Toronto – Part 2

I’m a sucker for a museum, an art gallery or a concert. Last week, in Toronto, I managed to take in all three in one day!

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It all started with a concert. Part of the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Lunchtime Concert Series, last Tuesday’s program was with the Humber Latin Jazz Ensamble, under the direction of the Grammy & Juno Award winning Hilario Duran. The over-capacity, standing-room-only crowd, was treated to a blend of Afro-Cuban Jazz. You can’t get THAT in Rose Bay!

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From there I wandered up to Dundas Street and into the Art Gallery of Ontario. Here, I was introduced to the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I confess I’d never heard if him before, but could certainly pick up the passion and frustration in his work. I’m glad to have seen this exhibit, but was equally glad to move on to the Canadian & European collections of the AGO.
I was delighted to find the Grange, a Georgian Manor House (c1817) attached to the AGO. This beautiful building was donated to the Art Museum of Toronto in 1911, and so become the original home of the AGO. That was something else I didn’t know – and didn’t expect. Maybe I should be doing more research before heading out on these excursions?

Magic! The Michael Shand Trio

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It was an enchanting scene:

I was perched about three rows up, in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, a three-story high space surround by walls of glass overlooking the corner of University and Queen St. in the heart of Toronto.  It was a warm mid-day at the end of September, the trees still green and leafy. At the intersection, the pulse of the city throbbed with vehicles, cyclists, and swarms of pedestrians all moving to the beat of traffic lights.  Inside, I was wedged onto my bench between two obviously seasoned concert goers.  The effect was at once, both intimate and expansive.

The real magic happened when the Micheal Shand Trio began to play. The effect of jazzy musical energy filling that environment and perfectly complimenting the scene outside was magnificent.  The concert lasted a little less than an hour….but I’ve been re-living it ever since. Magic!!

Sweet September

Adieu September! Parting is such sweet sorrow. Or something like that.

September is the traditional harvest month – a time of bounty and a time to reap the results of lots of hard work. This September has been particularly generous to me.

My kids were satisfactorily settled into university, some much-needed house maintenance was finished, the garden ripened, and the grapes grew sweet – all under a glorious September sun. And I got to travel!! My role as Side-Kick Traveller has been kicked into overdrive for the past few weeks taking me to Boston, Toronto and Ottawa.

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Three whole days in Boston!  I attended (at this ripe old age) my very first professional baseball game. In Fenway Park!! Sweet Caroline!! I was serenaded in the middle of the Back Bay Fens Victory Garden by a young man who was perched high up on a branch of an ancient willow tree. It was an amazing and unexpected moment. From there, I stumbled upon the Historic South End – an exquisite neighbourhood of stately Georgian architecture and graceful tree-lined streets framed with boutique shops and cafés. Another huge highlight was a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Mueum….a very special kind of museum. Trying to view this unique museum from Mrs Gardner’s perspective has given me a whole new way of looking things. It was profoundly moving.
Toronto, where our hotel happen to be right across the street from the home of the Canadian Opera Company. And it just so happened that I was able to wander across at lunch time to enjoy a free concert by the incredible Micheal Shand Trio. (You should check him out. Jazz, baby!!) The light filled venue, with its floor to ceiling glass walls overlooking a very alive University Avenue (just teeming with pedestrians and vehicles) so perfectly suited the music that the result was pure magic! How lucky I am to have found this!

And Ottawa! Oh lovely Ottawa! It’s a bit like revisiting an old friend – paying homage to  perennial favourite spots like the National Gallery of Canada, Parliament Hill, Ikea (!), and our favourite restaurant. But exploring new territory is the theme and that’s what we did.

Following the recreational trail which runs along the Ottawa River, we walked in the shadow of the Parliament Buildings, across the locks of the Rideau Canal, through Major’s Hill Park, across the Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau, Quebec and stopped by the Museum of Civilization to reflect on the power of the river’s current and enjoy the view of the skyline. Cue the sound of Canadian Geese.  We carried on westward along the riverbank to Victoria Island where we crossed back to Ottawa via Pont du Portage, where we made another happy discovery…the Mill Street Brewpub. Then back along the trail to where we started behind the Supreme Court of Canada building…just a hop, skip and a jump back to the hotel. The walk took a little over an hour, at a brisk pace. What a way to see this quintesential Canadian place!  I loved this walk so much, I did it each of the three days we were there.

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In addition to these working trips, we took a short holiday to Prince Edward Island where we rented bicycles and took a spin on the Confederation Trail. (See my earlier post to find out how that turned out!). We followed up by spending a weekend with a couple of friends exploring  some of our own local trails. It feels so good, so empowering, so freeing (if a little tender in spots) to be back on our bikes!! Sunshine, picnics, friends and kilometres of trails…..bliss! I see much more of this sort of thing in my future.

That’s not all! After 10 years of tending our little vineyard on the North Atlantic Coast, we welcomed a local winemaker to see if we are on the right track or not. It felt like taking a major final exam. The result? A passing grade with honours, thank you very much! And an invite to join the local wine growers association. Now if I can just keep the grapes safe from the deer, raccoons and birds for the next couple of weeks until the harvest……

What a month it has been!! Every single day has been extraordinary! On top of it all, we managed, somehow, to paint the exterior trim of our house (a huge relief – it really needed it), a little bit of teaching (September tends not to be super busy for substitutes), and we celebrated our youngest son’s 19th birthday.

So, thank you September! I know that the memories made with you will last and the opportunities given this month will make way for new adventures.

Now, into the garden to harvest and get ready for winter.