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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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-Yorkville
(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.

BIXI Bike
(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

Canadian Arctic Wildlife Safaris

By Steven Wright

If you are looking to go where few have gone before and to get up close and personal and eye to eye with wildlife in their natural environment then an Arctic Safari is the ideal destination and vacation for you. There are incredible opportunities to touch the Arctic, talk with the Inuit people and even experience snorkeling and diving with Narwal and Beluga. Staying in low impact, mobile safari inspired camps designed with the location in mind, offering all the comforts of home and zero environmental footprint in the “Serengeti of the north”. With gateways from Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal there are small group tours to experience the Arctic coming alive March through October. These excursions are amazing opportunities for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts alike, and great for individuals, families and groups.

In March, travelers can experience newly born Polar Bears and amazing Northern Lights in Western Hudson Bay . Although the temperatures are still pretty cold at -15 to -20 with approximately 8 hours of daylight, this is the only time to see the baby Polar Bears. These tours offer accommodations in a rustic lodge setting with travel by heated vans and you will need your Canada Goose Down jackets for optimum enjoyment.

In April through June the Arctic starts warming up with temperatures -7 to +10 offering spring skiing like weather and 24 hours of daylight. During this time tours head to upper Baffin Island to experience wildlife migration, staying in ice based safari camps and travel by Qamutik, a Inuit sled pulled by snowmobile. Travelers are taken to experience the flow edge where numerous Narwal (the unicorn of the sea) and Beluga Wales are waiting for the sea ice to break up. This is the only place in the world to see Narwal and have the opportunity to snorkel in dry suits with both Narwal and Beluga Wales. Here you can see many bird species and Polar Bears crossing the ice, not to worry, the Polar Bears are well fed during this season.

July through September is the warmest season in the Arctic with temperatures of +5 to +22 with 24 hours to 17 hours of daylight, this is the optimum time for family vacations to the Arctic. Tours offer land based safari camps with wooden floors, raised beds and sleeping bags or you can even upgrade your stay to a yurt. During this time there is hiking with Inuit guides, and travel by boat to see icebergs, Walrus, Bow-Back Wales and land based Polar Bears in lower Baffin Island. The tours also include iceberg tea.

The Arctic starts cooling down in October and November with temperatures of -5 to -20 with 10 hours down to 8 hours of daylight. Staying in Polar Bear observation cabins, travelers experience the Polar Bear migration in Western Hudson Bay and have the experience of walking with Polar Bears with Inuit guides. The cabins give you prime viewing as the bears cross literally in front of the observation cabins and offer the most spectacular Northern Lights at night.

There are opportunities to book private group tours of the Arctic including a stay on a 45′ expedition yacht, allowing your own customized experience in the Arctic. For more information or to book your Arctic Safari, please contact me.

NYC Redux

By Steven Wright

It had been 10 years since I had traveled to New York City, I was last there in June of 2001, just months before the 911 tragedy, and since I had not had the desire to travel to the US, focusing my traveling dollars on European destinations. All that changed with  The Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s announcement of Savage Beauty, an exhibit dedicated to the evolution of Alexander McQueen‘s fashion career and an homage to his life. I had followed his career through the years with the help of Jeanne Becker and Fashion Television and I was not going to miss this opportunity.

After years of talking about my NYC experiences I was able to introduce Mike, my sister and her new husband to the big apple. There are a lot more options for traveling to NYC these days with Air Canada and a newly announced West Jet route offering direct flights to Laguardia, along with many American carriers servicing Laguardia, JFK and Newark airports. Living in the core of the city my choice for this trip was Porter Airlines from 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 services Montreal through Billy Bishop as well.

The Porter experience is all about service, the complimentary Porter Lounge features an amazing coffee and beverage bar, complete with snacks. Then relax at a table and chairs, or leather arm chair and enjoy the daily news and free WIFI. On board their fleet of Bombardier Aerospace Q400 turboprop aircraft the only seating options are window or isle, so you never have to sit in the middle. The beverages are complimentary and you even get a light meal on every flight from amazing attendants. This makes this an enjoyable voyage. Porter destinations include: Ottawa, Toronto, 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.

This was my first ever arrival at Newark, I was used to the transfer from Laguardia and JFK, but found the trip into the city from Newark easy, cheap and enjoyable. You can take the airport train to Penn Station, New Jersey and then transfer to a train into the city for under $10 USD. For this trip we stayed at the Sheraton Tribecca, close to my old stomping grounds in SOHO. The newly constructed hotel has great rooms with king sized beds, there is a restaurant in the lobby along with a Starbucks, and a $40 transfer by limo to and from Laguardia.

The continued evolution of NYC over the past 10 years had brought new high rise condo buildings, and boutique and other large hotel chains spreading their wings in previously undesirable locations. Trump Hotels and Suites have popped up like Starbucks all over the city. There are many more 5 star luxury hotels than ever and all over the city. The city seemed somewhat quieter, there was less horns honking, people yelling and emergency service sirens. Many new boutiques line the streets of SOHO and Tribecca including DASH by the Kardashian’s, Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons, and other luxury brands like the Issey Miyiake Boutique which is a must stop as the interior was designed by Frank Gehry.

Speaking of Gehry, make your way down to City Hall and the base of the Brooklyn Bridge to see the largest residential tower in New York designed by Gehry. New York by Gehry at 8 Spruce Street offers luxury apartment rentals in glamorous suites with amazing views of the city and beyond. The building is silver in colour and almost wave like in design, a reference to the East River, the building looks almost like it is moving when the sun reflects off the curved surfaces throughout the day.

One of the newest attractions is The High Line, redeveloped from an out of service elevated rail line, the area now features public park space and activities for New Yorkers and tourists a like. The High Line is located on Manhattan’s West Side, it runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues.

The newly opened National September 11th Memorial and Museum and the construction of the Freedom Tower and other buildings are well underway on the World Trade Centre site. The area is a hub of activity with visitors watching the buildings rise floor by floor and to pay respect to the lives lost. My favorite department store Century 21 is still located at the corners of Church and Courtlandt Streets and a great stop across the street from the 911 Memorial.

Times Square has cleaned up and is presenting a more family friendly environment, with the elimination of one of the lanes of traffic, providing a pedestrian walkway for tourists to enjoy all the sights and sights of the area. Broadway is holding strong with many performances Tuesday to Sunday, and you can still get day off discounted tickets at TKTS in the centre of Times Square. Further up Broadway, Columbus Circle has been redeveloped including the new corporate offices of Time Warner and Anderson Cooper’s talk show, across from Central Park.

Central Park is still the ultimate escape in the city. We took the opportunity to walk around the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, to visit Strawberry Fields, the Bethesda Fountain which was featured in Angels in America and the Hans Christian Anderson and the Alice in Wonderland statues. We got some ice cream from a vendor and enjoyed watching some of the league soccer and baseball games throughout the park. A bevy of activity was created as Police, pedestrians and other carriage operators realized a horse drawn carriage was racing down West 59th Street into traffic, towards Columbus Circle without a driver. Thankfully the carriage was stopped and the horses appeared ok as they were reunited with their owner.

We visited the Guggenhiem Museum, American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit was a patron favorite with line ups around the museum to gain access. Once inside the exhibit space, visitors had the opportunity to view clothing, accessories and footwear by the infamous designer including pieces from his early collections from alma mater Central St. Martens. Although very crowded the exhibit was awe inspiring and a great opportunity to experience the world of Alexander McQueen.

As a lover of ’90s NYC and Seinfeld, we traveled to 2880 Broadway at 112th Street for a lunch at Tom’s Restaurant made famous as the coffee shop throughout the Seinfeld series. Mike was ecstatic to be able to order multiple bowls of cereal, just like Jerry, while we joked about the big salad and who was going to pay the bill, it was our own Seinfeld episode. The food was typical of other greasy spoons through the city, cheap and filling.

Although it had been a decade since I had visited Manhattan, my love affair with the city continues. With more air competition from Toronto to NYC, its actually cheaper to get there leaving you more room to stay at one of the new 5 star hotels or to indulge yourself in more shopping.

New York Posts:
NYC Flashback
Photos:
New York Stories
MY Gehry Gallery
Gehry Posts:
Going for Gehry
Basque in the beauty of the Guggenheim and more in Bilbao
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie
Barcelona Beach, Mountain & Fountain

NYC Flashback

By Steven Wright

While attending university in the late 90’s, some friends and I decided we were going to take a bite out of the Big Apple. We bought tickets on the train from Union Station in Toronto to Penn Station in New York City, and arranged to stay at the unique and budget friendly Carlton Arms on 23 at 3rd. What we had not planned on was the impending snow storm that was pounding the Isle of Manhattan, and a storm that would continue through our 12 hour train ride. Actually make that 14 hours, as the storm had closed all three airports and the train was making additional stops along the way to try and help stranded commuters. Exiting Penn Station we were shocked at the amount of snow on the ground, and the general mess of traffic, partially created by the weather. We decided that without a shovel we needed a cab to get us to our hotel, and after unsuccessfully hailing our own cab, we were very observant and saw that people who were offering cash to the man in the middle of the road to get a cab, got the next one available. Following suit, we were in a cab, which took us about two blocks from The Carlton Arms and informed us that we should walk from here and dropped us off.

The Carlton Arms offers rooms designed by local artists, some with an ensuite washroom, most sharing the bathrooms in the hallways. The building is a walk up with a buzzer at the door. Every surface is covered with brightly coloured and sometimes thought provoking works of art, this includes the stairwells, the rooms and the washrooms. On arrival you are given a few keys of available rooms so you can choose which room is right for you. The staff are friendly with advice for anything you need and there is even a hotel cat.

It is incredibly easy to create a list of things to do in the city; theatres, shopping, parks, museums, restaurants and so much more, it can be hard though to fit all the things you want to do into one trip. My first trip created a love affair with the city, I found myself trying to take in all the city had to offer visiting quarterly throughout university. The energy of the city is alluring and intoxicating, constantly evolving and reinventing itself. As I started to research my new favorite destination I found an amazing 7 part, 14 hour series directed by Ric Burns for PBS called New York. The series traces the history of the city from its Dutch beginnings to present day, a must see for anyone interested in learning more about the city. As a frequent visitor and observer, the series reinforced my impression, that things are just done differently in NY than anywhere else in the world.

The late 90’s offered a lot for electronic music lovers and followers of DJ Culture, there was the emergence of Club Kids, and NY was the place to see the likes of Junior Vasquez and David Morales and visiting DJs like Carl Cox,  John Digweed, Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold and Paul Van Dyk. They played legendary venues like Peter Gatien’s Limelight, Twilo and Palladium. The club scene was amazing, brilliant lights, the DJs working the crowd and occasionally Madonna would make an appearance to drop her latest track. When the music ended, you would find yourself on the streets of the city, dawning sunglasses, heading back to catch a cat nap and a shower.

Being from Toronto, NYC gave me the opportunity to shop global brands that were not available in Canada. Fashion Television and Jeanne Becker taught me well, I would head down to Soho to the boutiques of Anna Sui, Isaac Mizrahi and my personal favorite Todd Oldham. Todd’s shop was located at 123 Wooster Street and I can not tell you how many times I was there hoping to have a chance run in with him. This was the era of Calvin Klien, Betsey Johnston and Donna Karan and many of the department stores like Bloomingdales and Macy’s were carrying these brands, which offered a poor student like me great sale prices on these popular brands. Then there were the luxury department stores like Saks, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys, here I liked to window shop and get to see the lines from the runway, truly amazing. Then I discovered NYCs best kept secret at Church and Cortlandt Sts, Century 21. This is an amazing store with last seasons items at incredible discounts, my favorite find was a pair of Jean Paul Gautier pants at 10% of the original ticket price.

NY is a haven for any fan of skyscrapers and architecture. The Empire State Building, The Chrysler Building, The Flatiron Building, 30 Rock, and the pinnacle on the tip of Manhattan was the World Trade Centre. These incredibly imposing buildings were a highlight of the city through the 90s. Towering over the rest of lower Manhattan and visible from all of the boroughs around the isle. They served as a gateway into the city and a symbol of the optimism of the city and its economic engine. I was hard to imagine the city before these buildings were constructed.

New York offers thousands of museums and galleries filled with well known and up and coming artists works. The Guggenheim Museum is Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, giving patrons the opportunity to start at the top of the gallery and make their way down the circular walkway down to the grand entrance. the opportunity to view artist works from multiple distances around the gallery allows for maximum enjoyment. The Metropolitan Museum started exhibiting fashion in their lower level, giving fashionistas the opportunity to see amazing gowns like the red dress collection from Valentino. The Museum of Modern Art is filled with works by contemporary artists like Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol.

No trip to New York City is complete without attending a Broadway show and times square. TKTS in Times Square offers day-of discounted tickets and afforded me to see up and coming stars like Matthew Broderick in How To Succeed in Business, Sarah Jessica Parker in Once Upon a Mattress, and Allen Cumming in Cabaret (at the former Studio 54). Times Square and Broadway in the ’90s was a little more colourful, as it was an area also known for prostitution and the sex trade.

Back before the world became obsessed with paparazzi photos of celebrities, you could actually find yourself in a restaurant at a table next to celebrities. I recall grabbing a bite at Joe Jr. Restaurant in Gramercy only to discover Isaac Mizrahi and Sandra Bernhard at the booth behind us. Cafeteria style seating was popular in the 90’s, you never know who would be sitting next to you, at the time I was a huge fan of Claudia Schiffer, and one night ended up sitting with a photographer that was just going over his proofs after shooting with Claudia earlier that day. What a city! One of my favorite places to eat in New York is Cowgirl on Hudson, a lesbian tex-mex bar and restaurant with one of the best chicken fried chicken I have ever tasted, served with a huge scoop of mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy.

Summertime weekends in NY feature street markets, truck arrive in early morning and within an hour the streets are closed to traffic and tents and booths are set up selling everything from food to clothing to almost anything you could imagine. The markets are traveling and move to a different street every week. This also gives you the opportunity to different areas within the city to explore interesting less touristy areas like The East Village, China Town, Little Italy, even venture up for brunch and enjoy the sounds of the Harlem Boys Choir.

Strolling through Central Park is an amazing escape in the city, whether in Strawberry Fields or walking around the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservior, you find yourself forgetting about the busy city surrounding the park. You should give yourself an entire day if you want to explore all the park has to offer.

I started watching for seat sales on airlines, I had mastered public transportation from La Guardia, JFK and Newark and eliminating the long train trip from Toronto gave me more time to explore NYC. It was in June of 2001 that I spent half a day down at the World Trade Centre, photographing and admiring the structure and their presence as I sipped on my cappuccino. It was the last time I would see these buildings in person before the 911 tragedy and the last time for almost 10 years that I would visit the city I love.

Photos:
NY Stories Photo Gallery
NYC Posts:
Going for Gehry