Update: January 25, 2012

So…it has been quite some time since I have last posted here…
Sadly, I did not get as many explorations done as I would have liked, however this isn’t going to stop me from writing about the things I love, namely cities.
In the next few months I will hopefully be exploring much more than just my native Toronto, and my adopted Hamilton, but I will be heading down to Boston, and who knows maybe out to San Francisco for a taste of the west coast.

More will come with time…just wait and see

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Exploration 2: Sugar Beach

Wait exploration three, that doesn’t make sense you have only done one exploration so far. Well that’s right I’ve only written about one of them. This one is incredibly overdue, as is another one that was written about my mother’s day exploration with my mother. However, for the past week I have been both out-of-town for a conference, and upon returning from that conference caught a cold which has made me just want to sit and watch TV. So without further adieu here is Exploration Number 3: Sugar Beach.

A day or two after I published my first exploration I had a good friend of mine message me asking about what exactly I was doing with this project. I explained my purpose and upon doing so I was delightfully informed that I would have a companion on my trip. After googling places around Toronto, we decided that we would go to Sugar Beach. Sugar Beach is one of the few completed components of the Waterfront Development project along Toronto’s shore of Lake Ontario. The goal of the project is to revitalize our waterfront and make the lakeshore both more accessible and a more appealing place to work, visit and live. The project managers have divided the development in a number of regions: the Central Waterfront, East Bayfront, West Donlands, Lower Donlands (both taking their name from the Don River), and the Portlands. If you have ever gone downtown and seen those crazy looking boardwalks at the foot Spadina Ave or Simcoe Street, well those WaveDecks are actually a part of this development and are, in my opinion, incredible public spaces for people to gather, watch the boats along the lake, or challenge themselves during a stroll. But enough about the rest of the development, this entry is about Sugar Beach.

As the WaterfronToronto website puts it, “Sugar Beach is a whimsical new park that transformed a surface parking lot in a former industrial area into Toronto’s second urban beach at the water’s edge.” So, ok cool idea, you reversed Joni Mitchell’s song and tore up a parking lot to put up a paradise! Also it is right beside the new Chorus Entertainment HQ Chorus Quay, and is write near the old Redpath Sugar Factory (hence its name). After reading all this we decided it would be a cool place to check out, since my friend is a Photography Major at Ryerson, she brought her camera(s) along to take photos while I would write, and attempt to take some photos of my own. We also figured that since it’s a new attraction downtown it would be a good idea to use rollerblades/bike to get from Union Station to the Beach. It is now the part in my blog where I must say that everything we thought about Sugar Beach was well, how do I put it…wrong!

Getting to Sugar Beach was incredibly inaccessible, much to my surprise from about Cooper Street until the beach there was no sidewalk on the south side of Queen’s Quay, and furthermore there was a whole patch of gravel that connected the street to the beach. Yes there was a sidewalk and paved area that connected Chorus Quay’s parking lot to the beach, but for a project whose goal is to make the waterfront presumably more pedestrian/alternative transport accessible this location got a failing grade on the accessibility component. The beach itself was quiet frankly boring and underwhelming. There was a small area of white sand that was covered with white Muskoka chairs and these really tacky pink Beach umbrellas sticking out of the ground. Something else that bothered me is there was really nothing to look at, Chorus Quay is a nice building but aside from its emerald colour its nothing special, the Redpath Sugar Factory is an eyesore, and you couldn’t even see the lake because a sea carrier was trying to dock next to the sugar factory. The only saving grace was that Sugar Beach had these really cool rocks that we were able to climb on and take photos from, but for a beach that shouldn’t be the attraction.

Overall I was very underwhelmed and disappointed with this exploration. Sure, the location does have potential if first its made more accessible to the public, and second its made more welcoming. Right now it just feels like a lounge for the people who work at either Chorus Quay or the surrounding construction sites, and quite frankly I felt unwelcome in this public space, which SHOULD NOT happen. For the next year or so, I definitely don’t recommend visiting Sugar Beach; it’s tacky, you don’t feel welcome, and its a pain in the ass to get to. If you do want to go there wait until Chorus Entertainment uses it for an event and provides it with a purpose because right now it is not living up to its purpose as an attractive, accessible, public space.

Please note photos will be added as soon as they are uploaded.

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Urban Exploration 1: High Park (featuring Westend Lakeshore)

Having been back in Toronto for the past week, I was itching to begin my summer project of exploring the city. When I first mentioned this project to my mother, she was apprehensive about my solo explorations, so like any good mother, she accompanied me on my first exploration. Well, actually it was the other way around. This Wednesday, I accompanied my mother and her friend on their photography expedition to High Park.

High Park is the largest park in the city of Toronto covering an area of almost 400 acres. Way back, John Howard, a land surveyor, architect and civil engineer, donated the land to the city to be used as a public park. I’ve been to the park once before, but that was many years ago and today’s trip was eye opening.

But first before we got to the park we went out for lunch to The Acme Burger Company at the Queensway and Royal York. If you ever get the chance go there for lunch, they have another location at Bathurst and Bloor, the Angus beef burgers are grilled to perfection, the toppings are fresh, there’s a whole wheat bun option, and the fries appear to be fresh-cut with bits of peel on the non-uniform spuds. The only downside is that it is a bit pricey (6 oz combo with fries and drink was about 10 bucks). After lunch we drove down Royal York to Lakeshore Blvd and then across Lakeshore, while my mom’s friend gave us a brief history of the area. We drove through the parking lots of both Humber Bay Parks and got a glimpse of the paved walking/bike trails that connect the city along the waterfront. Simply looking at the trails was a tease; so stay tuned for a future post that will hopefully contain an end-to-end trip across the waterfront of Toronto. Before heading back to the park we drove past Sunnyside Park, a place of significance to my family. When my great-grandmother first came to Canada (1920’s), many places were still closed to Jews. Luckily Sunnyside was not one of them, throughout my life I’ve heard stories of her visits to the pool and the nearby dance hall Palais Royale, where she would go to dance, listen to big bands, and eventually meet my great-grandfather who I am named after. Sunnyside Park is another place I want to check out, not just for its personal significance, but the architecture and design of the Bathing House is absolutely fantastic.

When we returned to the park we got down to shooting. This was my first time trying my hand at actually photography, not the point-and-shoot kind, but with all the stops. My mom and her friend were there to help me out, and kept tossing around ways to fix your shots, and work with the light by adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and using different lenses. It was definitely overwhelming at first but towards the end I started to get the hang of it. I started shooting with a wide-angle lens, and then switched to a zoom. The zoom was easier to manage, but I did get a couple good shots with the wide-angle and I have included them at the end of this entry.

What amazed me, was that a park of this size could exist within the city dubbed the “Big-Smoke”. It was just the beginning of the season, the trees were starting to blossom, and the sun occasionally peeked out from the clouds warming the park. The other incredible aspect of the park was the amount of wildlife that we encountered. Walking along the north edge of Grenadier Pond we saw many different types of birds, which I don’t know/remember the names of, turtles, chipmunks, and evidence of beavers. I also saw a swan for the first time since I visited London 3 summers ago. Many times, I just stood there in awe, looking around and marveling at the fact that this much wildlife and natural beauty could exist within an urban setting. On the way out we walked along a path lined with Cherry Blossom trees that were planted when Toronto became the sister city of Sagamihara, Japan in the 1950’s. They looked ready to bloom and will probably do so within the next couple of days if the weather stays nice.

I think this was a successful first exploration, although next time I would like to be out on the ground more, and maybe head down by public transit. It would be nice to depend less on our car, but it just makes traveling the city more convenient. I have another destination that I would like to explore, Sunnyside Park, and some actual photography experience. I encourage everyone to go visit High Park at least once this summer, its beautiful and there is so much to do/see. Oh yah I forgot to mention: THERE’S A ZOO TOO! Anyway that’s all for now, thank you for reading and if you have any comments, feel free to post or send me a line. I hope you enjoy my photos.


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…Sadly is not here

I see you have found your way to my blog. Yes it is new and yes, it is empty. If you are here by chance I apologize for the lack of substance. If you are here because of my dear friend Alec Thomson, please do not set your standards too high for I will probably not reach them. Lastly, if you are here because I sent you the link, be patient. This is my first blog and I am still learning the ins and outs of WordPress.

The purpose of this blog will be to update you, dear reader, as I explore the urban landscape of Toronto, Ontario armed with a backup, journal, camera, and a pair of roller blades. Over the summer I will ponder, discuss,  inquire, or even rant about the city that I have called home for over 19 years. In addition to my urban explorations, I will be participating in the “Essay-a-Week Challenge” proposed by my friend Alec, where I will be writing an essay a week on a pre-selected topic. If you feel inclined to participate Alec’s blog with topics (as of April 27) and guidelines can be found at http://abookfulblockhead.wordpress.com/

If there are any areas that you recommend exploring please feel free to drop me line.

Have a wonderful summer.

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