Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Indoor stroll at the Gardiner Museum

Beauty is inside, literally
We craved the white stuff until today (Dec. 29, as I'm writing this post), forgetting that in urban settings, it always turns into wet grey stuff! I strongly suggest a visit to the Gardiner Museum to prevent the blues or cabin fever and enjoy the clever current exhibition, which is on until January 10, 2016.

While I make a good case to encourage families to visit it to enjoy the 12 Trees of Christmas offered until January 3 (visit this page for a photo gallery), the elegant museum is fantastic for savvy art lovers.

The Rise and Fall of Civilization, an installation by artist Kent Monkman, is equally brilliant and whimsical, the more you look at it. Referencing the near extinction of the American bison, it features Miss Chief (the artist's sexy alter ego) overlooking bison jumping off a cliff. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll leave you with these, and a few photos of the rest of the collections.

Monkman's exhibition goes on until January 10, 2016.
(Holiday opening hours: Closed on January 1st, opens daily at 10 a.m., closes at 6 p.m on Dec. 29 & 30, at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31, then at 5 p.m. on weekends, at 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday and at 9 p.m. on Fridays. Note that admission is half-price on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Hamilton Stroll: Take a walk along James Street North

A friend of mine (francophone) recently sold his Toronto condo to buy an apartment building (including many tenants and three shops), and he was left with money to renovate! He knows of many people who have moved to Hamilton as well. 

There's definitely a buzz about Hamilton, and when visiting the neighbourhood around James Street North, I understood why!

I first heard about James Street through promotions for James Street Supercrawl, Hamilton’s annual celebration of music, art, fashion and culture. (The last one took place on September 11-13, 2015.) The rest of the year, the James North Community organizes Art Crawls on the 2nd Friday night of every month.

I was seduced by James Street North! Cool shops, great cafés, lovely architecture and up-and-coming vibe abound between King William and Barton Streets.

All the signs of Portuguese presence took me by surprise, adding character to the street: Ventura's Signature Restaurant (178 James St. N.) featuring Fado nights and a cool model boat as a sign, the mural by another Portuguese restaurant the Wild Orchid (286 James St. N.), the Portuguese custard pies in unassuming Ola Bakery (230 James St. N.)...

I had a bite at Mulberry Coffeehouse (193 James St. N. at Mulberry) and noticed some art on the sidewalk by Victor Fraser, who often grace Toronto's streets with his artwork (see my post on his Alphabet Walk along Danforth in Toronto).

The café is huge, with eclectic decor, nooks and a long outdoor patio. They serve a good spread of home-baked goods and vegetarian light meals, as well as serious coffee, and they're licensed!


Among my favourite finds on the street: the beautiful clothes at Blackbird Studios (161 James N.)...

... and the thorough selection of Hamilton-related items at The Hamilton Store at 165 James N. (including walking guides) with a backyard featuring artwork, weather permitting.


More photos taken on James Street North and around.

And this shot taken at 75 Cannon Street East, set in the 50s!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Toronto Mini Strolls: Around Baby Point

One really cool perk about being an author is the opportunity to meet great people and, from time to time, kindred spirits such as the three women I joined last week for a little walk around Baby Point.

I met with Linda and her two friends, Diana the fundraiser and Sheila the urbanist, and soon found out that the three women and I share the same love for all things related to improving urban life and walkability of our city.

Funny story
Linda Plater is the dynamic BIA Coordinator for the Village of Islington neighbourhood, aptly self-proclaimed "Toronto's Village of Murals". She's also the editor of the local quarterly Islington Times, and recently wrote an article about Toronto Urban Strolls 1. Here's how she found out about my walking guide and the fact that it includes the Islington Village Murals Stroll:  

"Half dressed in the gym change room, my tennis friend told me about her recent self-guided tour of the Islington murals. And she raved that her group of girlfriends loved their afternoon out exploring Islington! This active group of Mississauga young, fit seniors were planning more trips with the help of a fabulous guidebook."

Mini stroll around Baby Point 
Linda's street, our starting point, is a dead-end with access to the park flanking the Humber River. We soon reached the paved path and headed north to cross the Old Mill Bridge and enter Étienne Brûlé Park.

We saw a group of high school students from a Waldorf school doing an outdoor class

My new friends pointed out a path climbing up the hill in the back of the parking lot, which I had never noticed. It leads to the country-like Humberview Road, from which we took Humbercrest Boulevard.

We turned right on Baby Point Road, aiming at Coffee Culture Café at the corner of Jane and Annette Streets, an unassuming coffee shop serving good light meals.
I was thrilled to discover Queen Margherita Pizza just across from the café. (I have been to their location in Leslieville and love their Neapolitan pizza.) The Baby Point location is bright and cheerful and would be the perfect end to a long walk along both sides of the Humber River in Étienne Brûlé Park.

On our way back, a Little Free Library caught our attention on baby Point Road. We see more and more of them around the city (read this post on the Torontoist.)

When we reached the Humber, the glistening water was too temping under the sun. We decided to walk along the river. At this time of the year, you can see people trying their luck to catch salmon (Yep! there's salmon in that river), but fish didn't get there by chance. It's part of Ontario's fish stocking program

We met again the high school students who turned out to be excellent at spotting salmon! We followed a few specimens in their attempt to swim up the low dam.

We walked back on the paved road on the west side of the river, passing the kayaks of Toronto Adventures (getting ready for its last aquatic adventure of the season).

Linda told us about Hurricane Hazel which blew over 200 mm of rain in 1954, enough to flood the area. Then she showed us the blue wave on one of the pillar under the Bloor Bridge, marking the level that the waters of the Humber reached during Hazel!

Once again, I've seen how great walks encourage great conversations. We will definitely continue to stroll together around our great city.

Old Mills Subway Station is right beside Bloor Bridge.



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