Saturday, October 28, 2023

Halloween in Hallowed Halls

Last night we went to a concert that was held in a neighbourhood church. The concert was part of a series of Candlelight concerts held all over the world in churches and concert halls. These musical performances are performed in darkened facilities lit with just hundreds of candles. Of course the candles are the new battery powered ones not actual wax candles with real flames. The stage is surrounded by literally hundreds of these candles and once the audience is seated and settled the lights in the building are dimmed and the candles provide the only light. It must have been quite the job setting up and turning all the candles on; I’m surprised the series is not sponsored by Energizer because they must go through a lot of batteries.

The concert we attended was a Halloween special featuring spooky songs played by a string quartet. Songs included “Thriller”, the theme from “Psycho”, and the “Ghostbuster” theme among other halloween themed music. With the candles providing the only illumination, the music was front and centre; you could see the musicians, but the darkness caused you to listen to the music more than watch the concert. 

The event was held in a beautiful old church and the quartet was set up surrounded by candles in the front of the church with a massive pipe organ dimly visible behind them. It created a really appropriate setting for the music. The experience was a unique and very enjoyable evening that I can highly recommend if the series comes to your city.

You can listen to the music on Spotify from a playlist I created from the concert’s program. I tested this ink and it should open your Spotify app if you subscribe to Spotify or it will open the Spotify website and invite you to get a free account.

 Don’t get too frightened by the music. . . . . .

Motoring to Muskoka

Fall colours and a bit of rain

Although there are plenty of things to do here in Downtown Toronto, my Alfa Club drive through the countryside got me interested in venturing out to see more of the fall colours north of the city. I had received a suggested tour of Muskoka that went around Muskoka lake and visited towns around the lake from an e-mail newsletter, so we decided to borrow our son’s car and go and see just what this Muskoka place was all about.

Now I had heard about Muskoka from people who had been there or had heard of

Hook & Ladder Pub

it. My opinion was that it was the ultimate cottage country location; the area that the residents of Toronto and other big cities bought cottages to get away from the city on weekends and vacations; lots of lakes and idilcc water frontage properties. But I also had the impression that the area had been largely taken over by the rich and famous and the cottages were priced in the millions; not at all the “Cape Breton Bungalow” or the British Columbia “camp” I was used to. 

One f the waterfalls

As usual, “out of town” meant a long drive and the tour we had planned was around Lake Muskoka, starting in the town of Gravenhurst at the south end of the lake and it was a 90 minute drive just to arrive at the starting point of our two hour fall colour drive. We had timed our outing very well however and the leaves were at their most spectacular, in full red and yellow colour with most trees still full of leaves, so the drive up was actually very rewarding. 

Muskoka itself was a bit disappointing. The fall colours were beautiful, but the

The locks were not working

cottage country I was expecting was obviously somewhere else. There were lots of very ordinary little cottages in beautiful settings on the lake, but there were also many closed and shuttered businesses, and not just “for the season”, but permanently closed with broken windows, leaking roofs, and yards and parking lots overgrown with weeds and covered in debris. The cottages we saw did not look like million dollar ones, unless the real estate market here is really very overpriced, and the full time locals did not look like they were benefiting from the influx of cottage people every summer. You could see that many of the businesses we passed were geared to the cottage industry with lots of small hardware stores and boat storage facilities full of motorboats put to bed for the winter, but there were also many failed enterprises looking very deserted and sad. 

Bracebridge Main St.

Although it was not what I expected, we still had a lovely day exploring Lake Muskoka. We stopped at the Hook & Ladder Pub, a cute little place with a firefighter theme for a delicious pizza for lunch, and then at the Sawdust City Brewery for a drinks and sandwich supper. It rained a bit, but there was also sunshine, and we stopped to photograph a couple of nice waterfalls and to explore the shops in a some of the towns we passed through. 

Those million dollar cottages were obviously hidden away down side roads away from the curious eyes of “day Trippers” like us. 

Couldn't resist putting in one old car photo

The Muskoka Chair

Muskoka Lake

Bracebridge waterfalls

Bala Falls

Monday, October 23, 2023

Caution . . . Construction

Beautiful new bridges

Today was a cold day, but a sunny one, so we decided to continue our waterfront walk. My goal was to go down to the western end of the downtown Toronto waterfront and try to see the new bridges that had been built in Nova Scotia to be installed here to provide better, more attractive access to the Toronto Port Lands. The area itself is actually a bit of a mess with empty lots, heavy industrial, aging grain elevators and piles of “stuff”, mixed with a yacht club and a nice beach park at the end of the road. There is an actual marine port with access for seaway freighters as well as cruise ships, but coming from Halifax with one of the best harbours on the east coast, Toronto’s Port Lands do not look that impressive. 

Walking the new bridge
There are four of the new bridges being installed but only one is actually installed and being used, while the other three are seriously under construction. Once done, these new bridges will take this rough Industrial area much more attractive, and I assume encourage some more attractive development of the underused areas of the Port Lands. These bridges are elegant attractive structures, providing a vehicle roadway, a two lane bikeway, and a nice wide pedestrian walkway. The bridges are painted white on the exterior and each is a different colour on the inside. They will be a big improvement over the narrow temporary bridge and the old rusty lift bridge. But Really . . . what do you expect from a Nova Scotia product? 

Oh, and there was lots of construction . . . . 

One of many detours

Our walk to explore this section of Toronto’s waterfront was not easy. Once finished the new bridges with provide a nice direct route, but we had to walk around a large parking lot, across a thin rubber track across a narrow bridge which we had to share with vehicle traffic, then back and forth via construction detours, closed sidewalks and roadblocks. The rusty lift bridge only supports one lane of traffic and the pedestrian walkway is a temporary wooden one that replaced a rusted metal lane. Information on Wikipedia says that the lift bridge is historically significant and is being restored and rebuilt, but it looks pretty bad right now. 

Fortunately we survived our walk through the construction zones and continued our walk to Cherry Beach where the road ends at an attractive city park. On the way I can provide an update on an earlier post about the “sea can” market. We walked by a business that promises to provide a converted shipping container for any purpose - perhaps that is where all the ones used for the market came from. I think I recognize the shipping container washrooms . . .

And then we had retrace the route and do it all over again to get home.

Toronto Beach Sand - construction debris

Need a shipping container?

"Sea Can" Washrooms ready to go

Toronto . . . not a skyscraper in sight

The lifeguard is not on duty

The CN Tower hiding behind a pile of mud

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Walking the Waterfront

A lovely day exploring the waterfront

The day I visited the StacktMarket I discovered I was down close to the Toronto waterfront, so I enjoyed a walk along the lake before going back to the condo. Yesterday we went back down to the water to explore more of the Toronto lakeshore. Our friend Angela (remember the post about “Cooking with Angela”) was visiting so we took her on a tour of the area. 

Toronto has done an admirable job of controlling development on the shore of Lake Ontario to allow almost complete public access to the actual lakeshore. There are lots of tall condos built down there with wonderful views (and large mortgages) out over the lake to Toronto Island, but there are also nice walkways and parks along the shore so the public can walk beside the lake and enjoy the views as well. We took the subway down to Union Station and then walked down to the water where we were able to walk along the waterfront all the way to the CN tower. 

We will explore the rest of the waterfront at another time, but here are some pictures of the day.

Tour Boats on the Waterfront

Brass fish in the sidewalks

Oops, I think a piece of the bridge is missing . . .

Waves in the lake . . . waves in the boardwalk

Must have been a hard docking

One of the waterfront parks

A lonely "Love Lock"

Of course the CN Tower is always in sight

She is hoping we don't follow the rules

A "private" boat moored on the lake.

Lovely trees and a waterfall

This was some sort of sundial . . . I couldn't tell time by it though

Seriously . . . you think?

An awkward swing, but interesting . . .

Monday, October 16, 2023

Hangin' with the Italians

Unfortunately a Top-Up Day
My little 1982 Alfa Romeo Spider had a great day today. She got to tour some of the beautiful Ontario back roads with 25 other pure-bred Italians. Of course, I am taking about Italian Alfa Romeo automobiles, but I will admit, I did notice a few Italians drivers behind the wheels of some of these beautiful Italian vehicles. 

I brought my sports car to Toronto with me in the hope of joining some of the interesting events I had been reading about on the Toronto Alfa Romeo Club Facebook page. It took me a while locate and connect with the club, but I finally joined the club, and got an invitation to their final outing of the year, The 8the annual “Fall Colours Drive”.

A line of Alfa Romeos

Now although I can walk or take transit for most things I need here in Toronto, the city is so big that in order to get to places where you can actually drive your car without traffic, stop lights and skyscrapers blocking the views of Ontario’s fall foliage, you need to drive an hour just to leave the cityscapes for the countryside, so we left the downtown and drove north to meet up at a bakery where the parking lot slowly filled with not only Alfa Romeos, but also a group of Porsche enthusiasts who were trying to fit on one last drive of the season. 

Lots of Spiders in attendance
After breakfast and a lot of car talk, the 26 club members fired up their Italian cars and formed a train of Italian vintage workmanship along with a few modern Alfas. The club president lead us through the Ontario countryside so we could enjoy the fall colours as well as the nice twisty roads. The tour lasted about two hours including two stops for photos and breaks, and ended up at a country restaurant for lunch. 

Me and my Spider
The day dawned with sunshine and clear skies, but “Showers” were forecast, and we left with hopes of a good day. Unfortunately the “Showers” arrived and really never left, and was serious rain at times. My little car is not used to being driven in the rain, but she performed admirably; the little-used wipers did actually clear the windshield, and the convertible top kept most of the rain off the passengers. 

The day was cool and wet, but still was very enjoyable, but I am looking forward to springtime and warmer top-down drives next year.

Friday, October 13, 2023

An Ancestry Update

If you have been faithfully following my posts, you may recall that back in 2022, I went in search of my great grandparents' gravesite here in Toronto. It was a subway and a tram ride away and a long walk through a lovely graveyard, but after a lot of effort I was able to locate the tiny grave marker where they were buried. No names or dates, just a small marker with a location number. 

The Verrian Family

Since then I have been back and forth via e-mail with a relative in New Zealand who wanted to put an actual grave stone with names and dates on the site. She was pleased that I was able to actually locate the site and she asked me to check on the progress of the actual stone being installed by the cemetery workers. 

On a subsequent visit I made another visit to the cemetery to check and discovered that the stone was not yet installed, but it was winter, so a check with the cemetery revealed that they had the new marker in storage but the ground was too hard to do the install, but it would be done in the

Ready to be installed

Today, I went back out to make another check. This time it was a little more complicated as the Trams were not operating due to track work so I had to take a bus instead. But I discovered that the gravestone has been successfully installed and I was able to quickly find the spot. Much easier with an actual stone instead of just a tiny number. 

An interesting story about these ancestors . . . My New Zealand relative, she is my father’s cousin I believe, has been regularly sending me information on this branch of the family, and one of her e-mailed information pieces had me rather confused. 


I knew that my great grandfather’s name was Alonzo Hubert Verrian, so I was surprised when I got a newspaper article about him being killed in an accident at 12 years old. This made no sense; how could he have been my great grandfather when he died as a young boy? When I e-mailed New Zealand with my confusion I received further information. 

Apparently my grandmother had a brother who she never talked about who was killed at 12 years old, and he had the exact same name as his father, both were Alonzo Herbert Verrian. I understand he was playing with a group of neighbourhood boys who were playing at sword fighting with makeshift swords made from heavy wire. Alonzo (the second) tried to take a sword from another boy and an argument and a chase ensued which resulted in poor Alonzo getting accidentally stabbed in the neck with a pretend sword and he died of the injuries. I was surprised that my grandmother never mentioned this to us. 

Although the second Alonzo is not buried in the same grave, his name has been added to my great grandparents stone with the site of his grave noted. I have not yet been able to locate his actual grave site. 

Grave marker finally installed

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Old Sea Cans

We call them “Shipping Containers”, but in other countries they are called “Sea Cans” or “Container vans”, but whatever you call them they are large metal boxes used to ship things all over the world. They are built to survive weeks at sea through any kind of weather and can be stacked many layers deep on huge container ships or attached to tractor trailers to be towed across country. They have become one of the most popular ways to transport goods all over the world and can be used over and over for many different kinds of cargo, but eventually they do wear out or get damaged. And what do you do with them then?

I have a friend who uses one to store lots of stuff he does not need at home, but wants to have if needed. Another friend shipped all their worldly possessions from Africa back to Nova Scotia in one. I have seen them converted into Mini-houses, and in New Zealand they were used to provide colourful seating shelters in a waterfront park. Here in Toronto, I discovered that they have been used to create a unique shopping Market called “Stacktmarket”. I read about this in a Toronto Newsletter I subscribe to and decided to go have a look. 

A subway ride and a walk along Front St. took me to Bathurst St. where I found 120 reclaimed shipping containers “stacked” (thus the name) together to create an inviting market complex. The market occupies about 2.4 acres or two city blocks and featured an inviting mix of public seating, pop-up businesses, a brewery, boutique stores, eating establishments, and even a pickelball court. The bottom containers have been converted to areas for market stalls and stores with the ones stacked on top decorated with bright paint and art work. 

I visited on a Thursday afternoon and it was not busy, with many stores not open, but you could see where it would be a busy spot on the weekend, especially in the summer months. The art work on the containers and the many inviting seating areas make it an attractive location to visit and spent time exploring the shops and eatery options. 

Apparently they have a two year lease on this site at which time it is slated to be

converted to a park and the market will be picked up and moved to another location. You can do that with shipping containers, but not concrete shopping centres . . . . .

Inviting areas to sit and relax

Lots of open friendly spaces

Wanna play pickleball?

Or perhaps play a tune?