Tag Archives: Toronto

Second Life for Toronto’s Trash

21 May

Crowdsourcing’s one of those promising concepts that’s often put to fairly uninspiring uses, whether it’s adding social media sparkle to lacklustre government policies, or advertising tortilla chips.

But last week I wrote about a crowdsourcing site with a social purpose that seems to be carrying out a genuinely useful function.

The article, for Torontoist, was about Trashswag, a website that maps out the location of unwanted wood, furniture and other salvageable bits and bobs left lying in Toronto’s streets.


Anyone who spies some potentially useful junk can add to the map by taking a picture of it and posting the photo on Instagram or tweeting it, using the hashtag #Trashswag.

Creative types are using the site to find materials they can turn into art, wardrobes, seats and tables. Brilliantly, this also means that less stuff is getting sent to landfill.

I wonder whether this has been done in other cities around the world? I hear the site’s founder, Gavin Cameron, was invited onto the Morning Show after producers read the Torontoist article; perhaps the growing momentum will help him expand his empire.

Have you done any “upcycling” via the site? Is it something you might find useful? If you’re not from Toronto, is there anything similar in your home town?

The Dragon’s Den Canadian Visa

11 Apr

Toronto Canada immmigration expat

I’ve written an article for Telegraph.co.uk on Canada’s Start-Up Visa, likened by one lawyer to “the Dragon’s Den of immigration”.

The visa’s aimed at enticing entrepreneurs looking for venture capital, or angel investor, funds. The government believes the promise of investment – and a permanent visa – will encourage foreigners to move here to build their tech start-ups.

I’m not so sure. Take the Conference Board of Canada report, which placed the country 13th of 16 peer nations for innovation. Canadian firms were “rarely at the leading edge of new technology,” it said. Canada also ranked poorly on barriers to competition, which won’t surprise anyone who’s tried to buy a phone contract, broadband package or bottle of wine here.

The UK, meanwhile, was deemed to have the lowest barriers to competition and received the top score for “ease of entrepreneurship”.

In Canada’s favour is its comparatively strong economy and the UK’s decreasing levels of venture capital investment. This report provides an optimistic view of entrepreneurship in maple leaf land.

Interested in finding out more? The government’s giving away up to 2,750 of the new visas annually for the next five years. Time will tell whether they turn out to be the Reggae Reggae sauce, or the DriveSafe glove of the immigration world.

Walk in the park

3 Apr

Half an hour’s drive from central Toronto is a big space known as Rouge Park. When I say big, it’s 10,000 acres. I’ve never been very good with distances, but that’s 12 times bigger than Central Park and 13 times the size of Hampstead Heath.

As any BBC Radio 4 listeners will be fascinated to know, it also amounts to 1/500th of the size of Wales.

So yeah, big. And also wild, especially for an urban park surrounded by industrial towns and cities. Apparently, deer, coyotes, otters and even wild turkeys roam there. Who knew wild turkeys even existed? They look terrifying.

I drove there last weekend for a “hike”. Or, as us Brits like to call it, a walk.

The walk

Parking at Rouge Park Beach, I watch V-shaped formations of Canada Geese cutting through the cerulean sky before landing in the noisy marshes, which in summer act as a jumping off point for canoeists heading up the Rouge River.

A boardwalk takes me past the wetlands to the wide, sandy beach on Lake Ontario’s shoreline.

There doesn’t seem to be any access to the rest of the park from here, so it’s back in the car and round to Twyn Rivers Drive, from where I join the start of the 2km Orchard trail.

The trail hugs the rushing river, taking me through pine and beech forest, crunchy snow underfoot.

Rouge Park Toronto

Rouge Park river

“Ah, a Grey Tit,” my husband points out, gesturing at a cute little flapping bird. He’s a bit of an ornithologist, but I suspect he just wanted to say “grey tit” out loud. Needless to say, when a panting woman wearing crampons rushes over to tell us about the Pussy Willow she’s spotted, there’s some quiet guffawing.

Pushing on to the Cedar trail through an open area surrounded by small rolling hills, I stop to watch a never-ending train chuff past on its way to somewhere far, far away.

Rouge Park Toronto

A long, loooong train chugs through Rouge Park

Slippery wooden steps take me back into the forest, and it’s a short hop to Meadowvale road, where I turn back and do the route in reverse, noticing how the snow’s rapidly ebbing away in the sun. It’s a roughly 8.5 km walk and, other than crampon woman, we only pass about five other people.

National Urban Park

I was interested to read that the federal government’s planning to turn the area into Canada’s only “National Urban Park”. It’s not entirely clear what the designation means, other than an expansion of the park’s boundaries, but the aim’s to encourage more people to take advantage of the country’s wonderful natural landscapes, amid declining visitor levels at national parks.

The people in charge of all this might like to consider how to make the park more accessible to those without cars. Getting there via public transit takes more than two hours from downtown Toronto – ridiculous! Luckily we rented a car that weekend.

Some would also argue that the government’s mission isn’t going to be helped by the $29m spending cut to Parks Canada’s budget. Parks across the country have already been forced to cancel winter services; some trails and car parks in Quebec and Nova Scotia are reportedly no longer being maintained in the off season.

Perhaps it’s right that parks in more populated areas are prioritized over those mainly serving smaller, remote communities. But it’d be a terrible shame if the investment in the admittedly fabulous Rouge Park came at the cost of the beautiful wilderness areas for which Canada’s rightly famed.

This might make you a bit jealous

10 Mar

Of all the smug utterances at the expat-in-Canada’s disposal, “we’re going to Whistler” has to be among the most powerful. It’s the ultimate weapon in your bombastic armoury, the Mario mushroom of envy provoking power ups.

It’s an unnecessarily cruel reminder to pals at home that your winters involve zipping down mountains at world class ski resorts, while theirs involve (probably) damp afternoons eating baked beans in front of The Cube. Well, there has to be an upside to walking around with nostril icicles four months of the year.

There’s no need to mention to said pal that visiting Whistler from Toronto is no cheaper than it would be from London and involves a five hour flight. Or that you still spend way too many winter evenings eating junk in front of mindless TV shows. Or that Canadian TV is, by any standard, 1,000 times shitter than British TV.

Despite the hideous costs and pain-in-the-ass distance associated with travelling to Whistler from Toronto, anyone into skiing or snowboarding will understand why we wanted to go there so badly.

But would it live up to the hype?

The snow

We were pummelled with 1.25m of powder over seven days. That’s on top of the existing 2m base, meaning we were carving fresh tracks every single morning on fluffy, tree-lined pistes.


Fresh tracks at Whistler

There were some fantastically powdery gladed runs although, after face-planting at the bottom of one, I vowed never again to ski through trees without a helmet.

Being used to heaving European resorts, we were also chuffed to find the mountains empty of people; the 4pm home run, normally a terrifying gauntlet of ski school pile-ups and slush, was a long, smooth blue or black trail that took us straight to our condo.

The vibe

Luckily, the mountainside isolation didn’t translate into  a ghost town feeling further down in the villages, where the bars and restaurants were full to the rafters.

Thoughtful touches, like tune-up tools laid out with a “help yourself” sign, piste maps on the chairlifts, and excellent food served with a smile (and, usually, an Aussie twang), all helped to make it a truly friendly, happy place to be.Whistler chairlift map

No fiddling about with cold hands and paper maps


Unfortunately, few Canadian ski resorts offer catered chalets, which are, imho, the best value for money accommodation option at big resorts in the Alps.

At Whistler, you therefore choose between hotels and self catered condos/chalets, which are scattered between the main village and a range of smaller areas such as Creekside, where we stayed.

Creekside, a 10 minute bus ride from Whistler village, worked perfectly for us. Our self-catered condo at Evolution was five minutes’ walk from the normally queue-less main lift up to Whistler mountain and had a full kitchen, balcony, and a shared outdoor pool with hot tubs and a steam room/sauna.

Creekside also has a big supermarket with reasonably-priced food, a rowdy bar/BBQ restaurant (Dusty’s) at the bottom of the home-run that often has live music playing, and a great organic pizza joint, Creekbread.

Any downsides?

It seems a bit churlish to complain about the weather at Whistler when it brought us so much lovely snow. As one skiier put it to us: “The less sun the better.” Maybe I’m a fair weather skiier, but my personal heaven is gliding along a velvety mountain ridge under a big blue sky,  hot and cool air concertinaing as I drift between overhanging shadows and sunlight.

Heaven isn’t getting dizzy and disoriented in a swirling white-out, losing all concept of whether I’m skiing up or down. Or skiing through lashing rain, as on our last day, when the lack of visibility and damp conditions forced us to abandon plans for an epic finale.

Reading the ski blogs, our weather experience seems fairly standard for a week in Whistler, although we were told the clouds often lift in January.

And when the clouds dissipate and the blizzard stops, Whistler lives up to its rep for being the ultimate snow playground, offering an immense expanse of pistes and wild backcountry trails, ranging from double black diamond mogul fields to serene treeline pistes.

Whistler Toronto skiing

Serene treeline skiing

To demonstrate just how MUCH it snows in Whistler, I’ve put together a chart comparing its annual snowfall with that of a few North American and European resorts.

The chart also includes stats on peak mountain height and the number of pistes. This is partly to counter the irksome way in which North American resorts tend to put together similar comparisons for their own websites that downplay the impressiveness of European ski areas by using sneaky methodology.

For instance, when it comes to calculating the number of pistes/trails,  some create separate entries for ski resorts that share integrated lift passes, like La Plagne and Les Arcs, or Tignes and Val D’Isere. Cheeky.

You can play about with the chart by clicking the icon below:

Ski Resorts Comparison Many Eyes

Five things they don’t tell you about Blue Mountain

27 Jan

I spent last Friday night in a pub. Life in Toronto isn’t so different from that in London.

Although, admittedly I’ve never rocked up to a UK drinking hole armed with a pair of skis and poles.

My accoutrements attracted quite a bit of attention from The Oxley’s genteel patrons, some of whom seemed to be under the impression that I’d literally skied to the door. After all, it was -13C and gusts of snow were flurrying  horizontally across the windows.

When I explained that my statement accessories had, in fact, been in a nearby workshop getting primed for an actual downhill ski trip the following day, on an actual mountain, my Canadian drinking buddies looked even more perplexed. “You’re going skiing in Blue Mountain?”

The biggest ski hill in this part of Ontario  – all 1,483 feet of it – sometimes seems to be a source of embarrassment to locals, who jealously eye up the rugged mountain ranges out west and the picturesque, snow-sure villages further north.

Whistler ski Blue Mountain Toronto

The vast ski area at Whistler, by GlobalReset on Flickr

With a maximum vertical of 720 feet, Blue Mountain’s very much the pygmy species of the Canadian ski kingdom. This doesn’t put me off; pygmies are among my favourite types of animal, and – as a Brit – small, cramped environments make me feel right at home.

But, having skied in the Alps, Pyrenees, the Andes and Dubai (in an air conditioned shopping mall – sorry ecowarriers) – not forgetting Milton Keynes – would Blue Mountain be a bit of a disappointment?

Well, here are a few things you don’t always hear about Blue Mountain:

1. There’s a great view of Georgian Bay from the top. On a cold day, when the lake’s totally frozen over, it’s rather pretty.

Blue Mountain Toronto ski

Ok, so not the best pic (cold hands), but you can see Georgian Bay in the distance

2. Everyone will tell you that the queues for the chairlifts can be numbingly long. BUT they often fail to mention that, despite the crowds, tougher pistes can be totally deserted. Well, that was the case on the day we went, anyway. Head for the black runs for the most solitude.

Blue Mountain ski Toronto

The only ones on the piste

3. You’re better off avoiding the busy, kiddy, cafe at South Base Lodge, near to where coach trippers are dropped off and ski schools gather. There are better eating and drinking options at Grand Central Lodge, based at the end of a couple of blue runs, which also has more of a cosy “resort” feel to it. The huge pulled pork sandwiches and burritos at Rusty’s will set you up for a thigh-burning afternoon sesh.

4. The conditions are fab after a week of the white stuff. Maybe that goes without saying, but a 1.5m snow depth at base camp ain’t bad for a titchy hill.

5. The International Ski Federation’s Snowboard Cross World Cup is being held at Blue Mountain in 2013 for the second year in a row – one of only two stops scheduled in Canada. You can catch the action there this weekend.

In summary, it’s clearly no Mont Blanc or Banff but, in optimum conditions, city-dwelling snowbunnies will have a fun day trip. Having your own kit, pre-booking lift passes via your ski club and heading away from the busiest slopes will enhance the whole experience by minimising queuing times.

And some things they do tell you (but I’ll repeat here anyway just FYI):

  • There are 36 trails, ranging from green to double diamond black runs
  • Fifteen lifts carry skiers and snowboarders up and down the mountain
  • A day’s lift pass (9am-4.30pm) costs $59, including tax. Night skiing (4.30pm-10pm) costs $45. Or it’s $69 for a day & night pass
  • You can rent equipment from the South Base Lodge
  • The drive takes around two hours from Toronto

Cross-country skiing: definitely a sport

23 Jan

“On your right! On your left!” Glancing up at the fallen casualties splayed like dilapidated windmills on the nordic trail I’ve just skidded down, I catch my breath and smile nervously at a crowd of polypropylene-clad skiers clustered at the bottom.

“Terrifying!” I pant.

“Yeah, you were,” one of them nods.

This seems an overly harsh assessment of the way in which I skillfully wove through the crowds emitting only the very mildest of swear-words (technically, “shi-euuuurgh” isn’t even a swear-word…or a word). But I let it go; the lycra guy’s brandishing a timer and wearing a ski club vest with numbers written on it – he must be important.

I’m at Highlands Nordic cross country ski centre, 10km south of Collingwood on the Niagara Escarpment – the huge crust of rock stretching from New York State through southern Ontario, forming gorges, waterfalls and cliffs.

There are 25km of trails at Highlands Nordic, winding through hardwood forest and – in some cases  – overlooking Georgian Bay.

Highlands Nordic cross country ski Toronto

A green (supposedly easy) trail at Highlands Nordic

On the day of my visit we’re being pelted with powdery snow, it’s a bone-chilling -13C or, with the windchill, -23C. Mad dogs and Canadians, eh?

It’s the first time I’ve tried cross country skiing. I’m hoping that my downhill experience will come into play, but just in case, I’m taking a morning lesson, which is included in the trip organised by my ski club.

“If you’ve done alpine skiing, you’ll be used to the weight shift and some of the fundamentals we’ll be running through this morning, like the snowplough,” says Greta, our instructor. I nod, feeling encouraged. Snowplough? Pah, I passed that stage years ago.

But snowploughing on flimsy nordic skis is akin to trying to snowboard down a mountain on a tea tray (yep, done it). There’s no “edge” to cut, and the skis are less responsive as your ankles aren’t fixed to them with bindings. Needless to say, on my first attempt at the weediest of “hills” – really just a mound of snow – I lose all control and crash into a heap at the bottom.

Things aren’t a whole lot easier on the flats, but I start to get the hang of stepping and gliding.

Highlands Nordic ski cross country Toronto

It’s easier on the flats

Going uphill is another struggle. The “herringbone” move eludes me so I resort to running, which is stupidly exhausting.  Now I get how you can burn more than 1,000 calories an hour and double your cardivascular fitness doing this.

“Give it more oomph” shouts Greta. I give it more oomph, and fall over again. At least the exercise is keeping me warm, and the snow-covered pine trees make a serene backdrop to my group’s giggly screeching.

I’m feeling brave enough after lunch to venture onto the trail again with just my other half for company. As we whoosh through the forest in the afternoon sun, slicing through glittering snow flurries with increasingly fluidity, it’s easy to understand what draws people to the sport.

And, to any naysayers, it IS a sport. That’s what my thighs and calves were telling me three days later, anyway. Look at these guys if you’re unconvinced.

Cross-country skiing: Potentially useful, factual stuff:

How long does it take to get to, from Toronto? Highlands Nordic takes around 2.5 hours from Toronto by coach

How much does it cost? Equipment rental plus a trail pass costs $35 for the day, though we only paid $15 each with the ski club

What to wear? On a normal winter’s day, you’ll probably be too hot in downhill ski clothes. I wore waterproof hiking trousers over thermals, and – as it was so cold – a long-sleeved base layer, hoodie and ski jacket.  On a  warmer day, you could probably get away with winter cycling/running gear

Anything else I might like to know? The shoes are COMFY. This is a major bonus to anyone used to toe-crunching downhill ski boots

From Banuary to Ch(ocolate)anuary

12 Jan

Start the year as you mean to go on – isn’t that the saying?

In line with this maxim, my first week back in Toronto after Christmas in the UK involved a trip to chocolate “boutique and lounge” MoRoCo, in Yorkville, and the most decadent dessert ever:

S'mores Toronto MoRoCo

S’mores at MoRoCo in Yorkville

For the uninitiated, s’mores are a North American campfire tradition. They consist of melted chocolate and gooey marshmallow, sandwiched between two graham crackers (sweet, chewy biscuits) and leave you wanting “some more”, geddit?

Granted, a trip to the local chocolate boutique’s a non-conventional alternative to January’s gym slog, but no doubt fellow sweet-tooths would agree it’s the preferable option. Especially when said boutique serves Malbec by the (large) glass.

In any case, we’re into the third week of January by now – definitely the time to hang up the yoga mat, along with any pretence that you can exist solely on oily fish, quinoa and coconut water.

The MoRoCo Experience

MoRoCo takes its chocolate very seriously, as one might expect. Entering through the white-walled store, displaying bite-sized, pastel-hued truffles and macaroons inside glass cases, it feels like you’ve walked into a jewellers or a high-end spa.

The starched ambience relaxes as you move into the main lounge, with its velvet curtains, mastoid chandeliers and kitsch figurines.

MoRoCo Toronto chocolate

MoRoCo interior

The decor’s probably meant to create a “romantic” atmosphere but instead lends a certain gentleman’s club air to the place; I half expected an exotic dancer to jump out from under the table and perform a strip-tease.

The soundtrack was also a bit forced – has anyone got jiggy to Sting since the ’80s?

The Menu

Technically, you can eat a full dinner at MoRoCo, but seeing as the menu’s finale features giant vats of apple caramel cheesecake, red velvet crepe and chocolate fondue, you might want to skip the Caesar salad and baked polenta. Filling up on leaves would be kind of missing the point.

The tiramusu ($10), served with Italian lady fingers in a chocolate cup, was good, however I definitely lucked out with the molten, crunchy s’mores ($14).

Our server uttered the inevitable snark about us “obviously” not enjoying our desserts (the plates were virtually licked clean). She was only being friendly but, really, no-one wants to be reminded of their gluttony. Especially in January.

Still, MoRoCo wasn’t an awful place to test out my reverse New Year’s resolution. Forget Banuary, it’s all about Ch(ocolate)anuary. Any visitors to Toronto who are down with this might like to check out the following emporiums of sweet treats:

  • Soma, 32 Tank House Lane, Distillery District. There’s a chocolate LABORATORY. Also, the best hot chocolate in the city – be sure to ask for it with milk.
Soma Toronto Chocolate

Soma, Distillery District

  • Cafe 260, 260 Richmond Street East. Superb eavesdropping to be had thanks to the exuberant designers, architects and model bookers who frequent it. Adjoins an art gallery and serves white chocolate lattes, After Eight hot chocolates, muffins and cookies. Yum, slurp.
  • The Oxley, 121 Yorkville Avenue, Yorkville. Great British puds. The sticky toffee pudding was so good I could almost overlook the fact it was served with ice cream instead of clotted cream. Almost.
  • Tori’s bakeshop, 2188 Queen Street East, The Beaches. Cupcakes, cinnamon buns, croissants, muffins, tarts and pies. They’re vegan, organic and refined sugar free, therefore totally guilt-free?

These are just some of my favourite spots, but I’m still exploring! Let me know where you go for your Toronto sugar-fix.

Santa and (Dog) Seances

26 Nov

Torontonians love their organised fun. When they’re not playing cult board games in hipster cafes, it seems they’re doing the seventh-inning stretch at a ball game, wearing fancy-dress, going to a festival (see below) or taking part in charity fundraisers.

Last week, in the name of charity, my husband was persuaded to don a fat suit for a sponsored sumo-wrestling contest in the office, before channelling Simon Cowell (with a Cumbrian twang) as a judge at his company’s karaoke talent show. And this blog’s already dealt with the extreme lengths people go to when it comes to Thanksgiving costumes and zombie get-ups.

It’s all very different from the British spirit of: “Sod the silly outfits, can’t we just get pissed and/or donate a few quid?” When the publishing company I worked for in London turned our annual Christmas party into a talent contest one year (in a nightclub, with booze), the backlash could’ve been seen from space.

Large amounts of enforced jollity can be a bore. But the upside of Toronto’s propensity for good wholesome fun is the number of huge family festivals that are bigger and just, well, more amicable than you’d expect in Blighty.

Take the annual Santa Claus Parade last Sunday. It’s a Toronto tradition that’s been going since 1905 and this year around a million people pitched up with fold-up chairs, blankets, hats and scarves, lining up along the main downtown route, which was entirely closed to traffic.

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Onlookers passed round tubs of home-made cookies and flasks of hot chocolate, kids chanted a premature “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas”, clowns handed out sweets and everyone waved, hi-fived and shook hands with the characters parading past.

This was slap bang in the middle of town. Where were the squealing brats, the pushy crowds, the scowling, shivering teens? It couldn’t have been any more heart-warmingly festive if Clarence Odbody had flown down from the sky, scattering mince pies and booming “ho ho ho.”

We were able to track Santa’s progress on a cool iphone ap created especially for the day, which contributed to a build up so immense that by the time the main man arrived, the children around us were practically levitating with excitement.

Another example

There isn’t an easy transition to be made from Santa to skipping dogs.  But I had to highlight altogether different – but equally family friendly – festival happening across town that day: Winter Woof-Stock.

It featured mutts that skip, play basketball and calculate sums. There was an event I was dismayed to miss called “running of the pugs”, a doggie fashion show and a dog clairvoyant. Yep, really.

Here are some pics.

The canine attendees seemed to love all the  attention – have you ever seen a sheepish Shih Tzu? But possibly even more entertaining than the star performers were the Dog Moms pushing their “babies” around in prams. One spent 10 minutes trying to convince us that pugs are “highly intelligent”. Er…whatever you say, crazy woman.

Braving the Eastern Front

21 Nov

Just days after we moved to Toronto in an excitable haze, the city saw its worst ever mass shooting, which was to leave two people dead and 23 injured.

The incident in Scarborough, an eastern suburb, sparked a frenzy of newspaper columns and TV reports about Toronto’s inequalities and spiralling crime.

In a city with a reputation as an orderly safe haven, in a country so polite and friendly that a standard email sign-off is “very truly yours”, the shooting was a warning against complacency. It reminded us that Toronto, like any major city, has an edgier side and contains pockets with deep-rooted social challenges.

It also slightly dampened our enthusiasm for exploring eastwards. Besides from crime, any local will tell you that if you travel east of Yonge Street you’ll either lose your soul in a strip mall or fall off the edge of the planet.

But I wanted to try my luck. That’s me all over; I’m a thrill-seeker, a Jane Bond, a…keen cyclist. Yeah, that’s right adventure-shunners, I was raring to strap on my windproof anorak, pack a mean cache of cereal bars and show those suburban bike paths who’s boss.

So that’s what we did on Saturday, and discovered that Scarborough (pronounced Scarbour-o, rather than the English Scarbour-er) really is a world away from downtown Toronto. In the sense that it took seven hours to get there and back, involving a dark, cold evening cycle home, and we didn’t even reach our intended destination. Oops.

Our journey took us up the Don Valley, through the secluded Taylor Creek Park, across a bleak no-man’s-land and up the Hydro corridor:

Hydro corridor Toronto bike cycle

Hydro = Canadian for electrical power

From there, we tried to access Morningside Park, but came up against a slight, watery, problem:

Toronto cycle Morningside Scarborough

Er, how do we get across?

Having conquered the ravine, we were cycling around looking for the trail, when I spied a small, antlered deer weaving through the trees. Ahhhh. Deer in Scarborough?! And not a gun in sight.

The plan was to carry on to the University of Scarborough campus, but it was getting dark and we couldn’t find the trail. So in a strip mall car park, we decided to head home. It was quite a picturesque ending to our trip, I’m sure you’ll agree:

Tim Hortons Scarborough Toronto cycle

At least the coffee was cheap

Despite some temporary numbness to the fingers and toes, we survived our 70km round-trip to Scarborough unscathed.

On the way back, we even saw a raccoon peering from a tree with its bank-robber eyes:

Raccoon Toronto cycle Don Valley

On the pitch-black Don Valley trail. Thank goodness for bike lights!

We probably had nothing to worry about in the first place. This rather neat crime map of Toronto shows there most definitely isn’t a clear east-west divide when it comes to violent assaults.

Clicking on the map shows that in eastern Scarborough there were 17.57 “crimes against the person” per 1,000 residents and workers in 2006, compared with just 3.7 in my neighbourhood. But then, Chinatown has a rate of 20.3 and that’s not going to keep me from my General Tso Pork.

The excellent Toronto Life magazine published a well-researched piece on Scarborough’s demographics, worth a read.

Although the route took longer than we’d planned for and there were gaps in the trail involving some busy roads, it was impressive to see – again – how well set up Toronto is for cyclists, and how quickly you can escape the dense inner city if you want to.

Here’s where we went:

Guilty pleasures of a closet sunset fan

15 Nov

This post’s dedicated to that much maligned art form – the humble sunset photo.

It’s all too easy to criticise the ubiquitous evening sky shot, but who hasn’t been tempted to take a “sun kissing the horizon” snap after a perfect day on the beach? Only the most committed wedge-haired art hipster could resist a reddy, pinky, Rothko-layered sky after a few pina coladas.

Me? I like an urban sunset, and the massive Toronto sky is the gift that never stops giving (though the gifts aren’t always welcome when in the form of a four day downpour, like last week).

My number one spot for Toronto sunsets is Ashbridges Bay Park, which I just happened to be cycling through this evening:

Ashbridges Bay Park Toronto

Not bad, eh?

I got a bit carried away; here are some more pics from my ride home:

Ashbridges Bay Park sunset Toronto

Same sunset, (very slightly) different view

Ashbridges Bay Park Toronto sunset

Peeping through the leaf-starved winter trees

Beaches Toronto sunset

Nice evening for a beachside bike ride

For what it’s worth, my other top Toronto sunset spots would be:

*Canoe restaurant, 66 Wellington Street West.

With its sweeping, floor to ceiling window views, it’s a sure-fire romance hotspot. It also does a nice line in surprise desserts:

Romantic sunset restaurant Toronto anniversary

We didn’t even order this! Hooray, even more pudding!

*Lake Ontario

As in, the actual water. Preferably from the safety of a canoe, or other floating vessel:

Toronto canoe sunset

During a summer evening paddle across to the Islands

*My apartment!

Sorry to brag, but the view ain’t half bad. No, we don’t take paying guests. Yes, you can quite possibly get a very similar view from many of the high condo blocks or hotels along the harbourfront:

Sunset Toronto CN Tower

The CN Tower, all lit up

Toronto lake sunset

The harbour at night

Toronto sunset lake

West Jet stage and Islands

Oh, I know these aren’t going to win any photography prizes – and I totally get that taking pictures of sunsets is neither cool nor clever.

But go on, admit it, they’re pretty. It’s a harmless guilty pleasure. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. It can be our little secret.

John Howson

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Drink and be merry!

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