blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sunday night in Toronto

Sunday, October 13th

Gatineau paper mill, on our departure
It was a misty, then sunny morning in Ottawa with a light breeze from the east, though when we climbed there was a west wind ... but no turbulence. On our flight to Toronto, anticipating rain clouds ahead, we were routed via APLOV waypoint, then LORKA and ILIXU (on the Prince Edward County peninsula near Mountain View). This was the start of the long IFR "ILIXU4 approach" to Toronto City Island aka the Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ), taking us across the middle of Lake Ontario a good 10 nautical miles from shore, which is beyond "gliding range," so we hoped the engine wouldn't quit. The GPS programmed our next sequence of waypoints for us––ILIXU-DUSUB-UKPAG-MURUM-ROTRU––just as well, since most of them don't appear on the maps. For half of our journey we were in the clear, but once over the lake we were soon above a thin layer of wavy cloud, with thicker layers ahead.

"Are you enjoying yourself?" I asked.

"Oh yes, very much!"

Destination more or less in sight
Before long, the Toronto controller asked us to descend from 8000' to 4000' which took us into solid cloud, still way out over the water, but as we continued the approach, descending further, we broke out of cloud at around 3000' and there were the Toronto Islands starting to be visible through my window! That was encouraging. Because we now had visual contact with the ground, Chris was granted permission for a Contact Approach to YTZ, so we never needed to fly as far as ROTRU; he was excited by the novelty. We landed from east to west, one of Porter's "twin turbo props" waiting for us to land before it rolled onto the runway itself, as we taxied to the Porter FBO.

FBO service at YTZ is compulsory and expensive ($35 for the tie-down), but Porter gave us a welcome that we'd recommend. The airport has changed beyond recognition since we used to fly here at the turn of the century, now with a gleamingly modern passenger terminal and escalators to and from the ferry; the ferry itself (shortest cruise in the world, 2 minutes) is soon to be replaced by a pedestrians' tunnel to the shore. Unlike the rest of the numerous foot passengers who were being shepherded to a car park, we set off to walk along the lakefront past the Music Garden and marinas to our hotel. A big "revitilization" of the Toronto waterfront is taking place, with the road up and partly closed, the sidewalks repositioned and "wave decks" and bridges being installed. It's a proper mess at present but will look good when it's done.

The Radisson "Admiral" Harbourfront Hotel would normally be beyond our means, but for $149 on Thanksgiving Sunday we got a room that would otherwise have cost $285 (plus taxes). It was an upgrade from the room I'd chosen online, at the quiet end of the corridor, with a huge bed, a view of the Police Basin (housing 10 police boats) the lake and islands beyond, an early check-in too, and free wi-fi access. Great!

In the afternoon we walked up John Street in the rain through the arty district to the AGO, to see the phenomenal Ai Weiwei exhibition, According to what?, that's been widely publicised. I've mentioned it in a previous blogpost. The crowds and line-ups at the entrance were also phenomenal; I'm glad I'd booked our tickets on line because that meant we could walk straight in. The crowds were visibly moved and awed by the exhibits, mostly photographs or videos (one of Mr Ai jumping around stark naked with other naked men; he has a lively sense of humour, it seems, in spite of his angry thoughts) and sculptural installations. The wall of 5000 children's names was particularly poignant, a recording of their Chinese names and ages being broadcast through loud speakers.

We saw the snake made of school bags and the wooden maps of China, the cluster of Qing dynasty stools held together like a chemical molecule without nails or glue and the many pieces of rebar he's had straightened after being twisted in the Sichuan earthquake, the pile of these rods, entitled Straight, now representing a fracture zone and the earth moving in waves. No 2-D photo can do it justice.

Another irresistibly interesting piece is Forever Bicycles, a tower of intertwined bikes, the front wheel of one becoming the back wheel of the next. Apparently its title is a reference to Yong Jiu, or Forever-Bicycles, a popular make of bicycle in China owned by millions (although the irony is that these are now being superseded by cars). There's a relatively small version of this structure in the museum, but out of doors in Nathan Phillips Square by the City Hall they have a really big one, made of 3144 bikes, "creating a massive, labyrinth-like, visually moving space..." The girl at the hotel desk advised me to go and see this as well as the exhibition. It took 2 weeks to construct and caused a sensation when lit up at night. Someone was arrested for climbing on it yesterday.

After a necessary sit down in the organic coffee place diametrically opposite the AGO, we ended the day with a walk back through the business district in the rain and found a bronze elephant with two babies in Commerce Court just off Bay Street and a tasty and nourishing supper at the Spice Thai restaurant on the waterfront, the same place we'd patronised on our last visit to Toronto two years ago. Amazing effects were caused by the low cloud swirling around the skyscrapers, the warning lights on top of the towers shining like stars through the murk. We watched the Porter and Air Canada aircraft departing from YTZ and immediately disappearing into the low cloud ceiling; we could see them from our hotel room too.

Monday, October 14th

View from our hotel room at daybreak
I woke just before sunrise to see a beautiful change in the Toronto weather. This meant we didn't have to rush to get back home and could linger over a posh breakfast on the 5th floor of the hotel, where the outdoor pool is, before setting off on a leisurely walk to the ROM, 4 km north of the lakefront at the corner of Queen's Park and Bloor Street. Via the university campus it took us about 45 minutes to get there. This was for Chris' choice of exhibition; having read many books on the subject he really wanted to see the show about Mesopotamia. For this one we didn't have tickets in advance but it didn't matter; it was a quiet morning, most people being at home with their families for Thanksgiving.

It was a tremendous collection of exhibits, mostly on loan from the British Museum, such as the stone statue of Ashurnasirpal II, Assyria's self-proclaimed "great king, mighty king, king of the universe... mighty male ..." I kept thinking of Ozymandias, King of Kings and of Kipling's poem too:
... Lo, all our pomp of yesterday / Is one with Nineveh and Tyre! / Judge of the Nations, spare us yet, / Lest we forget––lest we forget! ...
We haven't altogether lost track of the ancient civilisations so long as stone carvings and artefacts like the ones on display can be preserved and not blown to smithereens by fanatics. We even saw a stone tablet inscribed with a chapter from the Gilgamesh epic. I was surprised by the smallness of the cuneiform script, proof that the scribes must have had excellent eyesight. The realism of the carved figures of animals and men, of their faces, beards and muscular arms, was astonishing too, considering that this was done thousands of years ago. The ancient world comes alive in an exhibition such as this, partly thanks to the coloured animations which spark the imagination and keep the visiting children interested. You begin to wish you could have seen the hanging gardens of Babylon (with its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants), perhaps created for the King's wife, missing her mountainous homeland.

Thin cloud over S. E. Ontario, higher cloud on the shoreline
My legs were tired by the time we left Toronto; I reckon we walked 18km from one place to another, as well as standing for long periods in the museums. It was nice to sit still in the cockpit after that and float along with the benign clouds. On the return journey, we flew VFR, following Lake Ontario's shoreline to Oshawa, then skimming over a thin white layer all the way from Peterborough to Almonte. Chris did a "simulated engine failure" landing for practice on arrival at Rockcliffe which curtailed the circuit. I ought to mention that the colours of the treetops all the way home were lovely.

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