The ROM in Black and White
On our trip to Toronto Canada last spring my wife and I stopped by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). I saw some photos of the ROM when I was researching our trip. I really liked the geometric architecture, so I definitely wanted to photograph it. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to go inside and take a tour of the museum’s galleries. They have quite an extensive collection.
The original building is a stone Neo-Romanesque style, built in 1910. The modern aluminum expansion called the Crystal, was added nearly 100 years later in 2007. Most of the original building is still visible and the contrast between the two styles is quite dramatic. The public opinion of the new addition was quite dramatic. Like when the glass pyramid was added to the Louvre in Paris, lots of people hated it. I gave these images a dark dramatic look to emphasize all of the drama. Love them or hate them, I enjoyed photographing both the glass pyramid and the Crystal.
I really like all of the angles and geometric shapes of the Crystal. The large glass windows are at the perfect angle to reflect everything going on in the street below. I could have spent hours photographing the changing traffic patterns in the reflections.
Click on an image to see it full size.
Journey Behind the Falls: Niagara Falls Canada
When you visit Niagara Falls, you need to take part in the more “touristy” activities, that you may try to avoid while visiting other destinations. I’m not sure but I think “touristy” was invented in Niagara Falls. Pretty much since they were first discovered, people have been coming up with creative ways of
taking making money off of people visiting the falls. In the early days there was a big privacy fence all the way around the falls. You had to pay to look through a hole in the fence just to see the falls. Things are somewhat better now, but you still need to reach into your pocket. At least now after you pay to park your car you can walk along the river and get amazing views of the falls. A lot of people could just stop there, what fun is that!
For the more adventurous, you can reach into your pocket again and do the zip-line along the river. We did the Journey Behind the Falls. The journey begins at the ticket window where you reach into your pocket and buy a ticket. From the ticket window you head to the elevator (I would highly recommend a trip to the potty at this point). You end up in a little area where you don your requisite El cheapo plastic
bag poncho. Take the elevator down to a dark wet concrete tunnel. At this point you have two options. One, go to the outside viewing area (very cool). Two, continue down the dark wet concrete tunnel. If you choose option one, keep in mind that you are going to get WET! We maximized our dry time by choosing option two first. Continuing down the dark wet tunnel brings you first to one and then another dark wet tunnel. At the end of each of the two shorter dark wet tunnels, there is an opening where you can see, hear, and feel a wall of water cascading over the opening. You are now well behind the big Horseshoe Falls. Some people seemed unimpressed looking at this big grey wall of water. I think you need to think about the gravity of the situation. You are dozens of feet down and dozens of feet through a solid rock wall, looking at the back side of one of the largest and most fierce waterfalls in the world. You are ten feet away from being sucked into a torrent of water with more force and power than almost anything on the planet. I was pretty impressed.
Now it’s time to get WET! Back through the dark wet tunnel to the outside viewing area. It’s like a huge patio where it’s always raining. The roar of the big Horseshoe falls is deafening. Although you do need to go through a pretty wet area to get there, if you stay to the left side of the patio you will stay pretty dry, what fun is that! If you venture over to the right side of the patio, you find yourself right next to the big Horseshoe Falls. Not only will you get drenched, you can literally feel and hear the power of the mighty waterfall, totally awesome! You will also be able to look down river and get a great view of the American and Bridal Veil Falls as well as the Rainbow Bridge. When you have sufficiently “soaked” in the view it’s time to head back to the top and your next adventure. Oh, and yes, exit through the gift shop please! Try to keep your hands in your pockets.
The A Moment in Time Bed and Breakfast Niagara Falls Canada
After a nice drive from Toronto in our cute little red Canadian rental car, my wife Robbie and I arrived at the “A Moment in Time” B&B in Niagara Falls, Canada. The B&B is an amazing turn of the century, pretty much original, Victorian home. Being a photographer I consider a photograph to be “a moment in time.” In fact, I have used amomntntime for an email address for many years. So when I came across the “A Moment in Time” B&B while looking for a place to stay in Niagara, well, it was fate.
David and Doddy are the owners and hosts. Doddy prepares the amazing breakfasts and takes care of the beautiful gardens. Breakfasts were delicious and the presentation was beautiful! We were there in mid-May and the tulips were in full bloom. We found Doddy in the garden on several occasions caring for his tulips. As each variety came into perfect bloom he would photograph it. David is quite the fixer upper. They own several other B&Bs in Niagara and David has done all of the work on them himself. He was telling me about the front entrance to the B&B we stayed at. Now there is a really nice blue arched front door. Originally there were two front doors. One door for the main floor and one door for the upstairs. The cold Canadian winds blew into the doors when you opened them. David had a friend who was removing the neat blue arched door from his building. David acquired the door and created a nice mud room to protect the original entries. It looks great and is very practical. I was looking at the B&B web site and noticed there is a photo of the front of the house from before David added the blue door. I copied it and added it for comparison.
I noticed that some of the reviews said that the house was dilapidated. That’s just not true! These people must be accustomed to 5 star resorts or have no idea what a 120 plus year old home is like. If that’s you, you should stay at the Casino. We found the B&B to be very quaint, nostalgic and lovely. It brought back memories of when my grandparents would take me to visit one of the church ladies in her Victorian home after church.
The B&B is in a nice, old part of town. There is free parking at the B&B. So if you are not opposed to walking and you would like to save on the high parking fees, it’s not a bad walk to the falls. We walked to Horseshoe Falls and then down to the Rainbow bridge and back to the B&B. It was about a 7 mile round trip (including walking through two attractions). You don’t need to do it all at one time, there is a lot of stopping and doing things along the way. Be advised though, there is a fairly large and steep hill down to the river gorge. It’s not bad going down but remember, what goes down must come back up!
We stayed in the Shirriff’s Tower Suite on the second floor. The bathroom, complete with Jacuzzi, was in the cool turret in the front of the building. Francis Shirriff who owned a Toronto marmalade and desert topping company had the home built in 1894. Shirriff was like the Canadian Smucker’s, in fact Smucker’s is now making some of their products. We enjoyed our stay at the “A Moment in Time” B&B while we were in Niagara.
Lake Ontario Ghost Ship
My wife Robbie and I had a wonderful time in Toronto. But it was time to start the second part of our journey, Niagara Falls. We woke up to a rainy Canadian morning. Niagara Falls is an easy drive from Toronto. We walked down the street, in the rain, to pick up our cute little red Canadian rental car. After stopping at the hotel to pick up our bags, we were off to Niagara. We had been driving a while on the QEW and we were getting hungry. I spotted a nice looking restaurant, The Lake House, right on Lake Ontario. I got off at the next exit to find my way to the restaurant. Driving along Lake Ontario we spotted this old rusty ghost ship, aground in a little cove. This was something that needed to be explored, even in the rain. But not until after lunch. The ghost ship could wait. The Lake House was a great restaurant with an awesome view of Lake Ontario. After a really nice lunch we stopped by this amazing old ship. It was still raining, but not very hard, I was able to get a few photos without getting too wet.
The old ship has a rather long sorted past. It started life in 1914 as a ferry and then a cargo ship on the St. Lawrence river. In 1991 it was converted into a replica of one of three sailing ships that explored the St. Lawrence in the mid 1500s. At some point it was turned into a restaurant and casino that went bust. Someone thought it would make a good floating restaurant in the Niagara area. Apparently on its way to Niagara, the project ran out of funds and it was abandoned in its current location. At some point some ingenious individuals thought it would be a good idea to sneak aboard and have a BBQ. They proceeded to set the whole ship ablaze. The original ship was steel but the facade of the replica was wooden, it all burned. So now this old ship sits aground in this Lake Ontario cove. A curiosity to all who travel the QEW on the way to Niagara.
The CN Tower Toronto
No visit to Toronto would be complete without taking a trip to the top of the CN Tower. The tower was constructed by the Canadian National Railway, hence CN Tower. The tower is 1,815 ft. tall and it was the worlds tallest free-standing structure from 1975-2007. There are three visitor levels and a revolving restaurant. Robbie and I skipped the restaurant on this trip. We were visiting in the off season, so we just went right to the elevator. It looks like certain times of the year there can be a rather long wait to get to the top. The elevator ride is a short one. You are traveling at 20 ft. per second, the trip to the Indoor Lookout Level takes 58 seconds! The elevator shaft is glass so you get a nice view of the city on your way up. Oh, you may or may not want to look down, the floor is glass too. Your ride ends at the beautiful Indoor Lookout Level at 1,135 ft. It’s a large climate controlled area with huge glass widows. You get amazing panoramic views of Toronto and Lake Ontario. Don’t forget to look up at the mirrored ceiling, very cool. The friendly CN staff will happily take your photo with your camera.
Next you can visit the Outdoor Observation Terrace. Protected by wire mesh you can feel the wind in your face at 1,122 ft. get a 360 deg. birds eye view of the area. I think we walked around 3 times. Next visit the Glass Floor. There is an area inside on the terrace level that has a glass floor. The glass is super thick and super strong and super safe, but walking over the glass still made my tummy crawl! Standing on the glass and looking 1,122 ft. down is quite the thrill! You know nothing is going to happen but still, your seemingly standing on thin air! Your brain is telling you, this.is.not, a good idea!
I’m not sure if we were lucky or if this is an off season perk. On the day Robbie and I visited the tower, the trip to the Sky-Pod was free! There is normally an extra fee. Another short elevator ride takes you to the highest level of the tower at 1,465 ft. The pod has smaller glass windows and a great view of the area. For you thrill seekers, there is the Edge Walk. For $225ca you can strap on a harness, connect to a safety cable and walk around the outside of the tower and hang out over the edge! Maybe next time, NOT!
Toronto Architectural Photography
Our trip to Toronto was a vacation, not really a photography trip. However I did try to slip in a little serious photography where I could. One of my numerous favorite subjects to photograph, is architectural abstract photography. In-fact I started this blog as part of an architectural abstract portfolio assignment that I was doing for my Photography Certificate. See The final 10. Toronto is filled with loads of great architecture. As Robbie and I were taking our self-guided walking tour of Toronto, I was seeing some really nice architecture. I couldn’t help myself, I had to take a few architectural photos as we walked through the city.
The Dog Park Toronto
One of the things I really like about Toronto are the many little parks scattered around the city. There seemed to be a small park along the way to wherever we were going. Sitting just behind the flatiron is Berczy Park. This was a particularly cute park. Robbie and I affectionately called it The Dog Park. More accurately I suppose it’s the park with the dog fountain. The fountain is adorned with statues of 27 dogs and 1 cat. It’s a really fun fountain. The park really does cater to dogs though. The water in the fountain is purified and dogs are encouraged to drink it. There is also a designated gravel area for dogs to release the water later. William Berczy was an architect and surveyor who helped to form early Toronto.
The Gooderham Building, aka Toronto’s Flatiron Building
Toronto has loads of modern glass skyscrapers. Sitting among the monoliths of modern architecture a few remnants of the past still exist. One of the most prominent is the Gooderham Building, aka the Flatiron Building. The term flatiron building usually brings to mind a certain building in New York City. Torontonians are quick to point out that the Gooderham is ten years older. The building was owned by the Gooderham family of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. It was the company’s main office for many years.
The Gooderham will be probably be on your way to or from the St. Lawrence market or the Distillery District. The Distiilery District is the old Gooderham and Worts Distillery that has been renovated into restaurants, bars and shops. The lower level of the flatiron contains a fantastic British pub.
The Flatiron Pub is a great place to stop for refreshments. I don’t think Robbie and I thought it was great only because we were very hot, tired and thirsty from sightseeing. It really is a nice pub! As I was relaxing with a pint of Canadian, I noticed that one of the windows behind the bar was open. As people were walking down the street, for a very brief moment their reflection could be seen in the window. I was having fun trying to catch the reflections in the window. The images didn’t quite live up to my vision of the scene, but it was fun. The pub has a nice menu and gave us an opportunity to try poutine, a Canadian delicacy. Poutine is french fries, sprinkled with chunks of a mild cheese and covered in brown gravy, very yummy! We had a wonderful time at the Flatiron. Oh, did I mention that Toronto is filled with art.
Toronto at Night
I like to get out at night to do some photography when I can. On our trip to Toronto we had full days with lots of walking. So by the time the sun went down I was pretty beat. Luckily the Strathcona Hotel, where we were staying, was a half block away from a pretty decent view of the CN Tower. So one night I grabbed my gear and walked down to the corner to take some photos. A woman was walking by and stopped to ask what I was photographing. She followed my lens and answered her own question. When she realized that I was taking a photo of the CN Tower, she said that she hadn’t noticed you could see the tower from this corner. I had to admit to her that the first time I walked by, I missed it too. We had a nice conversation, she was from New Brunswick CA. We were also right next to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the building with the flags. The Royal York is where Queen Elizabeth II stays when she comes to Toronto. Pretty much the whole royal family has stayed there at one time or another. This was the weekend of the big royal wedding, so none of the royals were there. Fun fact: the Royal York has 350,000 honey bees. They have a garden on the roof to grow veggies for the restaurant. The bees pollinate the garden and provide honey.
Toronto Centre Island
Toronto has a great park system. One of the biggest parks are the Toronto Islands. They are a chain of small islands in Lake Ontario, just off of the Toronto shoreline. My wife Robbie and I spent an afternoon on Centre Island. The islands are a short ferry ride from Toronto Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. You should stop by Longos on the way to the ferry terminal and pick up some picnic supplies. We were going to, but didn’t, and wish we had. The ferry terminal is tucked behind a Weston hotel. Just keep going around the right side of the building toward the back and you will see the terminal. Pick up your ticket at the ticket booth and go through the gate. Have a seat in one of the brightly colored Adirondack chairs for a short wait for the ferry. We went to Centre Island, there are two other options. We were there in the off season; there were not many people on our ferry. I think during the summer it can get quite crowded. The Toronto Islands are a popular recreational destination. Centre Island is a large green space, perfect for picnicking. There are a few public charcoal grills that you can use. Bring a blanket to spread on the grass for your picnic. Have fun sitting on the bright orange tulip chairs. Fold the seat down and enjoy the view of Toronto. Centreville is a small amusement park for the young ones, they will have a blast! It was just getting ready to open for the season when we were there. Centre Island is a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon walking, jogging or biking the paths around the island. Not to mention the awesome views of the Toronto skyline.
Visiting Toronto Ontario, Canada
My wife Robbie had been wanting to see Niagara Falls, so we decided to plan a trip there. There are two main options when flying to Niagara Falls. One, you can fly into Buffalo NY. Two, you can fly into Toronto ON. CA. I decided that Toronto would be more interesting than Buffalo. Toronto Pearson International Airport is a fairly large airport. We had some difficulty finding our way from one place to the next. Top tip; “Study and download the terminal map onto your phone.” I’m looking at the map now and even after being there, I would still have trouble navigating. Downtown Toronto is about 15 miles from the airport. When I booked the trip I was able to get inexpensive tickets for the UP Train. The UP Train is a quick and easy way to get into Toronto. It takes you into Toronto Union station. Our hotel was a short one and a half block walk from Union Station. The Strathcona Hotel is a cute boutique hotel in the heart of Toronto. The rooms were a bit on the smallish side, but everything else was great. This is a fantastic location, we were within walking distance of almost every place we wanted to see. Tired, weary, thirsty and hungry from our journey we decided to try the Srath Pub, in the hotel’s lower level. The Pub, as it’s affectionately called, turned out to be pretty nice. Hotel guests as well as locals frequent The Pub. If a group of construction workers stop in after work, it must be a decent place.
Toronto is a very large bustling city, very comparable to New York City. There were people in business suits scurrying from place to place. Loads of horn blowing traffic in a hurry to get where they were going. We found Toronto to be a clean, friendly and very walk-able city. All around you crowds of people are going to their next business meeting or the next spot on their must see list, speaking many different languages. We are not sure, but we don’t think we met anyone actually from Toronto. The waitress from one of the restaurants that we liked was from Ireland. It’s a very international city. There are way too many things to see and do in Toronto. On our four day visit we barley scratched the surface.
One of the things you need to do for sure is take a stroll along Toronto’s waterfront. Toronto is right on the shoreline of Lake Ontario. There are miles of walkways along the lakes shoreline. It’s a very relaxing and scenic way to spend some time.
Toronto is a very artsy city as well. Just about everyplace you look there is some sort of art. It’s a bit hard to see in the photo but these workers are adding an eagle sculpture to the side of this building. You can see the eagles head on the building on the right edge of the photo. His wing is still on a flatbed about to be lifted into place. On our way back the eagle is perched with both wings attached.
There is architecture of all types downtown. I was constantly clicking away at one building or another. Everywhere you looked there were tulips. We found out later that Toronto and Holland have a history together and every year Holland sends thousands of tulips to Toronto. It was very beautiful and we were lucky to be there at the right time.
Longos, what would we have done without Longos! Longos is a great little grocery store. We stopped there several times for supplies. We got some great things for breakfast, lunch and snacks as well as soda and water. We also got some great maple cookies and maple syrup. Empty backpacks are great for transporting supplies back to your hotel. Oh, get the cashier to make a little handle for your 12pk of water, it works great! We found that we adapted pretty well to being big city dwellers. Speaking of backpacks everybody in Toronto has one. You will want to leave a little room in your backpack. Just above Longos on the right is the LCBO. This is where you get your wine and tequila.
Much more to see and do in my next posts on visiting Toronto.