Saturday, October 6, 2018

Under Toronto

PATH "direction signs"
The first year I retired, I went with Regis to Montreal while she was attending a conference, and I discovered the “underground city”, which was 33 km of tunnels connecting buildings in downtown Montreal. The tunnels allow people to move around the city under the cold and snow of the Quebec winters. With time on my hands, I really enjoyed exploring this interesting underground part of the city. I even found a nice linen suit I had been looking for in a little shop in one of the tunnels.

Where is everyone?
Years later while picking up a cruise in Houston, I discovered they also had a “tunnel” system. In Texas of course the goal is to keep people out of the summer heat rather than the cold, and their tunnel system is just under 10 Km long, but it is very well organized, and new building in the area are required to connect to the system. I wrote a Tripadvisor review of this attraction after walking most of it one afternoon, entitling it “How not to see Houston”, and for some reason this title attracted hundreds of readers, the most of any of my reviews by a huge margin.

At least someone is using PATH
On this trip to Toronto I explored Toronto's tunnel system. It is called PATH, and is over 30 km long and contains over 4,000,000 sq ft of retail space – the largest underground shopping complex in the world. The bulk of the PATH system is under the “Financial District”, so its primary use is during business hours, and on a damp rainy Saturday when we decided to explore the PATH not only were the tunnels mostly deserted, nothing much was open. You could follow the PATHs, but most stores and restaurants were locked up
tight. Apparently over 200,000 people use the tunnels most days, but we were often completely alone.

The PATH, is often very difficult to follow. You are underground, so have no reference points to follow and the tunnels turn and twist through buildings, subway stations and food courts so it is easy to get turned in the wrong direction. The city has developed a system of directions and signage to help explorers find their way around, but we discovered that although the signs help when you can find them, some areas do not have any signs. Union Station for example which is confusing anyway contains minimal signage. They use a system of coloured arrows to show which direction you are headed, Blue - North, Yellow – East, Red – South, and Orange – West. You would think this would help, but we discovered one sign that had the colours and the directions mixed up and we headed in the wrong direction.

It was a good way to spend a damp morning, and we had
Nothing open down here today.

pretty well fulfilled our “Toronto To-Do” list, and I will certainly be coming back to see what it is like during a business day.

This sign is completely WRONG!


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Slow Travel allows for more Strollin'

Toronto Reference Library

This trip to Toronto was organized with no goals or expectations other than living in Ryan & Ben's nice Midtown Toronto condo while they were away in Spain. As a result, it has been a quiet relaxing trip where we get up each morning and after coffee and tea and an eventual breakfast, we decide what we want to do. What a great way to travel.
Pharmacy Building

Regis wanted to go to Chinatown for a dumpling lunch today. Ryan and Ben have taken us to a wonderful little basement restaurant called “Yummy Yummy Dumplings” which Ben claims makes the best Chinese dumplings, and he should know. I decided to work a few of my Toronto attractions from Shawn Micallef's “Stroll” book into todays outing.

Our first stop was the Toronto Reference Library. Pierre Burton researched many of his novels here and apparently, the inventors of the game Trivial Pursuits got most of their answers from the extensive stacks here. I did not stop to do any research, but I was impressed with the building. Built in 1977, it remains an active bustling place,and the design reminded me so much of Halifax's “New” library with its open airy central atrium. Although this building might look almost 40 years old from the outside, it is ageless inside. The building is well used with most tables and
The Narrowest Park
study areas full. I saw street people watching the news and students doing serious research as I explored the building. I was disappointed that unlike Halifax's new library, I was unable to go outside up on the upper floors to enjoy the views out over the city.

From the library, we wandered down Bloor St.; one of Toronto's major avenues and here you can find every major designer label's store, Gucci, Holt Renfrew, Brooks Brothers, Louis Vuitton, etc. etc. etc.

My goal was University Avenue and the thinnest park in Toronto. The Stroll book describes the median between the North and South traffic as an interesting walk. It really is a thin park, with benches, fountains, gardens and memorials to people I did not know, and you have be careful, because Toronto traffic zooms by on both sides, but, some people have figured out that it is a secluded if not quiet spot for lunch or just to be alone. It is not an easy walk however, because the median is intersected along the way by a few streets, and Toronto drivers are not “Walker Friendly”, so you sometimes have to cross to one side, then cross the intersection and then get back over to the median. I probably wouldn't have stuck it out except I wanted to experience it as described in the book, but it did make an interesting 'stroll'.

Along the way we stopped at the Pharmacy Building at the University of Toronto. This building was constructed with large spheres suspended inside the building used as lecture and study spaces. Although probably not the most effective use of “Space”, it was a really interesting building and I am
glad the Stroll book suggested we go there. Also interesting was the curved mirrored surfaces of the Hydro Building just a short distance away. As with any large city, Toronto always has another cool building to keep your architectural interest.

The Hydro Building
And yes, we managed to find Yummy Yummy Dumplings and their lunch offerings were as good as recommended.
Ridin with Dad!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Distillery District

Down in the East End of Toronto there is an interesting shopping and entertainment area called the Distillery District. A series of buildings from the old Gooderham & Worts Distillery have been restored and repurposed for craftspeople, artists and performers. The buildings were designated as a heritage site, but rather than restoring them as a museum, the buildings have been restored and converted to stores, restaurants, pubs, artists studios, and performances venues. As you wander around the district you can find lot of interesting shops, places to eat and drink and information about the history of the buildings. Most of the buildings have artifacts from the original distillery scattered about. The overall affect is interesting and makes a great place to explore while visiting Toronto.

While I was there I enjoyed taking some pictures and I've included a few here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Walking The Beltline

It was raining today, but we have spent time in Scotland, where it seemed to rain each and every day, so we decided to venture out anyway. Our plan was to walk the Beltline Trail which runs close to Ryan's condo.

The Beltline Trail is a trail that runs east/west through Midtown Toronto. It utilizes the converted railbed from the old Toronto Belt Line Railway which was a commuter line established in 1890, but closed two years later after being unable to turn a profit. The city bought the rail line and tore up the tracks creating the trail in 1989. The trail is aprox. 9 km long, and joins with the trails through the the Mud Creek Ravine trail system and past the Evergreen Brickworks park. The trail ends in the neighbourhood of York at Eglinton West.
A Lovely Place to Walk

We joined the trail at the Yonge St. Bridge which crosses the Davisville Rail yard not far from the condo. Here we met the amazing train-spotting dog. As we came up to the bridge I saw a little dog eagerly peering through the railings looking for the subway trains which runs above ground here. I stopped and commented to his owner about his interest in the trains. She said it was his favourite activity. As the train approached, his tail started to wag eagerly and when the train roared under the bridge, he frantically ran to the other side and watched the train disappear into the station. Once the train was gone, he contentedly continued his walk.

Street Art Along the Way
The nice thing about this trail is that it is a narrow strip of green running right through Toronto, passing various neighbourhoods, including some amazingly huge houses worth many millions along with apartment blocks and many ordinary neighbourhoods. Along the way, the trail is intersected by a number of roads where you have to stop and cross when traffic allows, but you are then back into the lovely green walkway. The trail is well used and we met with many people and a number of dogs besides the amazing train-spotting one. Doing most of my walking in the friendly green space of Shube Park back home, people here in Toronto were taken back by these strangers greeting them with a “Good Morning”. Although obviously not the norm here in Toronto, most people smiled and returned with a friendly greeting as well.
A "Selfie" on the trail

The section of the trail we used ended with an enormous brick sound barrier at Allen Ave. Apparently you can cross this busy road and find the trail on the other side, but we took this as a spot to turn back and we continued our walk along the busy Eglinton St. Back to Yonge st.

Although prepared for rain, we managed the entire walk without getting wet until we got back to the condo, so it turned into a very pleasant morning walk.
Yard Art on the walk home