Toronto: activities

What I actually did in Toronto:

The ROM. You can see one of the most interesting things about it from the website — the building was recently renovated and a “Crystal” added on to the front. It wasn’t as crystalline as I expected from the name, but it’s an interesting addition. The interface between the new and old buildings was what fascinated me the most. Inside, the shape of the galleries in the Crystal is conducive to exploring and more open than the traditional materials.

I was really impressed with the ROM in general. The presentation of the materials was very thoughtful, like the exhibit about the changing styles from the Middle Ages to the present. I know about the eras (Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, etc.) but their presentation of them illustrated the transitions and transformations very well.

I spent most of my first day in the museum, taking a break to eat lunch at Fresh on Bloor (admission for the museum allows multiple entrance and exit). The lunch was excellent and huge. I had a chickpea wrap and their signature sweet potato fries with miso gravy. The gravy was a bit intense, but everything else was great, and I saved half and ate it for dinner because there was so much. This was my favorite place I ate while I was in Toronto.

The link says “nontraditional vegetarian food”, but I actually saw it as kind of “traditional modern” in that it was a lot like what I would get in good vegetarian restaurants around here. But maybe that’s non-traditional for Canada!

That night I went to a Fringe comedy show called “Between Commutes”, which was a sketch show about the hassles of commuting. I was expecting a bit more of it to be about public transit, but some of the sketches were very funny, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The next day, after picking up the loaner bike and having coffee with the owner, who is wonderfully nice and generous, most of my day was taken up by a visit to Toronto Island. The island is car-free, so I took the bike on the ferry (the ferry was quite crowded with bikes) and rode around, looked at the lake, and relaxed in the park. It was nice to be away from cars, and everything seemed to run at a slower pace as everybody relaxed in the afternoon sun. I took a walk on a beach, and stopped briefly to swing on a swingset. I’m not sure I was supposed to be on the swingset, but no one stopped me, and I enjoyed the feeling of flying that I recalled from childhood.

On the way back, I ate at Urban Herbivore in the Kensington Market area. I had a sesame tempeh sandwich and a fresh juice (red juice — beets, apples, carrots, lemons, and ginger — which tasted wonderfully gingery but with good body from the vegetables). I wasn’t originally going to have any juice because it was expensive, but the server spontaneously refunded me my sandwich cost because he was slow to get it to me. It didn’t seem slow to me — I was writing in my journal and had only just started wondering when my sandwich might arrive when it did — but I appreciated their effort to hold themselves to a high standard, and felt that buying a juice when I wouldn’t have otherwise was a good way to return the kindness. The sandwich wasn’t the best, with the tempeh overly dry and salty, but the bread was excellent and the sandwich well-made overall, so I enjoyed myself. It was an interesting neighborhood to watch while I ate — it reminded me a little bit of the Mission.

Sunday I had a notion to go to a farmer’s market, so I decided to visit the Distillery District (history), but I got a slow start and the market was mostly gone when I got there. But I did see the old buildings and art galleries and studios full of quite fascinating art. My favorites were two artists working in encaustic, Joya Paul and Tanya Kirouac (Tanya’s site at seems to be down). Both had some lovely flower/nature paintings. I also liked Thompson Landry gallery and Nathalie Maranda‘s paintings in that gallery.

That evening, I had a drink with the fun and inimitable Emily, whom I had missed while in Toronto five years ago. It was fun, and we talked animatedly about food, our jobs, and travel.

My last day, besides Urbane Cyclist, I went to Bakka Phoenix Books and LinuxCaffe. Both are Toronto landmarks, with Bakka Phoenix being the incubator of several Canadian SF talents including Cory Doctorow. LinuxCaffe, in their own words, “is a cozy corner caffe offering dark organic coffees, simply delicious food and pleasant surprises. It is also the home of Toronto’s Open Source software communities, hosting user group meetings, workshops and distributing free software.” It’s basically a friendly cafe with an open culture, lots of geeks, and a bunch of old software books. Very nice place, though it was quiet on Tuesday lunchtime in the summer.

That was my last stop before returning the bike and a brief visit to Union Station; then it was back to Pearson in time for a spectacular cloudburst, a delayed plane, and a fantastic sunset on takeoff.

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