Down the Street & Next to the Lake

24 June 2015 — But before I get to streets & lakes: Bonne fête nationale to any Québécois(es) reading this post. Today is the St-Jean-Baptiste, & there’ll be dancing in the streets tonight.

And, speaking of streets …

Down the Street

Down a few streets, in fact, but we won’t quibble, will we. When I headed off to Central Y on Monday, I took my camera along. Two targets in mind.

Here’s the first, & who could resist?

Sparky the Fire Plug...

So that’s the cutest Dalmatian you ever did see on a fire hydrant, but why is he there? Because the “314” on his cap stands for …

Grosvenor & Yonge

Grosvenor & Yonge


That photo opp I discovered all by myself, since the station is right next to the Y.

I learned about my second target of the day from my very good neighbour & even better friend, Brian. Yet another ratty old traffic signal box has been painted! he reported. Check out the corner of Church & Wood.

So I did.

painted traffic signal box, Church & Wood

Love it. Also love the artist’s website address.

signal-box artist's URL

It’s really-real. Type it into your search engine & go see for yourself.

So that was Monday, and then came — as it invariably must — Tuesday. Which marked the long-delayed reunion of the Tuesday Walking Society! Phyllis & I decided to take ourselves south on Sherbourne right down to Queen’s Quay Blvd. and …

Close to the Lake

While I was off admiring gardens & barn quilts & whatnot in Prince Edward County, the City of Toronto unveiled a new! improved! stretch of Queen’s Quay Boulevard. It now separates its various forms of traffic from each other, and provides more amply for pedestrians & cyclists into the bargain.

But first we cross Queen’s Quay, and skirt the west side of Sherbourne Common (its winter skating rink now miraculously a splash pad for squealing toddlers) to walk right at lake’s edge. This route takes us around the east face of a George Brown College building.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed the reflective qualities of its huge glass panels — but I have never, ever, seen such a glorious display as they present today, cloud-swirled from top to bottom.

Just look. It could be a painting.

George Brown College, Sherbourne & QQ

Soon after, heading west, we’re at Sugar Beach, where the preferred seating choices show that summer has truly (as well as officially) arrived.

lakeside on Sugar Beach

What do I mean? I mean people are by preference lounging in the shade, not seeking the sun. The white ferry in the background is making its way through uncharacteristically murky waters: we had a fierce rainstorm overnight, and the lake is still roiled from all that wave action.

I referred to “Sugar Beach” a moment ago. Exactly the right name. The east side of the slip is all sand, deck chairs & happy umbrellas, while the west side …

Redpath Sugar Refinery

… is the Redpath Sugar Refinery facility, which processes raw sugar from the Caribbean. The cargo arrives in lakers that tie up in the slip, opening their maws for this great machinery to scoop up loose sugar from their holds and start it on the journey that ends in tidy packages on grocers’ shelves.

Phyllis & I walk on west, the warm smell of cooking sugar in our nostrils.

Past new condos now springing up; past Yonge Street; past Bay Street, with its Toronto Island ferry docks. Still weaving our way lakeside, now along the lakefront skirting Harbourfront Centre and the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.

Each, as always, with outdoors art installations. I’m struck by this image by Ottawa artist Meryl McMaster.

Wingeds Calling, artist Meryl McMaster, in Ontario Square

“Wingeds Calling” is part of her In-Between Worlds series, which “explores the mixing and transforming of bicultural identities” — in her case, Plains Cree and British-Dutch.

Different medium, equal power as we pass The Power Plant installation of a work by French-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira.

The Death of a Journey V, by Zeneb Sedira

“The Death of a Journey V” is part of Sedira’s 2008 Shipwrecks series. It shows a vessel called United Malika, which in 2003 ran aground on a stretch of North Atlantic coastline while enroute to a ship graveyard in Mauritania. I’m not clear if it was eventually towed to Muaritania or has been left to rust away where it first foundered.

Either way … what an image.

We do eventually make our way back out to Queen’s Quay Blvd West, in that reinvented stretch between Bay and Spadina. I think it an extraordinarily interesting bit of civic re-engineering. It has been transformed from roaring traffic lanes with narrow sidewalks squeezed either side, to a calm, spacious & very orderly separation of pedestrians, cyclists & vehicles.

More than that, it’s been done in a way that caters to, that showcases, the totally different environments each side of the boulevard. South-side: the lake & recreation. North-side: office towers & city commerce.

Queen's Quay West, from south-side sidewalk looking north

So. Here we are on the south side, looking north across the series of zones.

  • First, beneath my feet, the widened (and decorated) pedestrian walkway, with frequent & generous benches.
  • Then the dark grey bike trail, with a turquoise line to separate its lanes.
  • Then more pedestrian walkway, with newly planted trees at intervals.
  • Then two lanes (only two lanes!) for vehicular traffic.
  • Then a regular-width sidewalk on the north side. But look — with slivers of parkette tucked in where possible between buildings, complete with bright red Muskoka chairs for those who seek a get-away moment of relaxation.

I don’t know how motorists feel about it; I do know pedestrians & cyclists are already making major use of their expanded facilities, and we aren’t even in full tourist/summer season as yet.

Before Phyllis & I finally turn around and head east again, we revisit a couple of already-known but much-loved lakefront sites/sights.

Stacks and stacks of canoes, so dramatically bright against winter snow but even more cheerful now — or so one anthropomorphically imagines — with summer canoe day camps about to begin.

canoes by Harbourfront Centre

And then the Simcoe Wave Deck. It is far & away the loopiest of the three wave decks that were installed in 2009, all of them part of the city’s “new blue edge” and meant to help us connect with our lakefront more easily and more playfully.

Simcoe Wave Deck

The process continues, with the re-engineered stretch of Queen’s Quay as the very latest addition. And see how it complements the existing wave deck: the generous pedestrian pathways & big, fat Muskoka chairs add to the fun.

So, yes, in yearly increments, we can — and do — connect with our lakefront more easily and more playfully. I’m not an idiot booster, mind you; I’m aware of problems, & I’m uneasy about how many new condos & other buildings are still piling in, at water’s edge.

Still, as urban action goes, out here in the messy real world,  I think it’s pretty swell.

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  1. Another great walk! Thanks for letting us “come along.”

  2. Great stuff! Love the fire hydrant!

  3. Very interesting that you are feeling positive about how the lakefront is developing – with your vast experience at walking in the area that makes me feel a bit better. I am only an occasional visitor and it seems we are losing to developers. great photos as always…love the trend to painting ratty looking utility boxes.

    • Guardedly positive, I think describes my feeling. I do want downtown residential density, which protects us from other evils, but yes a lot of waterfront disappears from public enjoyment in the process. Yet I do really enjoy the kind of parks & facilities that are now being created — good for the environment & so much more fun for us. I see people enjoying them, and that makes me happy. We “pay” but we also receive.

  4. bobgeor

     /  3 July 2015

    That reflection…wow!

    I’ve seen many an image and word on the re-genesis of Queen’s Quay. Time to get myself down there too.

    • Thanks, I really loved that reflection myself. And yes, do get yourself down to the waterfront — the construction wraps are finally beginning to come off some downtown locations, & it’s a pleasure


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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)

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