Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Visit to St. Jacobs, ON

Today I took Iris' brother and parents and Jinny to St. Jacobs for a visit. It was my first time there. It's in the Kitchener/Waterloo area. About 1-1/2 to 2 hours west of Toronto.

The main attraction is the farmers' market. It's about 3 kilometres outside the village of St. Jacobs. The sell a lot of local produce and other food items and crafts and gifts there. It's a neat place.

After spending just over an hour at the farmers' market we headed into town for a bite to eat and to check out some of the stores there. Since we were pretty hungry we didn't take long on picking a place to dine at. The photo above shows Iris' parents, brother and Jinny inside a restaurant called Stone Crock.

We had the lunch buffet there. It was $13.99, plus tax and tip. I thought it was a reasonable deal compared to other choices. Normally a single entrée would cost you over $10 anyway. For a few bucks more you could eat as much as you'd like. If you know me, you know how much I like to eat. So that suited me just fine.

After lunch we only spent about 1/2 hour more wandering through town before deciding to head back. The weather wasn't that great and I think Iris' parents had enough of walking. Besides, if we wanted to make it back to Toronto at a reasonable time we couldn't stay much longer. Rush hour traffic was staring us in the face. And that wasn't something any of us were looking forward to.

All-in-all I believe everyone had an enjoyable day out. Though I'm not sure it was worth driving through rush hour traffic for (on the return trip). If I had to do it again I think I'd pick the weekend as a better time to venture out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

IKEA - New Toronto tourist attraction?

Iris and Tony's friend, Jinny, revisited Toronto for the first time in seven years. She's in town for their second wedding. This time Iris' parents and brother will be in town to witness it.

Since I have a lot of free time on my hands I was charged with being tour guide again. Like I mentioned above Jinny lived here seven years ago. She was studying in Toronto for six months, so she's had the chance to see some things already.

Normally I take visitors to the Distillery District, to the Beaches, Eaton Centre, Yonge/Dundas Square, City Hall, along Queen West, Kensington Market and Chinatown. This time we did something different. Jinny wanted to go to IKEA.

On the way up from Tony and Iris' place I detoured through the Bridle Path and Shops at Don Mills. I thought Jinny might like to see them.

After that we did make it to IKEA. It's been quite awhile since I've been there. They're redeveloping with quite a few condos in the immediate area. I almost couldn't find my way into the parking lot. We were there for quite a bit of time. Jinny was looking for some bedding items both for herself and Tony and Iris. By the time we finished it was after 2:00 p.m and we were hungry.

We went into the cafeteria in IKEA, but things didn't look so hot there. So I suggested going back to Don Mills to go to Congee Queen. Jinny liked that idea. She hadn't had congee in awhile and wanted to order some. As well as the chicken and duck congee we had shredded meat chow mein (chicken, pork and other stuff) and beef chung fun (rice rolls). Mmm.

After lunch Jinny wanted to check out her old neighbourhood of Yonge and Finch. Just to see what sort of changes there were. Unfortunately rush hour was all but upon us. We tried to head back south, but were stuck on Yonge for such a long time. So annoying.

We had pretty much no choice, but to sit it out. I made the decision to head over to Bayview Village in search of a Tim Hortons. Unfortunately our luck didn't change. No Timmies. But, there was a Timothy's so that's where we went. It cost me over $5 for a cold, caffeinated beverage. By the time 6:00 came round we attempted to drive back down to Tony and Iris' place again. This time the traffic was lighter thankfully.

When we got there Tony and Iris had just about finished preparing dinner. We ate together with them and Iris' parents. Tomorrow I'm planning on taking them to St. Jacobs. They have a farmers market there. Let's hope the rain stops by the morning.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Livia was the only girl. Again.

This is the 25th anniversary of our class' graduation from Don Mills Collegiate Institute. Can you believe it? It's been 25 years since we finished high school.

In honour of that momentous occasion I thought it would be nice to gather a few of my classmates up and go out for dinner. Many of us reacquainted ourselves with one another two years ago at our school's 50th anniversary. So I had a few e-mail addresses on hand. I also posted an event notice on Facebook and told people to try to contact a few others.

Alas (as you can see), the turn out wasn't too good. One friend, Vince, had an emergency babysitting assignment. His wife had taken ill and he had to look after his two girls. I figured they were old enough to take care of themselves, but he had to bow out in the end. Other people had previous engagements. This being summer, that's predictable. In general, people plan a lot more events then. Also, I didn't give people much notice. Maybe 4-6 weeks?

So we had six people show up - Dan, Andrew, Brent, Manuel, Livia and myself. As was the case the first time we met up (two years ago) Livia was the only girl. Though, truth be told, she wasn't the only girl to express interest. She was just the only one who was available.

Dinner was good. We met at Jack Astor's at the Shops at Don Mills. It's the local mall close to where our high school is (still) located. It was nice to see everyone again and catch up on what's happened over the past couple of years. I think I'm the only one who's gone through a major career change. From working in production at Trader Corporation to driving a delivery van once a week. I have to say, I've taken a liking to semi-retirement. It suits me well.

Anyway, I'm going to try to arrange another dinner in the not too distant future. Perhaps in the late summer/early fall. Hopefully peoples' schedules will have opened up a bit and they'll be able to come out this time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

They Might Be Giants

I went down to David Pecaut Square (just west of Roy Thompson Hall) this past Saturday to see Brooklyn, NY alt-pop rockers, They Might Be Giants, perform live for Luminato. I first heard them in the mid-80's on CFNY when they we're an innovative and groundbreaking radio station.

I rode my bike down and left it with the free bicycle valet service operated by the Toronto Cyclists Union. It's on Wellington Street, just east of John Street. That was nice. No worries about locking it up somewhere and having someone try to steal it.

Another thing that was nice was the fact that it stayed dry. 680 News reported thunderstorms would occur throughout the afternoon not ending 'til midnight. None of that materialized in the downtown area thankfully. I heard it rained up on Markham/Richmond Hill though.

The concert was good. I heard a few of my favorites such as Birdhouse in your Soul and Anna Ng. I must say whenever I go to a concert and take photos it's a bit distracting. I never get to fully enjoy the performance because I'm concentrating so much on getting good shots. It's somewhat of trade off unfortunately.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Friend's Parents

(Moraine Lake, Alberta. Not my photo)

My friend's parents and aunt came to visit from Korea a couple of weeks ago. Within a day of their arrival in Toronto they boarded another plane for western Canada. I believe it was either to Calgary or Vancouver (both of which they visited).

They spent a few days out west. As well as Calgary and Vancouver, they went to Banff. I believe they went on a couple of helicopter flights to see some glaciers while out there. I heard the weather in Vancouver wasn't too nice. It rained most of the time unfortunately.

Upon their return to Toronto they spent half a day here before flying out to Quebec City. They stayed there for a day then flew back for another evening here where we met up at another friend's place for a barbeque before they flew out for Halifax, Nova Scotia the next morning.

After spending about three days in Halifax they returned where they finally stayed in the general area of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). One other friend took them to Niagara Falls where they spent the night. The also crossed the border into the U.S. for a quick look. This left them two full days in Toronto before they would head back to Korea.

On their first day in the city another friend dropped them off downtown. They went on a site-seeing bus tour and a boat tour around the Toronto Harbour. It was stiflingly hot and humid that day. With the humidity I think it was supposed to feel like nearly 40C. In the early afternoon they called it a day so they could go home and cool down.

The next day I had them with a different friend. The weather was a bit nicer. The forecast rain didn't materialize thankfully and it was a bit cooler. We took them to the Distillery District, the Beaches, Yonge/Dundas Square, the Eaton Centre, City Hall and St. Lawrence Market.

After that they had dinner at home and spent the last few hours with their daughter and her housemates before going to the airport for an early morning flight (at around 1:00 a.m. I believe) to return to Korea.

Now that's a whirlwind tour if I've ever heard of one. I think they spent nearly as much time in an airport or aboard planes as they did here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

My New Favorite Game

It's interesting, but I don't think I've blogged about my "addiction" to Sudoku before. It started a few years ago when I picked up one of the free dailies to read when I sometimes took the TTC to work. I'm guessing that after reading the paper to completion I needed something else to do.

The objective to completing the puzzle is to fill the 9x9 grid with numbers 1 through 9 each appearing once only in every column, row and 3x3 box. Depending on the difficulty level of the puzzle selected squares will already be filled in. More for the easy level, less for the hard.

At first I did quite poorly. In the free daily, 24, it used to take me over 25 minutes to finish the puzzle. But, after a bit of practice my times started to improve. Now I can regularly do them in under 10 minutes (which the paper considers really fast).

Now I regularly pick up the two free dailies to do the Sudokus in them. As well, I get my sister and parents to save me them if they happen to pick up a paper anywhere. Now if that's not an addiction I don't know what is.

Monday, June 6, 2011

2011 Doors Open Toronto Pt. II

Since St. James Cathedral was less than five minutes away from the King Eddie. I made an unscheduled stop there. It may seem odd, but it was the first time I've ever gone in to take pictures there.

(From the 2011 Doors Open Toronto site) Built of local brick and Ohio limestone in the Gothic Revival style. this is the fourth church to be built on the site. The former Cathedral was destroyed in the fire that destroyed much of the Old Town in 1849, and Cumberland's design was the winning entry an international competition. It features the highest church tower in Canada, higher than the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, and houses the only peal of 12 bells in the country. There are only two towers higher in England - those of Norwich and Salisbury Cathedrals. Wooden features within the Cathedral are the work of Jacques and Hay furniture manufacturers in Toronto in the mid 19th Century who worked in close cooperation with the architect. While the stained glass windows are largely English, there are also those of German, American and Canadian manufacture. The most recent of these by Stuart Reid of Toronto was unveiled by The Queen in 1997 to mark our 200th anniversary. This church dates back to the founding of the city and was also the site of this city's first hospital. The rectory is the site of the first publicly funded school, now Jarvis Collegiate.

Time was getting short now. It was 3:45 p.m. and I had a few places I still wanted to see. I quickly went to the Metropolitan United Church on 56 Queen Street East (beside St. Michael's Hospital).

(From the 2011 Doors Open Toronto site) Metropolitan United Church began in 1818 in what is now the commercial heart of Toronto. The first building was a small Methodist chapel located on nearby King Street. The population of the city and membership in the church grew, so in 1831 it moved into the Newgate Methodist Episcopal Church, to accommodate 1,000 people.In 1868 the Methodist Church constructed Metropolitan Wesleyan Methodist Church, which was dedicated in 1872. The building seated 2,300 and was described as Canada's "cathedral of Methodism." The United Church of Canada was formed in 1925 by the union of Methodist and Congregational and two-thirds of the Presbyterian churches in Canada. Metropolitan Wesleyan Methodist became Metropolitan United and was chosen as the site of the first General Council of the United Church. In 1928 when fire destroyed the church building the congregation commissioned a redesigned structure. The largest organ in Canada, built by Casavant Freres in Quebec, was installed and first played in 1930. The organ has 8,233 pipes.

Next was the Toronto Hydro Corporation at 14 Carlton Street East (just east of Yonge). It was pretty disappointing. It's a beautiful looking building, but they only opened the lobby to visitors. On the bright side it gave me time to try and see Canada's National Ballet School.

(From the 2011 Doors Open Toronto site) Toronto Hydro’s Head Office Building at 14 Carlton Street was constructed from 1931 - 1933 by A.W. Robertson Company with designs by architects Chapman and Oxley with associate Albert E. Salisbury. At the time, its neighbours were Maple Leaf Gardens and Eaton’s College Park. The building features an Art Deco style and displays a linear composition, with gargoyles peering down at pedestrians walking by. The structure consists of steel and concrete and is faced with Queenston limestone and trimmed with marble copper. In 1991, the building was designated as a historic site.

As stated before my last stop was Canada's National Ballet School at 400 Jarvis Street (just north of Carlton Street). It almost never happened. I got there at a little after 4:30 p.m. I didn't realize the last time of admittance was at 4:30. I thought it might have been 5:00 p.m. But, that's actually when they're supposed to close to visitors probably. There were a few people standing in line to go in. The security guards said they were sorry, but they wouldn't let any more people in. Luckily one of the volunteers giving the tours came by and let us in. This is another site I was interested in seeing. But, in previous years cameras weren't allowed in. This year they changed their tune. I was really happy about that.

(From the 2011 Doors Open Toronto site) Canada's National Ballet School graces Jarvis Street with a landmark, glass-fronted suite of studios. Formerly the CBC radio headquarters, NBS' campus now mixes historical & contemporary architecture in a multi-award winning campus. Visitors will tour the Celia Franca Centre - the contemporary building - and see how the historical and modern buildings are respectfully amalgamated.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

2011 Doors Open Toronto Pt. I

I went to Door Open Toronto again this past Saturday. I enjoy going. There are a lot of neat buildings here to take photos of. I wish I had a bit more time, but, unfortunately, I could only go one out of the two days it was on.

It took me a little while to plan my route. I took the subway to Union Station and started there. From there I went across the street to the Fairmount Royal York. It wasn't actually one of the Doors Open sites, but it was nearby, so I dropped by anyway.

The next stop, 401 Wellington Street West, Stantec Architecture (which was formerly the McGregor Socks Factory) was my first official Doors Open stop. This was one place I've been interested in seeing in previous years, but never got around to it.

(From the 2011 Doors Open Toronto site) Formerly the McGregor Sock Factory, the Stantec Toronto Studio is located in the historic Garment District at the corner of Spadina Avenue and Wellington Street West. Originally constructed in 1905, the timber post and beam building offers the perfect opportunity to reclaim, transform and recycle a piece of the city’s industrial heritage.

Stantec's architects and engineers designed a flexible, high-quality workspace that fosters collaboration, innovation, sustainable design excellence and our commitment to city building. The retrofit gives back to the city; economically, environmentally and culturally. With that in mind, the original retail entrance is reconceived as a public contemporary art gallery, in support of public art in the city.

The LEED®-CI Gold environmental agenda was achieved through a variety of methods including: indirect and low wattage task lighting, daylight and occupancy sensors, low flow showers, solar powered faucets, dual flush toilets, efficient underfloor air distribution and a number of green materials including the use of reclaimed 400-year old pine from Toronto’s Queen’s Wharf to create a feature screen.

Next stop on my route was Hotel Victoria on 56 Yonge Street (at Wellington).

(From the 2011 Doors Open Toronto site) The Hotel Victoria constructed in 1909 during the Edwardian period began its illustrious life as the Hotel Mossop. It was the first completely fireproof building ever in Toronto erected after the great fire of 1904 that levelled most of the surrounding landmarks.

The hotel's charm and intimate embellishments make it a welcome respite for the weary traveler; having gone through a complete renovation. The hotel has maintained its delineation as a heritage property but, with an enhanced contemporary look. The new sleek and elegant lobby and warm updated rooms feature a mix of classic and designed furnishings.

I went to the nearby King Edward Hotel at 37 King Street East (just east of Yonge) after. I should have read the description in the paper before I went. The website surely didn't shed any light on what they offered for people to view. It was just the 17th floor of the hotel which is currently under renovation. It's the former grand ballroom I believe. I didn't think it was that interesting. Certainly not worth waiting in line for (which I did).

(From the 2011 Doors Open Toronto site) Built in the French Renaissance style in 1903, Le Méridien King Edward is the first luxury hotel in Toronto and has played host to past kings and modern royalty. Step through the door and you will be returned to old world traditions and comforts with the lobby’s large marble columns, bright skylight and warm artful décor.