Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: downtown

Vancouver in three photos

The third and final stop of my three-part trip in November 2017 was Vancouver. Here is Vancouver in three photos.

The only (relatively) rain-free day out of my three days in Vancouver was a perfect one for a stroll around Stanley Park. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

A gorgeous bird perched atop a tree in Stanley Park, observing passersby as they walk/run/cycle by obliviously. Hello, beauty. What’s your name?

Final glimpse of autumn foliage in a residential neighbourhood – it almost looked as if it was raining flames.

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014

I went to Nuit Blanche, an annual arts festival in downtown Toronto, for the first time this year. I’ve previously heard a lot about the all-night event (“Nuit Blanche” is literally “white night” in French, but actually means “all-nighter”), which happens one day in October from dusk till dawn, where various forms of art displays (sculptures, live performances, light installations, etc.) are scattered all around downtown Toronto and open for audiences to see. Yet, I’ve never had a chance to experience it (well, it would have been hard to go to the one in Toronto since I was in Europe for the past three Octobers).

This year, the event began in the evening on October 4 and continued until sunrise on October 5, and I went for the first time. Actually, it was completely unplanned, but somehow on the afternoon of October 4, my sister talked me into going downtown for food and walking around for Nuit Blanche for a few hours afterwards. Why not, I thought, take advantage of the chance when I’m still in Toronto?

I really ought to have planned better for the event, as it was pretty cold that night and both my sister and I did not dress warmly enough. If we were aware of how cold it would have been and prepared for it, we definitely would have stayed longer. As a result we ended up only attending the actual event for three hours, which wasn’t all that bad. I had been skeptical about Nuit Blanche because I’ve never known how to properly appreciate art, so I treated this first time as an experiment, just to know what to expect for the next time. With a map and a pamphlet in our hands, we set off from City Hall and made our way through Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue, ending the night down by the lakeshore at Fort York. There were quite a few works that I had wanted to see but missed because of the bad planning, but the ones that I did get to see were rather interesting, to say the least.

The sky was still bright when we finished dinner at 7pm, and people were just starting to rush into the downtown core for the beginning of the event (the official start time was 6:53pm). From City Hall, my sister and I walked along Queen Street West towards the west, encountering this installation named “Gap Ecology”. Featuring several cherry pickers filled with palm trees, this installation explored the urban and environmental issues present in our society.

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University of Toronto – the magical St. George Campus

I’ve always wondered about the University of Toronto (U of T, from here on). Almost a decade ago, I turned down offers from both the St. George campus and the Scarborough campus to pursue undergraduate studies at the University of Waterloo instead, and the list of reasons is too long to name. Still, Toronto is my city, and with the campuses within easy access, I felt like I should take the chance, before leaving Toronto again, to go see what I missed by turning down U of T all those years ago. After all, it was just another stroll in the park…literally.

The buildings of the U of T St. George campus are scattered all around the core of downtown Toronto, so anyone can be walking around the campus and not even be aware of it. It is often the case for me when I visit downtown. I knew the boundaries of the university, passing by buildings here and there that I knew were part of the campus, yet I never took time to explore the inner campus itself. Then one day, after lunch with a friend in downtown, I was left with an entire free afternoon to myself. I could go home and call it a day, I thought, or…I could take this excellent opportunity to finally SEE the U of T St. George campus. Since I was there anyway, why not? Little did I know that I was about to step into quite a magical place…(click here to see the entire collection of U of T photos.)

My starting point was an old building that I later found out to be Trinity College. I opened a set of doors, entered an empty hall, and pushed another set of doors at the other end of the hall to enter a grand courtyard. All was quiet, and the sight before me baffled me, to say the least. “Is this in Toronto?” I thought, as I stared at the uncharacteristically sophisticated and beautiful architecture that surrounded me all all sides, cloistering the quadrangle in which I stood alone. Somewhere hidden in the busy urban center was this enclosure that seemed like something I would only see in a medieval town, or in a Harry Potter movie. All of a sudden, “Toronto”, a city I thought I knew so well, became more of a mystery to me than ever before.

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Toronto, September 2012

I realize that the more I travel, the harder it is for me to write about a place as simple as home. It’s like taking it for granted and not feeling that it is necessary to write about it because it’s not such a “special” place, when on the contrary, home is the best place in the world. No matter how many exotic cities I’ve been to and how many adventures I’ve indulged myself in, nothing quite beats home.

September has been quite a hectic month. I booked my ticket back to Toronto in January for my friend Florence’s wedding – yes it was planned way ahead of time, but as the maid of honour, not attending was not an option, so I made reservations as soon as I found out the wedding date. Yet, the wedding was not the only reason why September was hectic. I had three events that needed lots of attention – the wedding, my baptism (both occurred in Toronto), and my midterm comprehensive exam in Belgium, which took place at the end of September, after my trip.

Amid all the logistics and planning for these three main events, I set aside some spare time to spend with my friends and family. You can read about the baseball game with Derek, the pre-wedding “retreat” with Florence, and my visit to Waterloo. Or you can read on to find out about other bits and pieces of my precious three-week vacation back home, in good ol’ Toronto.

I’ve wanted to see Toronto high up at night for awhile, and after a downtown dinner with Jay one night, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to head to the top of the CN Tower for a visit. The last time I went up must have been more than 10 years ago…I don’t remember. Jay was a little hesitant, since he claimed that he was afraid of heights, but hey, who isn’t? 😀 So I dragged him along with a little bit of convincing. We only went up to the bottom observation deck where the glass floor was, and didn’t bother with the SkyPod, but the moment I looked out the window I thought, wow, the view was…dazzling, to say the least. I knew Toronto was beautiful at night but seeing it from the CN Tower was a COMPLETELY refreshing and worthwhile experience! (Thank God for manual mode…and my purse which served as a tripod 😉 )

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Take me out to the ball game

I don’t feel like I know Toronto at all. I’ve lived in Toronto – GTA in this sense – for 14 years before going to Europe for grad studies, and as much as I call it home, I don’t know it. Then again, one must first define “Toronto”. Is it the GTA – Greater Toronto Area – that contains regions such as Scarborough, Markham, North York? Or just downtown Toronto? For the rest of this entry, “Toronto” will refer to just “downtown Toronto”.

It was expected that this three-week trip back home would be a busy one, filled with meeting friends and preparation for three important events: my baptism, which happened on September 8th, my best friend's wedding on September 15th for which I am the maid of honour, and my mid-term confirmation exam on September 28th. Yes, it is my “vacation” of the year, but it is barely a vacation at all.

Still, it’s always good to see old friends. Last Wednesday I met up with Derek, one of my housemates for four years in university. We went downtown to SkyDome – yes, Rogers Centre, but I refuse to call it that as I still live in the past – for a baseball game with the Toronto Blue Jays playing against the Baltimore Orioles. It was the second baseball game I went to, the first one being the Jays against the Boston Red Sox some years back. I had never been a huge fan of baseball, but Derek loves it. Though I didn’t know all the rules of the game, I had a great time just hanging out and experiencing a vivid stadium atmosphere.

At a glance, Toronto is like any other large, fast-paced metropolitan city. You look up to not see the sky, but skyscrapers. I’ve worked in Toronto during two of my six work terms in university, both at the corner of University Avenue and College Street. I also go downtown from time to time to hang out with my friends. I love Toronto, but I would have to conclude that I like to go downtown for leisure, but I definitely would not want to work there every day.

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