Monday, 28 May 2018

Public Art, and Architecture (Or, What I did on my holidays, Part 7)

One of the things I liked about Toronto was how much public art there was, and (no doubt because the city is relatively young) how much of it was modern, and playful.

I was very much taken with this sculpture, 'Rising', by Zhang Huan, which is covered with birds (or hands, or birds made of hands) 

There are more birds inside the building, and on the roof, although you don't notice them at first!

This one was outside the courts.

 This butterfly was at Crawford Lake.

These fish were set into the pavement, along with many others, among patterns of maple leaves, laid out as part of the brickwork.

This couple (called - 'Immigrant Family' ) is by Tom Otterness

This medallion, not far from the St Lawrence market, commemorates on of the ships used in the 1812 war.

The mural was next to a fire station near the Distillery district.

Both these sculptures were in the distillery district.

Then there were some urban cattle, in the financial district.

A couple of whales (also in the financial district)

The giant model soldiers I only saw from the tram. They weren't far from Fort York, but I don't know whether there were intentionally related to it!

I couldn't find who the artist was, of these playful, slightly Gromit-like dogs, but I liked them!

Then there was the architecture.I liked the shape of this mall, and the old Stock Exchange of Toronto, engulfed in a much bigger, newer building.

Then there was the car in the wall of the CTV building, which should probably count as art rather than architecture...

And of course there was the Art Gallery, and the RMO, both of which you've seen on previous posts.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Fishes and Things (What I did on my Holidays, Part 6)

By Friday, we'd covered most of our 'must see' things, so were doing more free range wandering.But since my feet had started to protect all the walking we'd been doing, we did it by tram/street car. (several of the routes have loops at the end, so we did a couple of round trips, which allowed us to see some of the bits of Toronto we hadn't yet walked to.

We started by going to St Lawrence Market, which is a food market but also has some  craft stalls. It would be a great place to shop if you lived locally, or were self catering, but other than the craft stalls, less relevant to us!

We did however then walk up towards Union Station, passing the flat iron building, which is quite nice looking.

On the end, it has a rather nice mural.

Just behind it, is an extremely strange, but entertaining, fountain. It wasn't yet running, so we didn't get to see it in it's full glory. It has a couple of dozen dogs (mostly, but not all, pugs), surmounted by a golden bone.

There's also a single cat, on the fountain, although we later spotted a second,  some distance away, as well as a pair of birds on a nearby lamp-post.

Then, a little later, we visited the aquarium, which (unsurprisingly) has lots of fish....

This includes some goofy-faced fishies, smiley rays, and sharks.

There were also lots of jellyfish, with extra-dramatic mood lighting to make them look even weirder than they naturally do

It was fun, but it was also very crowded.

We had a very nice meal that evening at Luma, then on the final morning, we did more walking - down to the lake side, where we found a menhir. And lots more boats.

We also visited the Distillery district, where old warehouses and (duh) distillery buildings have been re-purposed as shops and restaurants.

There is also a fair amount of public art. I was particularly taken by this Tripod! 

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Tall Places and views (or what I did on my holiday part 5)

The CN Tower is visible from practically everywhere in downtown Toronto, given that it is pretty tall. (although sneaky perspective lets it hide, just when you need it to help you navigate).

It also has a revolving restaurant at the top, and a viewing platform, and a section with glass flooring, all of which combined to make it absolutely irresistible!

We decided to book for the revolving restaurant because i you can look at amazing views while being plied with delicious food and cocktails, why wouldn't you? (assuming, of course, that you like tall places)

We had window seats (not everyone did - there is an inner set of tables which are further from the wndows, but also higher up, so I guess people sitting there still get good views) 

So we sat back, ordered cocktails and food and enjoyed the view as it slowly rolled past the windows.

view  looking towards AGO and ROM
I'm glad that we went later in the week, after we had already explored quite a bit of downtown Toronto on foot, as we could pick out where we'd been (you can see the blue facade of the Art Gallery of Ontario, in the centre of the photo above) There was even a little mist in the far distance, marking Niagara.

The restaurant takes about 75 minutes to make a full revolution, so over the course of an unhurried meal we got to go all the way round, and then a little more! 

Afterwards, we went up to the 'skypod' which is another 33 stories above the restaurant, and lets you look straight down the tower.

(If you look very closely, above you can see little orange spots (at about '1 o'clock' ) which are the people doing the 'edge walk', outside, above the restaurant)

We could also look down on the roundhouse, which we visited the first evening. 

Then back down to the  observation deck, where there is a small section of glass floor.

It looks down over the roof of the aquarium, and is fun, but I was a teeny bit disappointed as I was expecting it to go all the way round the tower, and it doesn't!

It does, however, have a mirrored ceiling, so you can look up at yourself looking down. Or something.

hen there was time to go back down to the observation deck again, and visit the  observation deck,to look out at the sunset.

 Although I am not sure what they have against Spider-man....

I really enjoyed the whole experience.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Spots and Pumpkins (or, What I did on my holidays Part 4)

A few days before we left for Canada, I saw that there was a  Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario during our visit, but also that all pre-booked tickets were sold out. Which was disappointing. The website did however tell us that  there were some rush tickets available every day, and after seeing the length of the queues on Tuesday, 'Lyle' very generously  offered to get up early on Thursday morning to queue, which he duly did, getting tickets for us both.

Infinity Mirrored Room - Phalli's Field

The key elements of the exhibition are several tiny rooms, each of which only admits 3 or 4 people at a time, which does mean that there is a lot of queuing even once you are inside. 

Dots Obsession - Love Transformed into Dots

We learned, however, that there were separate 'singles lines' - if you were willing to go into the rooms to make up the numbers, with strangers, rather than insisting on going in with your companion, you could do so, and skip most of the queue. We did this, which meant that we spent about  an hour less queuing, than the estimate.

It wasn't all mirrored  rooms. There were also lots of paintings and some sculptures, and a room full of giant pink spotty beachballs, although you are not supposed to touch them!

One of the balls contains mirrors and more balls, another is full of mirrors, and instead of going in, you peer through spy-holes into a large(pink) kaleidoscope 

There are some gloriously mesmerising tentacles, too. 

The individual rooms are pretty small, but feel much larger, and rather disorientating at first, as it's hard to see where the walkway ends and the mirrors begin!

Even the staircase taking you from one part of the exhibition to the other was covered in spots... 

Infinity Mirrored Room - Love Forever

There was another kaleidoscope, which was, I think, Octagonal on the inside. You were encouraged to look into it in pairs, from opposite sides, but when you do, you don't, as yo might expect, see the other person peering in, but instead see yourself!

Infinity Mirrored Room :
The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away
My personal favourites, however,(except maybe the tentacles) were the twp mirrored rooms, Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away and Infinity Mirrored  Room - Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, like being inside a star-scape.

There were canvases and smaller sculptures, then, right at the end, you go into the Obliteration Room - it's a completely white room, with completely white furniture, but every visitor to the exhibition is given a sheet of stickers in primary colours, to stick wherever they want. (You are sternly warned not to stick the sticker on other people, and not to climb things or lift each other up to stick them anywhere, but other than that, you have a free hand!

The Obliteration Room
It's strange and fun and I would have liked a few more stickers! 

I really enjoyed the exhibition, and despite the queuing, if the exhibition ever comes over here, I'd be booking tickets to go again! 

(If I have any readers in Toronto, the exhibition closes on 27th May, and I'm pretty sure would require a lot of queuing to get tickets)

Oh, and the pumpkins? They were in a final mirrored room, but you were not allowed to take pictures. Maybe dotty pumpkins are shy. 
And in a sad, missed marketing opportunity, the gift shop did not sell pink, dotty beach balls! 

Monday, 21 May 2018

A Grand Day Out (or What I did on my holidays part 3)

Toronto is only about 80 miles from Niagara and Horseshoe Falls, so it seemed silly not to visit, while we were in the area. So we (Well, 'Lyle') hired a car (he also very generously did all the driving) and took a day trip out to see the Falls.

I have to admit, they really are quite impressive, although it is very difficult to mentally grasp the sheer size and volume of water- 168,000 m3 of water goes over every minute (The Great Lakes system contains nearly 1/5 of the world's fresh water, and feeds the river and falls) 

We spent some time walking along above / beside the Falls and thinking of lots of ways to say "Wow!".

Then we went down to do the 'Journey Behind the Falls' which lets you go down to a viewing platform about 38m (125 feet) below the crest of the falls. Its close enough that you are constantly enveloped in a fine mist from the spray coming off coming down. It's very dramatic. And a bit cold! (and every one gets a yellow plastic body condom to wear to keep them dry. One reason why I won't be posting any selfies!)

The 'behind the falls' also involves entry into some tunnels which were originally dug out around 130 years ago, and which do take you behind the falls, with a couple of small, double-door sized openings through which you can see the water. It's actually much less dramatic or impressive that other views of the falls, as you can only see the small snapshot of water, so don't really get a sense of the over all size or volume of the falls.

Then we took a ride up the inclined railway (I do like a good inclined railway) and walked to the Skylon Tower, which was built in the 1960s and looks as though it ought to house a Bond villain's lair. It's 160m (520 feet) tall, and benefits from sitting on top of the cliffs.

We wet up to the observation deck (passing through an eerily deserted amusement arcade on the ground floor, ad picking our way around construction workers higher up - it was clearly not yet geared up for the season. 

Which suited us - minimal queues and plenty of space to wander around on the observation decks, which really does offer some stunning views out over the falls (including the American Falls and Rainbow Bridge) 

Slightly bendy panorama of the falls, from Skylon tower
Seeing the falls from this angle does emphasis their sheer size!

There were also good views inland. We could see as far as Toronto, and were even able to pick out the CN Tower, in the far distance!

On our way back to Toronto, we made a short detour and visited Crawford Lake, part of a larger conservation area. There are walking trails and woodland but the reason we went was because here is also a recreated Iroquoian Village - in the 1970s, excavations uncovered the remains of 11 longhouses, the remains of a village believed to have been occupied around 600 years ago. 

There are now 3 reconstructed Longhouses, 1 on which houses a small museum / visitor centre, and the other two which are constructed and furnished to show how they would have been, when they were occupied.

It's very interesting, and the staff-member who was there was very welcoming and informative, even though we only arrived very shortly before the longhouses were to close.

After they did, we went for an amble around the lake. The lake itself is meromictic, which was a new word for me, and which means that it is so deep and cold that the lower layers of water never mix with higher layers, and have very little oxygen, meaning that things which fall into the lake will be very well preserved. This was what led to the archaeological investigation and discovery of the village, as pollen from corn was found, showing that there had been a human settlement, with corn being cultivated. 

Its a very tranquil, beautiful place.  And while there, we saw more black (grey) squirrels, also Red Squirrels, and chipmunks.

It was a very enjoyable day out, although by the time we got back, and Lyle navigated city centre traffic, and the very tight entrance ramp into the car park to return the hire car, he was very ready for food and beer, so we went back to the craft beer restaurant we visited on Sunday.