It’s been a pretty amazing summer so far. The weather has been pretty good since as far back as April. Occasionally, we’ve had rain showers and thunderstorms, but much of the rain has actually fallen over night. The weather on the weekends has been great for the most part, perfect conditions to enjoy all the activities and festivals that the city has to offer. I decided earlier this year that I would be spending this summer in Toronto without any major travel assignments overseas. So this is my chance to focus on local explorations.
Toronto’s Old City Hall
And the offerings are amazing: I already wrote detailed articles from my explorations at Toronto’s Doors Open architectural festival, my exciting day at the Dragonboat Festival on Toronto’s Islands, the Taste of Little Italy, Summerlicious – Toronto’s restaurant festival, the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival and Afrofest. There are simply not enough hours in the week to cover all my explorations since I have decided to head out and discover as many places and activities as possible right here in Toronto. Here is a little summary of some of the other activities I have participated in that I haven’t had a chance yet to talk about in detail.
Serenity on Toronto Island
On June 25, 2006 I headed out to Toronto’s Pride Parade, one of the biggest parades in Toronto, and one of the largest of its kind in the world. This year’s parade theme was “Fearless!” to indicate how far Toronto’s queer community has come and how far they still have to go. From its original roots as a protest event, Toronto’s Pride Parade today has become a real family affair with special events for families and children. The city has embraced this event and it has great support from the mayor, the police, various corporate sponsors and politicians from all political parties. The big events of Pride Week included the Flag Raising Ceremony at City Hall, Pride Awards and a Gala Dinner, the Dyke March as well as the dazzling Pride Parade. Seven entertainment stages provided entertainment with about 650 artists, the Community Fair included participants from a large variety of community groups, and the Marketplace enticed the crowd with merchandise, clothing, and various accessories and treats.
Colourful Pride celebrations
Then on July 14 and 15 not only did I attend a street festival, together with my team we actually participated in the Salsa on St. Clair Festival. This festival was held for the first time last year and attracted more than 200,000 participants in its first year. Telelatino, Canada’s Latin broadcasting network, developed the idea for this festival and organized a huge street party. This year the crowd was even bigger than in the first year.
Participating in the Salsa on St. Clair Festival
We had a table together with Skills for Change, a local immigrant settlement agency with whom we collaborate frequently. To jointly promote our two organizations we were holding a draw to give away a one-week adventure trip along the Inca Trail in Peru. The trip itself will be provided by G.A.P Adventures, the flagship sponsor of our Travel Story Contest, and a leader in environmentally sustainable and socially conscious travel. Over two days we spent almost 20 hours in the sweltering sun, interacting with the crowd, and many hundreds of people wanted to get to get a chance to explore the mysteries of Peru.
Stilt walker at the Salsa on St. Clair Festival
In between these special events I have also had a chance to explore the city by bike and on inline skates. A couple of weeks ago I cycled out to the Scarborough Bluffs and spent some time in one of my favourite Toronto spots: the Rosetta McClain Gardens. This is a beautiful public garden with gorgeous flower beds and serene sitting areas, perched high above Lake Ontario with great vistas of this peaceful expanse of water.
Rosetta McClain Gardens
From there I cycled east through a variety of parks abutting the Scarborough Bluffs which are essentially cliffs formed from eroded packed clay soil. They stretch for about 14 km along Lake Ontario in the east end of Toronto, and at their highest point they rise 65 meters above the water. The most interesting formations can be found around Bluffer’s Park, a large waterfront park featuring a sandy beach, picnic areas, walks, lookouts, and berths for over 500 boats.
Strange formations at Bluffer’s Park
Toronto, with its location right on Lake Ontario, is a haven for cyclists and water sports enthusiasts, and the waterfront has numerous extensive parks right on the shoreline that are ideal for picnics, sunbathing and relaxing by the water. The Martin Goodman Trail is a multi-purpose recreational trail with a length of about 22 km along Toronto’s Waterfront and gives inline skaters and bicyclists a chance to exercise and soak up the sun right next to the water. Last weekend I strapped on my rollerblades and explored the Waterfront Trail along Toronto’s West end in Etobicoke, and the nicely paved trail continues into Toronto’s neighbouring cities Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington.
Monarch butterfly near the Etobicoke Creek
But serene nature experiences not only await at the waterfront, the City has several other spots that allow you to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Last week I spent a couple of hours exploring Riverdale Farm, Toronto’s Necropolis and the surrounding Cabbagetown Neighbourhood. Riverdale Farm is actually an early 20th century farm that has been turned into a learning opportunity for urban dwellers that exposes them to farm animals and a rural environment. The peaceful park outside Riverdale Farm is a favourite destination for school groups and adults who relax under the shady trees and cool off in the public fountains.
Right next to Riverdale Farm is the Toronto Necropolis, one of Toronto’s oldest and most historic cemeteries. Dating back to the 1850s, it houses a collection of Victorian buildings and sculptures and is one of the most picturesque locations in the city. The recently restored cemetery entrance, chapel and office are fine examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture and the Necropolis is a favourite destination for photographers year-round.
Entrance to the Toronto Necropolis