Sunday, October 23, 2011

Walk Along Harbourfront

There was something extra to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend - three glorious days of Indian summer with sunshine and temperatures in the mid to high twenties!  We took advantage of it with a walk along the Harbourfront, starting from Bathurst St and walking east.  

We wanted to revisit Ireland Park, which is at the foot of Bathurst Street by the lake.  It holds beautifully soulful sculptures that are a memorial for the victims of the Irish famine (1845-1851).  Unfortunately the park is closed due to city construction until Spring 2012.

Next on the agenda was Canoe Landing Park, so named for the large red canoe overlooking the Gardiner Expressway that was designed by Canadian artist Douglas Coupland.

A second sculpture designed by Coupland in the same park
forms a "forest" of giant brightly coloured fishing bobs.  His concept for the park is to celebrate Canadiana with iconic Canadian images.  The park also includes a beaver dam sculpture and a path named after Terry Fox.

Continuing east is the Toronto Music Garden which is supposed to be landscaped to interpret Bach's Suite No. 1 in G Major with each movement represented by a different section of the gardenThroughout the spring and summer, concerts are held on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons beneath a beautiful gazebo in the middle of the park. Guided tours are held on Wednesdays and Thursdays afternoons.

One of the main purposes of being at Harbourfront is enjoying the beautiful views of the skyline and watching the motor boats and even tall ships bobbing on the water. At Harbourfront Centre, you can rent canoes, kayaks, large Indian canoes that hold multiple people, sailboats and even powerboats ranging from small 13ft 25HP models (no experience required but go really fast) to 20ft 150HP ones.

We spotted some unusual water crafts including this boat named "Shark Attack" with the painted shark face on the bow.  We watched a man standing upright and paddling at a pretty fast clip on what looked like a surf board, and marveled at the balance he must have needed to keep from tipping over.

Recently some innovative man-made attractions have been added to spice up the waterfront.  A series of "wave decks" or undulating boardwalks currently spanning from Spadina Ave to Rees St., add interest to the stroll along the harbour.  The most dramatically sloping one is at Simcoe Avenue where kids like to use it as a slide.  The "beach" in HTO Park just east of Spadina gives the feeling of being on a real beach, with its bright yellow umbrellas and soft sand.  However the Gardiner Expressway in the background and the fear of going anywhere near the water of Lake Ontario tempers the illusion.

The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery was a hub of activity.  Outside was a comical sculpture of a Natrel 2% milk carton on stilts.  Even more amusing were the people in rental canoes paddling around in less than 2 inches of water but fully protected in life jackets.  There was a photography exhibit along the boardwalk depicting various beautiful locations in Ontario including the Badlands in Caledon.  Inside the building were more art displays and artist studios where you could watch people make pottery and other crafts.

The Queen's Quay Terminal hosts shops and boutiques, a theatre, restaurants, and the Museum of Inuit Art which contains an impressive collection representing the history of Inuit Art throughout Canada.  It was too nice a day to be inside to see it on this trip, but it is definitely worth a visit.  If you go during Doors Open in May, they give an excellent informative tour of the collection.  During the good weather months, the Harbourfront is always abuzz with activity including concerts and festivals.  Several years ago for Luminato, a big red rubber ball was "wedged in plain site" at various Toronto public locations such as under this bridge at the Harbourfront.  So you never know what you will see when you show up here.

We intended to extend our walk all the way to Jarvis St to see new man-made beaches and condo complexes to the east, but we were too tired by the time we made to Yonge St.  On the trip back to the subway, we caught one more sight of interest, a seemingly whimsical sculpture called "Immigrant Family" by Tom Otterness.  From afar you notice the cartoon-like circular happy faces but on closer inspection you notice more details like the foreign apparel worn by the parents and the old fashioned suit cases that have an Eastern European feel.

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