Archives for posts with tag: Canada

Every year, Ontario buildings open their doors so you get to explore places you’re usually not allowed to go. Or wouldn’t think to go. Or can only go under specific circumstances (like paying admission).

I started the morning with a walking tour led by the Theatre Museum of Canada where I learned a little bit more about downtown theatres (did you know YPT used to house horses that pulled streetcars?). Then I met my dad (and had a fancy lunch surrounded by fancy ladies wearing pearls and drinking martinis) and we joined the masses. We didn’t go into the Design Exchange because there was a line up.  But we went into Old City Hall, the Ontario Heritage Fund headquarters, the Bank of Commerce, and the Elgin and Wintergarden theatres.

Having been to both theatres before, I didn’t anticipate how magical it would be to wander around and take pictures (take pictures in a theatre! in a theatre!) It was magical indeed.

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Inside the Wintergarden Theatre in Toronto.

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Seats at the Wintergarden.

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A view of the stage from the balcony.

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The Eglin Theatre: where, in 1992, I realised I probably needed glasses during a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond.

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If this was truly “Doors Open,” we’d be allowed in the box seats. Non, mais!

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Theatre stairs. I got pretty excited taking pictures in a place you’re not supposed to take pictures, normally.

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The Elgin: a theatre of contrasts. Black brick stage surrounded by glitzy glam red and gold.

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When travelling, I love checking out the local markets. Some of my strongest memories include trying to buy lettuce and a tomato from farmer’s market in Bosnia, taking pictures of intense old-lady cheesemongers in Paris, and putting various foods on a stick into my mouth at a night market in Cambodia.

So I was pretty excited to discover that Toronto now hosts a flower market that features local growers, sellers, and stylists. 

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Sometimes Torontonians need it spelled out for them.

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The flower market is pretty hip.

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Getting inspired.

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Wild fields and country in the city.

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I decided to go for it and bought four bunches (for only $20!)

I loved being able to buy flowers- a wonderful perk of not travelling.

I didn’t quite realise exactly how many flowers I’d bought until I tried to figure out where to put them all. It’s a week later and my tiny apartment is still chocked with bright blooms and I’m happy. I try to remember this kind of feeling- the feeling of being home and able to buy myself flowers to liven up my own space- whenever my feet get itchy and my fingers start googling destinations and seat sales.

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I could fit the most stems into my sangria pitcher (in which I have never made sangria). On the dining room table (seen here with butter, sugar, and a brick from the beach at Leslie Spit)

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This is my only actual vase. In the kitchen.

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In a milk-bottle-looking bottle that was bought with orange juice in it in London in maybe 2008 and never re-used until this day. In the kitchen.

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In the entrance in a storage jar.

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In the bathroom in a jam jar.

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In the living room in a balsamic vinegar bottle.

The next flower market will be on September 13th. See you there!

 

Yesterday was boring. I barely left my apartment and the sky was grey. I felt a bit lonely, more than I did when I literally was alone on the other side of the world. Even buying myself flowers didn’t make me feel much better.

So today I went out and travelled. I shook myself up and remembered what I love to do: discover the world. Even if it’s only going a few subway stops away.

I got up early (for a Sunday), and made my way east to Corktown, the oldest neighbourhood of Toronto for a Jane’s walk. It was beautiful and sunny and very chilly.

I found out about an 1800 duel caused by some rumours about a lady and that escaped slaves from Kentuky started the taxi company that would lead to the TTC (even if just in colour scheme) and saw the stables where the horses who made cookies for Mr Christie lived.

I saw the first free school and discovered the area is called Corktown because the first wave of immigrants came from Ireland- not necessarily from Cork itself, but still. And because there was a cork factory in the are. And I realised I know nothing much at all about my own city.

Everything was so colourful, I thought I’d share some pictures of this morning:

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A laneway that used to be “muddy and sketchy” (and across the street from the first Loblaws grocers’) and is now hoity toity.

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Pink building and blue sky.

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Workers’ row houses from the 1800s. That’s very old for Canada. Notice the red and white bricks- both made here but at different brickworks.

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Bright Street.

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The Magic Building.

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A guy.

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The Dominion Hotel (attached to the brewery). Now hosts jazz and rockabilly.

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Trees and shadows of trees.

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The Berkeley Cafe, where I used to go for lunch breaks when I used to work in the neighbourhood. A great place to overhear conversations and theatre gossip (lots of theatres nearby).

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The Opera Company and the Berkeley Theatre- old gas works buildings.

I hadn’t been up the CN Tower since I was 6. But with complimentary coupons for the “Experience” in hand and a determination to be tourist in Toronto, we took the subway down to a massively-still-under-construction Union Station after work and went up the empty tower. It used to be the tallest free-standing structure in the world. Before Abu Dhabi broke all the records.

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Walking through the atmospheric sky walk from Union Station to the CN Tower.

I don’t go down to that area of Toronto too often, so I took some pictures:

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This is my city. Tall, shiny, and under construction. Because you can never have too many condos.

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A celebration of the fact that it is still bright and sunny after work. Spring is coming!

After being shot at by air when walking through security (the guard didn’t like me asking what the puffs of air were for, so I didn’t insist on the scientific explanation of what exactly the “firing jets” were actually doing), we went into the elevator that shot up 350 metres. We immediately went to the outdoor observation deck to look at stuff.

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Inside the CN Tower. It was very very windy and it was fun to run into the wind screaming. And watching planes take off from Billy Bishop airport.

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A laskeshore park with parasols (empty and cold).

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Lake Ontario was still a bit frozen.

When we got too cold, we realised there was also an indoor observation deck. So we went there and looked out at the city for hours. We found friends’ buildings, landmarks, and streets. We watched the sun set.

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Toronto from up high.

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As the sun set, I played with the features on my camera.

Who would have thought the CN Tower could be romantic? But it kind of was. Probably because there were very few tourists up there on a cold Tuesday evening.

You’ll notice there are no pictures of me on the glass floor- I managed to stand on it for a minute before losing my mind. It is scary seeing the ground so far below you.

We tried to go to the restaurant. But the rule is you have to get at least an entrée each. And it was very expensive. So we ate half a bagel with peanut butter and jam in the train station’s sad food court to hold us off until dinner.

Because my frugal travel budget of pasta at the hostel extends to real life. And I like it that way.

I have been home for over six months, yet it still feels like I just got back. I’m still out of loop on the theatre scene, I still haven’t caught up on all the 2013 movies, I still haven’t unpacked all my boxes, and I’m still saying “well, I just got back from a trip” when people ask what I’m up to.

So I’m feeling a bit like a tourist in my own country, happy to rediscover it all armed with a few more points of reference and comparison.

With a very snowy winter, a job that involves showing off my country to young people, and two days of back-to-back Olympic hockey wins, I’m feeling hyper-aware of my Canadianism.

So here’s to living it up, Canadian-style, and enjoying the winter:

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I tried curling for the first time. It was ridiculously fun to throw a rock down a sheet of ice. The sweeping not quite as fun.

 

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Whenever the temperature goes above -8°, it’s a good time to go for a walk in the secret neighbourhood of Wychwood Park in Toronto.

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Barrelling down snowy hills in an inflatable tube! A cheap and cheerful alternative to skiing.

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The local wildlife. Back to posting pictures of birds!

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The local food: poutine! Not exactly your traditional, hole-in-the-wall-greasy-spoon version (where you layer fries, cheese curds, gravy, fries, cheese curds, and gravy), but this one still did the trick with its squeaky cheese and heart-attack potential.

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If you pass a half-frozen creek, you must go break the ice with your boots for that pleasing sound and to watch the bits of freed ice float down stream.

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After the ice storm, the trees were glittering in the low winter sun.

I haven’t had a real winter in a couple of years, and as my tan fades, I am thankful to be back in Canada, despite the sore throat and frozen toes. And power cuts when it’s -20°C.

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Snow makes everything seem old-timey.

The power in my apartment cut out over 60 hours ago because of the ice storm that hit Toronto on Saturday. Luckily I have family in town and have been going from one place to another as power cuts in and out.

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People go nuts with the lights. And it’s tacky and beautiful.

I remember a few things I don’t like about winter at home:

When your scarf gets wet from snow or your breath’s condensation and then rubs up against your chin

Dry skin, wet feet, the inevitable runny nose

Getting slushed by passing cars

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Snow in the city mutes everything. Everything becomes quiet and cozy and nostalgic.

But when the air is crisp and the sky is blue and the setting sun makes all the ice-covered branches glisten like a Christmas card overloaded with glitter, winter in Canada is exactly perfect.

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The ice storm hits.

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Frozen smoke-tree flower.

Or when the snow is falling in big fat cottonball flakes and you sit by the window with a cup of tea and a book and you don’t have to go to work tomorrow.

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Christmas snow, typical Toronto house.

This time last year, I was alone in the middle of New South Wales, watching the rain wash away the road.  Turns out that Christmas only really feels like Christmas when it’s winter and you’re with your family putting together a jigsaw puzzle. With chocolate and clementines.

Happy holidays, everyone!

I have been back in my hometown of Toronto for 3 months now, after over a year living out of my backpack. Thinking back, my record is 3 years in one place since the year 2000. And those three years were during undergrad when I’d go home for the summer. So maybe it’s normal that my feet are itchy for my own space rather than for another hostel dorm on another continent. We’ll see how long this lasts. (I’m already getting vague yearnings to see Chile. Or go back to Ireland. Maybe take a road trip down to Louisiana.)

Winter is coming! The first snow on a dried hydrangea, Toronto.

Winter is coming! The first snow on a dried hydrangea, Toronto.

Sitting here, settling into my new one-bedroom apartment that still smells of paint, I wonder: am I, you know, a grown up? I have a lease signed, a couch purchased (off Craigslist, but still) and lugged down the street with the help of a couple strangers and a good friend. There are butter dishes and sugar bowls and a brand new toaster sitting patiently in the kitchen and very serious thoughts of buying a Christmas tree a’brewing.

Something that’s making me feel more connected (other than working 9-5) is getting back into the loop theatre-wise. I haven’t written about any of the plays I’ve seen so far because I was either so affected I didn’t know what to write or so bored that I forgot I should maybe be blogging about things.

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Pig: rainbows and lollipops!

Pig (by Tim Luscombe at Buddies in Bad Times). Although this play made me feel every single emotion under the sun in a very intense way, from compassion to physical barfiness, I don’t know how to talk about it. This in-your-face show’s first professional staging about the gritty underbellies of certain gay cultures (including SM and sero-conversion parties) wasn’t my ‘cup of tea’ content-wise, but it was very well written and produced and acted. And it was nice to see a change from all the sanitized relationships we see on TV and on stage. And yes, it was provocative in the best sense of the word. I’m still reeling.

I mean- look at those shoes!

I mean- look at those shoes!

Venus in Fur (by David Ives at Canadian Stage) felt like a feel-good kid’s play after Pig. It was amusing and a bit brash but had beautiful moments. It was a crowd-pleasing look at S&M and there definitely was a perfectly sexy moment involving a boot being unzipped. But I spent most of the time wondering if the actress was really going to spend the duration of the play in those insane heels (she did and didn’t show any sign of distress).

A moment of action in The Valley. I'm glad they didn't shy away from staging this part.

A moment of action in The Valley. I’m glad they didn’t shy away from staging this part.

The Valley (by Joan McLeod at Tarragon Theatre). Um, I was never bored, but it was more a plateau than a valley (no peaks, if you get what I’m saying). Maybe I just don’t connect with Joan McLeod’s writing. Blasphemy!

But then I went to see The Gay Heritage Project (by Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn, and Andrew Kushnir at Buddies in Bad Times) and I realised I have to get back to writing. Because although you’ll read this an it will have already closed, I wanted to mark the play that motivated me to write again. To not give up on seeing shows and not to give up on the notion of creating them.

Paul, Andrew and Damien in The Gay Heritage Project.

Paul, Andrew and Damien in The Gay Heritage Project. I laughed, I cried, I learned a lot.

I refuse to give standing ovations just because every single Toronto audience gives standing ovations for every single play. But for this, I stood up.

It was both an intimate and globally important investigation. It was theatrical. It was funny. It made me sob. With only three actors, it managed to swing from big, rich song-and-dance numbers to the most quietly heartbreaking questioning. The physical preciseness of the performers was mind-blowing. It was aware of the difficulty of asking the question “is there such a thing as a gay heritage?” and it attacked the question from various angles, speeds, times, ages.

So I’ve set myself some deadlines and I will also attack. Hopefully something of what Paul Dunn, Andrew Kushnir, and Damien Atkins did in The Heritage Project will magically rub off on me.

So I’m home. I have a physical space I am solely responsible for keeping tidy. I have objects like couches and desks. And now I have a writing deadline. But these are all good weights.

Home for the holidays. You can't really tell, but that giant reindeer has ribbons as guts and brains.

Home for the holidays. The Eaton Centre. You can’t really tell, but that giant reindeer has ribbons as guts and brains.

I appreciate that I have friends to call for impromptu dinners and family to call on for help moving all my photo albums and chairs into my new apartment. I am also holding tightly onto that openness that travelling forces you to develop: I’ve become that girl who talks to people while waiting for the bus and who crashes a neighbour’s housewarming party.

I am holding tightly onto that feeling where you don’t quite know where the day will take you (the day meaning weekends and after 5pm on weekdays) and going with the flow of the buffalo.

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This feels so far away. This feels like yesterday.
Lembongan, Indonesia.

After a year of living out of a backpack through 18 countries, I landed in Montreal on July 28th.

I have been home for a month now and time is still warped in the way that it is warped when you travel. So many things packed into so little time… it seems both impossible that it has only been a month and impossible that a month has gone by already.

People talk about the ‘reverse culture shock’ you experience when you come home after a long time away. That hasn’t happened, really, unless I’m in such shock that I haven’t noticed I’m in shock. Unlikely.

Perhaps it’s that I’ve made a pact with myself to not stress about jobs or anyreal-life things until September. Maybe that’s help me keep my travel-head on for a bit longer.  (But if you are hiring or have any leads, I’m looking for a job! As soon as possible! With a salary and benefits! September is only 3 days away! Not that I’m stressing about it or anything.)

See, when you travel, you make friends fast, are open to new things, will make an effort to go see something cool, sleep in a different bed every night (get your mind out of the gutter), and walk a lot.

This past week alone, I found myself at a picnic knowing just two people (whom I’d only met a couple of days earlier) and felt surrounded by old friends. I walked a lot (my friends happen to live in awkward-to-get-to-by-transit-and-I-don’t-pay-for-Bixi-bikes-and-don’t-have-my-own-bike-here places that are about 40-50 minutes’ walk, so I walked a lot). I went to the insectarium and botanical gardens, which is hella east in my limited geographical life in Montreal. And I’ve been sleeping at my mum’s with a bunch of other people (namely brothers and nephews) and, depending on the set up, have been rotating beds and sofas.

Not that nothing has changed at home. Things have changed. Some neighbourhoods are hipper than they were, some shops have closed, the metro ticketing system is slightly different (what happened to being able to buy 6 tickets? Hm?) and there’s a new ice-cream place. I’ve come home to new tiny humans, newly-weds, pregnancy announcements, and friends buying houses with white picket fences. The city and the people are growing up around me.

As I job-hunt, go through my photos, and figure out what I should do with my instinct to find a place to nest, I will post a few themed round-ups of my trip on this blog.

Coming up next: photos of the best street art I’ve seen this year featuring animals. Prepare for amazement.

I am on a train. In Canada. On my way back to Toronto. This is full-circle. I left Union Station westward-bound July 19th 2012. In a few hours, I will be arriving back there from the east.

A trip around the world. Well, to certain places in the world.

I was warned about reverse culture-shock. The shock of coming home after travelling for an extended period of time.

But I haven’t felt it yet. It only feels like summer holidays, like the ones I’d have in undergrad.

I’ve spent my first two weeks back in Canada in Montreal. There, I have done nothing but let myself be spoiled by my mother, meet friends for coffee, poutine, and croissants, watch two full seasons of The West Wing on DVD (I’ll be the cop that doesn’t go to the meeting), and have a reunion with old friend in l’Ile d’Orléans to celebrate the wedding of one of the most beautiful couples there can be.

All this makes it easy to come home.

It also must have helped that I went through London on my way back to Canada.

London feels like home too, with a familiar public transport system, my favourite theatres, and, most importantly, close friends always ready to offer their spare room, go to gigs in sweaty caves, take the day off work to make ourselves sick with fancy cakes in pubs, and go halfway across the city to buy a mug I saw that one time.

It helps that my quick visit to London included breakfast in Southwark, a picnic in the park, magic tricks over cider, a Josh Ritter show, a Doc Brown DVD-taping, and two Irish plays by favourite playwrights (Martin McDonaugh, Conor McPherson) starring favourite actors (Ciarán Hinds).

It helps that it was sunny every day and that the tube lines I needed were open.

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A picnic in Soho Square behind this guy. Before a matinee of The Cripple of Inishmann, starring Harry Potter himself.

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Sweating to the sweet tunes of Josh Ritter in a hot venue in a hip part of town.

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Destroying cakes at The Bridge, London.

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And then home for a wedding and dancing all night (or until 1:30 because we are old now.)

Who knows what being home will mean, but I hope to keep my eyes, heart, and options open. You know, keep that “travelling” vibe.

I’ve been away from home for almost 9 months now. Strangely, I haven’t felt homesick much. But there are things I miss. Mostly, it’s people (and most often my little nephews), but I also miss eating cereal at 10pm with fresh milk in my pjs, public transit I understand, and knowing where the good second-hand bookstores are.

I also miss things like the great theatre going on back at home. A festival I love and have done for years is World Stage at Harbourfront in Toronto (I clearly remember Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs starring none other than Cillian Murphy way back in 1998, and being totally in awe of it).

A Dance Tribute to Football

Jo Strømgren Kompani’s A Dance Tribute to the Art of Football (Norway). Photo: Knut Bry

As I travel, I’ve been trying to catch shows in every country I visit, but there’s nothing like having the best of the best from around the world gather in one place.

Between now and the end of May, World Stage will be presenting shows from Norway, Germany, Belgium/Portugal, Canada and the Netherlands.

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Beligan/Portuguese duo Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido/CAMPO in Still Standing You. Photo: Phile Deprez

 Up next is A Dance Tribute to the Art of Football (looks seriously awesome) followed by She She Pop & Their Fathers: Testament, Still Standing You, what we are saying and finally KAMP.

KAMP - photo: Herman Helle

KAMP – photo: Herman Helle

For more information on this year’s festival, please check out www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage

If you could go check these out and report back to me, that would be amazing.