A Toronto Interlude

Last weekend, instead of writing a blog post or making garden plans, I flew to Toronto for a short visit. The winter there has been abnormally warm, but I didn’t see much evidence of that. On Monday, March 5 it was -14C, which felt like -20 with the wind chill. And the landscape definitely had the brown look I recalled from late winter in Saskatchewan.

Ernest Thompson Seton Park

In the City of Heavy Doors (more below), weather can be ignored. There is too much to see and do. In the 3.5 days of my visit, I experienced two Lieder recitals, a church service, the CN Tower, the Art Gallery of Ontario, downtown, the CBC building and museum, the University of Toronto campus and the transit system. And some memorable meals and conversations.

On Sunday afternoon, I went to a recital of songs by Brahms and Schumann performed by tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Julius Drake. I discovered the songs of Franz Schubert through two CDs by these artists issued in 1998 and 2001, entitled Lieder and Lieder Volume II (both on EMI). For me, these recordings are like caskets of exquisite jewels, to which I return regularly. Sunday’s performance was notable for its intensity. The selection of songs perfectly represented the combination of ecstasy and anxiety that is German Romanticism. A review is available here.

Monday was a good day for visiting the CN Tower, sunny and clear (but cold). For someone who had never been to southern Ontario before, it was a great way to get an idea of the landscape. I recommend the topmost viewing platform in the Sky Pod, with its pushed out windows. Downtown looks like an intricate 3D mosaic from there, with shadows adding to the effect as the sun descends.

Downtown Toronto from the CN Tower

Head offices of the big Canadian banks can be seen from here, a sight to stir up various emotions, depending on how you feel about those banks.

Then there is the famous glass floor, just below the main Look Out Level. One is assured that the glass will support the weight of 14 large hippos (emphasis mine). I took a quick walk over the glass floor, muttering “14 large hippos,” and this picture:

My feet, and the ground 1,000 feet below

The friend I was visiting is a longtime resident of Toronto and expert in getting around the city. As we dodged from the subway and in and out of various buildings, I privately started to think of Toronto as the City of Heavy Doors, I suppose to keep the weather out — cold in winter and hot in summer. Some had signs directing one to pull or push hard, so I couldn’t be the only one to notice this. To get away from the cold en route to the CN Tower, we walked through the Toronto Convention Centre, where a convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada was under way. It’s been a long time since I saw so many men in suits all in one place. There was also a really big bird…

Birdwatching at the Toronto Conference Centre

Going from place to place, we relied  almost entirely on the transit system, a combination of buses, subway and trolleys that seems to work amazingly well and is used by Torontonians of all stripes. And yes, there are mice living among the rails of the subway. I saw one while waiting for the westbound train on my way to the airport on Tuesday afternoon — a tiny black creature scampering around. Someone ought to study them; I’ll bet they’re evolving into a separate species of urban mouse.

So I was quite impressed by what we Westerners sometimes call The Centre of the Universe. Another visit is in order.

Back in Victoria, I was welcomed by a visitor to my garden on Wednesday morning:

Buck with injured foreleg

Despite the leg problem, he jumped the fence into a neighbour’s yard and spent part of the day there. Now I take a look around for him every time I go out, at once hoping that he’s gone and that he’s still around. I hope his leg gets better too. I think he nibbled on some emerging daylily foliage, but that’s all. There isn’t much in the way of delectable foliage around as yet, but a big guy like this could do serious damage once plants start to grow in spring.