Toronto & Ontario

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Lake Huron Sunsets

The sun at sunset is like a diva coming off her stage.  It's anyone's guess how she will leave - whether it will be a brisk departure or whether she will do one encore after another, come back every time you think she's gone for good.

After a week of watching the diva set over Lake Huron, I have yet to figure out whether she will hide behind the haze or break through and dazzle the onlooker.   Even five minutes before she actually descended into the sea, she kept us guessing.  It was tantalizing.  When she went behind a cloud, will she emerge below it?  Will the next move down bring her out in front for a final bow or just drop her unceremoniously backstage behind a thick curtain of haze? Will the stage left behind be dim and dull or will it be a magnificent display of fiery red in all its glorious hues?

That's the wonder of sunsets and why it's mesmerizing watching it every evening.  It could take an hour for the spectacle to end and meanwhile the camera is clicking away with every change in shade. Dinner is interrupted if there is a remote chance it might be a glorious exit - afterall who wants to miss a good shot!  Sometimes the second you looked down to check your camera setting, it's gone...

Friday night - a "clear" sun (my friend asked me how I kept the clouds from overshadowing the sun when she saw the photo)
Saturday night - I managed to get the clouds to overshadow the sun, sort of

Sunday - at Grand Bend (and no, I didn't ask the fisherman to move, but he did)

Wednesday - she burnt through the haze

Thursday - mix of clouds - it's anyone's guess how she's going to look.  As it turned out, she was so bright I couldn't get a shot in until she's halfway down the horizon.

Finally, she's gone, leaving behind a painted ceiling in glorious hues of red and orange...

I can understand why there are sunset chasers - it's addictive.

Next post:  I hope to get back to the Mekong Delta!


  1. My last comment disappears when I clicked the preview button. This is the second try, after I signed on my Google account:
    Great introduction, beautiful shots :-)
  2. Thanks. Don't know what I can do about the problem but at least this one showed up.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A week in Huron County

Driving through Huron County last week, I was struck by the vast expanse of pristine farm land - the farms were evidently thriving and well-kept.  We didn't see a single broken-down barn in a week of cruising, while it's a much more common sight further east in Ontario.  I was able to get some nice shots just snapping while the car was zipping along the highway.

The windmills were kind of eerie, especially when they seem so out of place, almost surreal, in the farmland
I had never thought corn could be photogenic, but after seeing miles and miles of  robust crops, I had to stop the car on the shoulder to capture some of it

Our first stop was Goderich, which has a farmers' market every Saturday morning.  We were totally bowled over by the town, truly one of the prettiest towns in Ontario, as it claimed.  The Courthouse Square, where the farmers' market is located, is a unique octagonal shape with streets radiating out from it.  It is a hub with unique character, atypical of small Ontario towns. The courhouse (below) was built in art deco design in the 1950's.  Upon checking the history of Goderich, it appeared that John Galt, the man behind the town planning (yes, there was actual town planning!) was inspired by the 1st century Roman architect Vitruvius, who had inspired Renaissance architects and planners all over Europe. No wonder it looked good.

Courthouse Square with the art deco styled Courthouse in the centre
We were in luck - the annual Celtic Arts Festival was in town and with it, scores of international artists, including the group RUNAJeremy Kittel and his band and the fabulous Irish traditional group TEADA, among others.  It was our first experience with live Celtic music and we found it really enjoyable, particularly the exciting buildup to the reels.  We heard some outstanding fiddle and guitar playing at the Sunday afternoon concert.

And there was more music when we got to Grand Bend beach!  But Grand Bend was a comedown after Goderich.  It's really a seaside town with the required "strip" of tourist traps - but the clientele was young and there were lots of them - guaranteed success.  But I like the boardwalk and the lighthouse (see picture at the end) and the tourist crowd ensured a range of restaurant choices.  We had an excellent dinner with outstanding service at a restaurant called "F.I.N.E." on Hwy 21 in town.

Grand Bend Beach

St. Christopher's Beach in Goderich is much quieter than the Grand Bend beach.

Two hours to the northeast of Goderich is Owen Sound and just outside of it is Inglis Falls.   It's a pretty fall to look at but also looks like one that's fun but dangerous to climb.  We held our breaths as these two kids and their mother braved the stepped rocks and climbed all the way to the top from the base.  A slight change in the waterflow would have been disastrous - said she of the chicken heart, who opted for safer activity like hiking the Bruce Trail beside the river.

We managed to get our hike in before the rain arrived promptly late in the day as forecasted. And what a storm! Our lakefront cottage was pounded all night by wind and rain.  Having lived in brick or concrete all my life, I have to confess I was a little worried by the flimsiness of the cottage.   While it was fun to watch the rough waters from atop the bluff, I definitely wouldn't want to be in the midst of it.  But it was exciting to capture on camera after the rain.

Perfectly okay snapping away on the Goderich beach, unlike this brave soul who took advantage of the surf to perfect the art of kiteboarding, unfazed by multiple slips into the icy waters

Rainy day activities included the interesting Huron County Museum in Goderich, with its special music collection and collection of farm machinery.  It was here that we learned all about salt mining and the fact that Goderich has the world's largest salt mine under the lake. Who could have guessed that beyond that blue Sifto building at the mouth of the Maitland River, is a salt mine that extends the size of the entire town of Goderich into Lake Huron, and this is only the mined part of the salt deposits which are so extensive under Lake Huron and Lake Erie they could be mined for hundreds of years to come.  A short video in the museum showed us the mine and the mining process.

Huron County Museum, Goderich
A hair perming machine from the first half of the 20th century

Monster machines from the farms
45 minutes to the east is the North Huron Museum in Wingham, Alice Munro's hometown. Needless to say, they have made the most of the Alice Munro celebration, including building an Alice Munro literary garden with a self-guided tour of all the old Alice haunts in Wingham. There is an interesting Barn Dance Museum in the basement of the museum with memorabilia from barn dances and performers from the last century.  

Not to be missed is the Blyth Festival Theatre a few minutes south in Blyth - great Canadian plays all summer, including a very touching one we attended - St. Anne's Reel.  The Queens Bakery across the street from the theatre has the best tea biscuits ever.

North Huron Museum, Wingham

Huron County after the storm
When the sun came back, we were able to do more sightseeing, taking in the spectacular view of the Maitland River from the old CNR trestle bridge, which in itself is quite picturesque.

Old CNR trestle bridge (Menesetung Bridge)

Looking towards the mouth of the river, you can see the Sifto salt mine buildings
A cormorant waiting for some action in the river

Life is never dull in front of the lake - an ever changing sea and an every changing sky...

And ever changing sunsets...

Grand Bend lighthouse

Next post: Lake Huron Sunsets


  1. Testing since Betty said she cannot post, posting as anonymous but really am hg. When I press Publish or Preview, I have to prove I'm not a robot, either use picture or voice numbers. Can you see me now?


    1. Yes, I can see you now. Thanks for testing.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Tranquil Wilderness in the City - Tommy Thomson Park

We had an unexpectedly interesting day today walking the Leslie Street spit in the guise of Tommy Thomson Park.  We had expected a walk on flat land with no shade in the blazing sun where we would get our exercise then go and stuff ourselves at a nearby restaurant at lunch.  But it turned out to be an eye-opener giving us a glimpse of the wild life that is accessible to us even in the City.

It started off with a tranquil Sunday morning walk by the waterfront, watching the few sail boats drifting by.  Then all of a sudden, we saw a flock of cormorants flying in formation above us - it looked like they were heading out to the lake for lunch!  One flock came after another with a distinctive V shape at the head of the flock.  They flew low on the lake - guess that's how they caught fish - but I can imagine it must be pretty unnerving to be in the sailboats and have them circling above your head or beside your boat.  This continued for the length of our visit to the park which was over five or six hours as we went back after lunch, being so fascinated by this piece of wilderness in the City.  An article in the Starspoke to the damage these cormorants were doing to the spit.

On our afternoon walk, we ventured further out onto the spit and saw this family of trumpet swans in the marshland in the middle of the spit.  Kudos to the father especially on this Father's Day - he was very aggressive in guarding his family.  No one was allowed to set foot anywhere close to the edge of the pond and he was quite loud and insistent in his warnings.  Then all of a sudden, two Canada geese flew into the pond - they seemed to have a nest in the middle of it.  The two swans took off very quickly like fighter jets responding to an attack - they chased after the goose all the while loudly trumpeting and only came back after they felt they had suitably intimidated the goose.  I was surprised and worried that they had left the six little cygnets undefended!  But it was quite a sight to see this action taking place in nature right in front of us - not to mention I have never seen a swan in flight!  That little episode truly made our day!

Then there was the nice little surprise of a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline from the spit!  I was exhausted at the end of the "leisurely walk" but it was definitely worth it!

A tranquil Sunday morning walk by the lake, enjoying the spring flowers 

A man enjoying the serene seascape - although you can see the cormorants starting to come in on the right - they don't make any noise

Cormorants hovering around the boat and above it...

They're finished lunch - heading back to the spit

The different formations of the flocks were like sky painting

The Toronto skyline from the western edge of the spit

Trumpet swan family

Mom and dad taking off like fighter jets

CIrcling and landing after warding off the Canada goose

Still trumpeting from leftover adrenalin...

Spectacular Toronto Skyline from the tip of the spit - Sky Dome is visible from this angle with the Toronto Islands in between

Some new dumps along the end - they are still filling in the land here on weekdays 

The lighthouse at the end of the spit

Where else would you see a sign like this!
And this is what happened when you don't brake!

Tommy Thomson Park - Great place for a bike ride - or a walk...


  1. Replies

    1. Yes, unexpected fun indeed!
    2. It seems to me that you are always very lucky in catching your photography objects in the right place at the right time. Should name you 'Bingo'. Ha ha! Great shots regardless.

  2. Oh Connie, you don't know how many good shots I missed! There was one where the cormorants were appearing right above my head with the tail of the flock coming up from the horizon, sailboats to the right. it would have been a spectacular shot except I was in the middle of taking off my jacket, hands tied!!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Muted Spring (in memory of a dear friend)

The first bright glorious Sunday of spring, muted
The passing of a dear friend casted
A long shadow over TooGood Pond
In spite of the sun
Remembrance of past Easter walks
Where are the buds, the new life of spring
All I saw were trees dead
Branches broken
Trunk split
Remains of the ice storm

She loved the outdoors
I remember the birds she fed
The spring flowers she captured
And the mountains she climbed
That she was going to climb with me
And the rhododendrons that would be along our paths

And so, I know there's life anew somewhere
In the depths of the pond
Beyond the tall grass
Like our reflections
It will emerge
But slowly return

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Late Fall in Wilket Creek Park

We missed the height of the fall colours by a couple of weeks at least but time and again, my photographer friend and I have found that the lack of fresh bright colours actually forced us to look harder and in unusual places for photo opportunities.   We didn't have masses of reds and oranges to show but in the end, we found the subtler colours of late fall - it's really all about light.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Doing nothing at Sandbanks

With miles of fine sand and lots of space for everyone (especially on a weekday), Sandbanks Provincial Park is a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon doing nothing other than people watching, staring at the expansive nothingness of the lake, or dozing off, to the sound of gently lapping waves.  I don't need to say anything here either, just show you the evidence...

Day's end

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Canoeing on the Black River

We took a short break in Prince Edward County this week staying at a lovely B&B on the mouth of the Black River.  Colleen Cottage, apart from having a gracious hostess who can cook and spacious rooms and grounds, has the advantage of being by the waterfront.  We were comfortable canoeing on the slow moving river and I was particularly thrilled by all the photo ops in spite of the conscious decision not to bring my DSLR with me in the canoe.  But between my Elph and my Blackberry, it all worked out.

The lovely view from the cottage
The only boat we saw on the river


The neighbourhood heron 

It took off when we got too close

A peaceful setting for a pair of swans

Back to the delta

A peaceful day's end

Saturday, 17 August 2013

According to What?

"According to What?" is the header of the Ai Wei Wei show at the Art Gallery of Ontario, opening today.  I was at a members' preview last night and was totally touched.  I love this kind of art - exquisite work where it is required, stunning symbolism, expressing meaningful social, political and personal issues.  But above all, it is very accessible art.  Art that I can understand and appreciate.  My photos don't really do them justice but it's for my friends who are not in Toronto - maybe they'll make a trip.  For those of you who are here, it is definitely worth a visit.

The backpack snake - a memorial to the 380 school children who died in the Sichuan earthquake of 2008.  

Incredible - but these two sculptures are made up of compressed pu'erh tea leaves!  They sit on a bed of loose tea leaves.  They are imaginary tea rooms - traditionally the centre of Chinese culture.

A sculpture of Ai's childhood memories - parallel gym bars that were in every school yard during the Cultural Revolution and the stack of firewood outside his home of exile in Xinjiang.  The sculptures were made from wood salvaged from Qing dynasty temples. 

Another iconic piece - there are many variations of this concept in Ai's work - deconstruction of old furniture (in this case Qing dynasty stools with no nails) and reassembling them in new ways with obvious application to new ideas stemming from the breaking down of our old assumptions.

Old vases dipped in new paint - same idea

Moon Chests - fascinating piece!  A series of wood chests made with rare Huali wood, artfully constructed and aligned so that someone standing at one end can see all the phases of the moon.  Extremely popular - almost impossible to get a picture without a person's head sticking out as you can see! 

Chateau Lafite - supposedly a play on the word feet - this is a sculpture of a pair of Chinese shoes wrapped around a bottle of Chateau Lafite - he does have a sense of humour

The famous crabs - river crabs to be specific - He Xie - an important pun on the two words which in Chinese also sound like "Harmonious" - a satirical take on the Communist slogan.

The iconic antique vase overpainted with the Coca-Cola logo - need we say more

Another memorial to the Sichuan earthquake.  These steel rods were from the scene of the earthquake.  Each bent rod was hammered 200 times to straighten them for this installation.  This piece represents Ai's anger at the government's unwillingness to acknowledge the earthquake victims, their pretense that nothing had happened and carry on business as usual.  At the far end of this sculpture, is the memorial wall made up of the names, date of birth, grade and school record of the 380 children who perished.

A beautiful rosewood sculpture inspired by an antique rosewood box from Ai's father

Divina Proportione - Ai created these sculptures without using nails or screws using a Ming dynasty woodworking technique.  He named it after a Da Vinci drawing of the same forms which he found after he completed the works.

Two highly symbolic pieces representative of China and its long history - the map of China on each end of a long piece of log and on top of a beautifully finished sculpture of mahogany.  

I was not tall enough to get the shape of China!   You have to go and see it for yourself!


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed it - thanks for posting!
  2. I saw the exhibit yesterday too, and thought it was wonderful. In spite of what you say, your photos do do it justice! Peggy
  3. Thank you H and Peggy. It is a wonderful show.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Gardens

I just realized I visited the Gardens (the Toronto Botanical and Edwards Gardens) almost exactly a year ago, last July 2nd.  It seems that every time I visit, different things caught my eye.  One likely reason is because the flowers and plants peak at different times in different years.  When I look at last year's photos I noticed that many of the summer flowers in full bloom this time last year are already wilted today.  But the wonderful thing about the Gardens is that no matter when you go, there are always things to capture with your camera.  So here it is, the second edition of "The Gardens".

Love the lavender!

Busy bee in an amazing cactus flower

This is the Spiral Mound which you can walk to the top of supposedly to get a panoramic view of the gardens - but the top is so overgrown you have to take your panoramic picture before you get to the top.  And here's the view before you get to the top...

Fuzzy lamb's ears

Amazing red maples

Random wall in the Floral Courtyard with bamboo 

Even the hostas look great in the wild garden

Awesome ornamental grasses!

 I would love to know if these are corn lilies (and they are not, my  gardener friend told me they are astilbes - thanks!)

Always photogenic

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Ravine life in late spring

It's mid-June and we finally had our first decent sunny and warm day - perfect for a ravine walk, which we did instead of going to the gym.  I was determined that this should be an exercise and that it would be a brisk walk so deliberately did not bring my camera with me.  At the back of my mind though, I try never to leave myself without options - what if something exciting comes up during the walk?!   So I had my blackberry with me and when I saw the little snail, I couldn't resist and of course, once I started, I couldn't stop!


  1. Beautiful. Great that your inspiration started with a snail. Nice roaming.
  2. Thanks! It's naturally photogenic. I haven't come across one on the path before. After I took the picture, we put it back on the grass where it should have been, it must have wandered out and gotten lost.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Playing tourist in my own city Pt 2

After our tour of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres, we came out onto Yonge Street and caught sight of this attractive renovated building, the Dineen Building, at no. 140 Yonge St, another Doors Open site.  This used to be the home of the Dineen Company, a prominent hat and fur company.  It has undergone extensive renovations but many of the historic features are preserved.  You can check this interesting article on the Urban Toronto site to see some photos of the interior during renovations.  There was a lineup to get in when we were there so we saved it for another year.  But judging from the pictures, it's well worth a visit.

Continuing on our trek south, we visited One King West, originally the old head office of the Toronto Dominion Bank, now a luxury hotel.  This is the grand staircase that took us up to the grand banking hall.

 Grand banking hall set up for a wedding.

This is the vault entrance.  This was once the largest bank vault in Canada.  The door weighed over 40 tons but was apparently so well-made that a paper-clip dropped in the opening will stop the door from closing. 

Our next stop was lunch at the Marché in BCE Place.  The highlight of the lunch was the berry flan and the stroll through BCE Place, always spectacular and particularly so when I had my camera with me.

This rather reminded me of a similar building in Milan.

For the month of May, there is a photo art installation "Pyramid" by James Nizam as part of the Scotiabank Contact Festival.  You can read about the art on the Contact website
You see below my own photo of the reflection of the arches in the glass entrance.  Truly amazing - the reflection of the reflection on the glass - the juxtaposition of layers of reality and illusion.  Astounding!

This was not the first time we visited BCE Place but every time we did, we couldn't help but be awed by the artistry of the design.  For a change of pace, we headed towards the more stolid Canada Life Building, a few blocks north, at Queen and University.  In front of the building, I noticed this graceful statue on top of a granite column, a memorial of the Boer War.  Forty years in Toronto, and I have never actually "seen" this winged statue.

This Pelican statue is the only thing I liked in the Canada Life Board Room.

Clearly I wasn't the only one who thought this portal worth photographing

Another one to add to my collection of elevator doors

View from the 17th floor.  I was mildly disappointed because I thought we had lined up to take the elevator to the open observation deck.  But it turned out it was not outdoors.  These shots of the city were taken behind glass.  View of the the Ontario College of Art, designed by British architect Will Alsop.

Looking south towards the CN Tower

East towards the old and new City Halls, Nathan Phillips Square

The Trump Tower in front of the Bank of Nova Scotia Building (the most amazing thing in all this is that I didn't know this was the Trump Tower.  But I walked by the Bank of Nova Scotia Building earlier and recognized it.  I did a Google search for "Bank of Nova Scotia Building behind" and identified the Trump Tower that way.  I'm completely in awe of Google - if I had the money, I'd buy its stock.  It's going to take over the world!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Playing tourist in my own city

The annual Doors Open Toronto enabled me to play tourist for a day.   When we travelled abroad, we would go madly looking for beautiful architecture and unique buildings - in fact these are in abundance in our own city.  The old CIBC building in Commerce Court North and the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres are two such buildings within a 10 minute walk of each other downtown.

Staircase to the lobby of Commerce Court North from the basement mall
Stunning lobby 

The limestone building was completed in 1930 as the headquarters of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and was for three decades (until 1962) the tallest building in the British Commonwealth

Door handle details

The front door portal
Walking north a few blocks from 25 King West up Yonge Street at No. 189 is an unassuming building that houses the Elgin and the Winter Garden Theatres.  You would never have guessed what the interior looks like when you see the building from the outside.  

Once you're inside though, you'll realize that you are in a very special building.  

The faux marble is everywhere but it created the ambiance for the hallways and inside the Elgin Theatre itself.
We have gone to the Elgin many times as it is the home of the baroque opera company Opera Atelier but we have never gone as "tourists", have never taken pictures of the inside, have never gawked!  In general, we behaved ourselves as concert goers.  Visiting it during Doors Open was another experience all together.

The ornate boxes

The balcony and the ceiling above
Seven stories above the Elgin Theatre is the Winter Garden Theatre.  These are the last surviving Edwardian stacked theatres in the world.   We walked up several flights then up three sets of escalators to get to the The Winter Garden Theatre.  It has a very special look - literally that of a winter garden, with trees for columns and millions of leaves, faux, dried or otherwise preserved. 

The Doors Open crowd listening to the history of the theatre and descriptions of how the leaves were preserved.  Someone asked how they are cleaned - response is they build scaffolding in order to do the cleaning.  You can imagine they won't be cleaned every month!

The boxes are very differently decorated from the ones at the Elgin

The hand painted fire screen

A closeup look at the tree and the leaves
It was a great way to spend a Sunday - exploring my own city!  After lunch we visited One King West, BCE Place and the Canada Life Building.  More in the next post.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour! Reminds one to view one's home city through a tourist's eye. Thanks for sharing.
  2. Thanks, H Gotts! Glad you liked it.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Sakura in Toronto

The Japanese government presented cherry blossom trees to the people of Toronto to thank them for their support of Japanese Canadian refugees after World War II.  This started a tradition of sakura(cherry blossom viewing) in Toronto.  More than fifty of the trees were planted in High Park.  

On Sunday, I joined hundreds (possibly even thousands) of Torontonians on their annual pilgrimage.  It was a zoo, but the cherry blossoms were gorgeous.  They were in full bloom and in fact most have peaked and there were even some petals falling off.   The weekend before would have been a better time to enjoy both buds and flowers and a weekday would mean a less crowded and more enjoyable park - however, not always an option...

Leaves have already started to come out on some trees

Photographer's paradise

The "stars" were very much in demand, including this "bride" below... 

I've found the trunks as photo-worthy as the flowers...

This is to give you an idea of the crowds and the traffic - DON'T drive.  For many of the people here, it was an expensive parking fee - $105 - the parking control staff had a field day!

The better way...

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Spring in the ravine

Two weeks ago when we did our spring walk at Too Good Pond, the only visible signs of spring are the courting geese and ducks.   Today, we can see the first buds.  And of course, further south downtown, the crocuses are already in bloom.  It's when you really have to look for it that made the first signs of spring so precious.

Even the algae are budding!

Just the faintest touch of green!

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Early spring at Toogood Pond

It was a gorgeous day to make what has become an annual spring ritual for us - a trek to Toogood Pond in Unionville - it always seems to give us just enough of a taste of nature in the city (and the promise of a good lunch afterwards) without overtaxing our energy.   It is tempting to think that it is named "too good" because it is too good to be true but it is actually named after the man who owned the pond prior to its acquisition by the Town of Markham in 1980 - Arthur Toogood.  The geese that always seem to be there and the quieter mallard ducks enlivened the peaceful pond and trails.  It usually takes us no more than hour to do the trail with multiple stops for photos.  Here are some taken yesterday.

Testing the waters with one foot?

Spring rituals!

Not much I can add to this perfect landscape

Spring jogger

Aggressive spring behaviour



  1. Hey! Thanks to you, I now know where the name "Toogood" comes from! Also, your portrayal (accompanied by photos) does justice to its beauty and the tranquility (and joy) it brings to the visitors.
  2. Thanks, Roch! Thanks to you, we now have a respite close to town.
  3. Your photos are gorgeous - as always! You marvellously captured the beauty in that bleak colour palette of pre-spring.
  4. Thanks, MVK! You're right about the pre-spring though - there is no green so I will change my title!
  5. Or maybe not. It is spring afterall, colour or no colour...


City Parks - Rouge Park and Milliken Park

Toronto is full of walkable parks right in the city.   In our efforts to get into shape for a more strenuous hike coming up, we visited two parks in Scarborough in recent weeks.  The Rouge Park at Meadowvale and Sheppard and Milliken Park at McCowan and Steeles.

Rouge Park has attained National Urban Park status whereas Milliken Park is relatively small.  You get more of a hike feel at Rouge Park and could spend the whole day hiking while at Milliken you would be mostly walking on paved paths throughout and you could probably do a couple of loops around the park in an hour.  But it's exercise with a view,  without having to drive hours to get to a hiking trail and lots of photo opportunities in both places!

Rouge Park pond at the south trail head of the Cedar Trail

The pond at the north end of the Orchard Trail 

Shady Orchard Trail 

The Little Rouge River beside the Orchard Trail

At the top of the Vista Trail, they have built a viewing platform that looks out on the bluffs  around the river - should be a vantage point for viewing fall colours.
 On the other hand, at Milliken Park,
you can take a nap on the manicured lawn 

Enjoy the spectacular flower beds

Look out for a Monarch

or catch a ball on the green

Or watch the birds!

Stare at the trees

Watch the Canada geese land on their practice flights

Just keep walking...


Niagara Parkway

One of my favourite day trips was to Niagara-on-the-Lake.  The main reason is the scones at Taylor's Bakery on the main drag  They are the best scones ever, with fresh local fruit - peaches, cranberries, blueberries.  I always get a half dozen as that's the best deal at $5.99 with no tax.  They are worth the drive, if you like fluffy scones.  

Of course, that's never the only reason we made the hour and a half drive (on a long weekend more than two hours) from Toronto.  We would usually catch a play at the Shaw Festival.  But this year, we decided to not put ourselves on a schedule and just take it easy. 

We started with a leisurely lunch at Benchmark, the Niagara College Canadian Food and Wine Institute's restaurant (read my post Learning to cook in farm country), thankfully avoiding the hungry hordes at Niagara-on-the-Lake.   We popped into town just long enough to buy the scones and peek into the chocolate shop - almost passing out with the intensity of the sugar aroma.  But if you've never been to the town, there are many interesting shops and it's definitely worth a stroll through.  


You will notice bicycle rental shops in town too.  There is a bike trail starting from the town all the way to Niagara Falls along the Niagara Parkway.  It is also a hiking trail but we did a small section of it and found the fumes from the Parkway too much on a high traffic weekend.  But some of my favourite stops are the Whirlpool and the Botanical Gardens.  You see below the cable car ride over the whirlpool, one of the more dramatic sections of the Niagara River.

The Botanical Gardens are a real gem.  The best time to come is earlier in the summer when the roses were in bloom.   But the formal gardens are always spectacular in any season.  Entry is free to the 99 acres of gardens, you only have to pay for parking.  

Stunning "Black pearl" an ornamental pepper plant

This reminded me of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris

The centrepiece
Every time we were on the Niagara Parkway, the debate always came up as to whether we should go on to the Falls.  It was so near and yet so far!  We were concerned about traffic and the crowds, especially on a long weekend and we were always right.  But we always gave in to the desire to even get a glimpse of the falls.  It's still the most magnificent and exciting falls ever!   And so we drove on into the traffic nightmare.  I hopped off just to take some quick shots but also found that I couldn't get too close because of my precious camera!    The wind and the spray had to be just right to get the right close up.  And it's only in closeup that you could feel the palpable danger and excitement generated by the falls.  It would be another reason to come back...maybe in the winter...

American falls on the left and Canadian falls on the right

The Canadian Falls is still my all time favourite wonder!


CNE the Canadian National Exhibition

We used to have to take our kids to the CNE every summer until they became teenagers and then they went by themselves.   Friday night was our first visit in almost 20 years.  Our main reason for going - the free Don Mclean concert, and what a smashing performance it was!  Before the concert we checked out old haunts like the Better Living Centre and the Food Building.  They were a bit of a disappointment - I used to think of these places during the CNE as sources of new ideas and showcases for innovation.  Now the Better Living Building has a farm and a casino. The Food Building is giant food court and the Direct Energy Centre one big mall with so called "international goods" which you can find all over Toronto.  

What hasn't changed is the midway with the rides and the money swallowing game booths.  There also seems to be lots of shows and celebrity chefs.   The skating shows and the horse shows are still attractions.  It's definitely worth going if you're young enough to enjoy the rides or if a performer you like is appearing at the multiple concert venues on the grounds.  Check out the CNE website for what's on.  Below are some snapshots of the CNE 2012.

 The Midway


Anna Olsen - celebrity pastry chef

One of many "international" shops

Prize-winning sandcastle

Sand angel

Fountain still pretty

Kendel Carson and Dustin Bendall - the opening act - great fiddling from Kendel!

Don Mclean!

Lit up fountain

Ferris wheel at night

Dufferin Gates


The hunt continues - Eugenia and Hoggs Falls

As the weather gets cooler, I'm able to continue my hunt for waterfalls nearby.  There is a neat websiteGreat Lakes Waterfalls which lists all the major waterfalls in the Great Lakes area.  We visited two falls about an hour from Toronto, half an hour south of Owen Sound.  Hoggs Falls and Eugenia Falls are within hiking distance of each other but we didn't hike because we didn't want to do a return trip on the same route to get back to the car.  Now I wished I had the forethought of a colleague of mine who had arranged for a pickup at the other end!  I didn't get in my share of exercise but did get some neat photos.

Hoggs Falls is much smaller than Eugenia Falls but was much more fulsome because the water going into Eugenia has been diverted for hydroelectricity.  We read too late that the fall is best seen in the spring - duh!  But to look at it positively, if we had come in the spring, we wouldn't be able to walk on top of the falls or take pictures of water rushing over the falls right at the rim. 

It was an easy scenic walk to Hoggs Falls with light filtering through the forest 

                                                                                  Upstream from Hoggs Falls

Hoggs Falls

Eugenia Falls

Top of Eugenia Falls
Three feet from the edge of the falls!

Picture this in the spring

Green as far as the eyes can see

Stop by for a cone at the Beaver River Grill and buy some preserves from the Pickle Guy

An unexpectedly huge wind farm between Shelburne and Fresherton - felt like an alien world!

Surreal!  Watching over the cows...


Sunday, 8 July 2012

The "Marilyn Monroe Towers"

Amazing condo buildings are a common sight in Chicago, but who would expect to see such spectacular buildings in Mississauga, Ontario?  Well, it's only a half hour drive from Toronto and the past couple of years when I visited the Mississauga City Centre for an annual concert, I couldn't help but marvel at the way these two buildings look - the voluptuous shapes, alluring from every angle and particularly dazzling in late afternoon.  I'm sure if I had hung around for sunset, they would look stunning.   They won the Best Tall Buildings in the Americas prize in 2012, awarded by the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.  I will follow with some equally stunning Chicago buildings in the next posts.


  1. Great capture, Rarecat. I love these towers and I saw them for the first time only yesterday from the Gardiner. They look great from any distance.
  2. Thanks, guys. It's taken a few years for them to complete the construction but this must be the 3rd year that I'd photographed them!


The Gardens

Right in the middle of uptown Toronto is a green oasis of beauty and calm - Edwards Gardens.  I'd always loved its accessibility and the peacefulness it offers - the expansive grounds and the walk down the valley provide ample opportunities for the photographer.   With the adjacent Toronto Botanical Gardens, there is the bonus of seasonal changes in the floral displays.  You can see some of them here.

One of many giant willows in the Gardens

A Monet!

SUNDAY, 27 MAY 2012

Toronto - A very creative Semele

We travelled to an amazing world of opera love and passion taking place in the restored ruins of a 16th century Chinese temple, amidst dazzling stage effects and playing to the strains of the baroque music of Handel's Semele at the Four Seasons Centre, home of the Canadian Opera Company.

I was awestruck by the many creative ways the temple on stage was transformed and wish I was allowed to take photos of each of the scenes.  Two particularly memorable scenes took place on the roof of the temple.  One was Semele singing on the roof with a moon behind her and eventually taking off with the moon - a very recognizably Chinese myth.  The other was Somnus, the god of sleep, waking up on a gigantic red quilt spread out on the temple roof with a sleeping balloon giant beside him.  Then to the audience's surprise, a nymph emerged out of the red quilt.  It was awesome!  Yet another scene has a whole mirrored wall on stage as a backdrop for the aria "Myself I shall adore, if I persist in gazing" - it provides a giant reflection of the orchestra and the audience.  Dazzling!  You can go to the COC website to see more scenes. 

The costumes by Han Feng were stunning - a rich blend of Asian and baroque aesthetics with some Hellenistic flavour persisting throughout the opera.   Other than her very Asian marital costume in the first scene, Semele wore flowing Greek goddess gowns throughout.  There were ethereal scenes with haunting arias by the gorgeous soprano Jane Archibald as Semele.  In marked contrast, there were rowdy scenes which included one with riotous sexual romps on the temple grounds with the strains of the familiar Handel oratorio music vigorously playing in the background.  It was the sacred and the profane all in one!  

This production of the mythical story, under the bold direction of Chinese artist Zhang Huan (previously staged in Brussels and China) is hugely sardonic, heavy on stage machinery but also richly creative.  He took out the last scene with the triumphant chorus, choosing to end the story with the chorus' lament of Semele's death.  The opera began and ended with a person sweeping ashes off the floor of the temple, attributed to Zhang Huan's buddhist belief in the impermanence of all things.  Critics didn't like the loss of the last chorus, but a recording of it was played as the audience exit the theatre.  I could live with that - given how memorable the rest of the opera was.

The final bow 

I share below some of the photos of the Four Seasons Centre which I took when I first visited it during its Open House, June 2006:
The Four Seasons Centre atrium

The glass staircase

The hall with perfect acoustics.  If you're visiting Toronto, it's worth getting a ticket just to hear the hall.
Outside the hall


I love the AGO!

I have to confess though, I love it more for the architecture than the art.  I've enjoyed the art every time I was there but the art seldom evokes the same passion as when I looked at the spiral staircase or the Galleria.  I will share with you some of those photos, taken shortly after the Frank Gehry redesign of the Art Gallery of Ontario was completed in 2009.

We visited the gallery again yesterday to take in the Picasso exhibit from Paris and the Toronto debut show by the Chinese artist Zhang Huan on Ash Paintings and Memory Doors.  The Picasso needed no introduction but the Zhang Huan show was a little different.  The much sought after artist had gone through some tough times but is now rich and famous.  His work commanded millions and one of his commissions in Toronto was the dragon sculpture Rising outside the new Shangri la hotel.  We will also be seeing his work at the opera later this month.  Handel's Opera Semele will be performed under his artistic direction at the Four Seasons Centre and part of the set consists of a Ming dynasty Chinese temple that he had rescued from some small town in China.  Check on the links to learn more.

The stunning "ballustrade" of the spiral staircase

Looking up at the top of the spiral

View of the spiral from Walker Court

The spectacular Galleria on a Sunday morning (the only time you'll find it empty)

Memory Door "Buddha"


A detour - Guelph, Ontario

Picard's - what can be better than local grown peanuts!  They are the sweetest peanuts we've tasted, if just because they are grown here in Ontario.  There are outlets scattered across the province but the closest for us is the one south of Guelph in Morriston.  This is a great time of the year - the peanuts are freshly harvested and roasted.  We decided to play tourist in Guelph, which we haven't visited for 20 years.  We visited the top three sights listed on the TripAdvisor Top 10 things to do.  Here's the first, the lattice covered bridge built in 1992 modeled on a design from the 1880's, one of only two covered bridges in Ontario.  

It's a beauty!  If you look very hard, you may be able to see the couple embracing against the wall and the photographer taking photos of them, probably for a wedding video.

Looking out from the lattice-covered side...

What is it about birds and lining up?!

The Old Quebec Street Mall was actually listed as the top sight but it's very limited.  We had a coffee in there and visited the artisan shop.  

We like the work of Paul Szewc - 

And at the street corner - Occupy Guelph!  

I like the roof of this church,

but was particularly impressed by the third sight on the list - the Church of Our Lady Immaculate, built in 1888 and at the highest point in Guelph.   The inside was a bit of an anti-climax.

Back to NZ with the next post!



I thought we would take a break from the sulphur pools (I could still smell them!) in New Zealand and take in the local colours for a change.  We visited Mono Cliffs Provincial Park for our first fall walk of the season.   Colour change is at about 40-50%.  While hardly spectacular, there are some charming spots further enhanced by the gorgeous summer-like weather.  The panoramic lookout at the top of the cliffs alone made the hike worth our while, not to mention the delicious meal at the end of the hike at Mono Cliffs Inn - a worthy destination in itself (slightly more than an hour from Toronto).

At the lookout



Going Local

I am not finished with Sydney yet but thought I'd take a detour to show you something local.  We have seen some pretty spectacular sights on our travels abroad but sometimes these are right at our front door, or quite close to it.  These are photos from a hike we went on last weekend - an hour and a half away near Hamilton - people would go to work every day driving that distance!

We started at Webster Falls, hiked along the river bed then went uphill and reached Tews Falls, from which it was just a short hike back to the car at Webster Falls.  The loop took us all of 3 hours.  Water and rocks, I've found, are the key ingredients to making a hike interesting.

Webster Falls, considered one of the top 10 falls in Ontario
Waterfalls make you do crazy things

Tews Falls

A classic U-shaped valley - glaciers were here a long time ago!


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Haliburton Sculpture Forest

It took us 10 years to discover this remarkable art gallery spread out over 10 acres of a forest reserve, only a few hours from Toronto.  You can see below some of the offerings by Canadian artists inspired and enhanced by the natural backdrop.

Curled Figures by Susan Low-Beer
Dreaming Stones by Kevin Lockau - A "mystical totem" made from granite boulders collected from the region.

Gelert by Mary Anne Backhouse

Fire and Ice: A Really Big Shoe by Charles O'Neil

To Cut or Not to Cut by John Beachli (Father and Son figures)

C to C - John Shaw-Rimmington

Redwing Frond by Darlene Bolahood

Sound Vessel: Forest - Metalgenesis by Don Dickson and Amy Doolittle
Forest Design in a rectangular prism of steel plates encasing sound rods which you see in the photo below

Sound rods inside the sculpture

This sculpture looks better from the inside than it did outside

Guardians of the Forest by Brett Davis

Kennisis: Horse and Rider by William Lishman
The red entrance to Fleming College's Haliburton School of the Arts

This is the loghouse farmstead on the grounds of the Haliburton Highlands Museum which you can see on the way to the sculpture forest.

The blacksmithery

And if you're lucky, he'll be there and he'll do a live demo and make a real metal hook souvenir for you...

There is more to cottage country than you think...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

St. Jacob's & Elora

That's St. Jacob's & Elora, in Ontario, for a change.   This was usually our route when we go to the music festival in Elora but this year, we decided to skip the concerts and just take our time at the markets and the shops without having to worry about making it to a concert or play.  

I love the cultural food mix, Egyptian Cuisine next to Mennonite, bagels next to pita and apple strudel.   Not to mention souvlaki, tandoori, fried rice...

I would have loved to take home some of these flowers, but they would have perished in the sweltering heat today.

On the way from St. Jacob's to Elora, we encountered a nice surprise - the covered bridge in Woolwich, also known as the "Kissing Brige" (for obvious reasons).  It is the last covered bridge in Ontario.  Built in1881, it has been around for more than 100 years.  We've gone from St. Jacob's to Elora many times before but this is the first time we came across the bridge - all thanks to the GPS, as usual taking us through unknown fields in search of the shortest route!

We visited my favourite shop in Elora, the Mermaid, an antique store that's on the site of what used to be the Elora Observer, built in 1869.   The biggest attraction for me used to be its colour divided cases of clip on and screw back earrings and I must have bought more than half of my stash here.  It no longer has the huge collection of earrings but has diversified into some quite eclectic handcrafted jewelry.  I never fail to find something I like here.

Can't resist this one -

1 comment:

  1. Fun, rarecat. The food market sounds divine.