Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tourist in my own town

I've been trying out a new church downtown for the past couple weeks. Why you ask? Well, I really like the sense of community that comes from belonging to a group of like-minded individuals. I enjoy the ritual of attending church and partaking of a group act of spirituality. I like to have my mind opened a little through intellectually stimulating sermons and discussions about the state of the world. I like the music. I've been missing music in my life, and a church choir is a great way to get to participate in making music at an amateur level. So. Lot's of reasons. The particular church I've been trying out recently seems like a particularly suitable candidate. It is something of an activist organization. They run a breakfast and lunch program for the homeless. They march in the Pride parade. They do all sorts of great things that affirm open-mindedness and living in harmony with all people, regardless of personal beliefs, race, religion, sexual orientation, economic status, etc. It does take around 30-45 minutes to get there by bus and subway, so I'm going to have to be sure it is the place for me before I commit, but I've been enjoying it so far. This morning I went to a 9:30 a.m. service. I had originally planned to then come straight home, but it was a beautiful morning, and there was excitement in the air as people were already lining up for the annual Santa Claus parade.

It isn't often that I take time to just wander, and to enjoy the city. It isn't often that I'm not rushing along the crowded streets on my way to an appointment of some sort. So I took a little time to enjoy the day.

I started out right near Queen's Park, and wandered through the University of Toronto grounds a bit.

At the north end of Queen's Park is a war memorial. This allows me to note, as I had forgotten to do on Remembrance Day, the significance of this year's Remembrance Day in being the 90th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the first world war. That is quite something. The wreaths, or some of the wreaths, were still out today, having weathered yesterday's freezing rain.

The park itself is actually quite nice. There are strategically placed benches, statues of dead war heroes and/or royalty, paths interesecting each other conveniently, and lots of trees. Usually I only catch a glimpse of this park while streaming around the circle in the slightly terrifying flow of over-anxious traffic. Enjoying the calm of the space in the middle was refreshing. I sat on a bench here to finish the last of my first candy cane latte of the year (no worries weight police, I got it with skim milk and no whipped cream), and watched small children climb the statue of Edward VII on a horse. I didn't take pictures of that. I figured the small childrens' parents wouldn't approve.

Then, rounding the front of Queen's Park there was a rather large ceremony taking place with some media present. It turns out that today is Riel Day, and there was a gathering of Métis people, together with various government and military representatives who were having a flag raising and ceremony in celebration. It turns out that tomorrow the Métis Nation will be signing an agreement with the Ontario Government tomorrow. Exciting stuff.

I don't think I've ever spent any time in the park just looking at the Queen's Park building. I've been there before, but never with less than a few hundred people waving signs. The area was pleasantly serene today, with only a few tourists waving cameras.

It is a rather majestic building. Apparently the architecture is Romanesque Revival, and it was completed in 1892. The first Legislative session in Queen's Park opened under Sir Oliver Mowat in April 1983.

Looking the opposite direction from this building gives you a lovely urban view down University Avenue, one of my favourite roads in Toronto.

That's not a perfect view. But it is a beautifully wide road, with a boulevard up the middle, and fountains, and great large buildings climbing up on either side.

Of course, along with the beautiful come signs of mid-twentieth century expansion. What a blight these buildings are!

Upon leaving Queen's Park I wandered up through the University of Toronto grounds toward Bloor. The first thing to catch my eye were these statues I'd never noticed before on the outside of what I think is the criminology department.

Yes. That is half bodies of famous dead guys affixed to the wall. At the left of the picture to the right is Champlain (looking for all the world like someone who ought to be worshipped as a god). To the right, I couldn't tell. He required closer inspection.

As it turns out, the gent in question is General Wolfe. Poor Wolfe appears to be being cocooned by some form of spiderweblike vine. Someone should get on to rescuing him!
Much of the UofT campus is beautiful. The buildings have the architectural style of their European academic cousins and carry a certain weight to their aesthetic. I love to visit the campus. Actually, I love to visit most university campuses. They almost always feel very comfortable.

I'm glad I chose not to go to this school for my undergrad. I almost did. Trinity was the first school to send me an acceptance. I will always be thankful that I held out to hear from King's. That said, this would have been a beautiful place to study.

Well, most of it. Good old Fort Book is pretty hideous. I will never understand why architects insist on designing libraries to be so unappealing.

By the time I made it back up to Bloor the crowds had really begun to gather for the parade. I didn't want to stand and wait for it, but I do enjoy a good parade, so I decided to wander west along Bloor toward the starting point of the parade. When I got to Spadina a band (hometown proud - the Burligton Top Hats) came along, followed by some clowns (shudder). It seemed that the parade was underway. But no! It was a tease. By the time I'd walked as far as the starting point - Christie - the parade still wasn't underway. So, I did the only sensible thing, and continued along Bloor as far as Ossington so I could scope out all the floats without having to stand in the crowds waiting for them to pass me by. The big guy himself was even already up in his sleigh, entertaining the crowd, and being his jolly old self.

And the biggest cultural/social juxtaposition of the day?

Yep, that's the young families hanging out in the doorway of the adult movie theatre. Nice. Well, at least it has a nice overhang, so they wouldn't get rained or snowed on.

So that was my morning as a tourist in my own town for this week. As I came up out of the subway at my own stop, and climbed onto my bus home there were snowflakes in the air, and the world had become decidedly cloudier. I'm glad I didn't stay down for the parade. I have big plans to check out the ROM which I haven't been to since the renovations, and the AGO, which is reopening. It should be a very touristy couple of months coming up!


kidletsmum said...

Oh Jenn! Not only is that a gorgeous post about what must have been a lovely morning for you, it made me sooooo homesick! What a great highlight of some of Toronto's great spaces.
I think I need to find a way to visit this summer...

MadJenny said...

That would be awesome! You should definitely come. We haven't met the little dude yet either, so that would be perfect.