Thursday, December 29, 2022

Walking Out Back

Down the Back Alley

Today I had a beautiful mild sunny morning in Toronto so I decided to explore the back alleys, laneways and back yards in the neighbourhood. I wrote on my last visit to Toronto about the lovely old brick houses here in the Garden district of Toronto; these lovely old houses present a dignified elegant front to people walking the streets, but behind many of them are narrow lanes which provide access to the back yards and parking areas for these houses. Although many of these lanes are disappearing with new large high-rises and condo development, here in The Garden District and Cabbagetown there are still many old fashioned back lanes. 
The way to the back yard

Once upon a time most streets had houses built so close together you could not get to the back doors from the street. Instead the streets had parallel lanes running behind where deliveries were made, garbage cans were stored and I suppose the horses and carriages were kept. Now they are used for cars, barbecues, back patios, and still garbage cans. 

As many of these elegant old houses were converted to rooming houses or divided into multiple units, the back yards and laneways got crowded with multiple vehicles and subdivided outdoor spaces. You still see some nice elegant back gardens, but they are often hidden behind high fences, but most have been converted to additions to the houses, garages or in recent years into In-law or children’s suites. Where the houses have been divided there are now multiple stairways to back doors and fire-escapes as well as precariously perched patios and outdoor areas. 

Interesting Lane names

Although many of the old houses still look elegant and quite beautiful from the front things get a bit more dilapidated out back, and I found many examples of street art and some interesting doors to add to my growing collection. 

Many of the lanes have been dead-ended by modern buildings and some twist and turn around buildings, but I managed to find many to explore and photograph; it made for an enjoyable walk.  

Back Lane Street Art

A "nice" back door

Nicely Decorated Garage Door

A Back Lane "Screen" Door

Street Art & Garbage Storage

CabbageTown Street Art

A place to store garbage

Back doors, back patios and fire-escapes

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

One Night in Paris

Our first view of the sites of Paris
Okay, I know right off the bat everyone is going to say that one night is “no way” enough time to see Paris, but this trip was planned around the canal boat trip and a month in the south of France; Paris was just a stop on the way home. However, this is how we made the most of our limited time in one of the world’s most interesting cities.

With the canal boat trip finished we took a local train back to Narbonne where we caught a train back to Paris to catch our flight home. The train ride is almost five hours so we had to come a day early and stay overnight. Actually due to a flight change we ended up having two nights in Paris but one was at the airport because our flight was early in the morning. We worked it out to arrive at the Paris hotel and have the evening to explore Paris. Then in the morning, we would have the morning until check-out when we could leave our luggage at the hotel and the rest of the afternoon in the city, going to the airport hotel late in the afternoon. 

The "Night Bus"

To make the most of our limited time, we booked a “Night Tour” with one of the city tours companies on a double decker bus. We reasoned that it might give us a good overview for the first night and allow us to decide what to see the next day. Although the war in Ukraine has made electricity four times as expensive and they are now turning the lights off on the Eiffel Tower overnight to save money, our tour was early enough that everything was lit up nicely. The bus drove by all the major attractions in the city and the recorded commentary gave us good descriptions. We saw the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the river Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral, the red light district, Moulin Rouge Cabaret, and most of the other sites Paris has to offer. 

The Eiffel Tower by Night

The next day, we decided to walk down to the Seine and along it to the Eiffel Tower for a viewing in the sunlight and then Regis wanted to see an art museum. The Louvre was just too big and overwhelming and we figured we would really be disappointed that we did not have time to see more of it, so she decided on the smaller Musèe d’Orsay which featured European art from the 19th and 20th century. 

As it worked out, even this smaller art gallery was able to fill the afternoon and tire us out enough to call it a day. Time to walk back towards the hotel to find some more French food for dinner.

Although we only had a day in Paris, we managed to fill the night and following day with the sights and sounds of Paris, but really there is so much here to see, I think you could spend a month in the city and not experience all it has to offer. 

Check out the name . . .

Just one of the beautiful sculptures

The museum

Time for dinner

Couldn't resist the old car

The Louvre

Decorating a bridge

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Going Down

White water in the lock

When we left Argens-Minervois, where we picked up the boat, we went up the Canal du Midi towards Toulouse. We also went through twenty four locks by the time we got to Carcassonne where we turned around. All of them were going up; we entered the lock empty and it fills with water to lift us up. As the water pours into the lock, you need to hold the boat in place with ropes, and at times it is hard to keep it from moving; we had Ryan and Ben well trained in this task by the second lock. I do not know exactly how much we climbed on the way, but some of the locks were pretty deep. 

At Carcassonne, we dropped Ryan & Ben off to explore on their own and we turned back to return the boat. We are now heading down the canal with just the two of us to do all the work, so we were a bit concerned about how we would do, but it actually turned out very well. 

This is much easier

When you are going down, you enter the lock with it full of water, so the “Crew” does not have to get off the boat before the lock. In fact we quickly discovered that we could just stay on the boat and throw the ropes off and around the Bollards on top of the lock walls. It is much easier to hold the boat in place when the water leaves the lock as when it rushes into the lock. Then, once the lock doors open, you just flip the ropes off the bollards, and motor out of the lock. The only reason we got off the boat was to give the lock keepers pins from back home. 

So, going down is WAY easier than going up.

Waiting for the lock

Cruising the canal

A calm early morning cruise in the rain

Piloting from the top

And from inside (out of the rain)

Friday, October 7, 2022

Cruising the Canal

This is not what we saw
If you do an Internet search of the Canal du Midi, you will likely get a picture of the canal with beautiful rows of plane trees (That is a species of tree; not just boring trees) on either side. Those pictures are likely from years ago because at least on the section of the canal we traveled most of these trees are gone. During the second world war it is felt that a disease was brought from the US in ammunition boxes that has slowly infected most of the plane trees and they have had to be cut down. All the way along the canal these days you see replanted trees of different species that will replace the plane trees, but it will be many years until the beautiful tree lined canal will return. 

However, it has still been a beautiful trip with spectacular French scenery. The canal is very well maintained with a nice bike/pedestrian path alongside the canal which we see a steady stream of vacationing bikers using. 

Here are some photos to illustrate our journey (45 km) up and down the Canal du Midi.

Now that is a CASTLE!

We are doing about forty five km up the Canal du Midi, and it is taking us Three days to cover that distance. This really is “slow travel”. At a town called Carcassonne Ryan and Ben are leaving us to explore some more of France on their own and we will turn back to Argens-Minervios. 

The highlight of the town of Carcassonne is a massive castle which protected the town way back in the days of knights, Romans and other medieval folk, and it has been “imaginatively” restored. I think that means they restored the castle and fortifications to close to original and then recreated the town within the walls to be able to allow modern business and shops to rent locations and help provide revenue. Seems like a good compromise to me. Rather than describing the castle I will just post some of the great pictures I took while exploring the castle.