Posts Tagged ‘toronto’

Toronto tail ends

I am so behind here!  I have a backlog of things to post about, along with several ideas for upcoming posts.  I refuse to put off getting up to date any longer!  So, hopefully this weekend there will be a banner number of posts here.  Bear with me, if you want to read about the rest of my Toronto trip, a gorgeous long weekend in Nantucket, and all the cooking I have been doing with my CSA share.

First up, Toronto.  I’ve blogged about most of the sights I encountered, but that doesn’t give you a sense of the city as a whole.   Toronto is a lovely, navigable, fun city.  One of the first things I noticed there was the juxtaposition of different periods and styles of architecture.  There are tall, glassy skyscrapers that dominate the skyline with smaller, lovely historic buildings (largely from the late-19th and early 20th century) tucked in among them.  I found that variety very charming.  And Toronto is really easy to explore.  The public transit system seemed easy to navigate and clean, and it is an incredibly walkable city.  I also became aware that it’s a very navigable city for the disabled  – I saw a number of folks in wheelchairs or with other assistive equipment seeming to get around easily.

That last photo shows the modern part of the Royal Ontario Museum on the left.  I didn’t go inside the museum, though I hear it is great.

Along with architectural diversity, Toronto definitely has a diverse population.  That’s certainly not remarkable in a large city.  What is more worthy of note is that the people of various ethnicities seem more distributed along the socio-economic spectrum than I am used to here in the States, at least judging by appearances.

The neighborhoods of Toronto are quite varied, as well.  I wandered through a number of them, including Kensington Market, a quirky area with lots of vintage stores and an assortment of butchers, produce vendors, and other food shops.  It has an artsy, almost hippie atmosphere.

While exploring Cabbagetown, named in a time when poor, Irish immigrants dominated the area, I decided to visit Riverdale Farm.

Riverdale Farm is a tiny little educational farm not far from downtown Toronto.

It has some beds of vegetables and herbs, but seems focused mostly on animals; I saw horses, goats, pigs, fowl, and donkeys (and daycare groups of little kids checking them out.)

The farm also has some walking trails through woods and around ponds. One of them leads to an old monkey house dating back to when this was a zoo.

Just across the street from the farm I found a pretty little cemetery that had a gingerbread-trimmed entrance and a lovely little chapel and reminded me of a scaled down version of Mount Auburn Cemetery.

I love seeing places like these in cities I visit, the spots that many tourists don’t visit.  Before we left Toronto, though, there was one more much-frequented spot I was eager to stop by.  The Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

I am a big baseball fan, specifically a Red Sox fan, so I was very excited to discover that the Sox would be playing the Blue Jays in Toronto while E and I were there.  So, we got tickets, in the second deck, right down the first base line, and ultimately had a fantastic time at the game.

Despite the attempts of the little boys near us to spark a Blue Jays rally in the 9th inning (they were adorably persistent with their cheers and got our whole section, Red Sox fans and all, to join in), the Red Sox won 10-1.   It was neat to see a game in a new ballpark, to hear the Canadian national anthem sung along with the US one, and to see Toronto all lit up at night when we left the game.

The next day, E and I packed up and headed home to Boston, but on our way, we stopped at one of the many wineries along our route.  We decided to visit Rosewood Estates, because they make wine and mead.  It was a really nice way to break up the long drive a bit.  I tasted several wines and a couple types of mead.  I decided to take home a tasty and unique sour cherry honey wine and their lovely, award-winning, dry Riesling.  Yum!

The rest of the drive back was nearly as nice and pretty as that stop, too.  We took a more scenic route through the Finger Lakes region of New York, where we drove past rolling farmland, through charming little towns (I fell in love with Skaneatles), by sparkling lakes, and even along the yellow brick sidewalks of L. Frank Baum’s hometown.  And eventually we got home, and as fun as the trip was, I was happy to be back in Boston.


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Along with Casa Loma and, later, the Rogers Centre (where the Blue Jays play), there were a couple other major tourist attractions I visited in Toronto.  The first was St. Lawrence Market, which is actually a complex of several buildings, but I only explored the South Market.  The South Market building was Toronto’s first City Hall, but after major changes to expand it, because a market in 1901.

This, I suspect is a facade from the original City Hall building on the site, but it is now inside the market.

The South Market has two stories of vendors selling a huge variety of foods and goods.  The upper level has stalls specializing in meats, cheeses, produce, and fish.

That level also had a cooking supply vendor and several bakery stalls, including this one:

That’s the Carousel Bakery.  See that sign about a peameal bacon sandwich?  I had seen a placard outside a diner the previous day that had listed peameal bacon along with other breakfast options and had wondered what it could mean.  Honestly, I thought peameal must be some variation on oatmeal and that bacon was served alongside.  In fact, peameal bacon is the real Canadian bacon, as a handy dandy sign at the Carousel Bakery informed me.  It’s a brine-cured, unsmoked back bacon, originally coated in ground, dried peas, but now mostly made with cornmeal.  Apparently, the Carousel Bakery is the place to get a peameal bacon sandwich.  I know I risk alienating myself from my bacon loving friends by admitting this, but I did not sample the sandwich.

Anyway, the lower level of the market has more purveyors, including a little specialty salt shop, and a vendor specializing in an astonishing variety of rices, nuts, grains, and flours.

Most of the lower level consisted of food stalls, though, where I grabbed a tasty, albeit eclectic, lunch of Chinese dumplings and a cheery strudel. After lunch, I wandered down to Toronto’s waterfront and enjoyed the sunshine and sea lake breeze.  (Seriously, I couldn’t get used to the fact that a body of water that stretched as far as the eye could see was freshwater.)

The waterfront is lined with pathways, lawns, sculptures, and a little strip of sandy “beach”, where I rested for a bit in one of the Adirondack chairs, before continuing on.

It was a lovely walk, but I wasn’t meandering aimlessly; I had a destination in mind: the Music Garden.  The garden was designed by Yo-Yo Ma and Julie Moir Messervy, a landscape designer.  The concept was originally part of a film series Ma was working on, Inspired by Bach, and was supposed to be turned into an actual garden in Boston, my home, but since that plan fell through, Toronto stepped in to provide a site.

The garden is based on Bach’s first Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, and each part of the design represents a movement of the piece, including the Prelude,

and Courante.

The Sarabande section centers on a “poet’s corner”,

where this poem is posted:

And the Menuett area has a lovely metalwork pavilion that can be a stage for musical performances.

Enjoying the beautiful, peaceful Music Garden was a wonderful way to end my afternoon of exploring.  Aside from the lovely flowers and landscaping, it has a pretty spiffy view of the downtown Toronto skyline.

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grand entrance

I had only done a little bit of research into places to see and things to do in Toronto before we made the trip up, but one place that was definitely on my list as a must-see was Casa Loma, an extremely grand mansion built in the early 20th century.  See, I love history and stories about people, and I also really enjoy looking at unusual architecture and historic interiors.  I was excited to see what Casa Loma would have in store.

After my visit to Allan Gardens, I headed to the northwestern section of Toronto known as The Annex.  Toronto is mostly pretty flat, but the part of The Annex where Casa Loma was built is a steep hill overlooking the city.  In fact, Casa Loma means house on the hill, and I can vouch for the aptness of the name, since I had to climb a heck of a lot of stairs to get up to the house and grounds, on a hot, muggy day, no less.

The climb was worth it, though, as Casa Loma is a beautiful, grand, interesting, unusual place.

great hall, upper level

The mansion was built for Sir Henry Pellatt and his wife Lady mary Pellatt, and they moved into Casa Loma in 1914, though work on the building had halted, due to the start of WWI.  (When touring the house, you can see the unfinished swimming pool in the basement. )  The Pellatts only lived in the home for nine years, before financial troubles forced them to sell the house and auction off many of its furnishings.  After the Pellatts moved out, Casa Loma was used as a nightclub and hotel before being seized by the city and slated for demolition, but the Kiwanis club bought the property and began restoring it and operating it as a tourist site in 1937.

Henry and Mary Pellatt's family crest on the library ceiling

Casa Loma is huge.  It has 98 rooms, five acres of gardens, and an 800 foot underground tunnel from the house to the garages, potting shed, and stables.  Aside from the size, the house is remarkable for its decorative details and the materials and technologies that were extremely modern or innovative at the time.  The rooms are peppered with niches for telephones, there was an elevator (mostly for Lady Pellatt, who suffered from a heart condition), a couple secret stairways, and even a shower with nine body sprays.

Sir Pellatt's bathroom with multi-spray shower

The grandiose exterior of Casa Loma is matched by the opulent interiors, with intricate details like ornate plaster trim, carved paneling, etc.  The Kiwanis Club has done a wonderful job of restoring the home’s grandeur.

living room

billiard room ceiling - I love the hunting dog in the mural

bedroom mantel

Conservatory stained glass ceiling medallion

Lady Pellatt's bedroom and sitting room

One part of Casa Loma that is conspicuously unimpressive is the main stairway off the great hall.

unassuming stairs

I believe the stucco was a utilitarian change from the period after the Pellats’ residence that may be renovated at some point, but the cool story is about the staircases.  Apparently, the house was designed to have expensive marble stairs from Europe, but the ship carrying them to Canada sank, and the Pellatts were never able to install a grand staircase as they had planned.

Casa Loma has two towers, called the Scottish Tower and the Norman Tower.  The Scottish Tower is the taller of the two, and I climbed the many, many stairs to the top, to see the spectacular view.

tower interior

view of downtown from the tower

The gardens of Casa Loma have also been beautifully restored.  They cascade down the hill behind the house, with the formal gardens at the top and more casual, winding, wooded garden paths below.

welcoming flowers and imposing stone

formal gardens

bridal pavilion

house view from garden terrace

Henry Pellatt was an avid gardener (the audio guide’s commentary on the library/family room in the house mentioned that Pellatt wasn’t really a reader and that many of the books in the library were gardening books.)  He was, supposedly, especially fond of chrysanthemums.  I’ve never been a fan of mums, myself, but the ones in the Casa Loma gardens made me reconsider.

vibrant mums

From the basement of Casa Loma you can walk through the long tunnel to the garages, potting shed, and stables.  These underground areas were secretly used during WWII for making a submarine detecting sonar system, even while tourists were exploring the house and grounds above.

Even the stables at Casa Loma are grand, with herringbone patterned brick floors, tiled walls, and nameplates for the hourses

stable stalls

stable doors and floors

stable details

There you have it.  Casa Loma is another Toronto spot I highly recommend visiting, if you have any interest in historic buildings.  It is lovely, easy to get to, and the audio tour (including in admission price) is very interesting and informative.  My afternoon there was quite enjoyable.

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The Palm House

One of the great places I visited in Toronto was a lucky find.  Allan Gardens was marked on one of the tourist maps I had, and it was really close to where we were staying, but it doesn’t appear to be a very well-known spot.  When I looked it up online, it seemed it is regarded as a bit of a hidden gem of the city, so I am very glad I found it.  It truly is a gem, especially, I imagine in the winter months.

The conservatory is set in the midst of a modest-sized park that features lots of grass, the seemingly ubiquitous black Toronto squirrels, and a nifty dog park, but the Palm House and attached greenhouse rooms steal the show.

such a tranquil, green spot in the city

The Toronto Horticultural Society has operated gardens here since the mid-19th century, but the Palm House has been in place for 100 years.  The Palm House has a classic, domed structure and, as the name implies, is filled with lush palms and other tropical plants.  Think how breathtaking it must be to enter it in the dead of a Toronto winter.

There are several greenhouse rooms attached on either side of the Palm House.  There are loads of flowering plants,



spidery lilies

variety of gerber daisy, I think

coral colored blossom

water features, including an iron water wheel, a waterfall, and a koi pond,

water wheel

koi pond and contrasting foliage

some really unusual plants,

twiggy spirals

I can't help but call it a pod plant

and an entire section of cacti and succulents.

serrated succulent

cactus room

barrel cacti

blooming succulent

Remind anyone else of Audrey Two?

bold color

Wandering among all the plants was a beautiful way to start a day in Toronto.  Allan Gardens is definitely worth a visit.

My next post will be a photo-filled one, too, since my next stop after Allan Gardens was Casa Loma, a stunning mansion on a hill above downtown Toronto.

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