Tag Archives: museums & galleries

Downtown from the Brickworks

2015 – Montreal, the Rideau, Stratford and more

Highlights of Our Year

In a year when I’ve been forced by a concussion (Easter Saturday; uneven pavements, a pitch into the metal door of the change room by the ice rink at Kew Gardens – not quite a hockey story) to avoid spending time at the computer, blogging has had to be largely shelved. Life has needed to be lived at a gentler pace and within tighter boundaries. At times, I’ll admit, this has felt constraining, frustrating even. But it has also been a powerful exercise in finding joy and fulfillment in small things, in the everyday; and 2015 has not been without its explorations and adventures.

Trilliums
Trilliums – Ontario’s Provincial Flower

Spring in Toronto is a case of ‘blink and you miss it’. This year I was able to live in intimate relationship with its unfurling, taking joy in the sunshine on my face and each new bud and bloom.

 

We were already committed to a trip to Montreal for Canada Day and WordCamp at the beginning of July. We spent five days enjoying wonderful food (especially at Toqué) and a necessarily gentle exploration of the old city (lovely, though we had to take refuge from a downpour in Notre Dame Basilica), Mont Royal, Le Musée des Beaux Arts, the Olympic stadium, the Botanical gardens and Biodome (Space for Life), and more. It was a little galling to be in town for the Jazz Festival and not to be able to more than cast a glance in its direction – just half an hour passing through the Place des Arts was almost more than I could cope with. Another year! One delightful discovery was ‘Dragon’s Beard Candy’ in Chinatown, a confection of sugar threads, peanuts, sesame and coconut, reputedly once made only for the emperors of China.

Photos of Montreal (Google Album) and Montreal, a Google Story

 

Thankfully we had already made the decision that we needed ‘cottage time’ this summer, opting for a tiny cottage right on the water at Newboro in the Rideau Lakes, about an hour north of Kingston.

Waking, watching through our bedroom window a heron on our dock; lazing in a hammock strung between trees; easing into the water to paddle amongst innumerable islands, idly observing fish and frogs, osprey and loons, cottages and cabins; a fabulous country market in a C19th schoolhouse – fresh-from-the-field corn, dripping with butter; canals, locks and mill-houses, then wild, rocky vistas; and always water to catch and transform the ever-changing light. Is it any wonder that this is more or less the area in which we hope to make our home?
Photos of our ‘Summer on the Rideau’ (Google Album)

 

The one post I did manage to write reflected a magical wilderness weekend at Wintergreen – a truly joyous experience. (See also Wintergreen Studios – a piece of heaven at the edge of wilderness – a Google Story for more photos!)

 

For Paul’s birthday, we chose theatre at Stratford (Ontario). Considered comparable with the London or Broadway stage, Stratford Festival encompasses four distinct stages  and many different styles.  We saw ‘Possible Worlds’, partially performed in a pool of water (odd but effective), an absorbing rumination on alternate dimensions and social constructs. On Sunday, after luxuriating at Elm Hurst Spa, we abandoned wet waterfall walking in favour of a cream tea!

 

Thanksgiving saw a glorious combination of early colour and unseasonable summer temperatures (75 F/ 24C); not wanting to travel too far, we basked in the golden glow at Toronto Zoo, which is set in rolling parkland. Focused as I was on giving thanks, I was particularly wonder-struck by the rich diversity of animal life.
Photos of Thanksgiving at Toronto Zoo (Google Album)

Gina & Paul at Toronto Zoo, Thanksgiving
Gina & Paul at Toronto Zoo, Thanksgiving

 

Fall continued mild, with particularly rich tones, sunny days – even a mild, dry night for Halloween! We had a fine dusting of snow in November, but, so far, December has continued balmy, though we continue in the belief that winter will come . . .

2015 has undoubtedly been challenging. But, despite this, looking back I am grateful for the riches of these and other experiences and the new gifts of insight it has brought. Roll on 2016!

(You can click on any photo on the page to see it at a larger size, and flip through all the others in the same gallery too!)

 

Maine Roadtrip 2014: 3 – “It must be Maine; the way life should be”

Sailing Penobscot Bay at sunset, eating appetizers and lobster bisque on Schooner Heron, which became “Sanderson’s Yacht” in the Johnny Depp film “The Rum Diary”;

Rockport, ME Rockport, ME - the calm after the storm On board Schooner Heron On board Schooner Heron Heading out to sea, Rockport, ME Heading out to sea, Rockport, ME On Penobscot Bay, ME On Penobscot Bay, ME Heading out to sea, Rockport, ME Heading out to sea, Rockport, ME On board Schooner Heron On board Schooner Heron On board Schooner Heron On board Schooner Heron On board Schooner Heron On board Schooner Heron

. . . looking out from Mount Battie across the magnificent sweep of the bay, dotted with islands;

Camden Hills State Park - view from Mount Battie Camden Hills State Park - view from Mount Battie Camden Hills State Park - view from Mount Battie Camden Hills State Park - view from Mount Battie Hiking in Camden Hills State Park Hiking in Camden Hills State Park Camden Hills State Park - view from Mount Battie Camden Hills State Park - view from Mount Battie

. . . floating on our backs in Megunticook Lake whilst watching the Turkey Vultures ride the thermals overhead; lazing with our books on the beach at Birch Point and at our lovely home from home, ‘Wildflower Cottage’, small but perfectly formed, set in a woodland clearing in a garden that beautifully blurs the distinction between wild and cultivated.

Swimming in Lake Megunticook Swimming in Lake Megunticook The beach at Birch Point, ME The beach at Birch Point, ME The beach at Birch Point, ME The beach at Birch Point, ME Wildflower Cottage, Near Lincolnville, ME Wildflower Cottage, Near Lincolnville, ME Wildflower Cottage, Near Lincolnville, ME Wildflower Cottage, Near Lincolnville, ME Wildflower Cottage, Near Lincolnville, ME Wildflower Cottage, Near Lincolnville, ME

Shaker simplicity – beautiful benches and beds, first at the fabulous Farnsworth Art Museum at Rockland and then at the equally wonderful Windsor Chairmakers in Lincolnville; and the delightful discovery at the Farnsworth of American artist Andrew Wyeth, so rooted in place (a Maine summer person) and cinematic in quality.

The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME
Modern Shaker furniture at Windsor Chairs, Lincolnville Modern Shaker furniture at Windsor Chairs, Lincolnville Modern Shaker furniture at Windsor Chairs, Lincolnville Modern Shaker furniture at Windsor Chairs, Lincolnville Modern Shaker furniture at Windsor Chairs, Lincolnville Modern Shaker furniture at Windsor Chairs, Lincolnville The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, ME

No trip would be complete without one or two memorable foodie moments; for Paul, the Whoopie Pie was an obvious hit! Then there were the pop-overs served with whipped butter and jam at Jordan Pond, an Acadian tradition that seems a little strange to those used to eating Yorkshire Pudding with roast beef and gravy. But the meal to remember was at Saltwater Farm, overlooking the harbour at Rockport – my Halibut with spicy borscht was exquisite.

Paul discovers the Whoopee Pie! Paul discovers the Whoopee Pie! Halibut and Spicy Borscht at Saltwater Farm, Rockport, ME Halibut and Spicy Borscht at Saltwater Farm, Rockport, ME
The tradition of popovers The tradition of popovers Popovers at Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, ME Popovers at Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, ME

Definitely the way life should be!

To be continued . . .

A Christmas Card from Quebec City

Fairy tale castles and ice; quaint houses from the seventeenth century and city walls; seasonal decorations – from traditional ribbon and foliage to a very creative use of shiny colanders – and a magical festival of lights; ‘bols’ of coffee and hot chocolate, patisserie to die for (or from!) and wonderful ‘boreal’ food, both traditional and modern; and, above all, a gloriously festive feel.

Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City - Aux Anciens Canadiens Quebec City - Aux Anciens Canadiens, the oldest house in Quebec City, built 1675-6 Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Festival des Lumières de Québec Festival des Lumières de Québec Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - Novel decorations Quebec City - Novel decorations Festival des Lumières de Québec Festival des Lumières de Québec
Quebec City  - Le Croquembouche - Boulangerie Pâtisserie Quebec City - Le Croquembouche - Boulangerie Pâtisserie Quebec City - JA Moisan Quebec City - JA Moisan, the oldest grocer in North America Gina with a 'bol' of coffe at Cafe Hobbit Gina with a 'bol' of coffe at Cafe Hobbit

Although it was -27C on Christmas Day, the sun was shining and we must have walked over 8km through thesnow on the Plains of Abraham before a short skate a Place Youville, just outside the old city walls.

Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - Place Youville Quebec City - Place Youville

A definite highlight was the return trip on the ferry across the St. Lawrence to Levis, something a friend had suggested as offering wonderful views of Quebec City, which it did. But even more amazing to us was the experience of cutting through the ice, watching and hearing it crack – mesmerizing and meditative. It also amused us to see two ice canoe teams out practising for the winter carnival competition – only in Canada!

Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - ice!
Quebec City - ice canoe Quebec City - ice canoe Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - Paul on the ferry Quebec City - Paul on the ferry

We also loved an innovative interactive journey through time at the Maison historique Chevalier and re-cap of the military history of the City at Le Musée du Fort using model soldiers and battleships, complete with sound, light and miniature explosions. After five hours at Les Musées de la Civilisation we were ‘museumed out’, but had played our way through the history of computer games, discovered Quebec artist Pierre Gauvreau, immersed ourselves in what it means to be aboriginal in the 21st century and more.

But for us, one of the real joys of any city visit is simply to wander, to notice the quirkiness and contradictions, to find small back-street restaurants and cafés.

Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City
Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City - ladder for cats only! Quebec City - ladder for cats only! Quebec City Quebec City

Quebec City will be hard to beat for an urban white Christmas!

Pinch me . . .

I suppose it is a bit like the early stages of a love affair.  Even after 21 months in Canada, I seem still to experience so many ‘pinch me’ moments!

In the city, often they come in response to the rich cultural mix . . .

A recent evening with friends Luc and Yuri at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario); Abstract Expressionist New York (much familiar, smattered with new discoveries, curated inspirationally); modern Inuit art (how I wanted to be able to run my hands over the carvings!); and the sung response of a First Nations open throat singer to Henry Moore (truly awesome and deeply moving) as part of the Juno Tour of Canadian Art; Luc and Paul chasing each other round the angular display cases, taking strangely distorted portraits refracted by the prismatic points of connection; then Dim Sum in China Town – truly a feast for heart, body and soul!

Our second Beaches Jazz Festival – I’m still blown away by the accessibility of so much wonderful and varied music freely available; by teenagers having a ball jumping around to the music that may date back more than half a century and by those who have lived more than half a century soaking up the new musical permutations offered up by young musicians; by small children utterly confident and safe amid the crowd; by a magical rock violinist, Dr Draw, who, I swear, channels the passion of Paganini; by this sensational street party that sums up summer in the city Toronto style; by dancing to a stomping version of Dancing in the Street on Queen Street.

When we can tear ourselves away from the revelry, there are quieter moments of awe. . .

Brilliant March sunshine belying the icy chill as we climb sand dunes in Prince Edward County – the curious juxtaposition of sun, sand and the ice sculptures that jewel the shore.
        Ice Alligator?
Clambering from our kayaks as the sun sinks past the horizon on Georgian Bay, having been dive bombed by Terns (anticipated, not scary) on a protrusion of the Canadian Shield that serves as a nesting colony for terns and a swimming stop for paddlers. On this occasion, these included a dog kitted out in his own PFD (Personal Flotation Device) who decided to join Paul in his kayak whilst his mistress swam in deep water.

        

A few days ago, at the start of a much needed break; the glassy calm of the sunny evening that follows a storm, out on the Rideau just above Kingston; jewelled fairies filling the air around our canoe (palest to midnight blue, rich red, fluorescent green) and swallowtails – and still, still water reflecting a light show up onto the green canopy above; returning to the dock, we are welcomed by a fat, furry water rat (but not a beaver!)

Now we are holed up in a rustic cottage in Quebec; 30 minutes or so north of Ottawa, yet, once you are off the major roads, very ‘backwoods’. There is nothing to do but sit and read on the dock and soak up the sunshine, rocked by the wake of passing boats and lulled by the occasional eerie call of the Loon or the honk of Canada geese as they rise.  Once in a while we venture off the end of the dock into the deep, clear (and surprisingly warm) water of Lac St Pierre or onto it in kayak or rowboat. The Canadian Cottage experience definitely has much the same capacity as the less developed Greek islands for recharging the body and soothing the soul!
        

I feel so very privileged to have been given this opportunity to re-connect with life through a lens of newness and immediacy. I hope I continue to say ‘pinch me’ for many years to come!

 

(Written when in Quebec, 1st week of August 2011)

The perfect day–Christmas starts here!

Yesterday was one of those glorious days that nourish you to the core. Our first snowfall – really just a long flurry of motes mixed with the occasional feather dusting the ground – then blue skies; The AGO – Henry Moore (early works, full of the anguish of his response to his war-time experiences) and the Maharajas (fabulous, especially the Rolls Royce and the tabla player and Kathac dancer; too many pancakes (crepes) with delectable fillings (we ate the sweet followed by the savoury!); then on to Nathan Phillips Square for our first skate of the season, this year’s sole Cavalcade of Lights (the square is being refurbished) to launch the Christmas season, with live music, the lighting of the tree and some of the best fireworks I’ve ever seen – City Hall is a fabulous backdrop, the window reflections augmenting the show.

This was also the occasion of our first skate in Canada last year and looks set to be an enduring tradition – I felt the total pleasure and wonder of a six year old for much of the day – what a great start to Christmas!