Friday, June 29, 2012

High Park

I had read that High Park was Toronto's version of Central Park. It is a little way out of the city central area, but was easy enough to get to last weekend for a break from the bustle, on a glorious day. A streetcar down Queen Street West, and at the end of my time there in the park, I ended up on Bloor and took the subway back to the city - couldn't have been easier!

Walking from South to North, I first encountered the huge Grenadier Pond. Along the water's edge families were fishing, and ducks swam past. Apart from condo complexes in view at the edge of one end of the pond, you could be forgiven for forgetting you were in a major cityscape.

Further along the trail past the pond, I took the path that led me inwards to the park and the lush greeness. There is a mini train that can take you for a loop around the park, but walking allows you to take in the escape from the city in all it's glory.

This wander featured so many park animals, with a cluster of swans being fed by visitors, groups of ducks, and all sizes of squirrels!

Sitting on the incline of Hillside Gardens, I took the chance to read for pleasure for awhile, trying to get back into a pre-return to uni past time! From this vantage point, I could take in the maple leaf circle below, the iconic, patriotic feature of the park.

I can see from the map of the park that there are so many more elements to explore, like the zoo, the sports fields and playground, and the cherry blossoms at the right season. I did see the mini waterfalls, the fountain garden area, and the forest of the West Ravine Trails. A true retreat from the heat, the traffic and noise of the city.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Month of Friday Dinners

Since getting to Toronto, I have managed to have dinner somewhere different at the end of each week - finding such a spot was a task I set Kylie, and so began our Friday night dinner catch ups and restaurant discovery endeavours. I love exploring new places, and neighbourhoods, and given this city's vast multicultural vibrancy, we have such a range of amazing options!

The first dinner was really on the Sunday of the weekend I arrived, and ended up being the biggest and most fun night I have had to date. This was at the end of my introductory wander through the CBD with Kylie and Gina, and was at the Cloak and Dagger. This taco fest, and the 27 beers on tap still rates highly with me. Although taste testing such a range did not help me find a Canada beer of choice, and I still dabble in whatever is on offer!

The following week was Kylie and my favourite food place so far, being Guu SakaBar on Bloor Street. We were taken to the tatami area, where shoes were removed and we were seated at sunken tables. The staff were super friendly, and fun, and the whole place had such a buzz to it. This Japanese Izakaya restaurant has an array of dishes on the menu that were drool-worthy just from their description, and even more so on their plates! Deep fried Brie with mango and blueberry cinnamon spring rolls for dessert, a couple of our most memorable. Going to be very, very hard to beat!

Shanghai Cowgirl along Queen Street West with Kylie and Gina was a late night choice at the end of my second work week, and hit the spot with burgers and their hip interior.

I met Kylie and Meg, Chris and Damo in the city near work, at Red Lobster for another Friday night dinner. A chain restaurant, the meal was a seafood feast as the name suggests, and delivers amazing desserts!

In NXNE week, I wandered through Kensington Market area and found Supermarket for our dinner, and Kylie and Meg joined me for Asian tapas, with an international influence - like crispy fish and avocado tacos, which were delicious!

Just last week, we started with drinks at Bang Bang in Little Italy, we being Kylie and Gina and I, before Kylie and I headed for dinner in the next block. Utopia brought Mexican flavours to out palate, with burritos the choice - washed down with one of the few non-Strongbow ciders found in the city.

Very much looking forward to seeing what the next installments of food finds has for us! We are always looking out for suggestions and recommendations - where should we go next?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Yonge and Dundas Square

The Square at the intersection of Youge and Dundas Streets in Toronto is the city's main, iconic space, and where a lot of central events are held. The heart of the city, if you like, and often referred to as the answer to London's Trafalgar Square or New York's Times Square.

Yonge-Dundas Square is a space surrounded by glassed buildings, and coloured and neon billboards. On my first weekend here in Toronto I walked through there, and took in the busy encasings all around the space - but also the water fountains playing along one end, and the bustle of the city all around. It is a space in the city to be able to sit and take it all in.

During NXNE it held music events for most of the week, and of course had the massive headlining show on the Saturday, including The Flaming Lips.

It is the place that always has something going on in the city, from festivals and events, to sports matches telecast and national holidays celebrated.

Tonight, after work I wandered down to the square for one of the Summer film screenings - Cult Classics is the theme this year, and in line with Pride Week, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was the movie of the night.

Not one to miss a chance for an Aussie classic, Kylie joined me just after it was dark. The setting works, with a mild night, and a screen in front of rows of chairs set up. The Square filled well for the film, which included at least one person dressed in drag!

Having watched it over and over when we were younger, I haven't seen the movie for some time, and it was awesome to be reminded how great it is! And with the Aussie-isms throughout, and the spectacular Australian outback on display, it was a treat on this Tuesday night in Toronto!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

AGO and Picasso

Since arriving in Toronto and starting work, I have been walking past the Art Gallery of Ontario everyday and wanted to go in. On Wednesday last week, Natalie, Arielle and I went along after work, after a dinner and debrief from the first half of our week at Joe's with pizza and beer, in nearby Kensington Market.

Wednesday nights it is actually free entry at the AGO from 6pm, and half price for the special exhibit, which is currently the works of Picasso, on loan from the Musee National Picasso, Paris.

The exhibit works through the great artists' stages of work, from his stills and portraits, his Blue and Rose periods, being his paintings of the poor and homeless to using pinks and brighter colours.

The display also features many of his sculptures, and also his pieces with a variety of mediums, such as his Violin.

It was clear this man of many lovers, who died in 1973 at 92, after taking five wives and mistresses over this time, and having four children, was a boob man! His depictions of woman are a focus, and fascination, and something he worked through from his early art, through to his development of Cubism, and even in his later years.

Such a vast array of work, a whole room seemed to transform me back to Paris, with the Sacre Coeur being a memorable stand out for me.

I love the glass mold of the northern edge of the AGO, with the light reflecting the traffic below, it reminds me of a Christmas Beetle. This space inside the Gallery is so light-filled and spacious, and was the exit of Picasso. Here, Galleria Italia is the length of this space and it includes a cafe, and the large wooden doors back to the gallery rooms. We wandered through many of the maze-like rooms of Canadian art - the girls pointing out many of the more famous artists and pieces.

Picasso is here until August 26, and then I see Frida will take his place! How lucky Toronto is! I will miss this changeover, but I definitely see several more Wednesday visits to the AGO in the next few weeks to take in the rest of the regular collection, and also the unique building features of the Beetle!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Toronto's Flatiron Building

The Gooderham Building, stands at the convergence of Wellington and Front Streets, just before St Lawrence Market, and is in that quirky shape like the iconic building in New York City. Actually, reading Why I Love Toronto, it turns out this one here in Toronto was built first, so perhaps I should say that the NYC one is like this one!

The building is so pretty, with it's turret and fire escape stairs running along it's sides. It is also sitting in the middle of a busy area, and stands with the tall CBD buildings behind it. Such a contrast.

The backside of the building has this poster hanging from it, showing you an image of what the inside may look like it the building was sliced opened from that end. It just adds to the magic of this building. A park then completes the oddly shaped city block, and it a lovely leafy space amid the city bustle.

On the bottom floor the building has it's only current occupants, a pub, which I think I definitely need to have a pint in sometime over the Summer. It looks so cute!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another Beauty Along Toronto Streets

She's down along West Queen West, across the road from CAMH. I am definitely becoming a little obsessed with the street art here in Toronto! There is so much of it to be spotted!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NXNE Films

In addition to all access to every gig around the city, my red wristband for North By Northeast Music and Film Festival allowed me entry into any and all of the 40 films being shown as part of the festival also. I managed 2, which also gave me 3 shorts.

On the Thursday night I rushed out of work when I could, down College Street, to the art deco Royal Theatre, and joined the wristband line out on the street. We were soon filed into the older style seats inside, ready for the showing of Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy.

Based on one of Welsh's short stories, the movie follows Lloyd into the spiral and addiction of the party drug, and the danger of perpetuating debt and drug smuggling. It also features the fun and crazy party and dance scene of the drug.

Reviewers are pegging it as a rom com, with the introduction of Heather into the dance scene one night, who Lloyd meets and they develop a strong and deep relationship. The movie works through the addictions and highs we all look for, moving from the manufactured type to the feelings of love.

It features the narration feature of Trainspotting, which is also Welsh's work, and I really enjoyed it. It was edgy and endearing, with likable characters, and depicted a scene that was both enticing and dangerous at the same time.

The movie featured 51 music tracks, and during the Q&A at the end, the Director spoke of the challenges of securing these, and also the difficulties of financial backing for a film project like this, and the ebb and flow impacts of such commitments from different entities.

The shorts of the screening went by in a blur to be honest, at the start, which I initially mistook for advertising or previews, and did not give my full attention! Oops!

On Sunday, I popped down to the NFB Mediatheque for the screening of My Father and The Man In Black. This is an amazing documentary about a man trying to figure out his late father, and his turbulent relationship with him, through the memories and memorabilia he had left behind. This man, Saul Holiff, was the Manager of Johnny Cash, and thus the doco is also the story of the manager of a music superstar, and that relationship, and thus also the story of Johnny Cash, raw and real from this side of his story.

The doco is made with actors playing out some of the events and moments, with filmmakers brother and Saul's son Joshua playing the oldest Saul, intertwined with still photos found in the storage unit left behind by the late manager - with the addition of having some element of these stills animated, or colour-focused, like the smoke stream from a cigarette moving in a photo used, of several key elements in a photograph coloured against a black and white backdrop. So novel and engaging! This technique really brought the use of these stills to life for the flow of the storytelling.

Patriotic Canadian elements were also featured, highlighting the role Canada played in keeping Cash's career alive. As was discussed at the Q&A at the end of the film, if it were not for Saul's Canadian links and base, upon Cash's arrest and ban from playing shows in the US, his career may well have been over with this scandal. However, the ability to advocate for, and the facilitation of shows in Canada, and later Europe, Saul revived Cash's music career.

Impressively, the short for this screening was Letting Go, by 14 year old Cameron MacKenzie. A look at the stages of grief, from a very personal experience. Very powerful by this young American filmmaker!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

NXNE at Dundas Square

Saturday was the big free concert for North By Northeast Music and Film Festival that the whole city seemed to be talking about all week in the build up.

In my never-ending quest to squeeze everything in when it's on, I first popped down to the Redpath Stage along Habourfront, in the quest to see the band that had been hyped as Canada's Fleet Foxes. Alas, it seems that this stage was not running to the App outlined timings nor line up, and so I caught Mississauga's alt-rock Illscarlett instead as I grabbed some lunch. In two minds as the music between sets played Mykonos and the ukelele was tested in sound check, I left as planned and missed People Of Canada.

As I emerged out of the subway and up the stairs into Dundas Square, I could hear the beats and energy of Art v Science. They had a captive audience up the front of the stage amid the very busy Square, all dancing and joining them in their encouraged moves.

The set was very much like the night before, but it was so cool to see these Aussie lads have such a massive stage on this side of the world!

Parlez Vous Francais was a huge track with the routine sculling of a beer in the middle, pumping Magic Fountain, and Flippers ended the set. Loved the fist in the air-pumping ending, 'we are Art....verses...Science....' I was moved enough to buy their album on offer!

Between sets I took the time to explore the Square, with a Ben and Jerry's caravan handing out scoops of ice cream, Wonka's stand handing out handfuls of lollies, and Contiki giving away a trip to Coachella (in my dreams!!!).

Back to the stage area for Canada's Hollarado, who really impressed with their indie rock tunes. Gina joined me at this point, and we both came away from the set with a new music find.

Oberhofer was next, who actually had the opposite effect on us. Nothing really grabbed me about this set, nor the music delivered, by this young and hyped NY based band.

But then came a set to blow your mind - of Montreal. The costumes, the background visuals, and risque lyrics and provocative acts constantly coming out on stage around the band made this indie pop experience something unlike any other.

I recognised at least 3 tracks from Skeletal Lamping, but with such a vast back catalogue, and a new album release this year, they had so much to choose from for this set. Engaging, amusing, and just crazy! The set ended with 2 of their extras in bodysuits, jumping onto the out stretched arms of the crowd, and travelling all the way out to where we were.

A set unlikely to be forgotten by anyone who was there!

Next up were Portugal. The Man, during which I took the opportunity to find somewhere to sit as Yonge Street was blocked off for the massive crowd forming. Needing the regain the energy to stand for the rest of the evening, I was still moved enough at one point to get back into better earshot by one particular track I could just hear from my vantage point.

Half of the square was soon jammed full of people, with very little room to move through either way, as this set ended and the light started to fade from the Summer's day. The anticipation was building by many of us who knew what to expect by the next, headlining act, and impatience was heard from others. Having seen the start of the set at Harvest, I knew it was going to be amazing!

Completing their soundcheck in front of this amassing crowd, The Flaming Lips assured us that the show was not far away, and I think they were really waiting for darkness to fall.

Once the sun had disappeared and the Square was in darkness, the band started to play as Wayne Coyne appeared in his bubble, as it was being blown up. The atmosphere was electric as the music built the mood, and soon the zorb ball was full - and projected out onto the crowd. Coyne rolled himself across the thronging masses, with the psychedelic tunes beaming out, and the crowd enthralled.

Once the ball was returned to the stage, Coyne emerged kitted out in fur and his wild hair, and the magic escalated. The confetti shots started, showering the whole crowd with coloured streamers and paper pieces - and then the huge coloured balloons, some confetti filled, were projected out to the crowd. A sea of colour, and bouncing balloons, and trippy tunes filled the Square. An experience like no other, it was so amazing!

Once the awesome colourful airborne mayhem started to dissipate, the songs started, and hearing that volume of people sing She Don't Use Jelly in unison was a treat to behold!

I decided to leave before the end, to beat the rush of people out of this area, and grabbed a streetcar. I later read that Coyne acknowledged that many people there that night were meant to be listening to Radiohead, which was cancelled after a tragic accident during the day, and then played a cover tribute. How amazing, and real.

What an awesome day of music, NXNE's headlining show is bound to have Toronto talking for weeks to come. Anyone who was there for The Flaming Lips has experienced something special, and mind-blowing, with music taken to a whole other level!

Monday, June 18, 2012

NXNE on Thursday and Friday Nights

For NXNE I purchased an all access wristband for $50, which meant that I had a full ticket to all music gigs and films across town, capacity permitting. With 780 bands playing across the week, there was much plotting, and researching of bands and locations of venues, and tossing up a schedule for each night.

On Thursday night, after a film, I headed to Cameron House for a couple of Aussie acts on the festival line up. When I got there the front room, which I thought was all there was, was pretty empty as I got a beer and took a seat. I listened as an act started to set up, and was disappointed at my choice of band and venue, which had been a toss up with another at the same time down the road. I soon figured out, however, that there was a backroom, aka the bandroom, where REYNE were just starting.

A couple of Aussie lads with guitars and tunes in their heads, telling tales of picking up in the hostels of Toronto...I still kinda wished I went to the other gig! Ha!

The 20 minute window of time between bands the city over, I made the trek from one end of Queen Street West to the other and The Great Hall. Hindered somewhat by trackworks on this particular night, I still made it in time.

My next gig choice was to check out my housemate's band, Spookey Ruben. A massive venue, the small gathered crowd didn't really fill it, which did not allow the detail of the tracks carry as it could have at a smaller venue. Spookey and the band played Wendy McDonald and Dizzy Playground, as well as When You Fall In Love With Someone Who's In Love With Someone Else and a host of others through the set you could see the band was putting their all into.

My fourth planned gig of this night was up at The Garrison, but alas when I got there there was a massive line that was not moving, and so the pull to go home to bed on a school night won!

On Friday after work, I met Kylie and Meg for dinner at Supermarket, and could hear the background music of the NXNE gig playing in the back bandroom. The food was impressive, an Asian tapas style menu, and the music sounded like a band I should have checked out.

Alas, as planned I took the streetcar down to The Garrison to check out Art vs. Science. Oddly I haven't seen these Aussie lads live before, and was totally energised and amused by their stage presence and crowd engagement. Decked out in crazy silver space suits, the boys were each behind a combination of keys and mics, and pumped out fun and dancey tracks complete with moves and actions!

Setting up Parlez Vous Francais, I wonder how many times they have asked that of a crowd where there is a high chance a large proportion actually do!? As they encouraged the room to get involved, I heard some locals giggle and comment at the Aussie pronunciation of Toronto. The newer Flippers was also a massive track of the night.

The next band was the reason I had made my way to this venue, however the electro-pop sampling of Doldrums didn't really grab me, and I called it a night and made the trek home again in the wee hours, enlivened by the choices and vastness of live music on offer.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

NXNE At The Drake

This week the much anticipated North By Northeast Music and Film Festival finally arrived! Since my Toronto plans began developing, I had started researching pretty early on to see what was happening over the Summer in the city, and discovered this indie music festival. I kicked off NXNE on Wednesday night at The Drake with Gina and Vinny.

First up on the bill was Beliefs, which seemed to lack some energy to be honest. Nothing really stood out for us in the set from the local band, which was disappointing given that they had such a great slot to reach a diverse and captive audience.

Eternal Summers were next, and a band I had read a recommendation about that very afternoon. This American 3 piece pulled the growing crowd back with an engaging lead singer, and their indie pop sounds. For one track the drummer took over lead vocals, which was a completely different feel and sound for the band, and was a track that stood out.

The next act was a band neither of us would probably have sought out, and yet the Mac DeMarco set was the pick of the evening - stumbling upon new bands and sounds is the best part of a festival like this! This character with a gap in the front of his teeth arrived on stage with a hillbilly yokel style hat, saying y'all several times, had the crowd hanging on his every word within seconds.

Opening with I'm A Man, and introducing new a song about everyone else from home having babies and getting jobs as a policeman, and that he 'just rolls by', his lyrics and delivery was entertaining and amusing.

Mac DeMarco ended the set with a lap of the crowd, by just kind of rolling onto the stretched hands below, once he announced what he was doing. The most polite crowd surfing I have ever seen, he was carried through the front punters and back to the stage for the end of the track.

This was an act bound to gain some NXNE buzz and fill the rooms of the many sets he has booked across the festival. Definitely worth checking him out!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Child's Play at Sovereign Hill

One of the great things about visiting Sovereign Hill, Ballarat, in the middle of the week, is the presence of school groups all kitted out in their 1850s wear, and wandering Main Street to classes. Usually walking in their full group, the capes and long petticoats of the girls outfits are striking, and endearing.

The boys in their hats and cute half length pants. And then the teachers in their full dress outfits, and very stern demeanor.

The day I visited last month there were at least two groups on site, one a girls school and another a primary school aged class, whom I come across at a recess break out playing in the front yard of the one room school on the hill.

I am sure every kid who grew up in Ballarat has a memory of their few days learning about the life of the gold rush and the goldfields at Sovereign Hill, in addition to writing with ink and a quill, and playing with the old style toys and games. I remember our class being ordered by height to figure out the class levels within the single room classroom, as it would have ranged back in the day, and of course, being a shortie I was in a lower grade. One of the few advantages of being short when we were growing up, the tall kids had much stricter rules and handwriting expectations put on them, and ended up being part of the play-act of corporal punishment all too many times.

There are 4 schools on site, including the Ragged School for orphans, with the most iconic being the Red Hill National School. The other two being denominational schools, one of which was the beginnings of a current Catholic Ballarat primary school.

Everyday there is access to at least one school on site for visitors, where you can try your hand at the formal copperplate handwriting with ink and the old style proverbs! Another of my favourite activities was the old style bowling alley, which was still very much in action last month!

This is a post in a series to show off Ballarat's premier tourist attraction, for which I was provided a pass to enter Sovereign Hill for the day. The thoughts in this post, however, are entirely my own.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


To kick off NXNE and to launch their new album, hometown band Metric put on a free show down at Sugar Beach on Monday night. I met Kylie as we both made our way south from work, and we soon found Gina perch at a good spot for the gig.

Kylie and I went in search of food, and found in this tucked away complex behind the sand of Sugar Beach, Against The Grain. Here, we managed to score a table before the rush, and took advantage of the Monday special of a burger and a pint. Perusing the menu has meant we are pretty excited to come back here over summer!

Back outside, we discover that the rain has started, and the crowd gathering for the music are now under umbrellas and soaking in some pretty steady rainfall.

However the rain did little to dampen the excitement from the decent crowd gathered to see their local band play tracks from the album they have released this week, Synthetica.

The new tracks delivered the indie rock edginess that the band is famous for, and lead Emily Haines was chatty between tracks and her synth playing. A busy band on stage, they relayed that they were excited to be doing the show, and for being in town at the start of the massive week long music festival ahead.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Winter Garden Theatre: Doors Open Toronto

The Winter Garden Theatre, part of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre combo, is so enchanting! My visit inside is the last of the places I visited around the city for Doors Open Toronto, and one I added to my list upon the recommendation of Tanya when we were checking out the faces on the awning the day before, and having also stumbled over this blog post the night before.

I joined the long line for one of the scheduled tours, and we were soon filed into the theater, and up the stairs. Up to the seventh floor, we walked through gorgeous hallways and stairways, so grand and ornate, before being shown to seats in the Winter Garden Theatre.

Taking in the amazing sights around us, being the picturesque setting on the fire curtain on the stage, the forest-like hangings of the roof of the circle section, and then ornate boxes. The trees all around, with crawling vines all over the walls and actual roof, with a lit moon above. A wonderland, indeed! It is so pretty!

Once seated, one of the volunteers of the theater told us of the history and function of the theater. One of only 3 double theater complexes in the world, this is the only one where both stages are functioning at this time. But that was not always the case, with this one closed for many, many years, and the painstaking restoration from it's reopen was recounted, which was as amazing as the features of the insides itself.

The forest on the roof is part real, and certainly started out as all actual foliage from nature. Many of the lanterns have needed to be replaced, as they seemed to have been taken as souvenirs or for patios parties over the years of long ago staff and owners!

The Elgin Theatre would have been part of the tour, however it was being readied for it's next show on this day. Is the venue where Cats showed for almost 2 years. The Theatre complex will be 90 years old next year, and is a treat to visit, and would be a delight to see a show in - although one wonders whether the enchanting interiors would distract from the show!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed and Stranger In A Strange Land

Time travel and being displaced was the topic of my Saturday night this week! I managed to complete a double movie screening with Tanya, through us both winning tickets for the screenings.

First on the bill for the night was the preview screening of Safety Not Guaranteed, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. In this, a journo and 2 interns set out to investigate a classified ad seeking a partner to time travel - wishing to check out if this guy thought he could time travel, and why, the team stake out Kenneth until one of the interns, Darius, decides to answer the ad to get the scoop.

A look at regrets and the idea of going back in time to change something about your life - and whether that would really work. This is a funny, lovely movie, with proper laugh out loud moments, produced by the same people who gave us Little Miss Sunshine. Aubrey Plaza's Darius is a highlight, as is the delivery of some of the one-liners. The guy who actually posted such an ad, and thus whom the movie's plot is based on, makes a cameo picking up mail from the PO Boxes.

This is going to be a movie that generates real buzz over the coming months, so look out for it!

Once this movie ended, we took a short subway ride north, to the U of T campus, and the Isabel Bader Theatre for one of the screenings of a collection of short films for the Worldwide Short Film Festival. Stranger in a Strange Land had the theme of transition, movement and being out of the familiar territory.

Seven shorts in all, two were animations and were stand outs. One done with block, white and blue only - Ursus - which worked really well, the other had a very biblical look about it, and a clever parallel story depiction - The Changeling.

My favourite of the screening was Odysseus' Gambit, a mini-doco on a displaced Cambodian man, making his life by playing chess in a park in NYC. Saravuth compares chess moves and strategies to those of his life, the removal of orphans to the USA just before the fall of Pol Pot, and his ongoing limbo status as a citizen in either country now. This is a powerful process of understanding his plight and experience, and that of many displaced persons around the world.

The session ended with a Q and A session with several of the film makers, which was handy as this helped us understand what the imagery used in a couple of the shorts was all about, some quite out of left field, and also gave an insight into the process of short film making.

Monday, June 11, 2012

1000 Tastes of Toronto

Part of the opening weekend of the Summer festival of Luminato here in Toronto is the 1000 Tastes of Toronto. I made my way down to the Distillery District this afternoon, in search of "Linner" - the combined feast of lunch and dinner on a lazy Sunday.

Tastes was a trail of stalls, emitting smells and sizzling sounds, all around the old Distillery. On display and up for offer was the full range of foods from this multicultural city - almost anything you can imagine! Each stall had a dish or two on offer for the day, for $5, cooked onsite.

My first selection was the Spanish tapa on offer from Torito Tapas Bar, following it up with the Thai sausage, paw paw salad and mango drink from Kho San Road. I added one of the few dessert dishes on offer too, with Raspberry Strawberry Rhuba Icecream Sandwich - delicious!

There is so much going on in this city, and as the weather hits 30C people are out and about experiencing all that is on offer. This festival is a great showcase of the restaurants and range of tastes around town, a great initiative!

How To Dress Well

Ahhh, no, I am not turning into a fashion blogger all of a sudden (if only I had a clue!! Ha!) - How To Dress Well is the name of the band that is Tom Krell, a Brooklyn artist. Natalie put a call out for a gig buddy, and I jumped at the chance to check out a new gig venue and a new band to me.

After work, we headed down Queen Street West and grabbed a table at The Beaconsfield for dinner. Once our meals were done we crossed the road, and found the Underground at The Drake. Canadian music venues seem orientated to seated punters to start, and so we found a couch around the outer edge of the room with the handful of others there.

The second band on the bill soon started, Prince Innocence. Just two of them, the girl's lead vocals were overshadowed by the talent of her accompanying musician playing a host of instruments. They held the crowd's attention, nonetheless.

How To Dress Well arrived on stage without much fuss, and started into his set - electro-experimental tunes, with an R&B feel, and a unique and captivating voice.

Krell was chatty throughout the set, and introduced many of his new songs from an upcoming album release. He really drew energy from the filled room, which added to the intensity of the show. Ending with Decisions as the encore, after contemplating requests from the audience, this was an enchanting set from a band who clearly have a loyal and strong following. One to keep an eye out for!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

National Academy for the Performing Arts, Trinidad

The new National Academy for the Performing Arts building on the edge of the Queens Park Savannah in Port of Spain, stands out in the city as it is so very different to everything around it. It's all glass, and steel arcs, and a modern anomaly in this old style town.

Opening in November 2009, it features a performance hall, teaching room, practice halls, and reportedly a hotel for performing guests! Although I have been unable to find an official website for it, nor a list of performances for visitors to Port of Spain to see...this is one of the many world-wide structures around the world funded in part by Chinese government funding, through a "concessional loan".

An intriguing sight to see, I hope it grows to provide a place of Trini culture and learning, live performance and music....

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Native Child and Family Services: Doors Open Toronto

Another one of the buildings I staked out to see during the Doors Open Toronto weekend was that of the Native Child and Family Services of Toronto. This building from the outside, in a office block on College Street, is pretty nondescript from the street level. But it was the unique features that ensured that I made the trip up this far north of the city grid.

A self-guided tour once inside the front doors, the space was immediately open plan and light. The leaflet available informed me that this four-storey building was the result of a need to bring together the various aspects of this service from their originally scattered locations. This service was founded to assist Native families access services from a single point of entry, within a service managed by the community.

One of the most outstanding features of the building is the Longhouse, or the People's House, situated in the middle of the main floor. Reportedly modelled on a teaching lodge at Curve Lake, this one is made of ceder and used as a central meeting room.

The lighting inside the Longhouse is made to simulate fireside atmosphere, and the space allows for a table or just chairs, arranged in a circle, which is a traditional aspect of ceremony.

The dome of the Longhouse is a real feature, but then the light and cascading greenery at the sides of the stairways are also a real theme within the building. All along the frosted glass walls of the offices and meeting rooms upstairs are animal images, and downstairs there is a wall of traditional greetings in a number of Native languages, from territories around Toronto and and greater Ontario.

The rooftop of the building is a green roof, with a garden planted with traditional medicines. These have been planted in a traditional manner up here on this green oasis surrounded by tall city buildings.

In addition to the patches of garden and paths is the Healing Lodge, which brings ceremony to the city dwellers accessing the service.

This is truly a beautiful and carefully planned, space for this service, bringing urban design, environmental considerations, along with traditional and important cultural features of Aboriginal Canada together to create an amazing place to work and seek assistance.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Beauty on Toronto Streets

She's just off McCaul Street, and totally gorgeous! Kinda between work and home for me, I spotted her on my first weekend in Toronto when I was walking around, and after I had met up with Natalie for a beer. I am becoming more and more into street art with every outing in these streets! There are so many amazing and eye-catching pieces.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Blue Jays v Red Sox

I went along to the Rogers Centre today, to catch a baseball game, and also to catch up with Curtis. Grabbing beers and lunch, we caught up on the last how-ever-many-years since we have seen each other, since dancing at the Heart in Cambodia when I was on my way to the UK. 2005! That's a lot of time!

A strange week, and weekend, here in Toronto, the stadium had a minute silence for the victims of the shootings at the downtown mall the day before. The player who happened to be at the Eaton Center at the time of the shootings, and managed the break the story via Twitter, was actually the only baseballer on the pitch whose name I knew - and it was only because of that.

We took our seats behind the plate, on the top level, and took in the match. Played indoors with the roof completely closed given the rainy Toronto weather this weekend, the sound of the 42 000 fans ebbed and flowed with the musically prompts throughout the afternoon.

The Toronto Blue Jays are having a good season, but in this Series against the Boston Red Sox they had lost the first 2 matches of the weekend. When we arrived, the Blue Jays were several runs up, with the Sox yet to score.

Taking in the goings on of baseball, and the base of my match attendance in New York, plus Curtis having to explain some finer points, I quite enjoyed the match. There was quite of lot more mind game playing out there than I remember, with the Sox asserting themselves in many instances.

The 'Jays took the match, 5-1, making the blue-clad local crowd very happy.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Patient-built CAMH Walls: Doors Open Toronto

On Sunday morning for the second day of the Doors Open Toronto weekend, I headed west on Queen Street West from home, and got to the CAMH site, soon to be their main center in the city.

Here I joined the walking tour, leaving on the hour all weekend, to see and hear the stories of the patient-built historic wall. The portions of the wall still in place today no longer keep people inside the centre, as was the aim for the asylum back in the 1860s and 1880s when they were constructed, and indeed until deinstitutionalisation of psychiatric care.

Our guide, Jeffery, a softly spoken gent, was engaging and informative, and took us along the wall to each plaque to explain elements of that portion of the wall, and also added patient stories linked to each side of the wall.

These boundary walls to the old asylum were hand built by the in-patients, which would have been back-breaking and physically arduous. Structurally sound, given it's longevity and visual pattern of brick placement, one wonders what the working parties would have been like. Completely unpaid and unrewarded, this labour has indeed been acknowledged as saving the city thousands of dollars, and was used as the only type of treatment back in the early days of care.

Bricked-in doors and windows show the changes of the wall and the function around it over the years. Tales of successful escape were shared on the tour, in addition to many of the patient inscriptions remaining in view today.

You can see a date on the first wall photo above, and this here shows one brick with the words 'Born To Be Murdered' scratched in - a lasting legacy of the hardship and hopelessness of being confined to a facility like this, and indeed the plight of the treatment options for psychological illness in years gone by, in addition to the experience of being used for hard labour throughout your days.

The wall and the plaques are open to everyday traffic from the park on the side of the current CAMH facilities, through to the back of the buildings, and thus one that could be visited all year round.
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