Sunday, July 29, 2012

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For 24 years, Toronto's Beach Neighbourhood has hosted a very popular jazz festival that features a large variety of music including jazz, latin, and rhythm and blues with participation from around 50 international bands. Yesterday, Paul and I decided to take a look with our dog, Maxwell, who we knew would love to see the crowds of people.

 Kew Gardens Bandstand

Over the years, there has been controversy over what is the correct name for the neighbourhood. People continue to hold fiercely to the opinion that it is the Beach Neighbourhood or the Beaches Neighbourhood. Recently, the City of Toronto attempted to resolve the issue by posting signs proclaiming 'Beach Neighbourhood'. The festival, however, continues to be known as the Beaches International Jazz Festival.

The Beach Neighbourhood is located on Lake Ontario, extending from Coxwell Avenue on the west and  Victoria Park Avenue on the East with Queen Street as the northern boundary.  The area between Queen Street and Kingston Road to the north has recently begun to be known as the Upper Beaches. Though rarely distinguished from each other today, the beaches that gave the neighbourhood its name are from west to east Woodbine Beach, Kew Beach, Scarboro Beach and Balmy Beach.  

Boardwalk along Woodbine Beach

  Dogs' Off-Leash Area, Kew Beach

Lake Ontario from Kew Beach

We began our day at the off-leash area on Kew Beach where Max had a swim and a roll in the sand - things he likes to do more than almost anything else.  Then, we walked along the boardwalk to the Latin stage where two couples were dancing to lively music. 

Beaches Jazz Festival Latin Stage, July 28, 2012

There were people everywhere enjoying themselves. Just off Woodbine Beach a ladies  volleyball tournament was in full swing with several hundred participants and spectators.

Woodbine Beach Ladies Volleyball Tournament

We now made our way to the festival's main venue at the Kew Gardens bandstand on Queen Street where the Beach's retail outlets are located. It is the neighbourhood's main east/west traffic artery. On our way there we passed some interesting new housing development on Woodbine Avenue. This was a very successful attempt to create housing that would blend into the Beach's existing style of architecture.
Recently Built Condos on Woodbine Avenue Now Worth More than $1 million per Unit

In the early19th Century, the neighbourhood, at that time called East Toronto, became well-known for its amusement park located at Scarboro beach, and, of course, for its beautiful beaches. Summer homes and small cottages were built, many of which remain in place today. This history along with the lack of high-rise development has allowed the Beach to retain its unique small-town character, one which is extremely popular with both tourists and residents. 

Development of the new condos, which extend for about 200 metres on Woodbine south of Queen, were controversial. Residents, very proud of their neighbourhood and wanting to preserve its distinctive character, had more than 20 years ago formed an association called the Beach Triangle Residents Association. It represents residents who  wish to preserve the traditional appearance of their streets and to fight high-rise proposals, while at the same time recognizing the benefits of more intensive development, particularly in areas where it would help to reduce transit deficits. On the other hand, because the Beach is so popular and has maintained excellent property values, developers and financiers can see huge opportunities here.  


Queen Street Retailers

There were many people walking along Queen Street as we made our way to Kew Gardens. This is a very attractive park with lovely trees and landscaping, very popular at all times of the year, but especially during the jazz festival. We stayed for a while listening to the music, walking slowly through the park past the bandstand, admiring the beauty of our surroundings. Then, we made our way back to Queen Street and home.  It was all in all a thoroughly enjoyable day.

 Kew Gardens Bandstand

 People Listening to Music at the Kew Gardens Bandstand

Maxwell Waiting Eagerly for Some of Paul's Ice Cream Cone

Two of the Numerous Kiosks for Arts and Crafts Producers 

Here are a few more photos from Kew Beach, perhaps our favourite place to go when we are at the Beach.

 Looking Towards the Boardwalk and Lake Ontario 

Cyclist on the Waterfront Trail as It Passes Through the Beach Neighbourhood
Ducks in the Water at Kew Beach

 On the Boardwalk, Kew Beach
 Cyclist and her Dog on the Waterfront Trail, Kew Beach

Relaxing on a Perfect Summer Day at Kew Beach

Thursday, July 26, 2012


 NOTE ABOUT THIS BLOG:  You can see a full-page version of the photos by right-clicking on the photo and then clicking on "Open Link in New Window".  Close the page to return to the blog.

A look at a map will show that Toronto grew and developed on the north shore of Lake Ontario, one of Canada's five Great Lakes, the largest chain of fresh water lakes in the world. Flowing into Lake Ontario through Toronto are three rivers, the Humber, the Don and the Rouge. These rivers have cut deep ravines which, along with a large amount of woodland, have given Toronto the opportunity to create many wonderful parks. 

During Hurricane Hazel in 1954, there was extensive flooding after the Humber River burst its banks. Extensive flood damage led to the formation of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and its 1959 flood control program. Since then, the TRCA has been responsible for recommending on development that will be safe from flooding and that will conserve the natural resources in the watersheds of Toronto's rivers.  Information on the TRCA can be found here

Virtually every neighbourhood in Toronto has a park, and of all the ones I've seen, Chorley Park is the most beautiful.  A very interesting history of the park can be found here.

 Chorley Park Looking East

I will always associate Chorley Park with Monty, a Border Collie that my husband Paul and I had for fifteen years until three years ago. Maxwell, the Border Collie we have now, is eight years old. This most intelligent breed of dog is truly amazing. While young, being very energetic and determined, they require lots of exercise and a very firm hand. They mature into wonderful, loyal companions, however. They have a need to be with you and, because they want to communicate with you all the time, they learn many words. This trait is instinctive with the Border Collie. It derives from their being bred to be sheep dogs, totally dependable and in constant communication with the sheep herder. 

 Monty with a Stick

Border Collies are also noted for their sense of humour and their love of playing the clown. More than any other dog I have owned, they have very distinctive personalities. We think of Monty as a noble person and wonderful friend, for example, and of Maxwell as a sweet, mischievous and loving child. 

 Max as a Puppy with 10-year-old Monty

Chorley Park is where we most frequently took Monty for his exercise. He loved nothing more than to retrieve a ball or a stick. While on our way to Chorley Park, as soon as he recognized where we were headed, in his excitement he would begin circling around on the back seat of the car, completing as many as ten circles by the time we arrived. 

In Chorley Park with their Dog

We frequently took him over to the eastern beaches on Lake Ontario where there was an old bunker that he would jump from into the water to fetch a stick. He was a very strong swimmer, as you can see from the photo below.  We used to comment that Monty would continue to retrieve forever if he could, because he loved it so much. It seemed to satisfy his need to be doing useful work.

Monty Swimming Towards the Stick in Rough Water

Monty Returning with the Stick


Although both of our Border Collies have been well-trained and dependable about coming when called, we don't take Maxwell to Chorley Park. There are two reasons for this. Though he will retrieve, Max doesn't love it the way Monty did. The second reason is that the City of Toronto recently implemented a new dog policy. Prior to this, although having your dog off leash was against a city bylaw, dogs were running free in most Toronto parks as the bylaw was not being enforced. 

The new policy included creation of large off-leash areas and heavy fines. For his exercise, Max goes for long walks or to run and play with other dogs in one of the  off-leash areas. This suits him very well because he is much more interested in people and other dogs than Monty was.

Chorley Park is located in the Rosedale neighbourhood. It is connected to Moore Park Ravine which is part of Toronto's ravine system with its large inter-connected trail system. At the connection point, there is a view of the Don River Valley and the Toronto Brick Works.
Chorley Park Looking West

Houses Near Chorley Park

Old Church Near Chorley Park

View of the Toronto Brick Works from Chorley Park

Monty, the Happy Dog

Monday, July 23, 2012


 View of Downtown from Toronto Islands Ferry

A couple of days ago, when I opened this blog after a long time away, I realized that my last post was more than two years ago.  Since then, I've had my third Indian vacation and my first trip to the south of Italy.  I'll be traveling again in a month when my husband Paul and I head off to the Isle of Wight for a week and then to Germany for four weeks with side trips to Vienna and Prague. Then, in February and March we'll be in Hilton Head, South Carolina. This travel should give me a lot more to write about.

But while I'm at home in Toronto where I've lived for the past twenty years, I plan to blog about this city. I love Toronto, and I know it will offer plenty of interesting material.

Every year, as spring approaches, I've been telling myself that I will frequently get out of the house to explore the city. But so far my busy life has interfered with this plan. Now, I have a new brilliant idea: I realized that if I resumed my travel blog with Toronto as its focus, I would create an incentive to keep it going so as not to disappoint my followers  - assuming, of course, that some of these make an appearance.

And, there is also a second objective. After I had taken thousands of photos over the years, my husband Paul commented about one of the best, saying "even a blind squirrel finds a nut some of the time." I laughed at his comment, but it gave me a reason to aim for better quality. Now, as I embark upon a new journey with my blog, there will be an opportunity to practice what I've been learning over the past year as a new member of the Toronto Camera Club. Instead of blindly pointing and shooting, I will make an effort to think about what I want to achieve with each photo.

There are many aspects of Toronto that I would like to cover in this blog: people, both long-time residents and newcomers; artistic and cultural events; historic buildings and new architecture; political and other issues of importance to the community; and major events.

Of more interest, at least to me, would be the attributes of the city that make it unique. Toronto is not known for possessing one great landmark like the Sydney Opera House in Australia or the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Rather, I think of Toronto as being a collection of things that individually may not be worthy of high praise, but when taken together form a unique and wonderful city. Some examples are its distinctive neighbourhoods with their many beautiful parks, the Lake Ontario beaches and recreational facilities, the strength of its non-profit and charitable organizations and their participation in important city decision-making; its many festivals; and, perhaps best of all, the diverse culture that people have brought to the city after moving here from almost every corner of the world.

Now I will turn my attention to Toronto and an outing to Queen's Quay and Harbourfront last Saturday. While walking west on Queen's Quay, what struck me forcefully was the amount of new construction. I was aware that many highrise buildings were going up, having counted 56 cranes while returning home through the city centre recently. It was the development near the lake that was a surprise.
New Buildings and Cranes Viewed from Queen's Quay

As we continued on our way, it gave me a good feeling to recognize the casual, relaxed atmosphere of Harbourfront after two years since my last visit. We saw an elderly busker playing a sax and lots of people of all shapes and sizes, making their way like us to Lake Ontario. We rounded a corner and there it was, the lake in front of us and Queen's Quay Terminal with its shops on our right. 

The creation of Harbourfront as the attractive recreational area it is today was made possible by public ownership of the land and a deliberately flexible official plan. I thought I could see the results of a relatively hands-off approach by the authorities. There is a sort of helter-skelter unplanned appearance that I could see might encourage visitors to relax, enjoy, explore and experience the place freely and at their leisure. Maybe that is why it has become so popular.

 Harbourfront Kiosk
 Boats, and Behind Them, a Footbridge
A Performance in the Bandshell
 Fun in the Water
 Boat Called the Oriole
Harbourfront Restaurant
West Jet Stage
Paul and our Border Collie, Maxwell

Harbourfront extends for almost a mile along Queen's Quay west of Yonge Street and east of Spadina Avenue. It is full of people and activity, especially on weekends. There are several buildings, including Harbourfront Centre.  A search on Google Maps - Earth will give a good picture of it, especially if you zoom in.