’s piece, I’ll admit to finding it as sterile as I did a few days ago. It left me cold with its mind-numbing repetition of not-even bicycles – an homage to the Chinese ability to clone almost anything industrial. Apparently he has more interesting work elsewhere.
And then it was time to get over to the Apple Store at the the Eaton Center. It is just a couple of streets over from City Hall so off I cycled to what can only be thought of as a modern cathedral, offering salvation through consumption! Without a doubt the shopping mall has replaced the church or temple as the place we go to find solace or meaning – or in my case, a track pad for my computer.
Flying above the crowd at the south end of the mall is Michael Snow’s iconic piece – Flightstop.
My new piece of Apple in pocket I cycled up Yonge Street towards Dundas Square, the new “living room” of the city. On my way I spotted the bike rack you see below – not a lot of takers on this particular day!.
And then over and through the square itself – making sure I didn;t get caught by the gushes of water.
As slight detour down to Queen and Victoria and I was standing in front of yet another piece of installation art –
Tadashi Kawamata’s Garden Tower in Toronto is another hold-over from this year’s Nuit Blanche. Standing next to the “old school” Gothic features of the Metropolitan United Church, it has a wackiness that I can’t help smiling over.
And then it was time to head back to Riverdale. I had left home at about 10:30 and it was now about 2. I still had not had lunch but figured that instead of eating out I’d pick up a couple of vegetarian dishes at the south Indian/Sri Lankan place on Wellesley in Cabbagetown and bike home for lunch with Laila. On the way I cycled up Sherbourne and got to experience the new dedicated bicycle lane – but unlike Montreal’s there is no concrete barrier to reinforce the separation.
A nice ride through Cabbagetown and over the bridge to Riverdale and I was home. Waiting for me was Viggo, ready for a another walk and play session somewhere in the neighbourhood.