Thursday, February 22, 2024

Bits of exotica . . .

I spent the day at the International Auto Show here in Toronto, and enjoyed taking photos of some of the beautiful vehicles there. I took lots of pictures, but all I am giving you here in the blog are some of my detail shots of little bits of some of the cars. I like to look at the cars and find interesting areas and parts of the cars to photograph. Some of these vehicles I am sure you will be able to identify, but some, I suspect no one will know where the bits came from. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Winter Stations

A nice February Day at the beach

A sunny February day . . . . a perfect day to spend the day at the beach!

No bikinis, or speedos though, but at least all the Lifeguard stations were occupied and busy. You might think that a February beach day would not be a good idea, but that is exactly what we did today, took a streetcar and a bus down to Woodbine Beach and spent the day there. We were there to explore the annual Toronto “Winter Stations” event. 

Walking the boardwalk

Winter Stations is an International competition where the Arts and Design community is challenged to reimagine the lifeguard stations along Toronto’s East end beaches. The event has been running for 14 years and has seen entries from over 90 countries. The object is to use one of the unused leftguard Stations to create and build an art installation on the beach. I read about it on the internet and decided to go and see what it was all about. A 27 minute, 25 stop  streetcar ride and then a seven stop, seven minute bus ride took us to Woodbine Beach in Toronto’s East end, which runs for almost three kilometres along Lake Ontario. 

The beach was not crowded as it would have been in the summer, but I would call it well used, especially by Toronto’s dog community and as we walked down the beach we met many friendly canine beach goers. Scattered down the beach were the actual Winter Station installations. There was . . . .

We Caught a UFO by Xavier Madden & Katja Banovic from Croatia and Australia

A Kaleidoscopic Odyssey by Adam Brander, Nilesh P, Ingrid Garcia & Mayam Emadzadeh from Canada

Nimbus by David Stein from Canada

Bobbin’ by University of Waterloo School of Architecture

Winteraction by Department of Landscape Architecture & Ashari Architects for Canada & Iran

Nova by Toronto Metropolitan University of Architectural Science from Canada  

Each of these installations was designed and built around one of the beach’s lifeguard stations and the public was encouraged to explore and get involved in the displays. As we walked down the beach, we tried each one, climbing into the UFO, Walking through the Kaleidoscopic Odyssey, and titter-tottering in the Bobber. The rain falling from Nimbus’ cloud did not get us wet, and the fallen star Nova sheltered us from the wind and provided a view along the beach. Unfortunately the Labyrinth in Winteraction required an app that did not want to install on my phone so we could not do it, but the rest were imaginative and interesting. 

Not having visited this beach previously, we continued on down the boardwalk along the lakes edge visiting other beaches and enjoying a pleasant afternoon walk before taking a different streetcar and bus route back to the condo. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

NS Bridges and Man-made Rivers

The planned Portlands

In October, we went down to have a look at the new “built in Nova Scotia” bridges being installed in the Toronto Portlands and although we did get to walk across one of the bridges, we were disappointed to find that the other two were not open yet. That trip did inspire me to do some research on this area of the city and I discovered that there is a very ambitious plan to revitalize the area to convert what is now an industrial wasteland with deflect building and piles of dirt into parkland and prime real estate. During our October walk (see the post called “Caution Construction”) we had a difficult time even walking the area, so when I saw a news article about the now “open”bridges and the new “artificial river”, I decided it was time to go back for another look. 
What it looks like now

As we got to the waterfront, you could see that the road leading to the first bridge, a double span with lanes for bicycles, vehicles and pedestrians was finally open and clear. Now I say open, but really only one span was actually operational so us walkers had to share with bicycles, but we were able to walk across the bridge and onto the Portlands. There was still a lot of construction going on, and we did have to avoid excavators and dump trucks, but although landscaping still has to be completed, you could see clearly what this would look like when finished, and it should be very nice.

Built in Nova Scotia

Once across the bridge, we could continue on across the bridge we previously explored on into the actual working Portlands, or we could walk down a new wide avenue to the fourth bridge which crossed the “Artificial River”. Having done the other bridge, we chose to walk down to the one we had not visited. The road across this bridge continued down along the waterfront into another industrial area, but the bridge crossed a man-made river which winds through the Portlands and will eventually connect the Don River wth Lake Ontario, allowing it to flow peacefully through a newly designed recreational park rather than just dumping into the mostly unused Keating ship channel. 

These four bridges and the artificial river are just the first part of an ambitious 1.3 billion flood protection and revitalization project for the Portlands. There will be a section of the project that will be used for more Toronto High Rise Condos and a large section will be landscaped and reforested into a beautiful recreational area. As we walked across the fourth bridge, we could see the work being done in the area and it is easy to imagine what it will look like when finished. The “river” has water in it, but is not yet connected with the real river and many little trees already line its banks. 

The River Ends Here for Now

Now those proposed condos will be in an amazing prime location, so I can only imagine they will become very popular locations and I am sure they will be very pricey, as they will have beautiful views, parkland next door, and are still right downtown Toronto. I wonder what they will cost?

The Ship Canal

Toronto from the new bridge

Those dirt piles will one day be condos

The Bridge and the River

This will be recreational parkland when finished

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Back on the Beltline

Back on October 2, 2018, I wrote a post about walking the Beltline Trail, where we started at Yonge St. and walked north on this trail which is on an old railway bed. Today we walked another section of the Beltline trail, this time from the same start location but walking south to explore a section of the trail that was really a vastly different experience from the previous walk. 

A unique grave marker

Back in 2018, we were staying in our son’s condo in Midtown,  just a short walk from the trail, but our current condo is downtown so we took the subway up Yonge St. to Midtown and walked the trail back down towards our new location. 

The first part of the walk was obviously on the old rail-bed, but then the trail turns and detours through the large Mount Pleasant Cemetery and then down into the Moore park Ravine, so I do not think this section of the trail continues to directly follow the route of the old railway. Those old locomotives would have struggled to get up and down from the deep ravine. 

Down under the city

The trail itself is really pleasant, as you drop down into the ravine and the ever present skyscrapers of the big city disappear into nature. I recall back in the 70’s when I was here on a training course being amazed at these beautiful forested trails running through the city and they continue to provide a serene walking experience within Canada’s largest, busiest city. Walking in the winter means that the trees are mostly leafless, so we do see some huge houses  of wealthy Torontonians bordering the ravines but in other seasons the city is mostly blocked out. 

This section of the trail follows the path of the stream that carved out the ravine and eventually joins the Don River which flows into Lake Ontario. On the way it passes the Evergreen Brickworks where I suspect the bricks that were used to construct so many of the beautiful old houses in Toronto were made. This derelict factory is now a multi-purpose community site featuring a museum, a park and a community market. 

The Brickworks

You can continue walking trails all the way down along the Don river to Lake Ontario but we have already done that hike, so after we passed the Brickworks we climbed up out of the ravine on a trail we had to share with a city racoon, in time to, as experienced Toronto Transit commuters we confidently caught a bus that dropped us off a block from the condo. A bit more of Toronto explored.

A well maintained Trail (and "No Winter Maintenance")

Trailside Art

One of the bridges spanning the ravine

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Bamboo & Gargoyles

The Bamboo Garden

We set out today to find a bamboo garden at The University of Toronto. Yup, another suggestion from that “111 places” book, and although we did find the garden we ended up finding a lot more as well. I find this often happens when you set out to explore on foot; you see things you did not expect. 

The bamboo garden was a lovely green space within the Terrence Donnely Centre on the University of Toronto campus. Within the garden are wooden platforms with seating areas for students to enjoy. The greenery of the bamboo was lovely in the rather dreary Toronto winter. 

University College Building

Rather than going back out onto College St. and making our way home, we decided to walk through the Medical Sciences Building and discovered a hallway where photos honoured all the graduating classes of the Medical Students, and we spent a while searching the photos to see when females started to graduate with Medical degrees. As far as we could tell, 1907 was the first year with women in the photos.  

We exited out the back of the building onto a large green space surrounded by beautiful old brick and stone university buildings. We had walked through here previously while looking for another attraction, but today I decided to walk around and look closer at all the buildings. I was particularly interested in the architecture of a large building directly across the green. 

Creatures "hanging around"

I discovered that this was the University College building; the original building of the University of Toronto. I first came to a round building at one end and discovered that the detail in the stonework was really spectacular. The stone trim around the windows and the roof were all completely different. All carved in stone and from a distance looked identical but a closer examination showed that every one was a different design. The more I looked the more amazing details I discovered. The gargoyles in the corners were especially interesting. 

We couldn’t get into the round building, but a door gave us access to the main building and inside was just as amazing. The wood trim around every door and window had corner blocks each with a unique carved design. Everywhere I looked I saw repeated architectural details with  completely different carvings. 

Sculpture of chipboard & shingles

We then found signs indication an art gallery and twisted and turned our way to it, where we enjoyed some really interesting artwork. 

After an interesting day exploring the University of Toronto I came home and did some research on the University College building, discovering that it was built in 1856, burnt down in 1890 due to a tipped Kerosine lamp, and rebuilt in 1892. The building was designated a National Historic site in 1968, and “revitalized” in 2018. It really is an amazing building and a nice way to end a day exploring Toronto. 

Every divider was a different design

Every column was a different design

Every column top was different

Ceiling detail

Banister beast

More columns . . .

The round house

University College Building