Saturday, September 30, 2023

A little Detour

Walking to the Market
Today I walked to the Market to find something interesting for dinner. Toronto has a wonderful Market, the St. Lawrence Market that is within walking distance. It is amazing how similar good markets are all over the world. The best markets I have found are all very much the same design. St Lawrence Market is much like Markets in Narbonne France, Budapest Hungary or Barcelona Spain. I may do a post about markets one day, but today I want to tell you about a little detour I took on the way to the Market. 

The condo is on Mutual Street which runs down towards the waterfront and the Market, but it is not a major route, so I have never actually explored it. It was actually difficult to use this route, because not being a major street, it does not have crosswalks, so I had to wait for traffic breaks to cross the streets. Today was a beautiful warm day and I was enjoying the walk, taking my time and looking at a part of the city I had not explored. Part way down, I noticed a walkway leading to a courtyard which was part of the Toronto Metropolitan University, and there were some interesting wooden structures in the courtyard. 

I walked in to discover a whole collection of what I would say were covered shelters with seats. They were all different and were just made of ordinary timber on a standard base. In common, they all had a roof, and they all had at least one seating area. I assume they were some sort of student competition or class assignment, and they all had signs identifying team numbers. I did ask one student who came out of one of the university buildings, but she did not know anything about them. 

What do you think? Any ideas?

This one does not look finished . . . . .

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Community Gardens

Winchester St Garden

Today I went to find a neighbourhood butcher where I bought something for dinner this evening. Coming home, I took a different route to explore some of the streets in the area. On the way I found a lovely garden beside a school. A sign explained the it was a project where the students planted and maintained the garden plots. As it was late in the gardening season the plants were not at their best, but I could still imagine how it would have been lovely in season. Wanting to explore the garden I walked around the fence to find the entrance. There was a nice sign welcoming me to the garden which looked to be written by the students. BUT, there was no entrance and actually a sign warning me that I was not allowed into the garden. I was welcome, but it seemed only to view from outside the fence. 
Not really welcome however

Spending 30 years in education I reasoned that because the garden was maintained by the students, for safety reasons the public was not actually welcomed to the garden or perhaps they were worried about vandalism, which was a shame since it looked like an inviting space and I would have liked to explore the garden. In fact, since the students were out playing on the schoolyard next door, and none of them were in the garden it seemed that even the students were not allowed to enjoy their garden. Kind of a shame I thought.

All about the school garden

The school

Not really welcome

It would have been nice to visit

A real "community" garden

Then a block or two away I discovered another community garden with the exact opposite approach. This one was open and accessible by anyone, with paths wandering through the raised beds of plants. I wandered through this garden and saw signs inviting the public to pick anything they wanted. Again, as the gardening season is really over, there was no much there to actually pick, but there were still green tomatoes waiting to ripen, and the seed beans had been allowed to mature freely. This one looked to be a real “community” garden enjoyed and shared by anyone. 

Two vastly different approaches to neighbourhood gardens. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

History on a Fence

The new infrastructure emerges on Kingston Rd,
delivering the first watts to customers.
You have to be observant when walking around Toronto. I have discovered beautiful sculptures in gardens and architectural oddities all over the city, but today I discovered a history lesson. Carlton/Church & Yonge is the closest subway stop and we use it a lot. Carlton is a major street and is very busy, so we started walking down Wood Street which is parallel to Carlton and only two blocks long, so it is quiet and not used a lot We walk this route every time we go to the subway, and I noticed an interesting fence around a parking lot, but today I actually stopped and looked a bit closer at the fence. I discovered a history lesson was displayed in photographs and plaques as you walked down along the fence, giving interesting historical lessons on Toronto Hydro. I am assuming the parking lot is for Toronto Hydro vehicles or employees. 

I think the design of the fence is actually a map of some of Toronto’s streets and is interesting on it’s own, but the photos with their write-ups incorporated into the design of the fence were a unique feature, giving glimpses into the story of Toronto Hydro from 1910 to 1951. 

I would have missed this little history lesson except that Regis had forgotten something back at the condo, so I was walking slowly down the street waiting for her and I had time to actually look a the fence and read the little plaques where we would have normally just walked quickly by on our way somewhere else. 

Slowing down and noticing what is around you Can lead to interesting discoveries. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Condo Lifestyle

Moving from a three story 3000 SF house in Nova Scotia to a downtown Toronto condo with just 850 SF, involves a major lifestyle change, but so far we are adapting quite well. 

A nighttime view from the condo

The first thing is the size; we have a small kitchen in an open plan living area. The kitchen was renovated when Ryan & Ben lived here so it has all modern appliances and works quite well for the most part. It is not our lovely large Italian stove kitchen back in Dartmouth that our daughter is now enjoying, but so far we are adapting to the smaller size. It has problems but we are working them out. For example I installed a nice pegboard wall to make frying pans and pots easily accessible. We left a lot of our kitchen gadgets at home, but so far we have only missed a few. The other rooms are smaller than we were used to, but are all we need so far. And a big plus is no stairs, which my bad knees and hip thank me for every day. Regis sums the size up this way, “I plug the vacuum in once and Art can reach every corner of the condo without moving the cord.”

Our living space

I have had to temporally give up some of my hobbies; I no longer have any woodworking tools other than a drill, and I do not have a garage full of mechanic tools, so instead I am planning to concentrate on two hobbies I did not have enough time for my writing and my painting. The writing you are seeing the results of in my more frequent blog posts and I have a couple of stories I plan to work on. The painting is in the process of being set up, and I expect to start decorating one wall of the living room with some new paintings. 

 A handy shopping cart

We did not bring our main transport (our hybrid Toyota) with us to Toronto. Past experience showed us that having a car in Downtown Toronto is actually a nuisance. We have driven here in the past and did not use the car until we left to drive home. Parking is hard to find and traffic is crazy, so we are learning to find anything we need within walking distance. We can walk to at least five decent grocery stores, and just one block away is a huge Loblaws that has anything we might need, including an LCBO upstairs. We discovered that carrying groceries can be heavy, but a handy “old-folk” shopping cart has solved that problem. As well there are two hardware stores a few blocks away, and even a small IKEA we can walk to. If we need something we need to drive to, we can borrow Ryan’s car or we have started using UBER services. We did bring the little classic sports car and it rests, tidily covered up in a nice underground parking spot for use on outing to explore the outskirts of the city on “Top Down” days. 

There are simple benefits as well. Compost, garbage and recycling, just get put down a shoot in a room right outside our door, and I never have to lug big bins to the street. If I order something from Amazon or Wayfair, the concierge downstairs hold my packages when they arrive and e-mails me that it is here. 

The condo is right downtown so I will admit that there is more noise, and not a day goes by without at east a few sirens going by, but to be honest, I really do not mind (and I suppose both of our hearing is not what it used to be). I like the hustle and bustle of the downtown, and enjoy sitting out on the balcony with a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the afternoon and listen to the sounds of the city nine stories below me. 

So most days I get up and make myself a pour-over coffee (No espresso machine - it got left back for Alisha), have breakfast on our new apartment sized table, go to the building’s gym for exercise, walk to a grocery store for tonight’s dinner groceries, and just generally enjoy this new lifestyle. I’m sure there are downsides to the condo lifestyle, but so far they are not bothering me. 

A few random pictures from around Toronto.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Another City of the Dead

Toronto's Necropolis

On a previous visit to Toronto, I discovered that Toronto has a Necropolis, like in Glasgow Scotland. Necropolis means “City of the Dead”, and Toronto’s version is in Cabbagetown, not far from the condo, and I discovered that Heritage Toronto had guided walks focused on the black history in Toronto’s Necropolis. 

This cemetery is a non-profit nondenominational one and a wide range of folk are buried here, many being moved from an older city cemetery. There are over 50,000 souls buried here, many in unmarked graves. These cemeteries were often used for the dead who could not afford an expensive burial, but it is also a beautiful spot in a lovely location so many prominent members of Toronto society elected to be here as well. In fact on our first visit here on an earlier trip to Toronto we discovered Jack Layton’s memorial is here as well as Roy Brown who was the WW1 pilot who shot down the “Red Baron”. This guided walk featured information about members of the black population of Toronto who were interned here. 

Our first stop was the memorial to Thornton Blackburn (1812–1890). He was a former slave who escaped to Canada and established the principle that Canada would not return slaves to their “owners” in the US, thus making Canada a safe haven for escaped slaves. Blackburn established the first cab company in Toronto and became very wealthy and respected in the community. The current colours of the Toronto Transit Commission still mirror the colours Blackburn used for his cabs. His gravesite holds not only his family but also many other members of the black community. 

Shipped to Canada

The next stop was a marker for Henry Box Brown, who is famous for escaping slavery in the US by shipping himself in a box to Toronto in 1848. Thus his nickname of “Box”. He became a lecturer and entertainer in Toronto. 

We next visited a small marker that you could no longer read for the first black millionaire in Toronto, James Mink. A movie “Captive Heart” was made about him selling his daughter to a white American who then sold her into slavery in the US, and he had to go rescue her, but apparently it was a complete myth and in fact his daughter was married to a black resident of Toronto. 

Our final stop was at a large gravestone for William Peyton Hubbard (1842–1935) who was the first person of African heritage to be elected to city council and was known as “Cicero” for his oratory skills. Although he has a prominent grave marker with his whole family listed, he is actually buried a few yards away across a public path through the cemetery. There was another myth circulating that he rescued newspaper publisher George Brown from drowning in the Don River when the cab he was in went into the river, but Hubbard denies that this happened although he was friends with Brown who was instrumental in encouraging Hubbard to enter politics. 

Another very interesting walk where we gained some more knowledge of the history of Toronto. 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Modern Scenes on St. Claire

A Modern Building

When you hear something referred to as “modern”, you think of things recent or new, but in fact, I discovered that when referring to architecture, “modern” refers to building built in the 1960’s. Duh . . . I did not know that.

I got a notification on an online newsletter for a walking tour of “modern” buildings on St. Claire Street. This was a reasonable distance from the condo and easily accessible via the subway, so I decided to register for the event. It was being run by The Toronto Heritage Society and the tour leader was a photographer, so I was interested in not only learning something about the city but also the picture taking aspect of the tour. 

The tour started and ended at the St. Claire/Yonge St. subway station and it was only two km

The subway station at St. Claire

long and mostly on city sidewalks. All we actually did was walk around the city block where the subway station is located. 

The actual theme of the walk was about the “modern” architecture on St. Claire St. I discovered that the “modern” referred to the buildings built in the 1960’s. The subway was extended up to this area of the city in the 60’s and the area rapidly expanded as a popular residential area. The leader is a photographer who is working his way around the city recording all the buildings from this period of the city’s history. He stopped and explained the features of various commercial, residential, and government building. For example, did you know that buildings built with brick, usually have five rows of bricks laid lengthwise and then one row laid with the narrow side facing out, or that zig-zag patterns were popular in “modern” buildings? 

The "Ugly" building (In the back)

Personally, I found that most of the buildings he was so fond of were kind of boring, and one building from the 60’s that he said had been ruined when it was renovated recently, I felt was actually quite attractive. He felt that it would have been better to have been torn down, but I laughed with  another participant that in ten years we would be going on a tour which focused on the “ugly” buildings which he disliked. 

At one point he explained how one building was one of the most beautiful and advanced “Condo” building in the area and actually started the concept of the “Condo”, where people actually owned their apartments. He explained that he had been in the building’s entryway, but would have liked to see one of the actual condo’s, but that most of them were still occupied by the original owners so he wasn’t even able to pretend to be interesting in purchasing a “for sale” unit. He was pleasantly surprised when a lady along on the walk, came forward and said she lived in the building and had been there since it was built and was willing to invite him to come visit her condo. 

Discussing the tour

Not only did I get a nice walk in, I met some nice Toronto folks, and I learned a bit more about the city. I will be watching the society’s website for any other interesting walks. I notice that there is one about the Necropolis in my neighbourhood that might be interesting?

Below are some of the "Modern" buildings we visited.

Can you see the Zig-Zag wall here