Poppin’ Through the Parks

9 April 2015 – It became a park walk, though that hadn’t been the plan. But I should have had a premonition, as I marched off to our agreed meeting place: this message I passed en route wasn’t just mushy street art philosophy, it was a warning.

A warning, I tell you. A directive.

written inside an Evol "horse"

Or, in the case of the Tuesday Walking Society: Find each other.

The plan was to rendez-vous outside the recently reopened conservatory attached to a downtown park called Cloud Gardens. Our 8 a.m. phone conversation agreed that the midtown transit disruption (a fire investigation) would soon clear, allowing Phyllis lots of time to head south & meet me there at 9:30.

At 10:05 I conclude she wasn’t able to get through after all. (For the first time ever, I wish I had a smart phone…)

Not only no Phyllis, no visit to the conservatory, either. Someone is in there, playing monkey-on-the-wall & watering hanging plants, but the doors are locked. I take a wistful peek through the glass …

Cloud Gardens conservatory, Temperance St.

… and decide to shove off. This park is featured on the city’s Downtown Discovery Walk; I study a handy map posted in the grounds, and follow its lead. It will take me through familiar parks, but that’s fine, and it will eventually send me past Union Station — just where Phyllis & I had planned to go next. So I may be solo, but I’ll be honouring the spirit of our intended walk.

Next up: Courthouse Square. Toronto is still in the first dreary transition from winter to spring: no buds, no blooms, no leaves, grass still winter-beige. Thank goodness for year-round public art. This stack of law books, for example, appropriate to their context.

Court House Square, 10 Court St.

I see a smudge of white beyond the books, check it out. Snowdrops! The first I’ve seen this year. There are a few blooms, after all. But you do have to look for them …

Across Church Street now, jogging just a titch north so I can obey the Discovery Walk route and cut through St. James Park from north-east to south-west. As I go, I pause to admire the very modern — and, I think, entirely coherent — addition to the south side of the very traditional Anglican Dioscesan Centre.

between the Diocesan Centre and St. James Cathedral

St. James Park still very winter-brown. A fine bust of Robert Gourlay (1778-1863), though — a Scottish immigrant who advocated reforms, was banished, and is now honoured. “He championed reforms ahead of his time.”

Back across Church, two more heads. Not metal busts & much more ephemeral, they decorate hoardings advertising condos-to-come on Colborne Street.

just north of Colborne St.

@vydycatz, says the one on the left; @kizmet32, on the right.

Next official stop: Berczy Park. Like St. James Park, it too has street attractions right opposite. Bike art, this time.

opposite Berczy Park

A little out of season, but who cares?

And into Berczy Park, where the Flatiron mural dominates the scene, as it deserves to do, but where I personally most enjoy the sidewalk murals leading up to it.

Flatiron Bldg & mural, Berczy Park

I enjoy them so much, I use a mural section at the top of my blog home page. I spend a moment walking sideways the length of the mural, charmed all over again.

detail, sidewalk murals, Berczy Park

Who could resist?

And on I go, I have a Walk to pursue, down through the Toronto Sculpture Garden (currently sculpture-free, whoops) and along Front Street toward Union Station. Where, promises the Walk, I will find Union Station Parkette.

Construction chaos still swirls around the station, sufficient to force them to put up signs saying “sidewalk,” with helpful big arrows to point the way. So a mere parkette is lost to view. I don’t find it.

But I do find Phyllis!

We suddenly see each other, opposite sides of the street, with a red light giving us time to make funny faces at each other & start laughing. We are still laughing when the green light reunites us. Thank goodness Union Station drew us both.

And now, in full two-woman force, the Tuesday Walking Society first checks latest renovations inside the venerable old railway station, then heads outside again and continues to the next Discovery Walk destination: Roundhouse Park.

Um, with a stop across the street to admire the woodpecker in the parkette immediately south of the Toronto Convention Centre. Unlike the elusive woodpecker who returns to the same dead tree each spring opposite my house, whom I hear but never manage to see, this guy is very easy to see.

You can never hear him, though.

one of the woodpckers, lawn South Building

Roundhouse Park deserves its name: once a functioning railway roundhouse, its turntable is still in place and assorted train station structures and vintage locos fill the space. I keep meaning to visit the train museum … One day!

vintage train in Roundhouse Park

We’re in busy, noisy, entertainment-district territory: the Convention Centre to the north, the Aquarium, Steamwhistle Brewery in the roundhouse building with its guided tours, Rogers Centre right next door.

And, tucked into a slice of space just west of the Rogers Centre, another little park.

just S/W of Rogers Centre

Extraordinary what even the tiniest bit of landscaped space can accomplish. Gravel, birch trees, a big rock … and the surrounding world fades away. You are at peace.

This is surely private parkland — not in the sense of prohibiting visitors, only in the sense that it has been created and is maintained by the developer of the adjacent condos.

We keep walking west, headed for another huge condo complex, Concord CityPlace, with — to its credit — a lot of parkland and public art.

The public got to name one section of the park. The winning name: Canoe Landing Park. Here’s why:

Red Canoe by Doug Coupland

Doug Coupland’s Red Canoe, his homage to Tom Thomson, juts out over the steep embankment & the Gardiner Expressway below. I’ve loved the sculpture since I first climbed up to admire it; I’m angry now to see the interior is covered in scrawled graffiti, both at the vandals and at Concord, who ought to look after their artwork better than this. (I am here assuming it is the developer’s responsibility. If it is someone else’s, I’ll be angry with them instead.)

Happily, we see no vandalism on Puente de Luz. This is another CityPlace installation, art that earns its keep. It is a real, functional pedestrian bridge that spans multiple railway tracks to connect the complex with Front Street to the north. This real bridge, however, is designed by a real artist (Francisco Gazitua). Can you tell?

Puente de Luz, Front St. West

Any lingering temper about vandalism is banished by the bit of coffee philosophy we spot as soon as we reach Front Street. It is trying to lure us to an espresso bar just steps away.

Atlas Espresso Bar

And we do stop for coffee, though not there. And then we head east. Phyllis jumps a northbound subway car at Yonge, and I walk on home.

Don Was Here

Remember this shot from my previous post, about walking Lower Don Recreational Trail? And my puzzlement about who was placing this slogan & ripple on the trail, and why?

also trail markings!

Now I know why. All credit to blogger Bobgeor, whose Scenes From A City blog also celebrates Toronto. He explains:

It’s a public art installation which marks to the route of the Don before it was straightened at the end of the 19th century. There’s a bunch of them along the Don Recreational Trail all the way up to Todmorden.

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  1. Nigel Pleasants

     /  9 April 2015

    The blog is in top form! N.

  2. bobgeor

     /  9 April 2015

    So appropriate that you found each other at Union…reunions, homecomings, and the like! And thanks for the shoutout!

  3. As always writing to carry along the reader – love the bridge by Fransciso Grazutia?


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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