S.S. Keewatin, an Edwardian Jewel on Georgian Bay


By Steven Wright

I grew up on beautiful Georgian Bay, in the summertime in Ontario there is no better place to be, its a very popular destination for the Toronto crowd that pack the car and make the 2+ hour drive north to spend time on the water enjoying their favorite past time. There are a number of great resorts, cottage rentals and camping options, quaint towns to shop, gallery and artist tours, tourist attractions and dining experiences, not to mention every water sport under the sun!

When I heard about the S.S. Keewatin, built in the British Edwardian tradition of Titanic, containing all of its original furniture, decor, flatware, place settings, quadruple expansion steam engine and the “Scotch” boilers, I managed to get a sneak peak tour before its official public opening in May 2013.

Built 5 years before the Titanic,  the S.S. Keewatin was launched in 1907 by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Scotland, commissioned by Canadian Pacific Railway, the Keewatin was one of 5 Great Lakes Steamships transporting passengers from Port McNicoll, on Georgian Bay to Fort William & Port Arthur. The journey was a 2 1/2 day trip across Lake Superior & Lake Huron with a stop in Sault Saint Marie and the reverse starting in Georgian Bay. After 58 seasons, the Keewatin was retired in 1965 and became the last of the Great Lakes passenger liners, and the last Edwardian built passenger liner steamships in the world.


Saved from being disposed for parts, scrap and antiques in 1967 the Keewatin was purchased by R J Peterson of Douglas Michigan. Peterson, a marina owner and Great Lakes Historian, towed the ship to its new home on Lake Kalamazoo where they established a Maritime Museum and lovingly cared for the Keewatin for 45 years.

In 2012, developer Gil Blutrich and the Friends of Keewatin purchased the Keewatin and towed her back home to Port McNicoll. The journey back became the subject of a documentary film Bring Her on Home – The return of the SS Keewatin. The Keewatin is the crowning jewel of a new park and development site in Port McNicoll which will include a  restaurant comprised of retired Canadian Pacific Railway dining coaches and yacht club (due to open in 2014.)

IMG_5973Take a step back in time on board the Keewatin, guided tours are available and an awesome opportunity to experience what it would be like to travel the Great Lakes in style. There are two guided tours that you can take on board.

The first is the upper deck tour giving you the passenger experience. Starting at the Grand Staircase you are amazed with the sheer amount of mahogany throughout the ship, giving you the impression that traveling on the Keewatin was a decadent experience. The ship is adorned with carved mahogany walls and stained glass windows complimented by incredible textiles. Up the stairs you enter the Flowerpot lounge, an area to sit and relax while listening to entertainment around the ground piano before heading to the dining room set for a first class dinner. After dinner, passengers would head to the bar or grand ballroom for the evenings entertainment, and the ladies even had their own private smoking lounge. Visit the various staterooms, dressed of the period and ready to receive arriving passengers, if you are in need of a shave and a haircut – no problem there is even a Barber Shop on board. The tour continues with wheel house, the Captains quarters and a radio museum featuring a working wireless and an all weather radar. One of my favorite parts of the tour is the fully stocked kitchens, definitely not to be missed.


The second tour gives you access to areas of the Keewatin that only the crew would have seen, climb down the stairs to see the grain holds, coal bunkers and the piece de resistance in the engine room, the Scotch boilers and a working 3200 horsepower quadruple expansion steam engine. The engine is similar to the one that powered the Titanic and the last one in existence in the world.

Keewatin will have her official opening on Saturday May 11 2013 and the season closes mid October. Group rates are a donation of $12.00 per person ( upper deck and engine room) with a single payment made payable to “Friends of Keewatin”. Individual admittance is $15.00 ( tax in) for the upper deck and $7.00 (tax in) for the engine room. $7.50 ( tax in) for Youth 10 to 16 upper deck. $4.00 ( tax in) engine room. Children under 10 free with adults.

The Keewatin is located in Port McNicoll off Hwy 12 just 8 km from Hwy 400,  20 minutes north of Barrie.

S.S. Keewatin
Website: http://sskeewatin.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sskeewatin
Twitter: @SSKeewatin

German Hospitality and Touring the Solar System

By Mike Kerr

Steven and I were on our tour of Poland and Germany and where extended an invitation to visit our German family (the cousins of Steven’s cousin’s wife)  in the small town of Donsdorf outside of Stuttgart. Steven had been to Donzdorf for cousin Jode and Carol’s reception and I was yet to experience the beauty of the town and yet to meet the extended family.

In an earlier post we shared our journey down the Autobahn in our faithful Renaud Megane and Donzdorf was our final destination. When our trusty GPS directed us to the German family’s home, we were happy the long drive was over, of course there were a few quips from the mostly Audi employed family about the jalopy we were driving, but what were we to do? It was the only car left to rent with a GPS, and my German highway and road navigation skills aren’t what they could be, and we didn’t realize we were heading into the home of Porsche (<– Steve had convinced me this one was Italian), Audi, and Volkswagen. Luckily we brought a bouquet of flowers as a gift, so we were soon forgiven as our hosts owned a flower shop and couldn’t remember the last time someone had actually brought them flowers.

We were shown to the room we would be sleeping in, asked to drop off our bags, and our tour of Donsdorf began. Starting with a quick jaunt through their neighborhood, we quickly learned that aside from ourselves, our hosts were the only ones in town who could speak very much English at all, but what can you do when you’re in small town Germany?

Our next stop was a trip by the local flower shop (the one owned by our hosts) on our way to the local castle and church where Steven’s cousin was married. In behind the church was a beautiful open park, filled with art on display by local artists. My favourite part of the displays was a scale model of the solar system, starting with the sun in the center of the park, and continuing out through the town with each of the planets including the now dwarf planet Pluto. In elementary school, the solar system tends to be studied, and dioramas made of coat hangers and Styrofoam balls are pretty commonplace, but actually getting to see it in scale, and walking the distances between each planet really gives a realistic sense of just how big our Solar System is, and a feel for the sizes of each celestial body when the sun was bigger than my head, but Mercury is the size of a ball bearing.

One of mine and Steven’s favourite things about being in Germany is Hanuta, a delicious hazelnut cream sandwiched between two crispy wafers. It sounds kind of ordinary, but it is the best chocolate treat ever. Although it is made by Kinder, which tends to be pretty internationally known, Hanuta, the best of their products, is only available for purchase in the German market.

After getting some (a lot) of sugar in us, we decided to work it off by playing some football with the kids. Steven and I are definitely not MVPs so needless to say, we had our butts handed to us by a very talented kid. We also discovered that flip flops are not the ideal footwear for the game.

Later on we sat down for a family meal, learning more about the family itself, enjoying a bounty of local sausages and meat, and getting more drunk than I ever had before. A good point to remember when visiting your German relatives, is they have a much higher tolerance for beer than you, and aren’t afraid to fill your glass while you are distracted. After my first couple of beers (giant beers) I was starting to get a bit of a buzz on, upon telling this to the German family they insisted I have another, as a buzz in Germany just isn’t good enough. By the time I hit the bottom of my fifth bottle there was no doubt I was drunk. Now at this point I would normally have stopped, but somehow the Germans managed to convince me that I would be fine having another half (and another, and another) soaking up as much as I could in my stomach by eating some authentic soft pretzels, I managed to not throw up. Steven, having been with the family before opted for the lighter lime beer.

At some point during the night, the family heard a noise that we could not, and were up in arms running to the house for a glass of water and some dish soap. Not knowing what was going on, we had to join them to figure out what all the fuss was for. The noise was apparently coming from the ground around the family garden, a quick squirt of dish soap, and a splash of water and the scariest bug I have ever seen in my life revealed itself from the depths of the earth. Imagine a cricket with mole arms, now imagine it being ten times bigger, now imagine its face being so large that you can actually tell what it is thinking by the expression on its face. That my friends, is a mole cricket, the largest bug I ever want to see for the rest of my life.

After an amazing night, and the deepest drunken sleep I have ever had, Steve managed to shake me awake in the morning, gather me up, and get me back in the car to catch the first of our connecting flights home from Stuttgart. Out of all of the small towns I have visited, Donzdorf is my favorite, not for the sights or local amenities, but for the amazing people I met who I can look back and think of as a branch of my family.

Germany Posts:
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
East Side Gallery
Outlet City Metzingen
Potsdamer Platz – the platz to be!
Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie
Shopping in Berlin – ja, das ist gut!
Schloss Charlottenburg the Palace of Berlin
Chic Outlet Shopping – Europe

10+ Things to do on the West End of Toronto

By Steven Wright

Feels like summer in the city even thought its barely spring in Toronto, that has inspired me do a series of articles of things to see and do in this great city! Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the capital of the Province of Ontario and is constantly evolving. It is a vibrant and culturally diverse city, who’s unique neighborhoods are great to explore to get the whole experience eh. The third article of this series is dedicated to Toronto’s West end; here you can find some amazing shopping, great restaurants, interesting neighborhoods, theatres, galleries, museums and Toronto’s entertainment district.

(Bloor Street West / Cumberland Street / Yorkville Avenue between Yonge and Avenue Road, TTC stations Yonge / Bloor or Bay)
If you are shopping for luxury goods and designer brands then this is the neighborhood for you. The Bloor Street West strip includes luxury brands like Tiffany & Co., Prada, Chanel, Coach, Hermes, Harry Rosen, and Canada’s luxury department store Holt Renfrew. Shopping continues with designer boutiques on Yorkville Avenue, Cumberland Street and Hazelton Lanes Shopping Centre. If you are searching for the perfect pair of jeans then I would recommend a stop at  Over the Rainbow (101 Yorkville). The neighborhood features a number of 5* hotels, high end condos, and fine dining. This is a good neighborhood for celebrity spotting, especially in September during the Toronto International Film Festival, grab dinner on the patio at Sassafraz for a bird’s eye view.

Royal Ontario Museum / Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art / Bata Shoe Museum
(100 Bloor Street West, TTC Station Museum / 111 Queen’s Park TTC, Station Museum / 327 Bloor Street West, TTC St. George)
Just west of Bloor-Yorkville you can not help but notice Architect Daniel Leibskind’s redevelopment of The Royal Ontario Museum, the grand entrance makes a huge impression as you look down Bloor Street. The collections are dedicated to understanding world cultures and natural history. ROM Fridays feature a special rate from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm. Friday Night Live @ROM includes Pop-up food, drink and DJs with $9 cover and $5 drinks, general admission is $15.  Not many cities can boast a museum of ceramic art and footwear, but Toronto has both! Across the street from the ROM on Queen’s Park find Canada’s only museum dedicated to ceramic art, The Gardiner Museum. The museum has gained international recognition and the new modern building has added more than additional gallery space, it includes a new restaurant by Canadian Chef Jamie Kennedy. If you get the chance join one of the clay classes in their state-of-the-art clay studios, instructed by professional ceramists. They have a Friday night program and family days on Sunday’s, general admission is $12. Travel down Bloor Street West to St. George Street, there you will find a building that resembles a shoe box, inside find the Bata Shoe Museum. The museum is dedicated to the history of footwear with an extensive collection of shoes from around the world. With over 12,500 shoes in the permanent collection there is something for every shoe lover. General admission is $14.

The Annex
(Bloor Street West between Avenue Road and Bathurst Street, TTC Stations St. Gerorge, Spadina, and Bathurst)
The Annex is a primarily residential area north of Bloor Street, but with the proximity to University of Toronto this is the preferred neighborhood for students and educators a like. The Bloor Street West strip is filled with restaurants, cafes and bars with street side patios great for grabbing a bite and people watching on the busy streets, some of my favorites are Future Bakery (483 Bloor Street West) for their mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy and Insomnia Restaurant and Lounge (563 Bloor Street West) for brunch. Grab toasted marshmallow homemade ice cream from Greg’s Ice Cream (750 Spadina), then catch a documentary film at the newly renovated Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. For an unique shopping experience don’t miss Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor Street West) the massive store has everything from dollar store items to fine antique pieces worth thousands of dollars and absolutely everything in between. Next to Honest Ed’s visit Mirvish Village, an area dedicated to art, culture and cuisine with many one of a kind vendors. In July the area is host to The Fringe Festival, Toronto’s largest theatre festival. Grab dinner on Harbord Street just one block south of Bloor Street between Spadina and Bathurst. Here you can find Toronto’s best fish and chips at a little take out stand, Harbord Fish and Chips (147 Harbord Street) or if you are looking for fine dining try Spendido (88 Harbord).

Little Italy
(College Street from Bathurst to Ossington, TTC Streetcar 506)
If you feel like a little Italian, the make sure to drop by Little Italy, the strip along College Street is filled with restaurants, bars and patios and it is a great place to spend an evening or a weekend brunch. Cafe Diplomatico (594 College) opened in 1968 and is one of the most recognizable restaurants, recently featured in Toronto Director, Atom Egoyan’s film Chloe. Kalender Restaurant and Bistro (546 College) is a great spot for dinner or weekend brunch with a great atmosphere and amazing food. Then take a relaxing stroll window shopping and grab a gelato at Dolce (697 College). If you are coming for a fun evening out start with martinis at Souz Dal (636 College), the open after dark and then head to Andy Poolhall (489 College) for a little pool and dancing, live music and djs at  The MOD Club (722 College) or dance the night away at El Convento Rico (750 College).

China Town
(Spadina Avenue from College to Dundas, TTC Streetcar 510)
One of the largest in North America, Toronto’s China Town is filled with great shops, grocery stores, herbs and Chinese remedies. There are a number of restaurants that encourage family style dining, you can order a number of items and share with your family or group around a large table equipped with a lazy Susan, other restaurants feature Dim Sum, order what you want off the carts rolled to your table. My favorites include Yeuh Tung (111 Elizabeth) for their amazing Chicken in a Hot Pot, the  Hua Sheng Supermarket (293 Spadina) and Tap Phong Trading Co. (360 Spadina) for amazing deals on kitchen ware and other home items.

Kensington Market
(Kensington Avenue, Baldwin Street & Augusta Avenue, TTC Streetcars 510, 506 & 505)
Just west of China Town find Kensington Market. Its a great area for vintage clothes and furniture, and craft shopping, picking up some groceries or grabbing a bite to eat. The last Sunday of the month from May through October the area is pedestrian only. Some of my favorite stops include Blue Banana Market (250 Augusta) for one of a kind gifts, Bungalow (273 Augusta) for retro clothes and furniture, Tom’s Place (190 Baldwin) for designer suits and accessories at discount prices, Global Cheese (76 Kensington) for exotic and specialty cheeses to bring home and enjoy, and vintage clothing favorites Dancing Days (17 Kensington) and Courage My Love (14 Kensington).

Art Gallery of Ontario
(317 Dundas Street West, TTC Streetcar 505)
I may be a little biased, but it is so amazing to have a small piece of Gehry excellence in Toronto. Toronto born Architect Frank O. Gehry’s transformation of the Art Gallery of Ontario has accomplished his goal of bringing the gallery to the public. The large glass exterior of the museum, incredible new entrance, the brilliant staircases and 5th floor tower are worth the price of admission. The museum is one of the largest in North America and houses a collection of works from 100 AD to present, the galleries feature Canadian, European, photography, the Thompson Collection, and two of my personal favorite are the contemporary and Henry Moore galleries. General admission $19.50, Wednesday nights entry to Permanent Collection is free from 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. When you have finished in the AGO, go behind the building down Beverly Street to Grange Park, here you can see the final gallery: the exterior staircase leading to the big blue Gehry box a top the AGO and the Ontario College for Art and Design‘s Tabletop, designed by acclaimed British Architect Will Alsop.

Queen Street West
(TTC Station Queen or Osgoode, Streetcar 501)
You can spend a whole day on Queen West, so put on your comfortable walking shoes. Start at Bay Street with Toronto’s Old City Hall and City Hall Nathan Phillips Square on the East and West, then continue to the West side of University to start your shopping day. No matter what you are shopping for there is something for you on Queen West, from salons, shops and restaurants, you can get a make over, redecorate your house, catch up on the latest fashion trends, buy some great fabric and stay well nourished throughout the day. Some of my favorite stops for home decor are Pavilion (739 Queen W), Quasi Moto (789 Queen W), Style Garage (938 Queen W) and The Queen West Antique Centre (1605 Queen W). For fabrics don’t miss Designer Fabric Outlet (1360 Queen W); for shoes B2 (399 Queen W) and Get Outside (437 Queen W); and if your with your man there are even a couple of stops for him Atlas Tools (233 Queen W), Active Surplus (347 Queen West) and Steve’s Music (415 Queen W). If you are coming in for the weekend consider staying at one of the boutique hotels The Drake (1150 Queen W) or The Gladstone (1214 Queen W) and have dinner at Ultra Supper Club (314 Queen W).

Entertainment District
(Between Queen Street and King Street from University to Spadina, TTC station Osgoode or St Andrew, TTC  Streetcars 501 or 504)
This area is the heart of Toronto’s nightlife, there are lots of great restaurants and bars to start your evening before heading out to one or more of the attractions in this area. Here you will find the Canadian Opera Company and National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre, Broadway shows at The Princess of Wales and The Royal Alexandra Theatres, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and other large events at Roy Thompson Hall, and a little further west you will discover Toronto’s “club land” where you can bar hop and dance the night away in one of the many clubs, or catch a movie screening at the Bell Lightbox, the home of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Financial District
(King and Bay Street, TTC Stations King or St Andrew, Streetcar 504)
The area around King and Bay Streets is the Financial District and home to some of Canada’s tallest buildings, 5* luxury hotels and condos, incredible restaurants and great public spaces. One of my favorite stops in this area is Cloud Gardens, a small park between Richmond and Adelaide just west of Yonge, make sure to visit the Cloud Forest Conservatory while you are there. For a little history enter into the lobby of Commerce Court North (243 Bay Street), which was once the tallest building in the British Commonwealth for over three decades. Across the street at King and Bay, find TD Centre, designed by Modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who even convinced the City of Toronto to allow him to change the sidewalks around the building to match his masterpiece. Here you can grab dinner at one of Canada’s best restaurants Canoe (66 Wellington Street) on the 54th floor overlooking the city, or visit Canada’s design museum the Design Exchange (234 Bay Street) in the former location of the Toronto Stock Exchange, general admission is $10, every Tuesday evening between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. admission is pay-what-you-can. Stay at one of Toronto’s newest 5* luxury hotels Trump Toronto (325 Bay Street) or the Ritz Carlton Toronto (181 Wellington Street West).

King Street West
(King Street West, TTC Streetcar 504)
King Street just West of the Financial District and South of the Entertainment district offers a number of great restaurants and bars, a great place to grab a bite before or show or have a late dinner. My favorites are Lee (601 King W) by famed chef Susur Lee, Rodney’s Oyster House (469 King W), the European style Bier Markt (600 King W), and French bistro Crush Wine Bar (455 King W). I have a couple of other favorite stores in this area, one is Design Within Reach (435 King W) for modern furniture and home design, Lee Valley Tools (590 King West) for great gardening, household items and tools and Mountain Equipment Coop (400 King W) for everything relating to outdoor activities from apparel to tents, backpacks, canoes and much much more.

Liberty Village
(South of King Street between Strachan Avenue and Dufferin Street, TTC Streetcar 504)
A whole neighborhood has popped up in these former industrial lands, now a hip new neighborhood with loft conversions of historic buildings, new developments and condos and an abundance of sores, boutiques, trendy restaurants and bars. For brunch head to trendy Midlred’s Temple Kitchen (Unit 104  85 Hanna Avenue) then go shopping for home accessories at West Elm (109 Atlantic Avenue), or play some pool and grab a bite at The Academy of Spherical Arts (1 Snooker Street).

Roncesvalles Village
(Roncesvalles Avenue between Queen W and Howard Park, TTC Streetcar 504)
If you have never had Dill Pickle soup then visiting the Polish area at Roncesvalles Village is your opportunity stop at Cafe Polonez (195 Roncesvalles) for a bowl like no other. There are a number of other Polish bakeries, delis and restaurants offering up old world charm and traditional music throughout the village. In September there is the Roncesvalles Polish Festival. Its a great neighborhood for shopping or you can also catch a movie at the Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles), one of Toronto’s oldest cultural venues.

Toronto Posts:
10+ Things to do on the east end of Toronto
10+ Things to do on Toronto’s Waterfront
Winterlicious – Toronto’s dining gem

10+ Things to do on Toronto’s Waterfront

By Steven Wright

Feels like summer in the city even thought its barely spring in Toronto, that has inspired me do a series of articles of things to see and do in this great city! Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the capital of the Province of Ontario and is constantly evolving. It is a vibrant and culturally diverse city, who’s unique neighborhoods are great to explore to get the whole experience eh. The second article of this series is dedicated to Toronto’s waterfront a bit of an oasis from the traffic in the city and the ultimate place to ride your bike, strap on your in-line skates or stroll with the family and spend the day at your favorite part of this strip.

Toronto Islands
(Via Ferrydocks at 9 Queen’s Quay West, TTC LRT 509/510 Ferry Dock from Union)
Pack a picnic lunch and head to the Island, whether you are traveling alone, as a couple or with family and friends, the islands have something to offer everyone. Remember to bring a towel and your bike or roller blades to explore all this waterfront picnic park. Recreation activities on the Islands include: volleyball nets, beaches, boat and bike rentals, restaurants, cafes and snack bars, Far Enough Farm, Centreville Amusement Area, wading pools, tennis courts, softball diamonds, disc golf course, and public boat moorings. The beach at Hanlan’s Point is one of the few public locations in Canada where full nudity is permitted. The Ferries travel to 3 arrival points on the island: Hanlans Point, Centre Island and Wards Island, a return trip costs $6.00 for adults, $4.00 for students and seniors, $3.00 for juniors (under 14) and children under 2 travel for free.

Cruise around the Islands
(Boardwalk from the Ferry Dock to Bathurst, TTC LRT 509/510 Harbourfront Centre)
The boardwalk along the waterfront from the Ferry Docks to Bathurst Street, includes a number of tour boats that cruise around the islands. Some of the operators specialize in brunch, lunch or dinner cruising and private charters; some offer more of a party atmosphere with a live dj; and some offer just the cruise. There are a number of different boat types including the Tall Ship Kajama, a 165′ Schooner and the Hippo bus, a sightseeing bus that floats. The tours can last up to 3 hours and give you an amazing view of the city skyline, and a great view of the Toronto Islands as you travel around them. Bring your camera for the best shots of the city!

Stroll along the Boardwalk
(Boardwalk from the Ferry Dock to Bathurst, TTC LRT 509/510 Harbourfront Centre)
The recent and continuing redevelopment of Toronto’s waterfront now includes an incredible boardwalk and a series of piers along the water from the Ferry Dock to Bathurst Street. Its a great way to enjoy the waterfront with interesting public art, gardens, an urban beach, galleries, restaurants and cafes along the way. Stop at Queen’s Quay Terminal for travel wear from Tilley Endurables, grab some Dim Sum from Pearl Harbourfront Restaurant or visit the Museum of Inuit Art. Continue down the boardwalk to HTO Park (339 Queen’s Quay West), an urban beach with bright yellow umbrellas, beach sand and Muskoka chairs to soak up some rays watching the boats travel around the Island. Travel down to The Toronto Music Garden the three-acre public garden with a design based on the “First Suite for the Unaccompanied Cello” by J.S. Bach.

Harbourfront Centre
(235 Queen’s Quay West, TTC LRT 509/510 Harbourfront Centre)
Harbourfront Centre is heart of the waterfront and the premiere destination for arts and culture. Every weekend all summer long head to Harbourfront for the Summer Festival series and drop by the World Cafe and International Marketplace, even canoe in the Natrel Pond, while enjoying all of the other multi-discipline programming across the site. Don’t forget to visit the artist workshops inside to see glass blowing pottery and more. The property offers programing year round and programs and venues for visual arts, artist workshops, live music, theatre, dance, kids programs, cultural festivals, a literary festival, film, skating and much much more. The Power Plant contemporary art gallery is part of the site.  Many of the programs at Harbourfront Centre are free of charge, and have a box office on site for ticketed events.

CN Tower / Metro Toronto Convention Centre / The Roundhouse
(301 / 255 Front Street West / 255 Bremner Boulevard, TTC Union)
The CN Tower at 553.33 m is the World’s Tallest Tower and probably one of the most recognizable structures in the city. Tourist attractions at the CN Tower include the glass floor, 360 degree viewing platform, the 360 Restaurant and its newest attraction EdgeWalk which gives patrons the chance to walk around the top of the tower on a platform where you are tethered to a rail above the platform. EdgeWalk is a must for adventure seekers and the best view of the city from above. Tickets for observation decks range from $24-$36 and EdgeWalk is $175). The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is a popular destination for trade shows and exhibits in Toronto including the Auto Show, the Sportsman Show, the Interior Design Show, the Travel Show and much more. Behind the tower stop at the historic John Street Roundhouse for the Steam Whistle Brewing tour and taste. Enjoy the Roundhouse Park and follow the pathways heading down to the waterfront.

Bike, Skate or Walk the Martin Goodman Trail
(Waterfront Trail from Scarborough to Etobicoke)
The Martin Goodman Trail is a recreation masterpiece along Toronto’s waterfront, extending long beyond the mega city’s borders, it offers pedestrian, bicycle and in line skating literally from one end of the city to the other. To the East it connects with the Scarborough Bluffs, Ash Bridges Bay, Cherry Beach, Sugar Beach and the Ferry Docks. To the West, after the Queens Quay Boardwalk and past Billy Bischop Airport at Bathurst is my favorite strip for a bike ride along the water. The trail is divided into 2 sections, 1 for pedestrians and 1 for cyclists and in line skates, no matter what your speed or ability this is a safe place for you. The trail is lined with parkland offering benches, public art, gardens and playgrounds. There are also parking lots along the way providing great access no matter where in the city you are coming from. I love biking past the marinas and boats passing in the harbour, and watching the condos rise to the North. Heading past the Princess gates and Ontario Place you can see Dragon Boat Races in the Quay. Past the Windmill, around the corner, and up the hill, you can stop for a game of Tennis at the Lakeshore Public Tennis Courts. Then continue downhill and grab a swim at the Sunnyside Gus Ryder Pool. Continue across the bridge and celebrate your accomplishment at the Palace Pier Park with a picnic lunch enjoying the scenery before heading back, or continue West down the trail to Hamilton.

Go See a Game!

Air Canada Centre
(40 Bay Street, TTC Union)
If you love sports there is a lot to offer on the waterfront of Toronto, starting with the ACC, home to Toronto Maple Leafs hockey, Toronto Raptors basketball and Toronto Rock lacrosse. Besides sports, the ACC is also a popular destination for live concerts and other large scale events. located directly south of Union Station. If you are coming to town for a game or concert, I would suggest taking the TTC, train or fly to the Island airport and save the frustration of looking for parking.

Rogers Centre
(1 Blue Jay’s Way, TTC Union)
Sitting under the CN Tower you can find Rogers Centre (formerly Sky Dome), the home of Toronto Blue Jays baseball and Toronto Argonauts football. The Rogers Centre also hosts large scale events like concerts, sporting events and even the Toronto International Auto Show. The premium feature of this building is the roof that opens offering amazing views of the CN Tower above. The Renaissance Toronto Downtown boasts being the only hotel in a major sports entertainment venue in the world and Sightlines and Windows restaurants give you a bird’s eye view of the action on the field from their premiere position.

BMO Field
(170 Princes’ Boulevard, TTC 509/510 Exhibition & GO Transit Exhibition)
Canada’s first soccer-specific stadium, BMO Field is home to Canada’s National Soccer Team and Toronto FC, Canada’s first Major League Soccer team. BMO Field is located at Exhibition Place.

Canadian National Exhibition / Ontario Place
(TTC 509/510 Exhibition & GO Transit Exhibition)
For the last 2 weeks of August until Labour Day Weekend the CNE hosts Canada’s largest annual community event, attracting 1.3 million people to the fairgrounds to experience amusement park rides, games, shows, gorge on food and much more. The site is also host to a number of large events through the year including Honda Indy Toronto, The Royal Ontario Winter Fair, the One of a Kind Show, the Toronto International Boat Show and more at the Direct Energy Centre. Over towards the Dufferin Gate, you can find the BMO Field for soccer events and Medieval Times. Take one of the pedestrian bridges on the south of the CNE grounds, across the Gardiner Expressway to access Ontario Place. Recently announced, Ontario Place is one of the sites that will be under redevelopment starting this year, the first phase will reopen for the 2015 Pan American Games and then will close again to open officially in 2017. That said some of the most popular attractions including the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Echo Beach and Atlantis Pavilions along with the marina and parking lots will remain open.

Watch the sunrise at Sky Bar!
(Guvernment/ Kool Haus Entertainment Complex 132 Queen’s Quay East, TTC Bus Jarvis)
The Guvernment/ Kool Haus Entertainment Complex is housed in over 22,000 square feet and features 8 interconnecting rooms, each with a different sound, every weekend this venue becomes the ultimate party playground. Some of the biggest DJ’s in the world have played this venue over the past 15 years and its still going strong. Expect long lines and a pat down on the way in, while you wait the parking lot is animated with street performers and other special events. Once inside its great to weave your way through the rooms and outdoor patios and tents to find your preferred music and dance the night away. I like to escape the heat and the crowds downstairs about 3AM and opt for the rooftop Sky Bar. Its a great place to dance to DJ Deko-ze and to watch the sun rise over Lake Ontario.

Easy Access to the Waterfront:

Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ)
With many more destinations, you can land right on the waterfront at Billy Bishop Airport on the Toronto Island. As this airport is relatively small, there is less traffic through security, the airport is very accessible at the base of Bathurst Street with ferry service to the Island, (a walkway development starting soon) and there is even complimentary shuttle service to/from Union Station. Air Canada flies direct to Montreal and Porter Airlines destinations include: Ottawa, Montréal,  St. John’s, Halifax, Québec City, Mont Tremblant, Moncton, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Boston, Chicago, New York, Myrtle Beach, Timmins, Burlington VT, and Washington DC.

Union Station
Union Station is Toronto’s central terminal. TTC, the Toronto Transit Commission offers street car service to the Ferry Docks and the waterfront on the LRT and subways north on the University and Yonge lines from this station. GO Transit‘s trains arrive at Union from Oshawa, Hamilton, Kitchener, Richmond Hill, Stouffville, & Barrie, and other Ontario destinations by Bus. VIA Rail is Canada’s national railway with connections to the rest of Canada. Also in the works is a direct rail link from Pearson International Airport to Union. The SkyWalk on the main floor of Union Station will lead you to popular venues like the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Metro Toronto Convention Centre, to find the Air Canada Centre exit to the ACC from the lower level of Union.

Toronto Posts:
Winterlicious – Toronto’s dining gem
10+ Things to do on the east end of Toronto
10+ Things to do on the West End of Toronto

10+ Things to do on the East end of Toronto

By Steven Wright

Feels like summer in the city even thought its barely spring in Toronto, that has inspired me do a series of articles of things to see and do in this great city! Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the capital of the Province of Ontario and is constantly evolving. It is a vibrant and culturally diverse city, who’s unique neighborhoods are great to explore to get the whole experience eh. So I thought I would start with the series with a look at 10 things to do on the east end of the city.

The Danforth
(Danforth Avenue and Chester Avenue, Chester Station on the Bloor/Danforth TTC line)
This area is known as Greek Town, it is a lively neighborhood with quaint restaurants, shops and boutiques. In early August the street shuts down for a weekend festival called Taste of the Danforth. This is a great area to grab a seat on one of the many patios for drinks and dinner, people watching and shopping along the way. I love Christina’s (492 Danforth) for an amazing Greek dinner and Il Fornello (576 Danforth) for pizza and salad at lunch.

Chinatown East and Gerrard India Bazaar
(Gerrard Street East between Broadview and Carlaw and then Coxwell and Greenwood, TTC Streetcar 306)
East of the Don Valley on Gerrard Street you can find great markets, shops and restaurants featuring Chinese and South Asian cultures. At Broadview visit China Town east with fresh fruits and vegetable markets, dried foods, butchers and much more. Then continue down the street to Coxwell and the Gerrard India Bazaar, boasting the largest South Asian market in North America with over 100 shops and restaurants.

Allen Gardens Conservatory
(In Allen Gardens – the block of Jarvis, Carlton, Gerrard, Sherbourne)
An oasis in the city, Allen Gardens is one of the oldest parks in Toronto, but its star attraction is the Conservatory. Open year round, free, and home to hundreds of exotic plants from around the world, the 16,000 square foot space features tropical plants, cactus and succulents. The first Sunday in June is The Toronto Cactus & Succulent Club’s Annual Show & Sale. Its a great opportunity to buy and learn how to care for your new succulent from the pros at amazing prices. This is where I gained a love for succulents and appreciate them as I travel around the world, I was lucky enough to visit a succulent sale in Barcelona at the Conservatory in Park de la Ciutadella last year and wished I could have taken one home.

King Street East
(King Street from Church to Parliament TTC Street Car 503/504)
There is always time to shop for home decor or that special piece to take home as a memento of your trip, I recall on a trip to Brussels trying to figure out shipping costs and the exchange rate on the Euro to get 4 – Louis XVI chairs home. This stretch of King Street is a great spot for inspiration and shopping for interior design. Start at Church Street and have a look at the current exhibit in the Toronto Sculpture Garden, then continue to Jarvis Street and visit Arts on King (165 King East) for at high end Canadian artist works. The rest of the strip features a series of home and design stores from modern and contemporary to antiques to  and high end Italian kitchens. Some of my favorite stops include: Ma Zone (63 Jarvis), In Design (214 King E), EQ3 (220 King E), Urban Barn (275 King E ) and Up Country (310 King E).

The Historic Distillery District
(55 Mill Street at Trinity Street, TTC Parliament Bus)
The former Gooderham and Wortz Distillery has been transformed into The Historic Distillery District. This pedestrian area of restored Victoria era industrial buildings is now a chic destination for tourists and locals alike, home to live theatres, galleries, fashion, design and jewelry boutiques, unique cafes and award-winning restaurants. It hosts Woofstock, a summer festival for dogs and the European style Toronto Christmas Market in November and December. Its also a great place to grab dinner and spend the evening on the patio enjoying the music and events, my favorites are the Boiler House and The Mill Street Brew Pub.

Leslieville, The Beach and Ashbridges Bay
(Queen Street E from Carlaw to Leslie & Woodbine to Neville Park, TTC Streetcar 501/301)
From Carlaw to Leslie you are in the heart of Leslieville, here you can find a number of quaint shops, antique stores and cafes. Some of my favorites are: Machine Age Modern (1000 Queen E), and Ethel (1091 Queen E). Continue down Queen Street to get into the area called The Beach from Woodbine Ave to Neville Park. The Beach area is a desirable residential area because of its extremely close proximity to the beach at Ashbridge’s Bay. It is a lively area with shopping, bars, restaurants and cafe’s, when you are not sunning on the beach, playing some beach volleyball, swimming in the lake or walking the boardwalk people watching. In July the area hosts the Beaches International Jazz Festival, and Ashbridge’s Bay is home of many firework presentations throughout the summer.

Cherry and Sugar Beach
(The foot of Cherry Street & the foot of Lower Jarvis Street)
Speaking of the beach, Toronto has a few more beach destinations on the east end of the city. At the foot of Cherry Street in the Port of Toronto find Cherry Beach, a sandy beach with off leash dog area on the shore of Lake Ontario, a great place to relax and catch some sun, get involved in a beach volleyball game and watch the boats drive past. Off Cherry Street you can also check out Polson Pier, a lakeside destination with a licensed patio, swimming pool and activities including beach volleyball, indoor soccer, rock-climbing, go-karting, human foosball, and indoor event spaces. Sugar Beach is located on a 8500 square metre pier and is Toronto’s newest and hippest beach park beside the Redpath Sugar factory. Spend the day on this sandy pier equipped with a lounge chairs and umbrellas and granite maple leaf water feature to cool off in.

Church and Wellesley
(Church Street at Wellesley, TTC Wellesley)
Church Street from Carlton to Alexander is the home to Toronto’s GLBT community. The short strip is filled with shops, restaurants and bars. It is a prime destination for brunching, sitting on a patio people watching and the area comes alive on weekends after 11 when the bars and dance clubs get in full swing. The area is home to one of the largest Pride Festivals in North America, each June, which occupies many parks and closes Church Street for the weekend of festivities including a huge parade on Sunday closing a section of Yonge Street. A few of my favorite places to eat include: Cafe California (538 Church), Hair of the Dog (425 Church) and brunch at Fire on the East Side (6 Gloucester).

Pawn Shops
(Church and Queen Street, TTC Streetcar 501/301)
My Dad often took me to the Pawn Shops on Church Street when our family would visit the city, he loved to have a look around and see what deals were available. The same shops I visited as a kid are thriving in these challenging times and you never know what you will find on offer. The History Chanel has even launched Pawnathon Canada, featuring Pawn Master Howard Green and his  H. Williams & Co. shop (145 Church). Another favorite is James McTamney & Co. Inc. (139 Church).

Historic Cabbagetown and Riverdale Farm
(East of Parliament Street, between Wellesley and Carlton)
This is a coveted neighborhood within the city having a great number of the properties listed as historical. Parliament Street has a number of shops, bakeries, markets, restaurants and bars. Locals choose Jet Fuel (519 Parliament) for coffee, Johnny G’s  Diner (478 Parliament) for brunch and The Pear Tree (507 Parliament) brunch and for dinner (ask to sit in the solarium or back patio). Wonder down Carlton Street and enjoy the historic homes, at the end of Carlton walk through the park to Riverdale Farm, the only working farm in the city. A great place to bring the kids and visit all of the farm animals, there is also access here to the Lower Don Recreation Trail, a great place to hop on the bike, roller blades or walk along the trail to head to one of the beaches or north along the Don River. The area hosts the Cabbagetown Festival each September, and there is a Farmer’s Market at Riverdale Farm on Tuesday’s from May until October.

St Lawrence Market
(Front Street and Jarvis Street)
When traveling around Europe I love to explore the local markets and the St. Lawrence Market is Toronto’s best. Open Tuesday through Saturday its a great place to get farm fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and cheese. St. Lawrence Market was just named” The Best Food Market in the World”, by National Geographic. There are a number of booths featuring cooking equipment, wine and take away food. The north building features The Sunday Antique Market on Sunday’s, arrive early to get your best pick. The area around the market includes a number of quaint shops, restaurants, theatres, the Flatiron Building and the soon to be completed L Tower by architect, Daniel Leibskind above the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. There are more restaurants along The Esplanade, one block south of Front. In August, come here for BuskerFest to see some of the World’s best street performers in action.

(Locations all over the city)
Just launched last year, BIXI Bike is a new bike rental premise giving users the opportunity to rent a bike for a period of time and drop it off at one of the many locations across the city. The city has a number of dedicated bike lanes (hopefully more coming soon), and there are lots of areas along the waterfront, parks and Don River Trail for you to give them a go. They come complete with a rack and lights, but bring your own helmet. Perhaps one of the best ways to get around and see the sites of the city.

Toronto Posts:
Winterlicious – Toronto’s dining gem
10+ Things to do on Toronto’s Waterfront
10+ Things to do on the West End of Toronto

Sightseeing on the Seine

By Steven Wright

Sitting at Cavalier Bleu, my favorite Parisian patio, enjoying a buttery croissant and baguette with fruit preserves and a cappuccino is my favorite way to start the day. Art, history and culture coupled with amazing cuisine and fine wines make Paris a favorite destination among visitors to Europe. Many of the tourist sites line the banks of the River Seine, which runs through the centre of the city. One of the best ways to take in all that Paris has to offer is to take a ride on the Batobus, a hop-on-hop-off boat tour with access points to many of the attractions in the city. The boats offer a panoramic view a glass ceiling and offer an outdoor section for photographers. Get a different perspective of the great city as you travel by water to one of the 8 stations. A day pass can be purchased for 15€, 2 consecutive days for 18€, or 5 consecutive days for 21€.

Port de la Bourdonnais is the stop at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. Built in 1889 for a Universal Exposition celebrating the centenary of the French Revolution, look for a bust of Gustave Eiffel at the foot of the tower on the north pillar. Climb the stairs or take the lift to the 1st & 2nd floors where there are a number of displays talking about the history and innovation of the tower, a circular gallery you can find and identify many of the sites and monuments in Paris using the panoramic tables, restaurants and souvenir shops. Make your way to the top of the tower in the glass elevators, giving you amazing views of the city on your way up. At the top you can explore two levels, one is open air and the second is covered by a roof. Here you can visit Gustave Eiffel’s office restored to its original condition and then head to the Champagne Bar for a glass while enjoying the views from your position 180 metres from the ground below. As this is a very popular destination I would recommend getting tickets to bypass the lines from your travel agent before your departure.

At Quai de Solférino you can find the Musée d’Orsay. The Museum was installed in the former d’Orsay rail station to show the great diversity of artistic creation in the western world between 1848 and 1914. The museum itself is a work of art and its collections include painting, objects of art, sculpture, photography, graphic art and architecture. Admission to the museum ranges from 9-14€. The Faubourg Saint-Germain quarter surrounding the museum is filled with 18th century mansions that now house many of the embassies and ministries in Paris and provide a great place to take a walk and view some of the finest buildings in the city.

Quai de Malaquais is where to depart for Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the area centred around the Saint-Germain Church and is known as the artsy area of the city. The streets have bookshops and galleries with a recent influx of ready to wear fashion. There is a  market on Rue de Buci and an number of famous cafes including Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore.

Another highlight is found at Quai de Montebello, the famous Notre Dame Cathedral on Île de la Cité, one of the natural islands in the Seine. Notre Dame is tourist favorite so there will be a line up to gain access to the inside of the church but definitely worth the wait. Inside you will find some incredible stained glass, art, sculptures and wooden altars. The exterior of the building is also quite remarkable and one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses to support the walls around the choir and altar, a great example of French Gothic architecture. There are many gargoyles that adorn the structure around the building which finished construction in 1345. The other buildings on the island are filled by the city’s Prefecture de Police, Palais de Justice, Hôtel-Dieu hospital and Tribunal de Commerce. Head down to Point Neuf for a great view of the Seine and an equestrian statue of Henry IV.

Quai Saint-Bernard is the home of Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle which includes the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, the Mineralogy Museum, the Paleontology Museum, the Entomology Museum and the Jardin des Plantes on a one hectare site with demonstration gardens, horticultural displays of decorative plants, an Alpine garden  Art Deco winter garden, Mexican and Australian hothouses and the Rose Garden.

There is a lot to see and do at Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, the l’Hôtel de Ville is a beautiful building that is Paris’ city hall, children love to ride the antique carousel in the front of the grand building. Other highlights of the area include the Centre Pompidou which is focused on modern and contemporary creation, where the visual arts would rub shoulders with theatre, music, cinema, literature and the spoken word. The building itself and surrounding fountains are a works of art and worth a visit. Inside you will find exhibitions by contemporary masters like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. There are quaint shops, restaurants and cafés on the small streets outside, including some of my favorite places to eat including Cavalier Bleu and Pasta Papa. Continue across Boulevard de Sébastopol to the heart of shopping at Le Forum des Halles which is a combination of shopping centre, Metro station, park and movie theatre.

Depart at Quai du Louvre for a view of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa inside the Louvre. But that is only one small highlight of the museum and its grounds which include the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the Jardin des Tuileries not to mention I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid (and inverted pyramid) which is the main entrance into the Louvre. The museum itself is one of the largest and most visited in the world inside a former royal palace, with collections including Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities, Islamic art, sculpture, decorative art, painting, prints and drawing. In the area around the museum there are luxury boutiques of Faubourg St-Honoré and the antique shops in the Louvre des Antiquaires.

Departing at the Port des Champs Elysées the first thing you will see is the golden top of Obelisk of Luxor, given to the French in 1829 by the viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali. The Obelisk of Luxor is the central feature of the Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris, continue on Avenue des Champs-Élysées past the Grand Palais, with is glass roof and known as the primary venue for Chanel fashion shows.  Then the Avenue des Champs Elysées becomes a bustle of activity with luxury boutiques and shops, street side restaurants and cafés leading to the Arc de Triomphe. For the ultimate luxury shopping experience, ditch the crowds on Avenue des Champs-Élysées and head north-east of The Grand Palais to Avenue Montaigne and L’avenue George-V. All of the luxury brands boast a spot on this coveted strip.

Paris Posts:
Finding Karl, Jean-Paul and Christian in Paris
Enjoying My Cake in Versailles Gardens
Pasta in Paris, Brunch in Blue – My guide to finding good eats.

Schloss Charlottenburg the Palace of Berlin

By Steven Wright

A statue of the goddess of happiness Fortuna sits on top of the grand cupola at Schloss Charlottenburg. The palace built as a summer residence and was named after Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friederich III. The building design is a homage to the palace of Versailles and also references Italian architecture of the time. Construction started in 1699, and was extended numerous times to include the annex and Orangeries.

Located in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Schloss Charlottenburg is the largest palace and the only former royal residence in Berlin. Visitors can tour inside the Old Palace to see the baroque style royal apartments, the largest collection of 18th century French paintings outside of France, and Chinese and Japanese porcelain and silverware collections. The New Wing features the rococo style and some incredible fine furniture  added by Friederich the Great. You can get tickets for these exhibits in the main courtyard through the golden gates.

The palace was badly damaged during WWII, and in the ’50s reconstruction started to bring the palace back to its former glory. The palace tour gives visitors a bird’s eye view of what I consider to be the gem of the property, the magnificent and massive gardens that surround the palace.

The Palace Gardens are expansive covering 33 hectares with one side bordered by the River Spree, they are a great place to relax and enjoy the day, and a popular place for runners and cyclists alike. The garden design references both French baroque and traditional English gardens and feature the Belvedere Teahouse (now a porcelain museum), the mausoleum of Queen Louise, and the Schinkel pavilion.

The baroque portions of the gardens lead to a central fountain, to the west there are a number of tree lined paths leading you further into the garden. Spend some time at the Carp pond, pack a picnic lunch and watch the tour boats travel down the Spree. I enjoyed the variety of plants and trees and was amazed at the maturity of the Agave and other plantings throughout the garden in large pots.

Definitely worth a visit!

Germany Posts:
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
East Side Gallery
Outlet City Metzingen
Potsdamer Platz – the platz to be!
Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie
Shopping in Berlin – ja, das ist gut!
Garden Posts:
Enjoying My Cake in Versailles Gardens