Fragments of Toronto: Kay Gardner Beltline Park

View of Allen Road and path leading to Beltline Park

Path off Allen Road leading to Beltline Park

Hidden behind the sound barrier off Allen Road and Eglinton St West, is a path that leads to one of Toronto’s most curious parks.

Running from that point (just north of Eglinton West subway station) in a narrow eastward strip that ends at Yonge & Davisville, is a green belt created on top of a former railway line.

Built in 1892, the Belt Line railway through then-suburbs of Moore Park and Forest Hill closed its passenger service after only two years of operation. Sections of the railway still had freight service until the 1960’s, while other parts were sold off to various land developers. After the freight service ceased, the railway was abandoned for years until in 1972 the city purchased this land in order to create a park.

A wooded urban trail

Park trail behind a large houseThe Kay Gardner Park is a walking and biking trail through the heart – or rather the back yards – of Midtown Toronto. Along this trail you can get a glimpse of the back porches and swing sets of Forest Hill, one of Toronto’s richest neighbourhoods and a place of some extraordinarily large examples of domestic architecture.

(I also loved visiting a similar but elevated park in Paris, likewise built on top of an old railway)

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Fragments of culture: awesome upcoming Toronto events

If I missed these because someone who cares didn’t tell me about them on their blog, I would cry. To spare you this fate, here are some fantastic cultural events happening in Toronto this fall, in order of decreasing urgency:

Doctorow sliding down a rope in a red capeThis week:

Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing editor, sci fi author, Internet rights activist, world-renowned defender of our digital freedom and xkcd superhero – is making a number of appearances in Toronto area this week, including a reading from his new YA novel at Oakville Public Library on Wednesday Sep. 26 and a book launch party at Bakka Phoenix Books on Thursday Sep. 27.

October:

International Festival of Authors is happening Oct.18-28 at the Harbourfront Centre with readings, interviews and round table events with over 100 international authors, including some very famous ones like Alice Munro and some very awesome ones like the fantasy and weird fiction author China Miéville.

November:

The spectacular punk cabaret musicians Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra are doing a show at Phoenix Concert Theatre on November 9th as part of the tour for their recently released Kickstarter-funded and much-lauded darkly pop & glamorously rock album Theatre is Evil. The world tour is sold out in most cities, but Toronto still has tickets. Expect a visually stunning high-energy show full of life, crowd participation, and probably toplessness.

These two videos are gorgeous and you should watch them. (Obligatory warnings: one is NSFW and the other is very bloody.)


Ongoing every Sunday till end of December:

The fantastic Queen St West blues & cabaret band Kevin Quain and the Mad Bastards, who’ve been playing Sunday nights at the Cameron House for the last seventeen years will be wrapping up this landmark Toronto gig at the end of December. Go see them there while you still can! There’ll be dark, soulful, smooth music as well as rousing barfly humour. Kevin Quain, in addition to his mastery of piano, accordion and guitar, is also likely to feature a black eye and play the musical saw.

Paris: fragments of a travelogue

A beautiful Paris buildingSpent a week in Paris visiting my little sister. Had been there once before five years ago and did the main tourist circuit then, so could skip most of it this time. The one museum which I absolutely loved the first time around and did revisit was Musée d’Orsay – it’s a collection of mostly early 20th century art including a lot of art nouveau and impressionism, housed in a former train station which is ridiculously beautiful.

In terms of walking around and finding random interesting places as I usually do, Paris is kind of overwhelming. There are all these beautiful buildings one after another and nothing really stands out because there is no contrast to the plain and the ordinary. Pluck a random building from the center of Paris and transport it to any North American street and it would look absolutely remarkable. A surfeit of extraordinary buildings, on the other hand, was strangely tiring.

So instead, a few words about my favorite Parisian park and a couple of lesser-known museums worth checking out.

Promenade plantée

A section of vine-covered trellis with Parisian buildings in backgroundThis park is very well hidden and hard to just stumble upon unless you know where to look. It was built fairly recently in place of an old railway line that ran from Bastille through a central residential area. Also known as Coulée verte, it is narrow and elevated to about second-story level, running closely parallel to avenue Daumesnil, squeezed between buildings and sometimes even through buildings. It is shady, cozy and has lookout points like balconies that afford glimpses of Paris streets from above. By far the coolest park I’ve come across in Paris.

Museum of Decorative Arts

A section of a Marc Jacobs exhibit with a blue mannequin in a blue dress Located next to the Louvre on rue Rivoli, this museum is a medley of very neat exhibits. We went there looking for the museum of advertising, which turned out to be just a series of rotating exhibits in Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Currently, the advertising section is devoted to the history of the anise-flavored liqueur Ricard – posters, promotional items, bottle and glass designs from 1930s till now. This exhibit is on display in a very rough-walled, unfinished-looking set of rooms with all kinds of infrastructure showing – I loved the effect but could not honestly say if it was deliberate or if they were renovating.

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Fragments of Toronto: Weston Village

We live in Ward 11 – York South-Weston – and our councillor, Frances Nunziata, regularly sends out e-newsletters about what’s going on in our ward – updates on things like major construction projects, community events, issues on the council’s agenda and even permits issued for filming in the area. I was added to the distribution list automatically after signing a petition in support of librarians during the recent Toronto Public Library strike, and so the newsletters came as a surprise, but a good one. They are really informative and mindful of many community aspects that I wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.

However, since we live at the southernmost edge of Ward 11 – closer to Bloor West Village than the rest of York South-Weston, I would read these newsletters and not recognize most of the place names mentioned in them. So yesterday I looked up a few of these streets and landmarks and found many of them clustered in the area known as Weston Village, located between Jane St. and Weston Rd. north of Lawrence Ave.; this is the area I went to explore.

Now, Jane Street is a major commercial and transit artery though our ward, and Weston Road is another. I’ve travelled along them before and they look mostly dismal and shabby and, frankly, ugly. So I didn’t expect much of the smaller streets between them either. Turns out I was in for a huge surprise, because what was hidden behind commercial strips like these…

A row of business along Jane St. at Lawrence Ave.

… were residential streets like these:

A large old brick house with turrets

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Fragments of Toronto: East Danforth

Yesterday I took a long walk around an unfamiliar part of the city just because I could.

back yard of an arty house

The most interesting back yard I stumbled onto on this trip

Even though I’ve walked extensively around the west and central parts of Toronto over the years, east of Jarvis or so is mostly a blank spot on my mental map. So I went east.

My favorite streets to explore are the residential ones – I love looking at different houses and imagining how people live in them and contemplating with horror or delight the remodeling choices they’ve made. So even though I walked a few short stretches on Danforth Ave, I mostly strayed a few blocks south or north of it in my westward trip from Woodbine to Broadview.

On Danforth itself, what I noticed were a couple of pubs which probably would’ve been favorite hangouts if we lived in the area, a restaurant called Cafe Frappe which I really wanted to go into, and a bookstore called Circus, which I would have gone into except it was too early in the morning and it was still closed. Also some neat old buildings with friezes and fancy plasterwork, a really grand Romanesque church and a parkette with a bust of Alexander the Great by which a group of old Greek men were hanging out, just like in the clichés.

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