Monday, June 3, 2024

Ballet

Well, I did go to see an opera . . . . . and I suggested that the ballet might be next . . . . and it almost was.



Our condo complex here in Toronto is called RadioCITY. It is an interesting place, and unique in many aspects. It is called ‘RadioCITY”, because it was built on the site of CBC’s original radio tower. Apparently part of the complex was originally a convent and the nuns in the convent made a deal with the developer so that the retired nuns were given one entire floor of the condo for the former residents of the convent. They actually live on the floor under us, and although I am not at all religious, somehow having the nuns living downstairs is comforting, and we never have to complain about noisy parties or loud music. Attached to the complex is the National Ballet School, and we often see students or instructors relaxing on a rooftop terrace outside our windows and we see students coming and going to their school. We always wondered what went on in the school and would’ve liked to go to the theatre to see a performance, but when we researched it, we were unable to find any performances we could attend. 

This historical house was incorporated
into the school


On Sunday however, the Ballet School had a Block Party and opened the school to visitors and we eagerly went to see inside the school. 


The Block Party really was a big event. There was a giant Bouncy Ride in the lane between the buildings and it was busy all day with happy laughing children. The driveway out front of the school was used for more games and an area was cleared for special dance events scheduled all day. The ballet store had sales on clothes and those special fancy ballet shoes. Inside the building four floors were open and we could wander around and get some idea of life in a ballet school. I was even able to convince the security personal to let me go up to the V.I.P. area which was out on the school rooftop balcony so I could take a picture of our condo from there. 


The school theatre, the Betty Oliphant Theatre, was open all day for on-going student practices and the public was invited in to watch these open practices. We went in and watched two practice sessions. We caught the later part of a senior student ballet class which was very high level ballet done by ten male students. Then a large group of grade nine students came out for a “contemporary” dance lesson. We were very impressed with these students. They were just beginning the class with this instructor and some of the students had learned the moves just before coming into the theatre. Watching these young dancers we were impressed with their progression. The entire group were introduced to a totally new move and we were able to watch them go from learning to actually mastering the dance moves they were taught. Unfortunately this was a “No Photo” event so I do not have any photos of the actual dancing. 

Inside the school


So now, as I look out of the condo onto the dance school, I view it differently since I now know a little of what is going on in there. 










Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Doors Open Toronto

Once a year, Toronto hosts an event called “Doors Open Toronto”, in which buildings that might not normally be open to the public open their doors so people can go see what goes on. Also, museums and attractions that normally charge for entry make the day free. It gives the public a chance to explore sites in the city they might not normally get to see. 

RClub Toronto


The pouring rain in the morning, provided me an excuse to stay home and watch the NASCAR race that was on, without feeling guilty since Regis wanted to take in this event, but when the rain let up, we headed out to find a few events to take in. 


In looking through the hundreds of open doors offered, I wanted to visit a car club that looked really interesting, so we went there first. It was a bit of a mystery, as the website was very vague about what it cost to join while making it sound very intriguing; all very suspicious. The club featured a collection of exotic cars including Porsches, Ferraris and Alfa Romeos that apparently can be “used” by club members, a driving simulator room, a car wash station, and a work area with a lift. We took TTC and managed to find the club without a problem and it really was a pretty cool spot, but the promotional literature being handed out still did not give costs. 

A stack of cars


Although it was getting late we discovered that we could stop at the Toronto Camera Club for a tour of their building on the way home. Being interested in photography for many years I found this building especially interesting. They had their darkroom open, two photo galleries and a great collection of historic cameras. One collection of black and white phots I found especially interesting as it featured old derelict cars and street art; I could have taken the photographs. Another collection featured beautiful colour phots of some of Toronto’s many ethnic festivals, and we were surprised to see a photo of a girl in the St. Patrick’s Day parade who we saw when we watched the parade. I purchased a print by one of the club members which I really liked to hang on the condo wall. 

Toronto Camera Club


We only got to two open doors on Saturday, but on Sunday while I went to a Coffee & Cars “meet-up”, Regis spent the day exploring a few more, including St. Regis Collage and other open doors in our neighbourhood.


Oh, BTW, a Google search later revealed that the annual membership for RClub started at $9,000.00 and went to $14,000.00; I do not think I will be joining . . . . .

We Saw this girl . . .

A Very Old Camera - now we use our phones . . . .

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Chinese Groceries & Mystery Chimneys

Toronto has many different ethnic neighbourhoods and there are at least two Chinatowns, one in the East end and one in the West. We have discovered that each of them have nice Chinese grocery stores where the produce and the meat are not only fresh, but also considerably cheaper than in the big chain stores. 

Lovely Gardens


It was a beautiful, warm, (actually HOT) spring day and we needed a few groceries so we decided to make a nice afternoon walk to Chinatown East to get some supplies. We try to arrange these outing to walk through different streets and neighbourhoods and see a bit more of the city. We also try to fit in a stop for drinks or lunch. 


We aimed to walk through Cabbage-town where beautiful old houses always have lovely gardens out front, down though the Riverdale Farm and across the pedestrian bridge over the Don River and the DVP (Don Valley Parkway)  to the Riverdale Park East which would take us to Chinatown East. 

Elegant Houses


By this time, Regis decided she needed to eat, so we went in search of a new restaurant to try. The Maple Leaf Tavern wasn’t open so drinks were out, but we found a nice Caribbean Grill where we had a delicious lunch. 


Leaving the restaurant I realized that our walk had taken us close to an enormous tall brick chimney that I could see from the condo and had wondered what it was. I turned left to explore the area around the chimney while Regis continued back to Chinatown and groceries. I discovered that the chimney was behind a large old brick factory with a sign out front designating it as a historic glass factory, but the tall chimney was not described. I walked around the neighbourhood and I assume the chimney was originally part of the factory, but I asked five local residents about it and no one was able to tell me anything about the mysterious chimney. I don’t know how people can live in an area with a tall brick chimney casting a shadow on their neighbourhood and not wonder what it was about, so I am going to have to go with it being part of the old glass factory. 

A very tall chimney


All in all, a good afternoon; we had a nice lunch, loaded up our grocery cart and explored some more of the city. 












Beautiful Sculptures

Can't pass the street art




Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Balconies

Our little condo here in Toronto has a nice balcony off the living area, and although it is not huge, there is room for two Adirondack chairs I brought from Dartmouth as well as a little table and chair. The last time we stayed here, when Ryan & Ben lived in this condo, I laid down an IKEA wooden floor, and Regis has taken up gardening with pots of lettuce, basil, and tomatoes sitting in the sun,  so it has become a lovely place to sit and watch life in the big city. We do have a good view of the CN Tower but mostly our view is of other condo and apartment buildings. 

Sunshine, but no people


Surrounding us are literally hundreds and hundreds of other nice balconies, but most of the time I sit out enjoying the fresh air and the noise of the city I do not see anyone else actually using their balconies. Our building has 25 stories of condos and the sister building which we look out on has even more, so I have a good view of many balconies. Most of them actually have more furniture and decoration than ours does, but no one uses them. 


If it is warm enough I like to take my coffee and computer out on the balcony in the morning to catch up on the news of the world, write my journal and check on Facebook. If it is nice I go out there to read, often take lunch out on the balcony, I enjoy a glass of wine out there in the evening after supper, and it is nice to go out and watch the sun go down over Toronto. But I am usually looking out on vacant balconies at any of these times. 


During my time in China I noticed that the balconies there were mostly used to store unused household ‘stuff’ or to dry clothes, and I never saw people out on their balconies. When I asked one of the Chinese teachers I was working with about this, I was told that no one used their outdoor space because the air was so polluted and if it was sunny they wanted to avoid the sun. 

100's of balconies, but noone


Now I know some of my “Country Living” friends will say, “City noise, city polluted air, city high rises, why would you want to be outside?”, but I enjoy the hustle and bustle of the big city, and I assume most of the people living in the condos and apartments around me have elected to live in the big city as well, so I really do not understand all the empty balconies. Our downsizing experiment has shown us that we can enjoy life in a small easy to clean space, but we have also decided that we need a balcony with a view and I really think we will continue to use and enjoy it. 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Slippery Tracks


My Alexa “home assistant” was flashing with a yellow circle this morning which means I either have a delivery from Amazon or there is a weather warning. “Alexa, what are my notification?” Produced a weather advisory of a frost warning for back home in Dartmouth: here in Toronto the forecast was for record high temperatures of over 24ÂșC. Sounded like a good day for an outing to explore another page of my “111 Things not to be missed in Toronto” book. 


This time I elected to go visit the Humber River Arch Bridge in the west end of the city on the Lake Ontario waterfront in the suburb of Etobicoke. Similar to the lovely bridges I visited on the Toronto Portlands, this bridge is an arched design but is a pedestrian and cyclist bridge which spans the mouth of the Humber River where it flows into Lake Ontario. 

Another Labyrinth to walk 


The bridge is about 15 km from the condo, so we knew we would have to take public transit. I looked at options and decided on a route involving a walk, then a subway trip, a streetcar ride and then a walk along the waterfront to the bridge. Unfortunately this was the day that TTC (Toronto Transit Corporation) who I have been bragging about, finally let me down. After walking from the condo up to Subway Line 2 on Bloor St. The crowds of people standing outside the subway station suggested something was not working as smoothly as usual. Apparently one of the subway trains had deposited gallons of hydraulic oil all over the tracks under the trains. Steel wheels, steel tracks, liberal coat of slippery oil . . . . the trains were sliding right through the stations, unable to stop. A whole section of the line was closed for the day while the mess was cleaned up. There were shuttle buses available but the crowds of people waiting to use them discouraged us from this option. 

Does it mean "Go turtle speed" on bridge?


A discussion with a TTC employee told us that a walk of four or five blocks allowed us to rejoin the subway and head west on the section not affected by the oil spill. Fortunately, being retired, we were only going out exploring the city, not going to work and keeping the economy going as were the people waiting for the shuttle buses and we did not mind the walking detour. And the rest of the transit trip worked perfectly. 


We managed to find the bridge and walk over it, take lots of photos, explore a new section of the Toronto waterfront parks, walk another labyrinth, see the Toronto Skyline from a completely different viewpoint, find a pub with a lovely view out over Lake Ontario for drinks and lunch, and I can note another page of the 111 that we have visited.  

This is the bridge . . .

Stop to lookout over Toronto

A different view of Toronto

It really is a nice bridge . . .

And . . . time for a beer and lunch


Thursday, May 9, 2024

A night at the Opera


I never thought I’d be writing about going to the opera, but last night I actually enjoyed an evening at the beautiful Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts to see the opera Don Pasquale. And yes I really did enjoy it; I was going because Regis wanted to see the show, but it was me who actually managed to stay awake through the entire show. 


The venue is home to the National Opera and Ballet Companies and is a purpose built centre to host opera and ballet on three stages and can seat over 2000 people including the orchestra on five tiers of seating. It is a beautiful stylish modern building built to allow this type of performance to show its best. 

Lots of Opera fans


The opera itself, Don Pasquale is a light hearted comedy/love story about an old and cranky hotel owner who objects to his nephew marrying the girl he wishes and how he is tricked into approving of the union. We were able to download the story itself in English, as of course the opera is in Italian, but the Four Seasons provides a running video closed captioning above the stage so those of us not speaking fluent Italian can follow along. This simple addition makes it so much easier to follow the story. 


Now, not really sure if we would enjoy the opera, we purchased “Cheap Seats” way up on the fifth tier in the back, and so most of those 2000 audience members were seated closer to the stage than we were, but the huge venue is designed so everyone can see clearly, but I could easily see how “opera glasses”might be useful, as I was not always sure who was actually singing. 

In the "cheap seats"


We were very fortunate for after the intermission, an usher came up to us and offered us two seats along the side but much closer to the stage where we had a better view of the actor/singers but also a good view of the orchestra. 


BUT, perhaps if something else interesting comes up, Regis might be able to convince me to go to another opera. 

We were sitting WAY up there. This view is from our "better" seats


Happy in our new seats


Chasing Windmills

In the book “Don Quixote” the protagonist attacks a windmill because he thinks it

A beautiful wind farm

is a fearsome monster. There is something pretty impressive about the modern windmills, properly called wind “Turbines” as they generate clean power from the wind, but they are no longer fearsome, just interesting. Regis always finds then fascinating and enjoys seeing them on our travels. She is fascinated by how impressive they look as they slowly spin in the wind. We will sometimes try to count how many wind turbines we see on distant hillsides as we drive by. 


We discovered on one of our walks that Toronto has a wind turbine down along the Lake Ontario waterfront, and Regis wanted to go see it, but we had already walked a long way by that time so decided to save the windmill for another day.

A fancy horse barn


On a warm spring day with sunshine and warm temperatures we decided to go down again and actually find the windmill for Regis. On our continued quest to master the TTC system we took a different route, using two different streetcars, one west and then another south to the Toronto Exhibition Grounds. We then walked through the Exhibition Grounds which contains some very interesting buildings and venues including the BMO field which hosts football and soccer games and is being prepared for games in the 2026 FIFA World Cup. 


We also discovered a little log cabin tucked away behind a fence that a plaque told us it was the oldest original house in Toronto, built in 1794. Although it was not open it was nice to see a historical building like this being preserved.

Scadding Cabin


And finally we did discover Regis’ windmill. We were pleasantly surprised to discover we could get right up to it and could stand right under the gently spinning blades of the wind turbine. Most of the big turbines on the wind farms you see around the country are in remote locations and protected by fences and locked gates, but here we could go right up to it. 


There it is!

Signs around the turbine give lots of information about wind power and turbines in general as well as specific information on this particular machine which we discovered is the first Urban Wind Turbine in North America. This is not surprising since there are many concerns about wind turbines being close to people. Fortunately this one is situated on the parklands of the exhibition grounds so no one lives close by. There will not be the NIMBY calls from people like Anne Murray when she objected to a proposed farm off Nova Scotia which she claimed would spoil her view from her expensive cottage. People will not be complaining that the apparent high pitched whine causes health issues. This turbine stands on its own away from the high density housing of downtown Toronto and I suspect it is mostly an attraction rather than a viable source of power for the city. 


And then the clouds moved in and we turned back into the city to find a place to shelter from the rain and get a bite to eat. 

Up close to a wind Turbine