Tag Archives: Toronto

On the art at Toronto’s Union Station and the people who don’t like it


According to BlogTO, there’s some chatter over on…

…a recent Reddit thread that has amassed hundreds of comments, one user wrote, “Union Station has the most depressing, unsettling art. No part of it sparks joy. Will they ever change this?”

I understand why would you would think the work is bad if you think it is trying to spark joy or some positive feeling. If you think that, I’d like to give you a different viewpoint.

My view of the work changed when I started thinking about it in comparison to what I typically see in the subway. What I typically see is…advertising. This work is everything ads are not. Ads promise a better life: this work shows life as it is. Ads are often unrealistic: this work is grounded. Ads are often polished and simple images: this work is rough and complex. To me it is refreshing to see this art in comparison to the overwhelming commercial imagery everywhere else in transit.

Art can spark joy, but it can do much more than that. This work, called Zones of Immersion by Stuart Reid,  may seem depressing to some people. For me it causes reflection and it gives me some perspective of my time underground. And because of that, I think it’s great. I look forward to see it when I’m at Union Station. I hope someday more people feel that way.

On Queen West in Toronto, then and now

I walked along Queen West and West Queen West recently. The bones of the neighborhood that I first walked around in the 80s remain. Places like The Queen Mother, Peter Pan, the Rex, and the Horseshoe are still going strong. The Rivoli is there too, if anything fancier than ever. Same for Cameron House. It was comforting to see them all, like old friends at a reunion.

Of course many other places have long gone. The Bamboo Club for instance. It’s location is occupied with some other business, though what occupies it is not as great as it was. Also long gone is Pages. It was a must visit on those trips to Queen West long ago. Now nothing exists in its former spot, just a vacant store.

I don’t want to weep and wail too much about changes to Queen West of my youth. People have been complaining about the its transformation “into the brand-saturated retail corridor it is today” since at least 2010, if not earlier.  I do want to note something ironic though. The same brands that transformed Queen West, brands like “The Gap, GUESS, Le Chateau, RYU, EB Games, NYX, several major fast food joints” have all left in the past five years because of rent. Perhaps in five more years it will just be banks and dentists offices there.

As for me, I prefer West Queen West to Queen West now. I’m happiest taking a streetcar past Bathurst and heading over to Type Books, the Spice Trader, Cocktail Emporium, the Swan and Trinity Bellwoods Park. When you combine that strip with Ossington and parts of Dundas West, you really have some of the best of Toronto, I think, and the places I most frequent lately.

Queen West will always be a destination for many and I will no doubt head there from time to time. But there are so many other great places to head to, even on Queen, and that’s great too.

P.S. The quotes above were from this piece on the closing of H&M on Queen West. The photo of the Queen Mother is from that piece, which is a good review of the place and its history. Also a good review is the Wikipedia entry for Queen West, which includes the entire street, but has a special section on Queen West.

Finally, here’s a great snapshot of Queen West in 1986, as captured in this video of the song “I’m an Adult Now” by The Pursuit of Happiness. Needless to say, it’s a very different street!

On Michael Snow, Toronto’s artist

Michael Snow died last week. It’s hard to think of an artist whose work is as well known and as well photographed as his. Even people who know nothing about art have likely seen his sculpture at the Skydome, not to mention his Canadian Geese sculpture at the Eaton Center. His work is spread throughout the city of Toronto, and the city would lose some of its luster without his creations.

Of course you can read about his life and career in wikipedia, but I also recommend taking some time and read this: Michael Snow, Prolific and Playful Artistic Polymath, Is Dead at 94 in The New York Times. The Times piece has more on his role as a filmmaker and how influential he was there.

R.I.P. Michael Snow.

(Top image is from Wikipedia: bottom image is from the New York Times. Attribution for the Wikipedia image here)

On restaurants (deeply) loved and lost: Grano’s

Grano’s was not just a restaurant to me. For much of my adult life it was my second home. When I walked in, I felt like I lived there. Like I belonged there.

Starting from the late 80s (when I was in my 20s) until just before the pandemic, it was the restaurant I frequented the most. I celebrated some of my most cherished moments there. I ate often by myself there too. When I did not know where to go, I went to Grano’s.

When I first came to Toronto in mid 80s, I started to learn how to eat proper Italian food in places like Masianello’s downtown in Little Italy. Toronto is a great Italian city, and to live in such a place, you should learn to eat proper Italian food. I did, and I loved it. This love led me uptown to Grano’s, which was then a simple one room place. Over the years it expanded in width and depth, filling up with its maximalist Italian style and food as well as patrons wanting to devour it all. I was always one of those people.

Grano’s was as much a feast for the eyes as it was for the belly. Bright Mediterranean colored walls, prints of classic artwork, vintage ads and plenty of pieces from the Spoleto festivals could be seen everywhere. It paid to walk around slowly (or to sit quietly) and take it all in. It never got tiring to behold.

If you wanted — though why would you? — you could rush in and buy some bread or some Italian delicacies and go home. You could stay briefly and have a glass of Italian white and some grilled calamari (one of my favorites). Best of all, you could invite dozens of friends and loved ones and have the servers bring you bottles of Italian wines and plates and plates of antipasti and pasta that was always on hand for you and your guests. Whatever you needed, Grano’s would provide. And when it was finally time to end the meal, you could savour a plate of biscotti and a perfect cappuccino before you went home happy.

As you can see, Grano’s the place was great. But what made it especially great to me was Roberto Martella, the host. No matter when I came, he always treated me like I was his favorite customer. No doubt he made everyone feel that way, but it was still appreciated by me. I even took Italian classes there once, and years afterwards he would speak to me a little in Italian and I would try my best to reply back with the little I knew.

After going there for decades, I had hoped Grano’s would last as long as I would. But sadly Roberto had a stroke, and the restaurant limped along without him for awhile before closing in 2018. You can still see the remnants of Grano’s today in 2022, though it’s been divided up into new places that lack what I loved about it.

It’s sad to lose your home, especially one you loved for so long. That’s how I felt, and continue to feel, about Grano’s. I live nearby to where it was, and I often have a pang to wander over for a plate with the ease I used to. I don’t know if I ever will get over that feeling. Sure, I can get great wine and bread in others places, but “non si vive di solo pane”. Mille grazie, Roberto. Mille grazie, Grano’s. Thank you for everything.

P.S. For lots of good photos of it when it was at its best, see here: Foto. The photos I have linked here are from there.

This is their old home page on weebly. It has a short history of Grano’s, here: 1986. 

There’s only a few images, but this is their IG account.

Finally two pieces on them: The culinary influence of midtown’s Roberto Martella – Streets Of Toronto, contains a good history. This is also good: The fall and rise of Roberto Martella, Toronto’s ‘vibrant’ don of dialogue in The Globe and Mail.

 

How sites like BlogTO contribute to the decline of Google searches

Google is declining in value as a search engine. You can search Google Going Downhill to see numerous pieces showing this. Even Google recognizes this: search for Google ChatGPT to see that they are concerned about how much better a user experience is with ChatGPT versus Google.

It’s not just that Google has declined by itself. What has also contributed to its declining value is the number of sites that have gotten good at SEO. I’ve pretty much given up on searching for some topics: all I get is bad Pinterest boards. Likewise hotels and restaurant searches are dominated by TripAdvisor and Yelp. You can add sites like Stack Overflow to that list. All in all, sites of low value (to me) make Google search results worse.

Locally, I think BlogTO is one of those low value sites. It really hit me this week when I was looking up a story on the demise of Betty’s on King. This recent piece in BlogTO was good. But it’s review of Betty’s? Just a placeholder, really: one sentence summarizing the place. And it’s not just Betty’s. I was doing some research on restaurants and became interested in Parquet on Harbord. Here’s BlogTO’s review of it: again, it’s one line and a poor photo. Meanwhile here’s Toronto Life’s review of it: lots of photos, in depth reporting on the place and the people who own it, context on the restaurant scene on Harbord…you name it.

Now here’s the thing: if you Google places in Toronto, BlogTO’s “writeups” will always appear on the first search page…often ahead of better reviews and even the place’s own website. If you’re mindful of this problem, you may ignore BlogTO and look around. But I am guessing that most people click on BlogTO, find their write up, and then see they have a link to the place’s website and click through. Or not.

That’s one reason why I suspect BlogTO does this: they will get clicks even for these next to useless web pages. I suspect the other reason is to do away with competition. I always wondered why Eater closed up in Toronto when it is still going strong in places like Montreal, not to mention the Carolina’s and other cities much stronger. The stated reason is here. But I suspect it is hard to compete with sites like BlogTO that will settle for a basic photo and a one line description that can be done in 15 minutes, all while coming ahead of you in Google searches.

Not all of BlogTO is bad. Some of their pieces are researched and well written, and I appreciate them. But they also flood the web with barely there pages to dominate searches for Toronto on sites like Google. And that makes it worse for everyone but them.

P.S. Here’s a tip to save you time clicking through on BlogTO pages. If you are on their page and it has a headline like “This restaurant is known for its croque monsieur”, hover your mouse over the URL. You will see the name of the place at the end of the URL. From there you can decide if you want to click through.

The limits of YIMBYism, even for proponents of it like me

I am in favor of making improvement to all neighborhoods, of Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY). That especially goes for my own. However, I know YIMBYism is a battle, that NIMBYism (not in my backyard) tends to be stronger. To support change, I believe change needs to be done in a controlled and limited way to dampen down NIMBYism and support YIMBYism.

That type of change is not what is happening for my area, at Yonge and Eglinton. First off, there are very large condos going up regularly. Second, we have the wholesale destruction of the area for the new Eglinton LRT line. Before that we had the destruction of the local Yonge and Eglinton center while it was upgraded. Now they plan to tear up the park to make improvements. It’s just constant upheaval and destruction, as much as it is construction.

I am a big proponent of growth and improvement. However even I am reaching my limit.  And if I am reaching my limit, I am sure many others are as well. It does not make for a good neighborhood or environment to have everything being torn up all the time. I would not recommend anyone live here if they can help it. Find a neighborhood you enjoy being in, not one that resembles a construction zone. I am sure it will be a great area in a decade or so. But I’ve lived her a long time and I regret it. It’s not a livable place. 

(Images: my own. Of Yonge and Eglinton, 2022)

Transition Toronto (what’s new in Hogtown, December 2022)

It’s a time of Transition in Toronto. Transitions due to municipal and provincial elections. Transitions due to Covid. And transitions in general.

The Premier — who could not somehow find time to attend the Emergency act hearing or even certain sessions of the legislature — has managed to insert himself into city politics once again. (More on that here). I honestly think the guy would prefer to be a strong mayor of Toronto vs premier of Ontario. Anyway, that’s all going to lead to some transition.

Even with new powers the Premier has provided him, it will be a challenge for the current mayor, revenue-wise. He has new home sales dropping to a historic low and home prices overall dropping dramatically. In terms of commercial real estate, we have Toronto  workers still avoiding downtown, which is going to have an impact there. Things are tough. Let’s face it: there’s only so much money that can be raised from utilities.

Perhaps the fact that people are spending more time at home is the reason why people living in Toronto are feeling more socially isolated than ever before. I was feeling that way too, but lately I’ve been going out more and I am starting to feel more connected to the city. Can I recommend you find a friend and check out one or more of the 50 restaurants in Toronto with breathtaking interior design? I’ve been to several: it’s uplifting to go to them. Or maybe do something simpler but still great, like hitting up one of the many great dumplings places we have in the city. If you do the latter, head over to your favorite book store and pick up this fun anthology on dumplings by some fine Canadian writers: “What we talk about when we talk about dumplings”.

Or maybe you just want to get out and move. If you can skate, head down to Union Station, which is getting a free outdoor skating rink and it’s big! Winter is coming: choose to enjoy it.

Getting around the city, you’ll notice more and more people on transit. I have. Sadly, we’ve lost one of my favorite tools for that:  the Rocketman app. We need more good transit tools. Among other reasons, we are going to be getting more transit, such as the new Ontario line. Good to see the TTC continue to improve. Even old stations like Yonge and Bloor are getting upgrades.

Indigo is also getting upgraded with new coffee shops going in where the old Starbucks used to be. I miss the original cafes that Indigo first had: they served wonderful soup, among other things. But I’m glad there will be places for refreshments in the bookstore chain.

Other things getting improved: the park in my area. On one hand, I think improvements are great. On the other, the constant change / upheaval in my area can get to one (i.e., me). But hey, that’s Toronto. Nothing stays the same, not even the old Canadian Tire on Yonge north of Bloor. I mean look at that development.

Improvements are important though. It’s better for someone like IKEA to build new stores in places like a former Sears location, then for things to just be boarded up. It’s not a bad thing Toronto has the means to change and improve.

Still, it’s good to be reminded of the way things were. This piece on what Mirvish Village looked like in Toronto before it was demolished does that. I miss that area. Likewise, this visual history of Kensington is great. Heck, even this look at the soon to be vanishing pay phones is good.

Lots of change is happening in Toronto, and much of it is good. Here’s to the vibrant city I call home. Cheers!

(Images: all links to blogTO. Top: proposed new development on Canadian Tire. Middle: dumpling resto. Bottom: Mirvish Village.)

 

 

 

The Santa Claus parade returns to TO this weekend!


What are you plans this weekend? As for me, I think anything I do outdoors will involve warm clothing because the weather is getting colder. And while I won’t be attending this year, I will be thinking of all the parents and their kids who will be bundling up to go downtown this Sunday and attend the Santa Claus parade! It has been on hold due to the pandemic, but now it’s back! Yay!

I love the Santa Claus parade. When I was a kid, I always wished I could attend. In my 20s I remember seeing it in person for the first time and being a little kid again as the floats and bands went by. And then I got to take my own kids. Some of my best parenting memories are with them at the event. It’s one of those  things that makes Toronto great.

(I also use the Santa Claus parade as a reminder than Christmas is coming soon and it’s time to get planning! Perhaps this will be a good reminder to you.)

If you are thinking of going, here’s the official site for the parade. (Map above is from the site.) Have fun!

P.S. Here’s some tips I found to having a success Santa Claus parade:

When I would take my kids, we would go stand to Bloor and Avenue Road. There is lots of space around that area, so there’s a chance you can see the parade. As well, it is near two subway stops (Museum and Bay), which makes it easy to get to and easy to leave if you take transit. Finally, the parade has to turn there which gives you lots of ways to enjoy the view.

Instead of hoping right on the subway, I would find a place to get a coffee / hot chocolate. (There used to be lots of Starbucks and other coffee shops all around Bloor and Cumberland.) My kids loved this ritual, as did I. Just as good too was the fact that it was easier to get on the subway after your drinks since the crowds had dissipated by then.

If it is going to be cold, bring hot pockets or things to warm you up. You might be ok when you first get there, but after standing around for hours, you will get very cold. Be prepared.

 

 

 

Have a great Autumn weekend!

One of the ideas that I really like, from one of my favorite blogs, are the posts they have every Friday. Posts like this: Have a Lovely Weekend. It’s a great idea. Who doesn’t like a nice positive and update piece to read on before you start your weekend?

On that note, here are some links that I think are positive and upbeat and perfect to read on a Friday:

If you are going to try and get a better sleep this weekend, here are some sleep tips from experts that might surprise you.

I might use my free time to take a walk in the Dundas West area of Toronto. It’s been highlighted as being one of the coolest neighborhood ever, and I can see why.

Or maybe I’ll go and get some steak frites (here are some of Toronto’s best, though they did not include my fav, Cote de Boeuf, shown below).

Did you know that asking yourself  one simple question can change entirely how you feel? It’s seems too much, but I agree with it.

Do you fear that people thing that you are a bit much? I think that’s a good thing. So does that piece. Also a good thing: A gratitude zine from Austin Kleon.

Does Arthur Brooks Have the Secret to Happiness? I don’t think so, but you might read that and think differently.

If it’s time, you may want to read this first:  How to Clean an Oven by Wirecutter.

But maybe you’d prefer to read something lovely instead of practical. If so: The Ponds poem – Mary Oliver poems.

Kudos to this artist who puts mosaics in potholes.

How crazy is this: a Fish tank for cats!

If you want to watch a classic this weekend, I recommend: All that Jazz.

Here’s the opening:

(Top image is a link to Toronto Life. Second image is a link to BlogTO).

On the joy of train travel compared to air travel

 

Train travel is good.  Train travel from Toronto to Montreal and back exceptionally so. Let me count the ways by comparing it to airline travel.

It starts off before you even get on the train. In Toronto you can catch a subway or an Uber to Union Station downtown. Once there, it’s a short walk to get to where you board the train. There’s no getting stuck in traffic on the 401 trying to get to the airport. No paying for expensive cabs or limo. Fast and cheap.

Then you get to the station. There’s no multiple checkpoints to get on the train. You find out where the train is boarding and you line up to get on. Quick and easy.

Once on the train, you have lots of room to move around. No having to sit in your seat all the time. No seatbelts. Wide chairs. Comfortable.

If you take the business class train, you get a constant supply of food and drinks. Wine, caesars, port and cognac is all available and included. Plus hot towels, snacks and full meals. Satisfying.

Then there’s the scenery. There’s lots of it and it’s easy to see out the big windows. Tired of the scenery? You have a good amount of time to watch a movie, read and even nap. Relaxing.

Finally, you start in one downtown and end up in another downtown. You don’t have to get in still another cab to get to your final destination. Sweet.

Sure you can take Porter at Billy Bishop, but you still need to cab into Montreal from Dorval. And while the flight itself is short, the time you take getting to the airport, getting through security, building in extra time so you don’t miss your flight….it all adds up. 

Air travel is essential for long distances. But for shorter distances, you owe it to yourself to take the train.

 

 

An election, a new hotel, and more. What’s new in Toronto, October 2022 edition

What’s new in Toronto? For one thing, there’s an election coming up soon. If you live in Toronto and want to see who is running in your  ward, then click on this…. it’s a great way to find out who all is running and give you the chance to make an informed decision. Get out there and vote!

Ideally, the next batch of politicians elected will effectively deal with the problems Toronto is having, like a lack of affordable housing. Will that happen? This piece makes the case that even if the next mayor has more power, they likely will not get more housing built. I hope that isn’t true.

Besides housing, another way to improve Toronto is better transportation Painfully, the completion of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT has been delayed AGAIN. Argh! (People are outraged, and rightly so!) At least the signal upgrades on line 1 are done. Finally! I might be able to go down town again on the weekend.

Do you drive? Maybe the thing to do is avoid some of the the worst roads in Toronto and get a good used bike from bikeSauce, the bicycle resource centre and  use that instead.

Problems aside, there’s lots of good things about the city to celebrate. Like TIFF! One thing new with the film festival: it now offering movies digitally, which sounds interesting. If you want to get outdoors, there’s lots of recreational facilities available, and the city is hiring for them. Some gorgeous new places have opened, like the Ace Hotel. Nice to see. Need more nice Toronto things to see?  See this,TORONTOVERSE – Your interactive city  and this list of the most beautiful places in Toronto. 

The food scene is always in flux in Toronto. David Chang’s Momofuku is closing. So is Bonjour Brioche after 25 years. But Toronto still has a countless number of places available, old and new, and some very inexpensive. 100 such places are listed here in this list of the Best Cheap Eats in Toronto. Cheap AND good. Those are my kinda of places.

Speaking of things closing, NOW magazine is closing down. RIP. You were an essential part of my youth. And not just me: everyone who has lived in Toronto in the last few decades.

Need more Toronto? This is a nice piece on the great restaurants of the past. Here is a fun tour of hidden Toronto: Lower Bay subway station. Check out this piece on the Toronto Fringe Festival in 1999. Finally, I liked this image of the Toronto Hydro Electric System head office building on Carlton Street.

(Image: Ace Hotel from the article linked to.)

From Michelin to Peter Oliver: thinking about how Toronto has changed in the last 40 years


Two noteworthy events in Toronto dining happened this month: one was the start of an era and one was an end. The start was Michelin came to town and tossed out stars and Bibs and otherwise paid attention to Hogtown dining. The end was the death of restaurateur Peter Oliver.

Decades ago if Michelin had come in and gave out stars, it would have been incredible. Not now. What I loved about the Michelin event this month was how many people could not give a hoot. Toronto’s food scene is excellent, and we don’t really need Michelin to come in and tell us. That can be seen in critiques like this the Star . Sure the places highlighted are great, but there is more to good food in Toronto than the places starred. Many great restaurants were passed over, as this piece showed, because we are a city wealthy in good places to go.

To be fair to Michelin, they did highlight quite a number of restaurants in Toronto, even ones that did not get an award. One of those was Canoe. Canoe is just one of the many restaurants that are part of the Oliver and Bonacini (O&B)  Hospitality group. The Oliver in the name belongs to Peter Oliver.

I have been eating in Peter Oliver’s restaurants since the 80s. Back then he had a cozy place on Yonge north of Eglinton that was a great place to meet up for brunch with friends. From that place he went on to open and close many places, some of which were truly great.

While he has a career of four decades, this piece from 2000 in the Globe really shows his career as he was becoming ascendent. He had a knack at making restaurants, even though some of them (Bofinger/Paramount on Yonge near St. Clair) were too ambitious. While the buildings themselves seem to spare no expense, the food was sometimes lacking, and leading critics at the time like Joanne Kates dismissed some of it as “tourist all the way.”

What really made a difference for Oliver was when he hooked up with Michael Bonacini in 1993 to open Jump, Then Canoe. And many more. The combined talents of the two of them lead to an entire string of successful restaurants in Toronto and elsewhere.

Over the next few years I expect Michelin will be handing out more stars in Toronto. I expect the some of them will go to O&B restaurants.

The food scene has evolved significantly since the 1980s. Peter Oliver and O&B has been a big part of that evolution. Over at their web site they have a warm  Tribute to Peter Oliver. It’s worthy of consideration, just like the man himself. RIP, and thanks.

P.S. Here’s all the Michelin star restaurants of Toronto. The Globe has more on the Michelin awards. So does BlogTO. Not surprising, here’s how hard it is to get a  table at these places. Here’s a story on the one place /chef that got  two stars: rich readers, take note. 🙂

Why won’t Toronto build great public buildings? Because Toronto

If you read these two pieces in the Globe and Mail: Why won’t Toronto strive for great public buildings? and In downtown Toronto, public architecture falls flat, you will get specific reasons why Toronto is not building great public architecture.  All those reasons are true. But I think there is a more fundamental reason, and I believe that reason is the culture of Toronto itself.

In the days when Montreal was Canada’s greatest city, Toronto was the things it was not. Montreal had Old Montreal, the Expo 67, and the Olympics, even the Habs. It was a town of greatness. In contrast, Toronto had none of those things. It was gray and conservative and it liked to make money and was ruled by the Tories for 40+ years.

Things have shifted and Montreal is a shadow of itself. But Montreal has that culture still, just like Toronto does. The economic fortunes have changed, but they are still the same in many ways.

That to me is why Toronto can’t — no, won’t — build great public buildings. When Toronto is great, it is great in spite of itself.

On the exciting White Album exhibit at the AGO

Almost a decade ago I read about this project Rutherford Chang: We Buy White Albums over at hyperallergic. I remember thinking at the time: I would LOVE to see that. 

Back in 2013, Chang had set up a store/exhibit in Soho, NYC, where

the only thing in stock here is the Beatles’s White Album, and the store doesn’t sell any of them, it only acquires more….(it included) 700 copies of the 1968 double-LP first edition of the White Album, all the personal collection of Chang. Each album is marked with a distinct serial number on the bottom corner of the starkly designed cover by Richard Hamilton, a totally white cover that’s readily attracted the wandering drawings of (possibly stoned) listeners, the visible stains of coffee cups, and some mold.

I never did get to see it, but the idea captivated me and I never forgot it.

Needless to say, I was excited and delighted to see that it was on the road and recently at the AGO! You can see part of the exhibit above. It wasn’t the same as being in the store, but it captured the essence of that 2013 event. Chang even made a new recording that consisted of 100 copies of the album all playing at the same time. The AGO had it on display and for sale, too:

 

As a big fan of conceptual art and the Beatles, I loved this project. I’m glad I could experience it through the AGO.

For more details, I recommend you go to that hyperallergic link and read more about it. You can also read more about the exhibit at the AGO, here.

(Images: top two mine, bottom image is a link to the hyperallergic article)

Some advice on visiting Toronto, from the New York Times and me

So the Times has done a recent piece on Toronto: What to See Eat and Do in Toronto. It’s nice to see. It has lots of good ideas on where to dine, where to stay, and what to do.

While it’s easy to go to the places everyone recommends, if you want to bypass that and go to some very old school restaurants, here are five classic places that have been around forever and are still great, including Swatow and Country Style. For bistro fans, here is a list of fine French restaurants that should appeal to fans of that cuisine, as I am. There’s lots of great places to dine in Toronto.

While the airport is a mess these days , there are other ways to get here. For instance, you can get catch a train from NYC to Toronto. Or you can drive. Or fly into Billy Bishop and skip Pearson.

If you get here, you can even go to some museums like the ROM for free.

All in all Toronto is having a good year for recognition: Toronto is on of the world’s most liveable cities for 2022, according to CNN Travel. Come visit if you can.

On modular walls, indoor and out

As a result of the pandemic and CafeTO, many restaurants have put up these GRIPBlock reusable walls outside their establishments in the warmer months to draw in customers. It’s a good thing. Here’s one nearby in my neighborhood:

A good idea like that works indoors too. This Blokaloks modular system lets you build walls or even rooms inside, like this:

Smart. You can click on the link to see more designs. Would be perfect for lofts and other open concept spaces that need better definition.

On smarter cities/better cities and the death of certain visions of the city

I am a fan of smarter cities. I was actually part of a group of technologists from IBM who wrote a detailed guide on how to design well performing systems for smarter cities. I was hopeful at the time that we could help governments make lives better for their citizens by using technologies wisely.

I think that is key: the technologies should help governments, not restrict them; the technologies should make the lives of citizens better, not worse. That key idea is what I thought of when I read this piece, Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever in MIT Technology Review. I don’t think Google had that as their key idea: if they did, they didn’t communicate it effectively. As a result, their vision of the future died, at least in Toronto.

Another vision of the cities that is dying is the suburban office park. There are many of them on the outskirts of places everywhere. The story of this one in particular is likely true for any park you encounter as you drive on the edge of a city like Toronto: Lonely Last Days in the Suburban Office Park – The New York Times.

As for other visions of future, WeWork is still hanging on in major cities. Perhaps that vision — of young professionals living and working in the downtown core –will endure for a while. To read publications like BlogTO, you would think so. We shall see.

 

The great Starbucks retreat

For most of the pandemic, food/bev businesses worked hard to hang on and last through this period. Not Starbucks. They did the opposite. As soon as they could, it seems they shut down their locations. Locations that had barely been open a few years were shuttered. Even this location above, on Eglinton Avenue just east of Yonge in Toronto closed up despite a steady flow of customers even during the pandemic. 

Apparently at the start of the pandemic their goal was to close 400 stores over 18 months.  I would not be surprised if more than that closed. 

I wonder what the fallout for all this will be? One thing for sure, the idea of getting Starbucks as a tenant will likely lose its lustre when they do come back and want to expand. Then again, given that people are reluctant to go back to the office, that expansion could take some time.

What’s new and what is old in Toronto, May 2022


What’s new in Toronto? Well we are getting a New IKEA downtown. That’s smart of IKEA: I am sure they got a good deal on rent in the Aura (great building, bad retail). Plus lots of condo owners can save themselves a trip to the ‘burbs to get their IKEA fix.

There’s also new subway stations and new U of T architecture soon to admire. There’s this year’s Luminato festival to take in.

There’s new restaurants to take in, such as Bouffe and the latest version of one of my favorite restaurants once, Beast Pizza.

There’s new ways of doing things, whether it’s this fancy new sidewalk that filters water and sustains plants or it’s this new approach to feeding people at the  Anarchist Café. Of course new isn’t always good, as Freshii found out from the outrage they received when they used remote order takers from Nicaragua in their stores.

Somethings aren’t new, but are interesting, like these recent stores on Toronto’s infamous Path system or this piece on how much more seedy Toronto used to be.

And finally some things are very old, like this oak tree older than Canada and the Canadians / Torontonians trying to save it . Given that Toronto has just declared the oak tree as its official tree, that makes much sense.

(Image link to BlogTo piece on U of T architecture.)

 

 

Not every act of kindness is good

It’s tempting when reading these two pieces

  1. Community fridges pop up in Toronto neighbourhoods during COVID-19 pandemic–
  2. Councillor blasts group building shelters after altercation at Dartmouth park

to say, “at least they’re trying”. Or to ask “what’s the alternative”. Or even to think “you don’t support these ideas because you are “heartless, bourgeois, selfish,” etc.

First off, let me say the impulse of these initiatives are good. And the alternatives — lack of food and shelter — are terrible. So in that way these are good ideas. Some food and some shelter is better than none.

But in comparison to any other initiative involving food and shelter these ideas are poor ones. These shelters are good because they are shelters and nothing else. And the idea of having a community fridge is a disaster waiting to happen.

I’m glad that these initiatives provoke the comfortable to make a better effort to help the poor and homeless. But I will never think these are good works for any reason other than the basic ones.

Not every act of kindness is good, and sometimes a small act of kindness allows a bigger problem to fester.

Coffee tourism: why coffee lovers should visit Toronto (and Torontonians should go to College St.)


For many years I’ve actually visited places partially because of my love of coffee. Really! I went to Vienna where the coffee was amazing and Costa Rica where it was less so*. I am sure there are many people like me who make good coffee a reason to visit a place.

If you are one of those coffee lovers, I recommend you visit Toronto. Just one street alone, College Street, has a wealth of diverse coffee shops to make you happy.

To see what I mean, read this: Toronto’s College Street is a destination for global coffee | The Star. Not only are there many great coffee shops, but they serve a wide range of coffees, from Italian to Vietnamese.

I live here, but I might act like a visitor and do a College Coffee Run soon. Meanwhile I will satisfy my need for great coffee at De Mello near me. (Coffee lovers, go there too.)

* Costa Rica fans, take note. Costa Rica exports amazingly good coffee in my opinion. I just couldn’t seem to find it there. Fortunately there was so much beauty everywhere, I didn’t mind too much.

The beauty of the TTC’s interiors

On twitter the other day I had a brief discussion about the good and bad aspects of the TTC’s interiors. This got me thinking, and led me to this site and post on it: juliekinnear.com. I really encourage you to click that link to see a good photoessay on all the beauty of the TTC’s stations. Here are two images from that post, but there are many. The TTC doesn’t have anything like the Oculus in Manhattan, but it has many beautiful spots of it’s own. You can see them in person, or do the next best thing and read that piece by Julie Kinnear.

On Toronto, tiny robots and the media

So the city of Toronto has put a hold on this company that has dumped their robots on city sidewalks for now. Good. It has been an epic struggle for advocates to get proper bike lanes and other form of transportation (other than cars) in place. The last thing we need is to have sidewalks swarming with robots. My take is that these robots make life in the city worse. Let’s see them put onto the streets.

What has been the take of our Canadian media? Basically that robots are cute and people are mean. See this piece in blogTO, People in Toronto are fighting to keep these adorable delivery robots on city sidewalks, and also McLeans.

I guess it was too much trouble to think and report on what other disruptive  “innovations” have done to cities, from Uber to Lime.

Innovation is contextual. In the right context, new applications of technology are great. I remain unconvinced that deploying swarms of robots to our sidewalks and waiting to see what happens is one of these examples.

 

On places loved and lost: the Canada Square Cinema


I’m sad to see that the pandemic has claimed another victim: the Canada Square Cinema at Yonge and Eglinton. I’ve been going there since it opened in the 80s, and especially so since I moved into the neighborhood in this century.

It’s always been a lovely theatre. One thing I loved about it was how little it changed over the years. Those gray panels on the wall, that red carpet, the cup holders from eye weekly: it was like going into a time machine every time I went there. While it was frozen in time, it was well kept up. It showed good movies. (The last film I saw there was “Parasite”.) It had decent crowds. It was great to see films that had been out for awhile but missed. (It was almost like a rep theatre in that way).

Still, with so many theatres closing over the years, I was expecting it to close too. Instead it was recently upgraded. I thought: great! I will have the luxury of having two big theatre complexes in my area. Then the pandemic hit.

I’m sad to see it go, but happy for all the good movies and good times I had going to it. Go see some movies in theatres as soon as you can. We still need that experience, and we need those theatres. May the theatres that you love last for a long time.

P.S. For more on the theatre, go see BlogTO’s write up, here.

 

If you are thinking of taking an Uber to the airport, take a limo instead

At least if you are in Toronto and are thinking of taking an Uber to Toronto, take a limo instead. I have been to the airport twice in the last month or so. And my daughter went as well. In all cases the Ubers were in the $80-100 range. Not only that, but they were unreliable.

If you get a limo, you get the following

  1. a cheaper rate. Seriously. The same fare for a limo was around $55.
  2. a reliable pickup. I use Airline limo. If you tell them to pick you up at a given time, they will actually be there and waiting 10-15 minutes before hand. It’s great.
  3. a much better ride. Seriously! The cars I were in were all high end cars. They were immaculate and very comfortable.
  4. Also most of the drivers I had were older gentlemen who drive carefully and well.

So skip the Ubers and get a limo instead. You’ll be glad you did.

Likewise, instead of waiting for an Uber at the airport, walk over to the limo line.

Maybe this won’t be the case in a few weeks or months, but right now it is true, regardless of articles like this: Uber wants to make airport trips less messy.

(Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash )

 

On Toronto’s Love Park and the lost pillars

First off, if the upcoming Love Park being built looks as good as it does in the drawings of it, it should be a great place to visit. Toronto has many great parks and this looks like a fine addition.

That said, it’s too bad the new park doesn’t include the pillars that were left after that section of the highway was torn done. I was working down at Queen’s Quay when the demolition happened and they were left standing. There was something beautiful about them. They represented a transition, not just of the road to a park, but the potential transition of the city from being car oriented to being people oriented. I liked that about them. Plus they had a natural sculpural quality about them. I liked that too.

To read more about them and see more pictures, read this: Beloved Gardiner Expressway remnants torn down for new heart shaped Toronto park in BlogTO

On restaurants loved and lost: Cafe Cancan


I can’t remember how I came across Cafe Cancan on Harbord Street, Toronto, but once I did, I couldn’t wait to go back. I love French food, and their menu was full on French. They had classic dishes, but there were also innovative ways of cooking that felt both new and traditional at the same time. I wanted it all.

One of the things great about Cancan was their prix fixe. It was reasonably priced and extensive. You’d order and sit back while the servers brought out dish after dish of delicious food. Even better were all the extras. You might believe you would get five dishes with the prix fixe and you would end up with 7 or 8. Plus you would get an amuse bouche when you sat down and once while settled in at the bar they brought me a little additional sweet at the end of the meal. I felt pampered everytime.

The restaurant itself was a gem. The tables were fine, but it was equally fun to sit at the bar. What was especially great was sitting on the back patio during the warmer months. Whenever I was sitting there I wanted to stay all night.

The wine was always good, and they had Tawse rose on tap for cheap. Oysters were plentiful too, but even here they would come up with innovative mignonettes to make them extra special.

Sadly the pandemic hit it hard, as it hit other restaurants. In the first summer they opened but the menu was very different. Now they are gone.

It seems like a new place that is going to open that is related to Piano Piano. I am sure it is going to be good. But I am going to really miss that lovely pastel French restaurant on Harbord. I had so many lovely meals with lovely people on one of my favorite streets of this city of mine.

(Images from the articles in BlogTo linked to here).

Old parts of Toronto: the 80s

To close off Toronto week here on the blog, here’s two pieces on what it was like to grow up in Toronto in the 1980s. First,  Toronto Life has 15 signs you grew up in Toronto in the 1980s. Not to be outdone, blogTO doubles that and shares 30 signs you grew up in Toronto in the 1980s 🙂

(Image from the Toronto Life piece. I loved going to Toby’s when I was in Toronto in the 80s. They were everywhere and they had good burgs. )

Enjoyable parts of Toronto: kayaking


Ok, I guess it is Toronto week on the old blog. Since it’s summer, here’s a good piece on where you can kayak in Toronto: Guide To Kayaking Toronto: Where To Paddle And When To Go. It sounds like fun, and a perfect activity for the summer months.

Don’t know how to kayak, you say? No worries, I have you covered. Read this: How to Finally Start Kayaking (and Why I’m Glad I Did)

(Photo by Pete Nowicki on Unsplash)

Weird parts of Toronto: transformer houses

No, they do not transform into robots. Instead:

These are Toronto’s residential substations, fake houses built by Toronto Hydro to conceal what’s inside: a transformer that converts raw, high voltage electricity to a voltage low enough to distribute throughout the city.

I have seen a number of them over the years, including this one, which is not far from me: Fake Toronto castle hides electrifying secret in plain sight

They are rather cool, I think. And the fact they blend into the neighborhoods is a huge plus.

For more on them, including the one shown above, see this: Toronto Hydro’s not-so-hidden residential substations.

 

Great parts of Toronto: Baldwin Street

Recently there was much discussion around this famous bakery in Toronto: Yung Sing. Many people I know have fond memories of going there and eating their famous pastry. And not just people I know, as this shows: Why Chinese bakery Yung Sing is one of the most fondly remembered in Toronto

That got me reminiscing about the street that Yung Sing is on. Baldwin Street has many famous places that incorporate Toronto history. You can see one example of that  in this piece: Yiddish sign survives threat to last vestige of Jewish enclave on Baldwin | The Star. 

And John’s and Yung Sing are just a few of the great places on Baldwin. You can read about more of them here: Toronto patios: Baldwin St. | The Star. 

That’s an older piece, but there’s still some of those places. And there are other places that are new and great, like Omai.

I miss Baldwin Street. I used to go often before the pandemic. It’s easy to get to from Spadina Avenue and it’s just up from the AGO, making it a perfect destination. I need to go back soon.

If you want to learn more about the street, read this: Baldwin Village – Wikipedia

(Image linked to in the story on the Yiddish sign).

May, 2021 pandemic highlights and ramblings (a newsletter, in blog form)


It’s May, and it’s lovely in Ontario in terms of weather. Alas, the pandemic is still going on, as is my not-a-newsletter of highlights and ramblings for this month. Hope you like it.

Pandemic: Here in Canada we are rushing to get vaccinated. Over 50% of the population has at least 1 dose, and some Canadians have two (I got my second shot of AZ/AstraZeneca today). I am happy to see that the governments all seem to be working better again. The Federal government has been procuring them, the Provincial government has been distributing them, and the City has been setting up spots for people to get them. And get them they have. Kudos to everyone making efforts to get out there and end this.

It’s not to say there are no bumps in the road. Some provinces, like mine, ended up in a panic about whether or not to allow people to get additional AZ vaccines. Eventually Ontario relented and people like me signed up and got their jabs. Still, the experience has left people bitter, as this Doug Coupland piece illustrated.

Canadians don’t need much prompting to get vaccinated. This seems to be true down south for the most part, thought some states like West Virginia are offering savings bonds to encourage vaccination while Detroit was giving out $50 debit cards to ‘Good Neighbors’ to help boost lagging COVID-19 vaccination rate.  I encourage governments using any means at their disposal to get vaccinated. It’s too bad that people just don’t go and get it done. Get it done, people! I am hopeful by this summer most of Canada and the US will be fully open or close to fully open. Indeed the mayor of New York City says his city will be open this July 1. Let’s hope every place is.

Now whether we all go back to work right away is another thing. Outlets like the BBC are arguing the future of work will be hybrid. We shall see.

Since the pandemic is still ongoing,  you need ways to cope. One way people are coping is managing their time on Zoom and WebEx calls. Techies have even been inventing devices to hang them up. Another way people have managed is by developing routines. That’s been healthy. Or getting back to exercising. A less healthy way has been drinking too much. If that is you, you might benefit on reading this piece on ways to cut back. But back to healthy, a good way to help yourself is to get out from time to time. I hope to take advantage of Toronto’s outdoor cafes once they are open.

Finally, in case you haven’t read the best restaurant review of the pandemic…now you can.

US : it’s been weird to watch what is happening in the United States. On one hand, you have the Democrats working to deal with the pandemic and the effect it has had on the American people. On the other hand, you have Republicans working hard in places like Texas and many other places to restrict the vote of people for the next election. Not only that, but Republicans are also working to prevent any examination into the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

Here’s hoping for the United States to become a better democracy, not a worse one.

Meanwhile in Canada, we need to do better in many ways, starting with one that is fundamental to me: making sure everyone has access to clean water. I can’t believe I even have to say this.

Non-pandemic things: No new news on newsletters. They are still a Thing…just not as newsworthy. Good.

NFTs are still newsworthy.  For example, this piece is a good way to just see how weird and wild they are:

I still don’t think they make any sense, but I have been proven wrong on such things before.

A year ago: Last May we saw the “cancellation” of Alison Roman. Since then she pivoted to making her own newsletter and a YouTube video channel with over 100K viewers. She seems to have landed ok. Speaking of food, I wrote last May that people were already tired of making their own food. Ha! Still at it a year later.  For more on how the pandemic looked last year, here’s the newsletter I wrote then.

Finally:

Over a year ago we were all struggling to get masks and learn how to wear them properly. Now they are as common as shoes. Here’s a throw back to mask wearing tips from the City of Toronto.

Thanks for reading this! I appreciate it. Here’s hoping for a pandemic ending everywhere and soon.

 

On Toronto housing and homelessness during the pandemic

During the pandemic, I came across many stories about homelessness and after awhile started to collect them. You can see them below. There are other stories that relate to the problem, and I’ve included them as well.

Toronto made some strides in dealing with those among us without homes and with much poverty. Much more can be done. If you are interested in reading more about this, here are fourteen stories:

  1. This Toronto hotel is going to be used as a homeless shelter for the rest of the year
  2. Toronto considering ambitious homeless housing plan in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
  3. Toronto just got its first modular supportive housing building for the homeless
  4. People are saying Toronto’s new homeless shelter looks like a prison
  5. A Maryland teen picked up woodworking during the shutdown. Now he sells his pieces to help the homeless.
  6. How a Tuxedoed Sommelier Wound Up Homeless in California
  7. Toronto landlords are offering free rent to try and convince people to stay in the city
  8. Toronto wants to build 3 000 affordable homes because shelters are now too expensive
  9. This Toronto hotel is going to be used as a homeless shelter for the rest of the year
  10. Toronto considering ambitious homeless housing plan in wake of COVID-19 pandemic
  11. More than two thirds of condo investors in Toronto plan to sell due to new vacant home tax
  12. Toronto just got its first modular supportive housing building for the homeless
  13. City of Toronto provides additional support for individuals and families in shelters
  14. Toronto is getting new affordable housing just for single moms

On restaurants loved and lost: Harvey’s on Bloor Street in Toronto

Can you be abandoned by a restaurant? If it is me, it’s the Harvey’s that was on Bloor in the 1980s.  I used to go there and get my favourite, a charbroiled chicken sandwich with mayo and pickle on the side. (Still my favourite thing to get at Harvey’s). I loved sitting in the front window and look over U of T’s Varsity Field.  When I was in my 20s I used to joke with my gf that when I was in my 60s I would still be coming here and eating the same sandwich and sitting in the same spot.

Times change and streets change, especially in Toronto. That area is now filled with condos. It’s nice and I still like the area, but I miss that Harvey’s. I’m much closer to my 60s than my 20s and I would love to be able to fulfill the need. Guess I will have to go to Okonomi House instead. 🙂

(Image via a link to this good piece on the History of Toronto’s Swiss Chalet (also in the image above, from the blog Historic Toronto)

P.S. Okonomi House is the same as it was in the 1980s. I hope it never closes. Click on the link and order from it if you can.

On restaurants loved and lost: Brothers

Brothers Restaurant Toronto

It’s Valentine’s Day, a good day to write a love letter to one of my favorite restaurants of all time, Brothers.

Brothers is a restaurant that should not have worked. Crowded between the entrance of the Bay Street subway and a downtown mall, there was barely room for anyone. One table in the window, a midsized bar, and a few tables in the back. Amongst all that a kitchen the size of a big closet nestled in a corner. It should not have worked, but in the short time it was around, it worked wonderfully.

You realized it was special when you first walked in, and I walked in often. I worked nearby, and whenever I needed a treat, I would wander over and sit at the bar and have lunch. I went so often that Chris who ran the front of place would warmly greet me after a time. (Later, as the place became extremely popular, Chris would sadly greet me after a time to tell me there was no room. It got so bad — for me, not them —  that I ended up scheduling lunch at 2ish just in the hopes of  getting a spot.)

While the service, atmosphere, and location were all great, what had me come back again and again was the food. The food was superb. I would take the hearty bread they offered and wipe down the plate to get every bit of it. The cooking was precise, simple and stellar. I loved to get something like sausage served with beans or vegetables and accompanied by a well chosen sauce. I’d take my time to slowly eat it, trying to appreciate and understand why it was so good. It was as much a cerebral as it was a sensory experience.

I would ask Chris about their tomato sauce or their green sauce, and he would tell me how they experimented with the amount of dairy or herb or whatever ingredient was in it to make the dish just right. And just right it was.

Most of the time I would get their sausage dish. The meat would change in the sausage, but it was always expertly balanced with seasoning. At first they may have been traditionally shaped, but later they were puck shaped. I loved that, and I loved them.

Sausage was not the only thing they excelled at. Pastas were always handmade, cooked to just the right texture, then served with a sauce better than any pasta sauce I ever had. Carpaccio was thin slices of whatever was appropriate for the season and accompanied with a light, lively dressing. The beef carpaccio was one of my favorite. They once said they could teach anyone to make it, but I doubt that. Fish, salad, dessert: whatever they made, they made well, listed it on their minimal menus, and I was happy and lucky to have it.

Brothers wasn’t around long, and in the time it was around, it lived three lives. The first was before the New York Times wrote about it, the second was after that article, and the third was the pandemic. Before the Times article, it was not too hard to get a seat there. They didn’t even take reservations. After the Times article, it was very hard to get in. There were weeks when I could not get a spot at the bar.  It got so busy they went with a reservation system. It slowed down a bit, but it was always popular.

Until the pandemic occurred. That was their last life. They tried to pivot to take out, and I did a curbside pickup of a wonderful meal from them. In the end they decided they didn’t want to be that kind of place and closed it down.

Lots of places have gone due to the pandemic. Some of them would have gone regardless. Not Brothers. If there was no pandemic, I am sure it would still be running, still sliding plates of that chewy soft bread and warm mixed olives and perfectly cooked food for me and you to delight in. I am going to miss many places because of the pandemic, but I think I will miss Brothers most of all.

(From more on it, see the New York Times article, or this blogTO piece. Images from the blogTO piece.

Check out their old web site. It’s simple but smart, just the way it used to be.

Finally this Google link will show you a wealth of photos for the place.)

 

On restaurants loved and lost: the Boulevard Cafe

On Harbord Street in the 1980s I fell in love with the Boulevard Cafe. My life was just starting, and my girlfriend and I were living just up the street from it, on Brunswick Avenue. We would stroll down and line up with the other people in the area for the wonderful Peruvian style food they had there.

It was the first time I learned to love fish. I come from Nova Scotia, but the fish was prepared terribly when I was growing up. Plus fish was associated with poor people food, unlike all the packaged food I wanted. I hated it.

Or I did until I had the Boulevard’s sea bass. (Sea bass was big in the 80s.) They would gently cook it and serve it with a perfect combo of delicious salad and fragrant rice.  I was instantly transformed into a fish lover after that first meal. Many a fish meal I had after that, and all were great.

And their soups. Their soups were incredible. I once had a garlic soup there that was so good that I still recall it decades later. It was simple, and yet I have often had garlic soup elsewhere and it never compared. They had many great dishes there, but the soup and the fish kept me coming back.

When we first started going, it was popular but not too busy. There was seating on both floors, and half of the upstairs was just a seating area where you could sip your drink and enjoy their  fireplace. I remember one night we were sitting there next to the fire, looking out over Harbord Street as a nice snowfall floated down covering everything. I could have stayed all night.

Later on the word got out and it got busier. The lovely seating area was replaced with more tables. The patio area in the summer was jammed with everyone enjoying the wonderful flavours that came out of the small kitchen in the back.

I was shocked to be riding my bicycle across Harbord Street a few summers ago and seeing it all closed up. It was then I took those photos. It was so good, I thought it would last forever. I stood there for quite awhile and remembered all the wonderful times of my youth sitting outside under the awning and living the good life with great friends and great food. I am lucky to have had such a time.

(In the top photo you can see the chimney where the fireplace was. In the bottom photo you can see the main doors that led to the dining room on the lower floor. The bulletin board would list all the specials. There would be tables put in front of the benches, and you either sat on the benches or chairs opposite. In the evening the lights would come on and it would seem magical.)

P.S. Over at Zomato there is still a copy of the menu and some other photos.

 

On Frank Gehry’s latest proposed building for Toronto

Starchitect Frank Gehry is proposing a new set of towers for Toronto, and BlogTo has the latest on it here: Frank Gehry towers in Toronto updated again and people say they look like cheese graters.

I like it. I like the lack of smoothness to it, a quality so many basic buildings have in the downtown core (though there are many good ones, too).  I like how it looks like towers of blocks slightly askew. I also like it has many units: we need more places for people to live in Toronto.

I do wonder, though, if the final version will look anything like that. Or even if it gets built at all. I vaguely recall that Gehry’s designs for his version of the AGO were scaled back due to lack of money. And the ROM designs of another starchitect, Daniel Libeskind, went through transformations as well, though I believe for different reasons It would be good to have more Gehry in Toronto. If we get it and what it will finally look like remains to be seen. It may not looks like a cheese grater at all by the time it appears on King Street.

How to go skating in Toronto in the pandemic

Liisa Ladouceur (shown above) has written a thorough guide for anyone who wants to go skating in Toronto during the pandemic. No, you cannot just show up with your blades and start skating. You need to do more. And you should do more, because skating is a great way to enjoy winter in the pandemic era. So read this: Where to go skating in Toronto in 2020 by Liisa Wanders. Then get out there! Maybe I will see you at a socially safe distance with a fun mask on too.

On something being ugly but something you’ll miss when it is gone

For me, it’s this bridge which according to BlogTO is going to be demolished:

When I first moved to Toronto in the 80s I lived near this area and used to pass under this bridge all the time. There’s nothing attractive about it, save the murals, which weren’t there when I lived there.

Still, I will miss it when it is gone, ugly or not.

Toronto’s Annex grows up

The Annex in Toronto is growing up, literally. First there are the new condos going in on the corner of Bloor and Bathurst. Now the other end of it, at Spadina and Bloor, is getting the same treatment.

A mid-September application submitted to the City of Toronto seeks Zoning By-law Amendments to permit a 35-storey mixed-use condominium tower at 334 Bloor Street West, above Spadina subway station in The Annex.

For more on this, see:

35-Storey Condo Tower Proposed at Bloor and Spadina’s Northwest Corner | UrbanToronto

I think these are good developments. The character of the area remains, but more people can live there and enjoy it. Perhaps some day I will get to as well.