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.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In Toronto

We made the most of our weekend in the city. After a good deal of searching I had found us a hotel room at a relatively good price: all the downtown accommodation in Toronto is expensive, but we wanted to be close to where George was staying. So George trundled our suitcase and Chris carried the flight-bag some 3km from YTZ airport, past the CN Tower, etc., to the Hilton on Richmond West where we were allocated a room on the 17th floor with an impressive view and comfy fittings. On two afternoons in succession I took the opportunity to have a recuperative siesta on the huge bed. One of the ways of getting up there was to take a "Scenic Elevator" on the side of the building which offered some more bird's eye views of the cityscape. The lobby was full of Baudelairean luxe, calme et volupté, with giant orchids.

Our meals in the city were less extravagant: we twice ate at a Tim Horton's and otherwise at Asian restaurants (Pakistani, Indian, Vietnamese), at The Loose Moose pub and at Dunn's Famous Deli on King Street West.

George with city sculpture

Toronto is full of interesting art and architecture, sculpture very much in evidence. Last weekend we were lucky to have our stay coincide with the Nuit Blanche exhibits on the Saturday night, especially as most of them were near our hotel. It meant that the city was buzzing with people, enjoying the freedom of the traffic free streets, and there were surprises and talking points on every block. The atmosphere was very festive, with children and young people swelling the crowds. We kept Chris and Rob, George's colleague, in sight by virtue of their hats, Chris in his Tilley hat, Rob wearing a stripy one. Every so often we came across a repetitive installation called The Screaming Booth, a box with a door painted yellow on the outside and black on the inside. Individuals could go inside it for a minute or so and scream at will. George and Rob thought it would be a helpful thing to have at their workplace. Another fascinating work of art was the plastic bubble in which you could sit and be isolated, a comment on urban life, most likely.

Nuit Blanche about to begin on Queen Street West


"Walk among Worlds"

Toronto has good and bad qualities. It always seems to be ruined by roadworks and other noisy, dirty and disruptive construction projects, this past year more so than ever, although the only major improvement that will never take place would be to get rid of the Gardiner Expressway that's been running between the railway and the waterfront since the 1960s and severing the citizens from their lake. However, the city does have plenty of interesting art and architecture. As usual when in Toronto, we paid a visit to the University bookshop and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), this time to take George to see the Alex Colville retrospective and take the weight off our feet in the curvaceous and calming Galleria Italia, where they serve drinks. You find it by asking one of the art gallery attendants and then pushing through some heavy doors––directions to the cafeteria are not clearly marked.

Much of Colville's art has a "menacing" feel to it, but not all: his paintings of his wife, who must have been his refuge, were tenderly done, even if he didn't always reveal her face to us. Likewise the images of his dogs. In general we couldn't quite decide if his paintings are realistic or not. In aiming to be super-realistic he seemed to transcend realism. Chris thought that his paintings of things happening at speed seemed to have the subjects suspended in time and space, not moving.

The other thing that's worth paying attention to in Toronto is its multicultural aspect. Walking through Chinatown, you might almost be in Beijing, particularly as regards the smells and the sounds made by the people speaking. Outside the food shops the labels on the produce are rarely translated into English. It's assumed you wouldn't shop there unless you could read the hanzi (汉字). Chinatown extends beyond the AGO along Dundas Street (登打士西街) and the parallel streets, spilling into Spadina Avenue round the corner (士巴丹拿道) where I took this picture of Chris and George:

We made the most of Toronto's proximity to Lake Ontario too, Chris giving George and Rob an aerial tour on Saturday morning, and on Sunday morning we took one of the ferries to the islands and back, the return fare only $7. This area too is a remarkably different world from the rest of the city.

Rob in the front seat of PTN, photo by George

View of YTZ and the city, from their flight

George exploring the south shore of the Toronto islands

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