Tag: TORONTO

Toronto Light Festival – Distillery District

We really don't like hibernating in the winter. What we are learning coming into our second winter at home is: you really don't have to.
All of the incredible activities that happen around the city, even in the winter, PROVE - we're a city not afraid of the cold! 
(Okay, I'm afraid of the cold. And that's what warm winter jackets & boots are for, people like me who are afraid of the cold.)

This time we bring you to a unique event in the city that it is so wonderful that we have left the house willingly THREE times to enjoy it.
It's called the Toronto Light Festival. And it's happening right now in the Distillery District. It began on January 27 and it will be running until March 12.
Every night 5pm until 11pm the lights turn on and magically illuminate the spaces that are the Distillery District. 

Words I would use to describe this festival: entrancing, imaginative, magnetic, mesmerizing. (If you go check it out, let us know if I've missed any words.) 

The Toronto Light Festival (website link HERE) is coming to you from the team behind the Christmas Market in the Distillery District, so they are well versed on how to make the space spectacular. They said it best when they described it like this: 

1 Big Idea.
45 Days. 13 acres. 44 buildings.
1000s of lights.
$0 to attend.

Did you see that, ZERO dollars to attend!

Watch our video and then get out there and enjoy winter in the city!

Skate Your Winter Blues Away

Winter in Canada.

Many of us do not look forward to this time of year. Some of us like to hibernate and hide throughout the cold winter months. I have joked since I was a teenager that I was adopted and was actually born in Jamaica, I disliked the cold that much. But if you are a Canadian you've probably had to suck it up, buy a warm jacket and get on with it. 

If you have that warm jacket, put it on and go outside. Don't hide inside! There are so many fun adventures waiting for you to experience in this city. 

There are many things to do in Toronto in the winter, but today we will take you along for the ride.... er, skate... to the rink at Nathan Phillips Square. Watch the video below:

If you aren't close to Nathan Phillips Square, there are many places around the city that you will find outdoor skating rinks. Many have change rooms and some rent skates for a minimal charge. Weather depending, they normally will open at the end of November and close in March. Links to some of our picks are below in orange:

Harbourfront Centre Natrel Rink
✽ Evergreen Brick Works
✽ Christie Pits Rink
✽ High Park - both a rink and Grenadier Pond
✽ Dufferin Grove Park
✽ Mel Lastman Square
✽ Trinity Bellwoods Park
✽ Colonel Samuel Smith Skating Trail
✽ Greenwood Park Arena
✽ The Skating Oval - Shops at Don Mills
✽ Sherboune Common Skate Pad

You can also find Narcity Toronto's picks HERE, BlogTO's picks HERE and Indie88's HERE

Now go skate!

Honest Ed’s Final Bow

If you live or have lived in Toronto, you likely know of the popular discount department store called "Honest Ed's". You know the one... at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst, with all the saloon style marquee lights. The one that you go to for good deals on fabric, furniture, your dishwashing detergent. It's only been there for uhhhh, 68 YEARS!

As of December 31 this year, the chapter will end. Honest Ed's, an iconic landmark in Toronto, will be closing it's doors for good. But not before we went for one last jaunt around the place. And by jaunt, I mean JAUNT. We walked around the outside of the building a bunch of times (for our Fit Bit steps and Jon wanted to see how long it would take me to freeze in the +5C temperatures.) Then we walked around the inside of the of the massive two-block building a bunch of times. We wanted to discover Honest Ed Mirvish and his legacy one last time (and I needed to warm up). It was fun. And we bought a sign.

We documented said fun here (cue the video):  

In all of our fun writing and filming for this blog, we also learned quite a bit about the late great Ed Mirvish and how his era began. 

We learned that he lived and breathed his business until he passed away in 2007, at age 92. We learned that he cared about his community and his city, like it was an extension of his family. We learned that he had once said that he wanted his ashes to be put into an hourglass so that an employee could sit on a throne in the middle of the store and turn him. You know, so that people could see that even after he died he was still working in the store. 

Honest Ed was a character, like a dad, Toronto's dad. His vision seemed parental. He wanted to take care of us in the city and create an inclusive environment for all. Like when the city of Toronto reneged on permission for Ed to create a parking lot and he decided to build Mirvish Village instead. [Mirvish Village: an area of homes, shops and studios. Affordable studios for artists to create. Dare I say, a safe space?]

He thought outside the box and was a master at free publicity. He held 72 hours dance marathons at the store to defy Toronto's closing hour laws. He had a Noah's Arc Sale with live animals. He sold Robert Goulet as a dream date for 0.79¢. He hired picketers to picket his own restaurants on King Street. He was a character of the best kind. 

Before we say our final goodbyes and the building is being replaced with a "reimagined Mirvish Village",  there will be one more event. Maybe not so much of an event as a 'public experience'. It's called, Toronto for Everyone.  It will be a three-day community festival running Feb. 23-26, 2017. (For more information on this event, click HERE!)

Maybe saying goodbye isn't a bad thing. Maybe it's time for a change? Maybe he would be happy that we are evolving as a city. Either way, his spirit will live on and he will never be forgotten. 

“None of us own anything,” Ed once said. “We’re only caretakers. I have two million bosses who keep me straight. If I don’t satisfy the people of Toronto, I’m in trouble.”

The PATH – Toronto’s Underground

Have you heard of Toronto's PATH? It's Toronto's underground lair. It's a way to walk around the downtown core and escape the freezing winter temperatures, the summer's heavy humidity and even to elude the crowds on the city street's sidewalks.  It's a network of underground pedestrian tunnels, elevated walkways and at-grade walkways connecting most of the office towers (and shops, and attractions, and restaurants, and subway stations etc... etc...) of downtown Toronto.

If you do know the PATH, you know it can be a little confusing at times with it's complex labyrinth of passages. We are here to help with that confusion! Or try to help with that confusion?

Cheryl had a little more experience with the PATH than I did. She had worked part-time at one of the stores in 1993 and used those tunnels to explore a whole other level of the city. One day, 3 years ago, we decided to bring me up to speed and explore every nook and cranny of the 'underground', as she referred to it.  We decided if we lived in the city of Toronto, it was our duty to know it inside out!

Fast forward to 3 years later where we've put together a vlog on the PATH, for YOU. It's the perfect companion piece to you reading this blog, right now.

Go ahead, take a break from reading and watch it here: 

Some facts you may want to know about the PATH:

Most of shops hours are Monday to Friday, 6am - 6pm. Although the stores close at 6pm, the majority of the PATH remains open until midnight and on the weekends as well. 

There are 1200 stores and services within the PATH.

The attractions that are connected are: Hockey Hall of Fame, Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, Ripley's Aquarium, Roy Thompson Hall, CN Tower, Union Station, Eaton Centre.

Hotels easily accessed: Fairmont Royal York, One King Hotel & Residences, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance Hotel, Le Germain Maple Leaf Square, Inter Continental.

Some of the Restaurants: Canoe, Bymark, Jump, Hy's Steakhouse, Far Niente, Marché, Ki, Epic, Stratus, Tundra, Speakeasy 21, Bannock, Leña, Baton Rouge, Joey, Drake One Fifty. 

Other buildings and areas: Allan Lambert Galleria, Metro Hall, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, City Hall, CBC Broadcasting Centre, Skywalk, UP Express.

Numerous Food Courts, dry cleaners, doctors, dentists, grocery stores, fitness clubs... you name it, you can probably find it. 

You can enter into the PATH as far south as Queens Quay and wander as north as the Bay on Atrium and soon, College Park. 

And if you wear a FitBit or keep track of your steps, that's a whole lotta steps (now you know our secret fellow FitBit-ers)

Our favourite building for shopping: First Canadian Place.
Our favourite food spots: Jelly Modern Doughnut, Prairie Girl Cupcakes and Canoe.

If you ever need any help navigating or suggestions on where to go, don't hesitate to contact us. We're here to help.
You can also learn more by clicking HERE.

Have fun exploring!

Double birthday – What you can do for FREE in Toronto on your birthday!

November 9. It’s OUR birthday. A day we have also nicknamed, “First Christmas.”

After spending many birthdays together, it hit me. We exchange gifts and we try to make the other one feel (extra) special. It’s similar to what happens on Christmas, right? And only about 6 weeks before real Christmas. It’s almost as though Christmas happens twice for us. And so the nickname was born.

Yes, yes, Jon and I share the same birthday (one year apart). Seriously, what are the chances? They do say that ‘sharing is caring.’

Now… What to do for our birthday? We try to come up with something a little different every year to kick off our next one. Something that will be for both of us, celebrating ourselves and each other. This was the first year we were celebrating together at home in Toronto too! We wanted to find something memorable to do.

I had once seen an online article outlining some of the things that are offered free - services, food and beverages - on your birthday. I asked Jon what he thought of this idea to celebrate us. What if we spent the day running around the city trying to find out what offers we could take advantage of? He didn’t even have to think about it, he was onboard immediately.

Turns out the answer to, “what you can get for free on your birthday” is – a whole lotta fat. You can get a bloated belly for free on your birthday. And you can have a lot of fun doing it…

 

We've put together a video to outline our day of free. Watch it here:

Breakdown of the video and how you too can get the free benefits of being born are as follows:

1st stop:
Starbucks
(multiple locations)

If you belong to the Starbucks Rewards program you are entitled to any free beverage of your choice, on your birthday.
I had a peppermint mocha and Jon tried the new praline chesnut latte.
Saved: $11

 

2nd stop:
The Works Gourmet Burger
(multiple locations)

Remember to sign up with your email for their Burgers with Benefits program. You will receive an email coupon for a sandwich of your choice, for FREE on your birthday!
Thanks to James Cambrian, our server, for having fun with us. His initials are our initials (JC/ J & C), so we think he was meant to be our server!
I ordered the Jalapeno Popper burger and fries (a jalapeno popper was cooked inside of the burger, topped with onion rings). Jon order the Reese PBC burger with chips. (Yes, the burger was topped with cut up Reese Cups and it was amazing.) We cut the burgers in half and shared. *Remember - Sharing is caring.
Saved: $38

 

3rd stop:
Rainbow Cinema
(Imagine Cinemas Market Square – 80 Front Street East)

All you need is your ID saying it is your birthday and you get any movie for free! We went to see Trolls (it was fun!) Jon ordered popcorn from Kalen, who he said was the nicest and friendliest movie theatre employee he’s ever encountered.
Saved: $20

 

4th stop:
Booster Juice
(multiple locations)

Sign up for BoosterNation and similar to The Works Burger, you will receive an email coupon for a 710ml smoothie of your choice. David, the lovely gentleman working the cash, told us jokes while we waited for our Funky Monkey and Brazilian Thunder smoothies.
Saved: $17

 

5th Stop:
Panera Bread
(multiple locations)

Sign up for My Panera for a free pastry on your birthday.
When we arrived, Matthew at cash informed us that we also receive a sweet welcome pastry for being a part of the club! Bonus! 4 pastries, for FREE!
Saved: $18

 

6th stop:
Yuk Yuks Comedy Club
(224 Richmond Street West)

If you visit their website (www.yukyuks.com) you can register for your free birthday show. No purchase required, just free.
Saved: $26

 

7th stop:
Denny’s
On your birthday you are entitled to a free Grand Slam Breakfast by joining the MyDenny's program at: www.mydennys.ca. Since they serve breakfast all day long and are a 24 hour diner, we thought 10pm would be the perfect time to get another free meal.

When we arrived, Denny’s was closed with a sign apologizing for their short closure. Of all the days Denny’s… it’s okay, we were feeling pretty full at this point anyway.

Saved: $0

 

Total Saved: $130

Other than what we have listed, there were other places that we never made it to. We literally ran out of time but thought we would include ten more of them for those of you looking for options on your birthday.

1. Body Shop – Sign up for the Love Your Body program and receive $10 towards any purchase in your birth month.
2. Sephora – sign up for Beauty Insider and receive a free gift for your birthday.
3. Jack Astor’s – free dessert in your birth month when you sign up for their Friends With Benefits program online.
4. Boston Pizza – sign up for MyBP online and receive a free dessert on your birthday.
5. David’s Tea – sign up for the Frequent Steeper program and receive a free tea on your special day.
6. Teavana – owned by Starbucks, same rules as Starbucks apply.
7. Menchies – Sign up for My Smileage and receive $5 towards a frozen yogurt on your birthday (valid 15 days before or after your birthday).
8. Marble Slab – Join their Slab Happy Rewards program and receive $5 towards a free ice cream for your birthday.
9. Medieval Times – Join their Fellowship and receive free admission on your birthday.
10. W Burger Bar (10 College Street)– Join the e-club and receive a free burger on your birthday.

*Remember that some of these programs need to be joined a month prior to your birthday, so get planning now!

Thanks for letting us share our day with you.
Until next year…

St. Lawrence Market

Join us as we show you around the St. Lawrence Market. One of our favourite places to visit in our neighbourhood in Toronto.

From Sunset to Sunrise: Nuit Blanche 2016

Nuit Blanche
/nwē ˈbläNSH,ˌnwē ˈblän(t)SH/

noun

a sleepless night.

One night, from sunset to sunrise, a city is transformed by artists.

The first weekend of October, Jon and I woke up with the birds at 5:30am. This was the day of our second real estate exam. We had to be out the door for 7am to make it to our exam. Needless to say, it was a tiring day. By the time we arrived home later that afternoon, we were both looking for excuses to stay home and not leave the house for Nuit Blanche that night. We were soooooo tired.

There was an 80% chance of rain and we were both (not so) secretly hoping it would rain. Our first year home full time and our first Nuit Blanche together. That sentence right there was our motivation to get off our lazy butts. It was our first Nuit Blanche home! We HAD to go.

We found the energy and pushed ourselves out the door (without an umbrella, stating that rain would be a sign to come home.) We were so happy that we did! The rain stayed away for the entire night, with temperatures that felt more like a mild summer evening than the early weeks of fall. It was almost too perfect. We were off to experience 90 different projects strewn throughout the city, by 300 artists. Our city was illuminating.

We began our Nuit Blanche journey walking to Union Station, worked our way up Bay Street to Nathan Phillips Square, then on to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and down John Street. Just a 4 km loop around the main downtown core.

As we walked down our street, we noticed that the CN Tower looked more like a guiding spaceship than our usual landmark. Maybe just a weeeee bit creepy, but these low hanging clouds and humidity in the air seem to only add to our experience of the night.

 

We had a map of all of the art, but Toronto was organized with signage everywhere across the city directing us where to go. Great job Toronto!
---->   <----  

 

First stop - Union Station. Here we found 3 installations and the crowds were just beginning to build.

On to the Design Exchange where we easily walked into the building without any line up.  We headed straight to Vertigo Sea, a video installation by John Akomfrah. This multi-screened video installation had both Jon and I completely under it’s spell. We were mesmerized by Vertigo Sea, the beautiful and haunting visual story of the “sublime sea”. We were so taken with this installation that when we returned home later that night, we searched online to see if there was somewhere we could view it again. Fortunately we found a small portion of it online. Click here to view (and I highly suggest you do!)

After watching much of this film, we joined the small line up to head into the second art installation inside the Design Exchange. Although we were close to the front of the line for the elevator, we were told that it may be a long wait since the room could only hold 30 at a time. We spent about... mmmmm... 10 seconds deciding on whether we should wait and we decided to come back later. When we exited the Design Exchange building, there was a MASSIVE and growing line up just to get into the building! It became clear to us that we may have missed out on that second art installation and there would be no going back at the end. It also became clear to us that the threat of rain was not scaring away the crowds! 

As we wandered up the (now pedestrian only) Bay Street in the Financial District, we encountered many different installations. There were some inside the buildings and some out on the street. We stopped only momentarily at each one knowing there were a few must sees that we wanted to get to before we lost steam.

(*Note* Click on any photo to enlarge. Most words that are orange in colour contain information links.)


We took a small detour down Temperance Street to Cloud Gardens and Robert Montgomery's: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

Robert Montgomery: Beauty Vs. The World

We then headed for the Eaton Centre to feast our eyes on Literature vs. Traffic by Luzinterrupts and Hand-Held by David Rokeby in the Church of the Holy Trinity. By the time we had arrived, they had relocated Literature vs. Traffic to somewhere that we never found. And the line up to get into the Church looked like this (no thanks).  --->

Oblivion

Oblivion

Nathan Phillips Square was next and this was the absolute highlight of the night for me. We didn’t experience enough of the art that night, but at least we were able to take in all that was ‘Oblivion’.

Oblivion was broken into 3 parts. The first we came upon was Pneuma by Floria Sigismondi. You might know Floria from her video direction career (Christina Aguilera, The White Stripes, Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Katy Perry) or her feature films (she wrote the screenplay and directed The Runaways starring Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart). I was so excited when I realized she was the artist behind Pneuma because I had met Floria in 1993 at the Ontario College of Art (OCAD)! My grade 13 class had taken a field trip to different Colleges and Universities in the city to explore our school options. Floria was one of the students sharing her Photography experiences at OCAD and I was there. The then yet to be famous Floria was incredibly appealing to me and I immediately had felt inspired by her. She was of Italian decent like I was, she was into Photography like I wanted to be, she had an artistic darkness about her that I felt drawn to. I think you could say that I had a lady crush. Getting to the point - Pneuma at Nuit Blanche was amazing. I posted a photo on Instagram telling Nuit Blanchers not to miss it. I wasn’t just saying this as a bias fan. Dark and spellbinding video was projected into the fountain of water in the reflecting pool at Nathan Philips Square. It was set to beautiful and haunting music that only added to the experience. If you missed it, there are many videos on ---> YouTube.

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

Floria Sigismondi: Pneuma

You couldn’t ignore what was right beside this fanciful fountain. Your peripheral vision guided you to a big white globe that read, #TheSunWillComeOutTO. We didn’t realize at the time that this meant we would be observing an artistic death of the sun. Death of the Sun was the name of this installation. It was created by Torontonian, Director X (who you may know as the director of Drake’s ever so popular music video, ‘Hotline Bling’.) 

 

Director X: Death of the Sun

Director X: Death of the Sun

See our (quick) time lapse video of the Death of the Sun below:

The third part of Oblivion was inside City Hall and it was a kinetic sculpture called Ocean by Philip Beesley. One look at the line up that wrapped around the building and we knew we would have to come back another day to experience the Ocean. Although it was on my list of things I wanted to see at Nuit Blanche, Oblivion was running for more than a week after Nuit Blanche finished. We didn't feel the need to stand in line because of this. PHEW!

Although not as spectacular as photos that were taken the night of Nuit Blanche, here is our photo of Ocean:

Philip Beesley: Ocean

Philip Beesley: Ocean

We were beginning to tire (and feel a little cranky) but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I still wanted to at least try to see what was going on at the AGO. I’ll tell you what was going on… a miracle! NO LINE UP! We realized when we walked inside the AGO that it was open in it’s entirety! This was done so that the public could also take advantage of free admission on this night. (We weren’t too excited about that, since we are fancy pants and have an AGO yearly membership.)

We did however watch the performance art happening in Walker Court. Artist Rebecca Belmore was painting New Project in what looked like clay, on the floor.

Rebecca Belmore: New Project

Rebecca Belmore: New Project


She is known for her political and social activism as well as her art and although to the eye it appeared to only be a quiet woman painting ordinary words on the floor, it felt like so much more. There was a strange sombre feeling in the room and we walked away feeling as though there were more questions to be asked.

Leaving the AGO we couldn’t believe the LINE UP to get in now! No rain AND we had made it in moments before the crowd!! Score! (<-- do people say that still?)

At this point we made a decision and began our journey home.

 

 

This is a guy who believes in safety first while riding your bike. -->

Arturo Duclos: Utopia's Ghosts

Arturo Duclos: Utopia's Ghosts

Heading down McCaul Street we came across another line up to get into OCAD, so we passed. Outside of the building was a mural called The Merging by Nicola Verlato. We only walked by, not stopping for any length of time. Home was our mission now. We stopped to look at Utopia’s Ghosts by Arturo Duclos. This was a collection of images of the world’s fallen flags. I took this photo upside down because I believe my brain was feeling upside down at the time. Or some may say I had "bed on the brain."

 

We started to hit thicker and thicker crowds as we walked through Queen Street and King Street’s Entertainment district. Both Jon and I began to feel impatient with the crowds. We unfortunately only glanced at most of the art on John Street because of this. We turned on to King Street with all intentions of walking in the underground PATH to avoid the crowds, but decided to take our last few photos outside, especially since the mild temperatures were continuing to work with us. 

Although we had only experienced a small portion of the art and installations that we were hoping to see, we had to admit that we finally hit our wall. 10:30pm felt like our bed was bellowing to us to come lay in it. We had really wanted to go to Kensington Market and the Bata Shoe Museum and the Waterfront and experience more of what we were now seeing on social media. There seem to be so many exceptional installations and works that we didn’t even know about when we first began this journey. We knew we had missed out on additional spectacular art. We kept wondering if maybe we should have planned better and chose a different date to write our exam. That hindsight... always 20-20.

To sum up our night: 

Our city had so much wonder in store for those of us who were out and about. There was a feeling of community. Smiling and laughing crowds enjoying their night. Dazzling art for your eyes and ears. And line ups, so many line ups.

For those of you who have never experienced Nuit Blanche, we highly recommend you do it. As one of the taglines said, you can sleep Sunday! It will wow you in so many ways. Some installations were more thought provoking than others and some were more visually stunning. One of the things that had surprised me the most was the attendance. In general, I have so much excitement realizing the support and love that our great city receives and Nuit Blanche highlighted that for me. Young, old, families, couples, every race, religion you name it… people were wandering the streets sharing this experience of (artistic) inclusion. Other than the graffiti on our beloved Toronto sign, there were seemingly no major issues. I love that so many people constantly come out to experience all that our city has to offer. 

(Side note: days later we saw a young Toronto worker scrubbing the graffiti off of our Toronto sign. I had said to Jon, “that is such a thankless job, but I’m so thankful he exists. I hope people tell him.” We were quite far from the worker and without a thought, Jon walked over to the young man and thanked him for helping to keep our city clean. The young man thanked us for thanking him, as you do.)

I wish we had better photos of all of these wonderful artistic installations to share. On one hand I’m glad we experienced it and weren’t focused on taking photos. On the other hand, I wish we had better photos to show all of our wondrous readers how incredible the night really was.

After the wonderful night that was Nuit Blanche, we returned to Oblivion at Nathan Phillip’s Square three more times. Oblivion was showing for 10 days in total. In my opinion, it was magical and deserved multiple visits. Below are a few of the photos that we took in those days following. 


This gentleman above knew there were people taking photos of the fountain and the art that was a part of the fountain. 
He was being inconspicuously conspicuous and allowing us all to photograph him and his bicycle as well. 

DEATH

OF THE

SUN

Thank you for joining us on our journey!
For more information on Toronto's Nuit Blanche 2016, the art & the artists and the breakdown of sponsorship & curating, click HERE.

P.S. We aced our exam!

 

 

 

Toronto: Then and Now

It has been said that a city is much like a person. They all have a few skeletons in their closet, they go through growing pains, and the events they experience can define them, for better or for worse.

Toronto has a rich and colorful history that can be explored in many ways. For the more active and adventurous, Heritage Toronto has an exploration map and plaques throughout the city for you to discover. 

 

 

The Toronto Archives holds a treasure trove of images for any Toronto history enthusiast. The 1.2 million photographs are housed in a climate controlled facility that reminds me of the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

For the cyber-explorer, the online archives  have almost 97,000 photos available to browse at your leisure. The oldest is a map of Toronto Harbour that dates back to 1792. You can also find a panorama shot stitched together from the oldest known photos of Toronto from 1856 of our very own neighborhood. I guess that’s why it’s called old town.

 

We decided to explore some of Toronto’s history online, on foot, and via Google Street View and give it the Photoshop treatment for this week’s blog, Toronto: Then and Now.

 

With special thanks and photo credits to Toronto Archives.

This before photo by Arthur Goss from 1913 was commissioned by the Toronto Health Department. It was to be included in a report regarding the poor state of Toronto's housing. The property was located in The Ward, a notorious slum in the heart of the city. This property, demolished soon after, was located where the Nathan Philips Square ice rink is today. You can see Old City Hall in the background.

Then and Now Toronto: The Ward, 1913

 

 

Did you know that our "new" city hall is actually the city's fourth? 500 designs from 42 countries were submitted in an international competition that was very much ahead of it's time. It's hard to imagine our Nathan Phillips Square without this "futuristic" and iconic building completed in 1965. It has been an integral part of numerous films and even appeared in Star Trek comics as early as 1969 and an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the The Devon Corporation headquarters in the popular Pokémon franchise as well.

 

 

This inside shot was captured by John Boyd, photographer for the Globe and Mail. It was taken on Bay Street on May 7, 1945, the day Germany unconditionally surrendered to the allies.

 

 

Commissioned by the City Engineer and taken by F.W. Micklethwaite in 1899, this old photograph shows a drinking fountain just south of the Spadina Circle. These drinking fountains were commonplace in Toronto in the late nineteenth century, with a trough for horses, a common cup for people and even a basin for dogs! The Health department later deemed them a public health hazard and replaced them. One remains on King Street East near St. James Cathedral.

 

 

Commissioned by the City Engineer's Department, this photograph illustrates the near completion of the construction of the subway, or underpass, at Queen and Dufferin Streets in 1897. Visible in the background is the 1897 Gladstone Hotel.

 

 

Then and Now Toronto: Jolly Miller Hotel, 1936

Invoking memories of North York's rural past, Yonge Street appears as a mere country lane in 1936 rather than the main arterial route north out of the city that it is today. The railway track parallel to the road, is in fact, a streetcar line that took weekending Torontonians all the way to Lake Simcoe. The Jolly Miller Hotel is still there, a heritage building and popular restaurant now called The Miller Tavern.

 

 

Taken by city photographer Arthur Goss in 1917, this photograph of the Bloor Street Viaduct under construction was used as the cover image for the City of Toronto Archives' book Toronto's Visual Legacy, celebrating the city's 175th anniversary. The viaduct gained fame internationally through Michael Ondaatje's novel, In the Skin of a Lion.

 

 

Looking north up Yonge Street today you can still see some of the buildings from the turn of the century. It is amazing how many structures that are 100 years old remain here in Toronto. It is becoming a hot topic of debate - which buildings will survive the upward sprawl of today's condo boom? It is at least a consolation that many of the facades of some of our historic buildings are being preserved.

 

 

The area around Yonge and Dundas has gone through massive changes from the construction of the Eaton Centre in 1977 to the re-launch of Yonge Dundas Square in 2002. While the Hard Rock cafe building remains structurally the same from when it first opened its doors in 1978, the facade and the fashions have changed.

 

 

Finally, looking north from Yonge Dundas square today, the new Ryerson University building dominates the landscape that was once reserved for the sparkling neon lights of Sam The Record Man. Sadly, one of the only recognizable buildings remaining in this stretch of downtown Toronto is the decrepit and sad looking Zanzibar strip joint, and something tells me it's days may be numbered.

 

If you'd like to check out a few more "Then and Now" photos from New York and Berlin, click here.

 

I hope you enjoyed browsing these images of this amazing city we live in. Every day Cheryl and I discover something new by taking a side street less travelled, or simply googling "old Toronto photos". Googling "old Toronto photos" was what started me on the path that is this little blog project. Remember not to take for granted that we live in one of the best cities in the world. Go out and (re)discover it.

 

 

 

 

Fan Expo 2016

 

2 years ago, Jon and I were headed to the Arcade Fire concert at the Molson Amphitheatre. As we walked past the Metro Toronto Convention Centre we noticed that there were an awful lot of people dressed up as though it was Hallowe’en. What in the world is going on here? We really had no idea.

Fan Expo 2014

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The next day we walked past again on our way to the Toronto Blue Jays game. And still, costumes everywhere. (I managed to photo bomb a storm trooper that day.)

By now the curiosity was killing me. Did Toronto have a Comic-Con or something like a Comic-Con? How was I (self proclaimed Toronto expert) so out of the Toronto loop that I didn’t even know we had a Comic-Con? I asked the oracle (Google) and sure enough, we had an event running that very weekend at the Convention Centre. It wasn’t Comic-Con, but it was a Comic Convention and it was called Fan Expo.

Apparently Fan Expo had been happening since 1995! I have no idea how I had completely missed this for almost 10 years! 2014, the year we had walked by twice in one weekend, it had record attendance at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Fan Expo encapsulated both the entire north and south buildings and 127,000 people walked thru those doors on that Labour Day weekend.

Although Fan Expo had beginnings in Comics, Science Fiction and Fantasy, it has expanded greatly. Comics, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Animation, Anime, Manga, Videogames, collectibles, toys, TV, Movies. Everything… well… pop culture. 

This is our first summer back in Toronto full time and I knew I wanted to experience this “Fan Expo” thing and find out what it was all about. It took a long time for me to decide which day to go with 4 different days to choose from. We couldn’t afford to buy tickets for multiple days, so choosing just.one.day was difficult. I had no idea what the differences were between days or what to expect at all. In the end I judged it based on the most exciting draw for me - celebrities who would be there. Were they there in the flesh? Could you see them? Did you meet them? I didn’t know, but I was going to find out. And I chose Saturday.

At this point I really wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this. I’m not a 'Trekkie' (or 'Trekker' I hear is the correct term), I am not a Star Wars fan (although Jon is a HUGE fan) and I’m generally not into video games or collectibles or toys. My knowledge of comics is limited to: Stan Lee is super cool and I do prefer Marvel over DC blockbuster movies. But I do love celebrity, I LOVE people watching and I knew there would be a lot of dress up going on. (Since then I’ve learned it’s called Cosplay… And it’s serious business.)

Let me take you through our day, in photos:

 

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As we get off the escalators, we begin to think maybe we should have dressed up too.

The first of many Spidermen of the day was Canadian Spiderman. Oh Canada!

He was very sweet to pose with one of the smallest Strom Troopers in the squadron (is it a squadron? I’m still learning lingo)

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We were going to have to get used to asking a lot of permission for photos with people, so we practiced on these two non-human statues. We asked, they didn’t mind, so we posed.

 

We immediately stumbled upon the 'Celebrity Autograph' area. I would like to point out that this photo is of the crowds already forming for autographs, time stamped at 10:12am. Fan Expo opened at 10am.

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Oh yeah, longest line up of the day. And the most expensive autograph - Mark Hamill. (He's LUKE SKYWALKER, even I fangirled a little!) Side note: Each celebrity charges for their autograph. Those charges were anywhere from $40 - $100. Stan Lee was $100, as was William Shatner. Mark Hamill though, his autograph cost $200. TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS! Luke Skywalker, shame on you! But the people still waited the longest and still paid the most.

As I was taking photos of all of the celebrity’s names, I hear someone yell, “CHERYL!” It was my oldest friend, Chris Hynes who I'd known since I was 3 (and hadn’t seen or spoken to in 5 years!) We met while we were young and attended junior and senior kindergarten together. We ran into him 3 different times that day (I have no idea how – 2 buildings, 6 floors, 100,000+ people.) We learned that he had indeed paid for the Mark Hamill autograph. He told us he had planned this great thing to say to him and when he was finally in front of Mr. Hamill all he could muster was, “Luke Skywalker.” Childhood excitement hits you in the gut when you least expect it (and takes away your ability to speak too).

 

 

 

This is what I was looking forward to the most!
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All day I continued to take random photos of the crowd. Once in awhile I would learn, after I took the photo, that someone was seeming to stare into my camera lens. (See one example here --->)

 

 

More fan line ups for cast members of The Walking Dead.

Jon’s inner fan boy came out with every Star Wars costumed person we saw. I could have made an album called, "Jon and his Star Wars heroes."

There is a story to go with Lando Calrissian (photo below). We were chatting with this young man and he told us that he is normally a very shy guy but when he gets dressed up for these events, everything changes. Dressing up helps him to come out of his shell and be able to speak easily to people. Jon and I had discussed this earlier in the day and after speaking to “Lando” we continued to feel proud of/happy for these young fans who felt empowered from and getting so much out of this experience.

There was a zombie corner where you could get yourself Zombified. And there was even the guy who won the Rick Grimes look-a-like contest who was hanging out posing for photos. (For those of you who don’t know, Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) is one of the main characters in TV’s The Walking Dead.)

Many many many kiosks of stores selling every collectible, trinket, toy, game, clothing items, costumes that you can imagine. This would be the perfect place to get all of your Christmas and birthday shopping done for any superfan of... almost anything. If they are a superfan of taxidermy rats and mice, they have that covered too. Or for the fan of lawn gnomes. Or prosthetic masks. (Can you tell we are still in the Horror area?)

Jesus yelled at me. He only let people take photos of him for donations. Which I was quickly learning wasn’t the norm and only a small percentage of cosplayers were asking for donations. I had asked him (Jesus) what the money was going toward? He opened his mouth to show me two missing molars in the very back of his mouth and he said, I need new teeth! (I didn’t give him any money, and I live with this blurry photo and the memory of our conversation.)

Snow White was there. Although I will say Elsa from Frozen seemed to be the most popular Disney costume. I missed out and I wish I had taken a photo of my two favourites of the day. One of my favourites was a grown woman dressed as Ursula (from The Little Mermaid). She had full purple body makeup and all! Another was Fiona (from Shrek) and she also had the full green body makeup. My eyes were overwhelmed with so many dazzling costumes walking by in every moment of the day.

Oh that’s Denis O’Hare (photo below). He’s in all of the American Horror Story seasons. And Dallas Buyer’s Club, Milk, The Proposal, Law & Order, True Blood… just to name a few. I’m a fan. We were allowed to take photos of the celebrities as they signed autographs, but we had to stand behind a certain line if that was what we wanted to do. My zoom didn’t allow for better photos than this. Damn you zoom lens!

One of my favourite photos of the day was Abraham from The Walking Dead (Michael Cudlitz) taking a selfie for a group of fans. He was the only celebrity that was walking around on the other side of the autograph table speaking to his fans. I heart Abraham. I hope in The Walking Dead season premiere in October, he isn’t the one to meet his end by way of Lucille. (Maybe I know more about Fan Expo, fan girling and nerd fest than I thought.)

For any vampires who need to be able to walk in the sunlight, Damon Salvatore’s ring was on sale here (The Vampire Diaries). Oh wait, just a replica. Won’t really work guys!

Do you see it? DO YOU? I had a small tear in my eye. It's DOC BROWN FROM BACK TO THE FUTURE! (The amazing Christopher Lloyd). At this point I’m starting to realize I’m in full on fan girl mode now.

 

Kate Mulgrew, but more on her later.

 

 

This man was a Star Wars fan, I could tell.

 

 

Kylo Ren getting himself put together.

 

 

Did anyone else know that the Ontario Ghostbusters existed?

Spock. This guy. This photo just happned to capture Spock while I was taking crowd photos above my head. Later on I was looking at him with my camera pointed in his direction. He wagged his finger at me and shook his head. I said, “No?” He said, 'You must first donate'. Okay cool, Jon was reaching into his pocket to find money to donate to Spock's cause. Up until this point, only a few of the organized groups with costumed characters had a donation "bucket".  All had said donate what you can but not one had said you can’t take a photo without giving (except 'Jesus'). Spock began lecturing us about exactly that. I was so taken aback by the lecture while we were already getting money to give to him that we changed our mind and walked away. When I was home later I realized I had accidentally taken a photo of him already. HA! Joke’s on you Spock! 

 

 

 

 

So much controversy around Coplay for this event. Whether it be donations made or groping of the many scantily clad females that walked around. This sign was in place to remind us all that COSPLAY IS NOT CONSENT.

This kid was THE BEST. He literally pushed past us to reach his friends who were in line for an autograph. He had just reached the front of the line for Mark Hamill. He was SO excited and was screeching to his friends that he had just met Luke Skywalker, guys! It was the most real moment I experienced all day and my heart grew two sizes bigger hearing his innocent excitement about meeting his movie hero.

 

I’m pretty sure this ghetto blaster-ed person was there for John Cusack.

 

 

 

I don’t know what to say about this photo. That kid looks terrified. Or maybe we should be terrified of that kid.

Crossing over into the South Building we saw this. We later learned that every floor of both the north and south building looked like this.

 

 

Beauty and the Beast 2: Belle and the Bunny Rabbit

 

Does anyone else see Pokemon and Pikachu going at it in the corner (I don’t know… is that Pokemon and Pikachu?)

I found myself wondering all day long if this was practice for Hallowe’en. People didn’t do half-assed dressing up, it was full on give it all, best costumes ever. All day long.

 

 

 

 

There was Sci-Fi speed dating.

This was the line up for what ended up being my favourite parts of the day – the celebrity Q&As. This particular line up was for John and Joan Cusack (see video below for sound bites.) This particular Q&A was hosted by Donnie from Orphan Black (Kristian Bruun), this was a double score for me. There was also a lady in this line who we had spoken to. She had John Cusack sign a new hairdryer. We asked, why? Her response: It was a Conair hairdryer and he was in the movie... Con Air.

No explanation needed. Except possibly to say, they were awesome! Joan was a bit quieter than expected and I had no idea John was a screenwriter (High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank are his!) I was thoroughly entertained and they were incredibly gracious to their fans.

The lineup that we went to immediately following the Cusacks was for Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Fall, Hannibal etc...)

She was so much funnier than expected. I loved her already. This made me love her more. Many of her questions from the audience were from young ladies who spoke of how her characters have taught them and empowered them as females. At the end of her Q&A, she auctioned her T-shirt for charity and started it at $200. Two young ladies bid it up to $2200! In the end Gillian didn’t want to allow them to spend all their money (knowing they were both so young) and had them both come backstage to meet her. Awesome.

 

 

We had a break after that and I think it managed to get even busier in the buildings. We had time to kill before going to Kate Mulgrew’s Q&A (Red from Orange is the New Black or Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager). She was so incredibly kind, gracious, intelligent. I didn’t take photos of her, but we do have video below.

Oh did I forget to mention that Batman and Robin were there? Burt Ward and Adam West (yes, the same Adam West from Family Guy). And Ben Mackenzie and Morena Baccarin from Gotham. I don’t watch Gotham so I like to think of it as Ben Mackenzie from The OC and Morena Baccarin from Homeland and Deadpool. And yes, Morena is very pretty in person!

Oh who might that be below? Yes, yes. It’s Luke Skywalker! Although we were told we COULD take photos all day, they began telling us no photos at this time. No big deal, I’m a rebel - I got the shot.

 

Michelle Nichols from the original Star Trek (Uhura). 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, people! This called for Michelle Nichols, William Shatner, George Takei, Kate Mulgrew and Brett Spiner.

Below are Jon’s iPhone photos of Game of Throne’s Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and William Shatner. And there’s also Sasha from Walking Dead! She was SOOO pretty in person. A smile that lit up her face and probably a room. Maybe not this room, it was rather gigantic.
If money had been no object we may have stood in line for autographs, but this time around we watched how it worked and drank the experience in.

If celebrity isn’t your thing, or shopping for weird and wonderful things - they also had areas for Lego, Hasbro, Ubisoft, Sony, Playstation, Nintendo, Space channel and even more. They also had an "Artist Alley" where there were so many cartoon and comic artists, street/graffiti artists, painters, sculptors, you name it, they had it. Oh and a room with a live game of Clash of the Clans happening. Anything and everything to make anyone happy.

I think this was a costume competition. Groot only said Groot. Lego Batman couldn’t speak. Little Rae from Star Wars, well her dad made the costume (see as she points to her dad in the below photo).

So much going on in the below photo. Awesome costume of purple lady in the middle. Then you have little kid who looks to be stand sleeping on the left. And John Lennon picking his nose on the right.

 

 

He collects pins. An impressive amount of pins.

I know many think this type of event is for 'nerds'. It is for nerds, but what I learned on this day is: we are all at least a little bit of nerd!

I felt overwhelmed by the excitement that surrounded us all day, I loved watching the people and getting so many good ideas for Hallowe'en, I fan-girled out with tears during my celebrity Q&A experience. Side note - when I am at concerts, I sometimes cry. I cry because I’m excited, but also because I always think how unreal/overwhelming/surreal it must be for those artist up on the stage, looking down at tens of thousands of fans singing their songs back to them. I was teary at the Q&A’s, listening to the fans, so many of them young fans, get emotional and telling their favourite celebrity how they and their characters have changed that person’s life. --It also reiterated that celebrities have a difficult job in being this type of role model to so many unknown, young, impressionable fans. That’s probably something to be saved for a more serious blog post.

We missed seeing Jay and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes) as well as Stan Lee in his last Fan Expo appearance. These both made me sad. But we were able to see so much and had such a great day, it was only a tiny bit of sad. We now know exactly what we are going to be for Halloween (HINT: it won’t be Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo again) and we know that we may be going to Fan Expo again next year.

Oh and a tip if you attend in the future: you are allowed re-entry. Go outside to the hot dog carts in front of the Convention Centre for lunch. $8 slice of pizza inside or $2.50 jumbo dog outside. You do the math.

All in all, what a great day! Thanks, Fan Expo. Thanks, Toronto!