Toronto – A Walk, A Play, A Market, and A Gallery

Today’s post is 1690 words, 37 photos, an 8 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the last of four posts about our time in Toronto. If you missed the first three, click here, here, and here.

This week I’ll take you on a walk in the park, a play at the theatre, a huge indoor market, and to an art gallery. Let’s get started.

A Walk in the Park

It was a beautiful Sunday in Toronto. The hazy skies had cleared and the temperature moderated. We learned the evening before that our Friendship Force program for Sunday was canceled due to the closure of major roads near our meetup sites for a huge bike ride for brain health. This gave us a free day to do whatever we wanted until evening when we would go to to the home of another another Friendship Force member for dinner.

After a leisurely breakfast, a read of the newspaper, and a discussion of world events, our host suggested a walk in the nearby German Mills Settlers Park. The area surrounding this park was named for the German settlers who arrived here in the 1790s. They were enticed by availability of land, forests for logging, and the German Mills Creek for water power. After the development of nearby Toronto, it became a leafy suburb with nice homes.

The German Mills Creek is now a mere trickle compared to the time of settlement. But the ravine is quite picturesque and a lovely place to rest and enjoy nature.

The walking trail took us across German Mills Creek by bridge. The sunny day even allowed for a shadow selfie!

We met Berta on the walking trail. She’s originally from Slovenia once part of Yugoslavia. She’s has been in Canada for over 50 years. Now retired, Berta splits her time between her home in Toronto and a house she owns in Slovenia. She told us that she walks at least an hour a day even when it’s cold and snowy. Berta was a delight to talk with and inspiration to keep active.

We ended our walk in Simonston Park where we enjoyed a respite on a park bench while soaking up the sun. By the way, that evening we had one of the best meals ever at the home of Mabel and Roland. An enjoyable day all around.

A Play at the Young Centre

One of our days in Toronto, our Friendship Force hosts took us to a play at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. The play “Sizwe Banji is Dead” takes audiences to South Africa to show the affects of the institutional racism of black and brown people through the apartheid system that didn’t end until 1990. The play first premiered in 1972 in Cape Town and later in London. It has been ranked as one of the best plays ever made. While the underlying message was hard to hear, the play was well written and the acting superb. A very enjoyable afternoon.

The Young Centre Theater is located in the Distillery District near downtown Toronto.

For about 150 years, this area was once home to the largest whisky distillery in the British empire and for a time the whole world. After surviving prohibition and two world wars, the distillery shut down in 1990. In the early 2000s, redevelopment came in the form of arts, entertainment, cultural events, restaurants, taverns, and shopping while maintaining the Victorian structures. Things were hopping the day of our visit. Eating and drinking establishments had waiting lines and the outdoor entertainment saw a big crowd. Here’s a bit of a peak at this fun section of Toronto.

Love must have been in the air with a big heart in rainbow colors.

The nearby giant heart and LOVE letters was filled with locks of all types. Those who forgot to bring their padlocks with them could purchase one for $10 CAD from an enterprising fella in a little booth next to the sculpture. He even had paint markers to inscribe eternal love to one’s partner. No, my Traveling Partner and I didn’t partake. A couple of old fuddy duddies, I guess!

Peace was also a big theme in the district with this larger than life symbol. I liked the imprints of religious symbols on the large wheel. Wish there was peace existence between religions. 

After the play, we did stop for a gelato, I had the Roast Almond. Yes, very delicious.

As we were walking around, this family was getting organized to take a photo. Since I was carrying a large, pro-type camera, they asked me to take their photo. I obliged. First, with their cellphone, then with my camera. Here’s the result. I hope they enjoyed their version.

Nearby this woman with a huge dog caught my eye. Passersby were stopping to pet and take selfies with the dog. I chatted with her for a few minutes and asked if I could take her photo with the dog. Meet Barbara and Chevy, the greyhound.

Just as I was walking away, Chevy decided to jump up to kiss Barbara. The dog was taller than she was! My thoughts went to how much that dog would eat and poop in a day. I’m guessing a lot of both!

If you decide to visit Toronto, don’t skip going over to the Distillery District. Make a dinner reservation and check out the brew pubs. Lots of fun to had.

The St. Lawrence Market

We spent a lovely Saturday morning checking out the St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto. The main market is permanently housed in a building that was constructed around 1900. It’s huge and busy. A market has been operating on this site since the early 1800s, making it one of the longest continuous markets in North America. The St. Lawrence Market was named by National Geographic as one of the best food markets in the world.

We wandered through the many booths that sold everything from meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, plants, bakery items, ready to eat food of all types, all kinds of of souvenirs for visitors to take home.

I was checking out one of the meat vendors when I struck up a conversation with the butcher that was wearing a Green Bay Packers t-shirt. He told me didn’t know much about the team but someone gave him the t-shirt to wear. After we cleared that up, we talked about the price of beef both in Canada and the U.S. The prices in the photo are in Canadian dollars. I told him that I had family members that raised beef and things are going pretty good for them. Regardless, beef steaks and roasts are expensive in both countries.

Butter tarts are highly regarded by Canadians. When butter tarts come up in conversation, heads pop up from looking at down at phones. It seems like everyone has their special recipe or their favorite bakery. People discuss the intricate details of the crust and filling at length. It’s a lot like talking about apple pie in the United States. My Traveling Partner and I did sample more than a few butter tarts during our type in Canada. I thought they were all good.

We checked out a number vendors before settling on this one for our lunch. Our Italian style sandwiches were so good but messy to eat. Thank goodness for a stack of napkins at our disposal. Of course, for desert, we had butter tarts!

Nearby, this ensemble was providing the entertainment while we chowed down. This market is definitely a place that I could return to again and again.

The Art Gallery of Ontario

The Art Gallery of Ontario, also known as the AGO, is located just north of downtown Toronto. It’s an easy walk or streetcar ride from Union Station or any point along the route.

Visitors to the AGO are greeted by the live-size elephant made of bronzed couch cushions. It’s appropriately titled: Couch Monster and crafted by Brian Jungan from British Columbia. An interesting start to our look at the art inside.

The AGO was founded in 1900 by a citizens group of artists and supporters of the arts. As luck would have it, one of the members of Friendship Force Toronto is a Gallery Guide. Shelagh provided an overview of the gallery and then guided us through a few artworks in the AGO collection. Her explanation gave us a lot of insights in both the art and the artist. A very enjoyable presentation. Made me wish I would have paid more attention when I took that one humanities class, oh so many years ago.

In this painting, Shelagh pointed out the status of men and women at the time the artist made this work of art. Also, the use of light and the position of people in the painting.

Our admission to the AGO included admission to a special exhibit by Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama. Her work is meant to immerse the whole person into her art. In this exhibit, “Let’s Survive Forever,”  is an infinity mirrored room. Visitors are allowed to enter the room for one minute. When it was our turn, immediately upon entry, the mirrors and silver balls were disorienting. After a short while, the room became a bit more organized and we could see ourselves reflected through out the room. The second photo is a panorama shot with my iPhoto that gives a bit of a feel of the room. Soon our minute was up and we exited the room. Again, we were disoriented by the world around us. It took a few moments to get reoriented. A very interesting but unsettling experience. That’s what good art is supposed to do. Mission accomplished!

Shelagh pointed out the stairways that were installed in the last remodel. They are art in themselves. I liked the feeling of the curves but not walking up the five flights to the top floor of the gallery. We spent about three hours or so exploring the many exhibits. I focused on the photography exhibit of Wolfgang Tillmans, an excellent display of hundreds of photos. The AGO is one of the largest art museums in North America. If you have a half day and enjoy art, it’s definitely worth the time.

Well folks, this completes my four part series on our recent visit to Toronto. Coming next week is the celebration of a milestone.

Until then, happy travels!