Ice & a Bright Blue Sky

6 January 2016 – Weather was on our minds, as Phyllis & I planned our Tuesday outing, so, when we finally set out, what more appropriate wall-comment than this?

a prescient street-scrawl, near Jarvis

It is – 11C: that’s not terrifically cold in, say, Moscow (or Winnipeg) terms, but pretty nippy for Toronto, especially after the very mild temperatures we’ve had until now. We decide to stick to downtown streets & take in Cloud Gardens Conservatory as we go. Nothing better than a hit of steamy tropics in the midst of a cold snap.

The bonus of cold weather is a bright blue sky. “An Alberta sky,” I always think, imprinted as I am by my years in Calgary. It lifts the spirits and makes colours pop.

Example: the old (1892) Confederation Life Building on Richmond St. East between Victoria & Yonge.

1892 Confederation Life Building, Richmond & Victoria

Romanesque Revival style, you bet, complete with the gloriously-named “wishbone surrounds” over those tall windows.

Nearby, just across Yonge St., our tropical hit: Cloud Gardens Conservatory. There is the open park section as well, but we head into the Conservatory, closed for a chunk of 2015 while they upgraded their light-management systems for all those plants.

inside Cloud Gardens Conservatory

Our glasses completely mist over as we enter. Once they clear, we mooch about. The new, filtering window curtains are fully retracted, this early in the day, so plants get full advantage of morning light.

glass wall, Cloud Gardens Conservatory

We’re heading west, wobbling between Richmond & Queen as fancy dictates. Fancy happens to dictate Queen, just where it passes City Hall at Bay St. The summer-time pond is now the winter skating rink.

skating rink, City Hall

Look again at that child in the lower-right, just off the final “O” in “Toronto.” He is about to go ker-SPLAT!! on the ice.  Happily, he is both unhurt & undaunted. (Later, we notice that the kiosk, along with the usual skates, also rents kiddie helmets and green push frames.)

Back to Richmond & still heading west, with new buildings, both office & condos, popping up all around. Example, this Picasso on Richmond condominium tower. I smirk at the name, but like the lines — all those hits of red on the white, popping at us from that bright blue sky.

"Picasso on Richmond" nr Peter St.

Old buildings are still around, some probably slated for demolition but others being integrated with the new. And some still sporting faded old advertising. Perhaps deliberately preserved as an architectural feature?


old Tip Top Tailors advertising, Richmond West

Tip Top Tailors. Still in business, though not right here.

One of the city’s newest examples of old/new “fusion architecture” is just down the street, at Richmond & Peter. Imagine two old 4-5 storey brick buildings that now serve as underpinnings for a 27-storey glass superstructure that straddles them both, creating a single entity, the Queen Richmond Centre West.

I ask you to imagine it since, lacking my own private helicopter, I cannot properly show it to you. (Though you can click right here and check it out on the architects’ website.)

I can show you the atrium, though — once external space between the old buildings, now soaring glass internal space, 75 feet high. We stand inside, swivel our heads, and start to laugh.

“Does everybody walk in and say ‘Wow!’?” we ask the Nice Young Man At The Desk. He laughs too, delighted that we are delighted. “Yes, they do.”

atrium, Queen Richmond Centre West

Great criss-cross pillars support the superstruture (and, temporarily, some Christmas ornaments as well). Old external brick walls, left & right, become internal atrium walls. Your mind & senses hop back & forth. It is very neat.

There’s a sleek little coffee bar in the atrium and we hesitate, almost peel off our coats & settle in — but we resist the temptation. Let’s head down Spadina to the lake, we decide; reward ourselves somewhere down there.

So we do. Passing our first ice display as we go: a perfectly preserved, but frozen stiff, ornamental cabbage outside the 401 Richmond West complex of art galleries & design studios.

frozen ornamental cabbage outside 401 Richmond West

More ice at the lake front. Not yet in solid sheets, more like translucent jigsaw puzzle pieces, neatly fitted next to each other but still floating free.

buoy & ice in the lake, at HTO Beach

We’re in HTO Beach, whose yellow-striped umbrellas & oversize beach chairs look more than slightly out-of-season at the moment. But what am I saying? Two of chairs are occupied. The occupants may be bundled up to the point of near invisibility, but there they are, by golly, enjoying their Day At The Beach.

Across the slip, more ice & another great tapestry of colour beneath the bright blue sky.

canoes cradled for winter, near Rees Wave Deck

I love ’em in the summer, and even more in winter. And yes, they are as out-of-season as the beach chairs –but aren’t they glorious?

And a reminder that summer will come again.




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  1. Nigel Pleasants

     /  7 January 2016

    I love the amazing ice cabbage! N.G.

  2. Thank you for the tour – I enjoyed going into the architect’s site and loved some of the modern buildings. As from February I am going to a Group which is studying architecture but am rather disappointed that they are going right back to Tudor times. Liked the story of the little boy. Best wishes for 2016

  3. GennaDac

     /  15 January 2016

    What beautiful shots! Toronto looks like a wonderful city to visit. I hope to make it up there some day. 🙂

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

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