October 27, 2017

Toronto: People Who Live in Glass Houses

by Steve and Rosemary

From Niagara Falls, we went further north to Toronto. We had both been there before, but only on business trips, so neither of us had really seen the city. We stayed in a high rise condo not far from the waterfront. From our window, we could see the CN Tower, one of Toronto's most notable landmarks.

Unfortunately, Rosemary's glasses had been damaged, so we went to the Eaton Centre to find a Lenscrafters. This is a huge mall, so while her new glasses were being made, we had lunch and walked around for a couple of hours. One of the highlights was seeing these life sized sculptures of Canada geese hanging from the glass ceiling of the mall, "Flight Stop" by Michael Snow.

By time we left, it was rush hour in Toronto. To travel the 7-8 miles back to our condo took over an hour, with gridlock at every intersection, the worst traffic we had encountered so far. No wonder we saw a sign like this:

To avoid the traffic, we took public transportation the next day to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which featured works by many Canadian artists. A common theme among these works was early life on the Canadian prairies, especially in winter. On our way back to the streetcar, we walked through Toronto's Chinatown, which features some interesting objects on its trafic signals.

The following day, we bought tickets for the "hop on, hop off" tour, which we have enjoyed in other cites. This gives the riders a look at many parts of the city and allows them to get off the bus where they choose to do more sightseeing, then get back on another bus. As it was a hot day, we rode on the upper level of a double decker and stayed on for the whole circuit. What struck us while going through the city was the number of new high rises under construction everywhere in town. Toronto already has many interesting buildings, but there is no more vacant land, so instead of building out, they have to build up.

These two buildings seem to be joined by an unusual bridge at a high level. We found out that this is actually an indoor pool used by tenants of both buildings.

Toronto is famous (or perhaps notorious) for its cityscape of tall glass towers. A prominent architecture site recently ranked it eighth in the world among cities with the most skyscrapers (255 at last count).

There are many neighborhoods with traditional single-family and duplex houses or small apartment buildings. But more than half the city's residents live in high-rise buildings. This number will continue to grow as more and more of these buildings are completed; when we were there, there were at least 100 skyscrapers under construction. And they keep getting taller. The building where we stayed was "only" 40 stories high. One of the tallest condos in town has 78 stories, and there are plans for buildings with 90 or more stories.

Despite their popularity, not everyone thinks these glass towers are a good idea. Tenants are attracted to them because the floor-to-ceiling glass provides exciting views. Developers like them because glass is a cheap building material. But they are seriously flawed in many significant ways. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter, these condos use a lot of energy to control the interior temperature. They are prone to water leaks and other failures as a result of constant expansion and contraction. Maintenance and repairs are extremely expensive. The glass towers have been called "throwaway buildings" because experts expect many of them to fail within 10-20 years from completion. Retrofitting one of these buildings can take years and cost many millions of dollars.

But they look pretty at night.

Included with the bus tour was a boat ride around the Toronto Islands, off the coast of the city. There are three islands that are joined by bridges, and people can take a ferry across to them. Instead, we rode around them.

A view from the bay.
From the boat, we could see the observation deck of the CN Tower, where thrillseekers were taking the "Edge Walk", harnessing themselves to the building and leaning out over the city, from a glass platform 116 stories above the ground.

Did we do this? Heck, no!

To celebrate Steve's birthday that night, we went to a restaurant called "Lee", with unique Asian-influenced dishes. One of the most famous is Susur's Signature Singaporean Style Slaw, comprised of 19 different ingredients.

Do not confuse this with cole slaw!
The hot weather was pretty unbearable, so we decided to go somewhere inside, out of the sun. We went to Casa Loma, a castle built on a hillside overlooking Toronto. But, as we should have expected, there was no air conditioning in the castle. The castle was built in 1914 by Sir Henry Pellatt.

A young Henry Pellatt.

Sir Henry Pellatt in retirement.

Pellatt was a successful Toronto businessman who made much of his fortune by winning the exclusive rights to Toronto's hydro-electric power from Niagara Falls. Casa Loma was based on the castles Pellatt had seen in his travels in Europe.

The inside of the castle was lavishly appointed, with beautiful architectural and decorating ideas. At a time when all of Toronto had about 250 telephones, Pellatt had 50 of them in the castle.

One ringy dingy, two ringy dingies.

For unknown reasons, one of the large rooms had a picture of a young Queen Elizabeth II at one end a picture of Prince (not a prince, but Prince!) at the other. Neither picture is from Sir Henry's collection.


What is he doing here?

Soon after the castle was built, the government made electricity a public utility, and Pellatt lost a fortune in other business ventures. In doing so, he was forced to give up his beloved castle to avoid a bankruptcy that would have cost him his knighthood, and the city eventually turned it into a museum.

We left for Montreal the next day, so more adventures to come!

Note: We were here near the end of September.

October 23, 2017

Niagara Falls

by Steve W

I had never seen Niagara Falls, so when we had the chance to drive through on our way from Cleveland to Toronto, we decided to stop. Niagara Falls is the collective name for three separate waterfalls: Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls, in order of size. Horseshoe Falls is on the US/Canadian border while American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are on the US side of the Niagara Gorge.

As we drove up to the parking area, we could see the Niagara River headed for the falls. The first thing you notice when you step out of the car is the noise made by the water falling over 100 feet from the American Falls, and over 170 feet from Horseshoe Falls. As you approach, you can see where the water reaches the edge of the American Falls before going over. Once you get to the edge, the sight is unlike anything I have ever seen. The sheer volume of water from the three falls averages over 600,000 gallons per second and up to 1.6 million gallons per second during the peak seasons.

Don't forget your barrel!

Aside from the observation posts, there are ways to get closer to the falls. One is to take a boat ride that goes right up to the edge of the Horseshoe Falls. Both the American side and Canadian side have these boats, The Maid of the Mist being the US version.

Passengers are given ponchos to wear to try to protect them from the spray of the water hitting the bottom of the falls, a measure that, speaking from personal experience, is only partially successful. But the noise and grandeur of the falls is in full effect as you get closer. Pictures don't do it justice.

Where's Waldo?

After the boat ride, we walked across the Rainbow Bridge (no, animal lovers, not that Rainbow Bridge) to the Canadian side of the falls. Leaving the US, you walk through a revolving gate and go through a brief Customs check on the Canadian side.

Who needs a wall when you can have a revolving gate with a sign showing the way?
Once through, you can walk along the cliff above the river towards Horseshoe Falls. From the Canadian side, you can get a better look at the US side as well as get next to Horseshoe Falls.

American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, from the Canadian side.
The other way to get close to the falls is to take the "Journey Behind The Falls", where you once again don ponchos and descend to the floor of the Horseshoe Falls to an observation deck almost under the falls. Again, the sound and fury of the water falling from great heights is overwhelming and wonderful.

This is the same picture as above, with the observation deck circled.
Less than 50 feet from the falls.
We crossed back over the Rainbow Bridge (paying $0.50 each for the privilege of leaving Canada) to the US side before driving to Toronto. If you get the chance to see Niagara Falls, don't miss it!

October 19, 2017

Cleveland Rocks

by Rosemary

We spent most of a day at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a museum dedicated to the history of the most significant figures in the development of rock and roll. In addition to a vast collection of memorabilia, including instruments, costumes, documents, and photos, there are a number of in-depth historical displays, interactive kiosks, and video presentations. When we were there, there were special exhibits on John Mellencamp, Rolling Stone's 50th anniversary, the Summer of Love, and the 2017 inductees.


The next day we visited another museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art. It's not possible to see everything there in one day, so we focused on the special exhibits. There was a small exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of sculptor Auguste Rodin. Among other works, the museum has one of Rodin's iconic Thinkers. The statue was vandalized by a bomber in 1970, a crime that remains unsolved. After much debate, the museum decided not to attempt any repairs, and the damaged statue remains on display.

The mangled Thinker in Cleveland.

The Thinker as we saw him in Paris in 2010.

The museum also has some wonderful interactive displays, where the viewer can stand in front of a computerized wall and use hand and body movements to interact with the presentation. We had great fun trying this.

Not far from the art museum are the Cleveland Cultural Gardens. This is a series of small gardens, representing various cultures or ethnicities from around the world. The project began in the early 1900s, and is ongoing. There are currently 29 completed gardens, and more are in progress. Each garden has an identifying sign. Inside, there may be statues, water features, plaques, or structures.

Of course, Dante Alighieri has a prominent place in the Italian garden.

From Cleveland, we continued north.

October 17, 2017

A Vacation From the Vacation

There are plenty of things to see and do in Columbus, Ohio, but we didn't see or do any of them.

We needed a few days to rest and catch up with ourselves. We checked into a unit with a kitchen, where we cooked our own meals for the next three days. We did laundry. We ran some mundane errands like buying socks and toothpaste. We sat around doing nothing. We got some sleep.

We didn't take any pictures, but here is a nice stock photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash.


October 15, 2017

Louisville, Kentucky

by Rosemary

We made a short stop in Louisville, where we had a great time visiting our friends Johnny and Stephi Wolff.

That weekend, there were a lot of events going on. We went to a couple of art festivals, including a very popular one near the Big Four Bridge. This former railroad bridge across the Ohio River is now a pedestrian and bicycle bridge connecting Louisville to Jeffersonville, Indiana. We walked across and had lunch in Indiana, then walked back.

From the Big Four, you can see the Abraham Lincoln Bridge and the John F. Kennedy Bridge, so close together that from this angle they almost look like a single structure.

We strike a pose.

Paddlewheelers still travel the river.

Louisville is known for its many great restaurants, and that includes terrific places to get breakfast. We didn't photograph our food, but maybe we should have. Eggs Over Frankfort and North End Cafe were two of the breakfast spots we enjoyed. For dinner, the Fat Lamb and Noosh Nosh were completely different in both style and substance, yet both were excellent choices. And who could forget the Red Yeti?

We weren't in Louisville long enough to see and do as much as we would have liked, so we hope to be back soon.