Monthly Archives: June 2010

Two HUGE Things

I’m too busy to blog, but, because I know you’re concerned, thought you might want to know about two giant things that have recently happened to me!

First, and most importantly, I was one of ten citizens in Toronto selected to blog for the CBC G20 Citizen Blog Team! Not only a huge feat unto itself, but a huge honour and one I’m taking with complete glee and zeal. You can follow all the goings-on around the G20 and the police state into which Toronto has turned.

Secondly, I was in an earthquake today. Yeah, you heard me. Toronto went and had an earthquake today that measured 5.5 on the Richter scale. Hi, drama much? I mean, if I hadn’t thought I’d already seen and done everything there was to do in Toronto, I did after today.

I’ll be back here to chat again soon, but, in the meantime, I hope you follow me as I help cover the G20 Summit as a citizen blogger for the CBC!

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Filed under I Love Narcissism, Toronto

The City That Opens Its Doors

It happens more often than not: you’re walking down King Street West past the Toronto Dominion Centre without realizing you’re seeing the work of one of the world’s great architects (in this case, Mies van der Rohe); you notice the Design Exchange on Bay Street, but don’t know that it housed Toronto’s original Stock Exchange from 1937 until 1983 and is still home to Canada’s first fluorescent light; or, lastly, didn’t know that Redpath was Canada’s first food trademark as you drive past the Redpath Sugar Factory every day on your way to work.

One weekend a year, Torontonians stop and look (and learn) when Toronto throws open its doors. Doors Open Toronto, the hugely successful program that allows the public in to view hundreds of buildings that are typically off-limits,was the first of its kind in North America. Modeling itself on the European version aptly named “Doors Open*”, Doors Open Toronto began ten years ago with a simple motto: open buildings for a day or two (no more) and tell the public they’re welcome to visit. The idea was that if you look more closely at the city in which you live, you’ll gain a better appreciation for the city itself. And has it worked? I’d say. More than 200,000 people participated in 2009 and organizers expected 250,000 attendees in 2010 (read: prepare yourself for very long lines!). For history and building geeks like yours truly, it means a weekend of traipsing through Toronto at breakneck speed, not eating, and maxing out both your DSLR’s SD card and water intake simultaneously.

Mercifully (and due to copious amounts of Vitamin Water), I made it to hit six venues at this year’s Doors Open Toronto and, because I know you are dying to know, I’m adding a quick recap of each building. You’re welcome. 🙂 My feet were certainly tired and gnarly after running around for 48 straight hours, but for an event dedicated solely to heritage, architecture, and design, I don’t at all mind messing up my perfectly pedicured paws.

A quick recap of Day One:

Redpath Sugar Factory, 95 Queen’s Quay East, Toronto , ON M5E 1A3
I grew up in Sugar Land, Texas, whose moniker came from the Imperial Sugar Company (which has long since passed on to sugar heaven). Therefore, it stands to reason that I’d live less than a mile from Canada’s sugar factory on Toronto’s harbourfront, drive by it every day on my way to work, and that it would be open for Doors Open Toronto! We learned how sugar is crafted (it’s from sugar cane, in case your head has been under a rock), how brown sugar is made (shockingly, it’s made from spraying white sugar with molasses — once for light; twice for dark), took a guided tour through the museum and parts of the plant via a video virtual tour, and got to lick sugar off our feet after a trip into the Redpath sugar shed. Said shed holds a whopping 65,000 tons of sugar and, even with my ginormous sweet tooth, I doubt I could consume that amount of sugar in a lifetime. Lastly, we got to meet the Redpath Acts of Sweetness Ambassadors (should out to Janet whom I’d previously met at CupcakeCampTO!) and have our picture made taken with the Redpath Acts of Sweetness truck.

After a brief pitstop at home to pick up my camera that I’d forgotten (gasp!), slather on sunscreen, and change shoes, I was on to the:

City of Toronto Archives, 253 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON
Toronto has plenty of of stories of intrigue that highlight its past and present, and many of those stories are event dedicated solely to built heritage, architecture and design. The Archives have more than 1.2 million documents in their Indiana Jones-looking warehouse that visitors to Doors Open were able to view. Also open to the public for the first time was the Archives’ Conservation Lab. They demonstrated how they scan the documents, and for the sake of argument, we’ll just say that they’re way more sophisticated than my Canon point-and-shoot. 😉

TTC Greenwood Maintenance Yard, 400 Greenwood Avenue, Toronto, ON M4J 4Y5
I’m a TTC geek. Yeah, they’re the expensive^; yeah, a lot of them are arrogant; and I’m definitely not a fan of waiting 25 minutes for the Queen streetcar, but, since the day I arrived in Toronto, I’ve had a serious love affair with those bright red streetcars and pretty much anything that has to do with the TTC. They get me where I need to go safely and, for the most part, with a smile. When I learned that the TTC had not one, but two, shops open during Doors Open, I was more than psyched.

The Greenwood Maintenance Yard is responsible for the maintenance of half of the TTC’s subway fleet: 1/3 of the T1 fleet, 126 H6 cars, and 44 H4 cars. I spent two hours there and every single TTC employee volunteering that day was heart-achingly kind. It could be because they don’t interact with the public every day like the operators do, or it could be that Brad the TTC guy had a little chat with them all in light of the TTC’s recent (and numerous) publicity gaffes. Just sayin’.

The public was treated to learning how the subway doors open, how the brakes work, how the lines are repaired and about one billion other cool TTC subway facts. I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this site, but I’ll let you judge for yourself next year. 🙂 The only thing I didn’t like about the TTC sites was the fact that the Jane/Finch site was giving away little cardboard streetcars, for which I would kill, when Greenwood didn’t give anything away![ed note: I was planning to go to the TTC store in Union Station to see if they were selling them, but the store closed the weekend of Doors Open Toronto! Gypped yet again!]

For more TTC Greenwood Maintenance Yard goodness, check out my very exciting Flickr set for minutes upon minutes of excitement on the subject.

A quick recap of Day Two:

Stantec — Former MacGregor Socks Factory, 400 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E7
The beautifl building occupied for decades by MacGregor Socks has been transformed into a heritage timber post and beam building. Stantec, a health care and educational architectural firm reclaimed a piece of the city’s industrial history by designing a flexible, high-quality workspace that clearly fosters collaboration, sustainable design elements, and, in the spirit of Doors Open Toronto, a commitment to city building. The small, open space facing Spadina Avenue is used as a space to support local artists; each quarter, a new artist is chosen and Stantec pays 100% of the cost of the installation. <3!

We were treated to tours that included information on the raised floors (you can even see the miles and miles of wires flowing underneath the flooring!), the natural lighting that washes that entire building in sunlight, original bricks and flooring and Stantec’s water conservation strategies. One of the things I found fascinating was Stantec’s encouragement and support for using public transit: they have showers in the building, they supplement 100% of TTC passes, and they provide access to two Zipcars in case employees who take transit need to duck out for meetings. A company that *truly* believes in reducing carbon footprints and not just talking about it in a brochure.

The Historic Walls at CAMH, 1001 Queen Street West, Toronto ON M3J 1P3
The CAMH Historical Walls are the perimeter brick structures which were built by unpaid psychiatric patient labourers during the 19th century at the former Asylum for the Insane ( now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)). The southern section dates from 1860 and the eastern and western walls date from 1888-89. We were treated to a guided tour of the walls where the work and contributions of patients who lived and died behind the structure were highlighted. The bricks include the oldest physical examples of psychiatric patients’ labour from 19th century Ontario, now 150 years old, and obviously of immense historical and architectural value. Etchings carved into the walls 9and visible to the naked eye) by asylum inmates, and other unique physical markers representing patients’ history – including bricked in windows and an old railway track – were pointed out and, of course, I took photos. Seriously good stuff.

The Gladstone Hotel
After running around like a chicken with my head cut off for two straight days, I was exhausted. I’d never been inside the Gladstone Hotel, so I made my way over for a tour. Luckily, self-guided tours were possible, so I took the opportunity to photograph the inside of this historic hotel on my own, read parts of the (very) long guide, checked out the joint, and bolted. Built in 1889, the Gladstone is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto. Its architectural details are Greek, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance and these periods brought the hotel back to life in 2002 when it was gutted and completely restored.

Doors Open Toronto is one of the highlights of my time in Toronto. To borrow a quote from Toronto Star writer Christopher Hume, “suddenly this is Toronto the Bold; Toronto the Daring; Switzerland run by New Yorkers.” I couldn’t agree more.

*and now called European Heritage Days
^ the most expensive in the world, actually

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Filed under Events, Toronto

My Toronto Bucket List

Since moving to Toronto three years ago, I’ve been whittling away at my “Toronto Bucket List”. Admittedly, for the last year or so, I’ve not been thinking about the “things I need to do in Toronto” as it very much started to feel like my home, and we all know that you rarely go sightseeing when you’re “home”. There are still a bevy of things I want to do before leaving this glorious city, though, and have set the goal of having my list completed by May 30, 2010. I plan to blog about each thing that I do from the list, just like I’ve been doing repeatedly* for the last three years. Ahem.

So, in no particular order, here’s my list of things to do before leaving Toronto^. If you see anything I’m missing, let me know! I don’t want to leave this city with any regrets!

Go up the CN tower
Niagara Falls/Journey Behind the Falls
U of T Art Centre
Campbell House
Walk High Park
Attend a Toronto FC game**
Tour Osgoode Hall
Tour the wineries in Prince Edward County (or at least drink a bunch of wines^^ from there ;-))
Ride the entire subway line and take pictures of each station
Go to Bulk Barn
Go to Body Blitz

The Don Valley Brickworks/Taylor Creek Park Completed 4/18/10
See a play at the Stratford Festival
Hockey Hall of Fame Completed 5/15/10
Design Exchange Completed 6/4/10
Redpath Sugar Museum Completed 5/29/10
CBC Museum Completed 6/4/10
Shop the St Lawrence Market Completed 3/27/10
Tour the Toronto Stock Exchange — Not a possibility, but I did see the original TSX trading floor at Design Exchange! So that counts. 🙂 Completed 6/4/10
Visit Allan Gardens Conservatory Completed 4/10/10
Check out Doors Open Toronto Completed 5/29/10
Spend time at the Leslie Street Spit Completed 5/24/10
Check out Wychwood Art Barns Completed 6/5/10
See the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art
Completed 6/5/10
Skate down the Rideau Canal — considering we had 1.25 cold days in Toronto this year and the Rideau was barely frozen and is unlikely to freeze prior to May 30, I am gonna go out on a limb and say that I won’t complete this one. But I’m adding it anyway, primarily because I’m the boss here. Check the URL, yo.

Eat/Drink at:
Splendido
Harbord Room
Origin
Cowbell
Jet Fuel Completed 4/10/10
Five Doors North
Dessert Trends Completed 5/28/10
Guu Izakaya***
Swan
Leslie Jones Completed Completed 5/27/10
Ruby Watchco Completed 6/3/10
Sidecar Completed 5/22/10
Negroni Completed 5/23/10
Mothers Dumplings Completed 4/9/10
Cameron House
Roof Lounge at the Park Hyatt
Communists Daughter
Sweaty Betty’s
Bar Chef
Eat noodles at Pacific Mall

* Well, not doing such a great job of. I’ve done waaaaaay more stuff than I’ve blogged about, much to my chagrin. Ten lashes for moi!
** I’ve been to nearly every other professional sporting event in Canada except TFC. I’ve been to a Leafs game, Senators game, Canucks game and Raptors game, but never a soccer game.
*** I ate at Guu in Vancouver, but I’ve heard it’s different in T.O., so I’m gonna give it a whirl here.
^ The most amazing city that is the love of my life! For truth. 😉
^^ Like Norman Hardie. Oh my, his Pinot Noir is so good.

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