Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chinatown Toronto - Spadina and College - Picture Perfect Movie Location, Shopping

A walk through Toronto's Chinatown area along Spadina south of College is like being in China itself. It's a popular location for movie filming, and a mecca for shopping in shops that could easily be lifted whole from any city in China -- Beijing, Nanning, Shanghai or Hong Kong.

Here are some pictures of Toronto's Chinatown I took earlier this week. If you've been to China, you'll see what I mean. If you haven't , well, trust me, this is as good as being there without the jet lag:-)(Click on image to enlarge, then click the Back button to return to this page.)

Wicker, Rattan, Bamboo, Purses and Shirts

This shop fronts on Spadina (map at bottom of this post), and, like its neighbours, goods are spread out along the sidewalk. Stores in Chinatown often have much lower prices than western chain stores. This shop had 6 ft-high bamboo poles that I needed, but I didn't want to carry them around town and to dinner.

Red Roses International Spadina Avenue

This is another shop I will come back to when I have more time. I found some wonderful cotton tunic tops for about $10 CAD. Some of them would make great beach cover ups, and all would go well with jeans. Red Roses also carries purses and bags, jewellery and assorted gift items.

BBQ Meats in Window Display

A few shops south on Spadina, this BBQ and meat store hung its wares in the front window. Many if not most of the clerks in Chinatown do not speak English, or else they don't speak it well enough to talk with non-Chinese. Just like in China! If a clerk really doesn't speak English, they will call in someone who does to answer your questions.

Dried Seafood ~ Fruits ~Vegetables

Also as in China (Hong Kong comes to mind, and Tai O village on Lantau Island), this shop sells dried seafoods, as well as Asian fruits and vegetables, and of course, our usual Canadian ones. At some stalls, the vendor sat in a chair on the sidewalk, busily trimming fresh greens pulled from the delivery carton. But unlike China, in Toronto doesn't allow sales of live fowl -- chickens, ducks, etc. -- from cages on city streets.

Carton of Sweet RambuTan ~ Spadina Shop

Named for its 'hairy' covering (enlarge this then come back!) Rambutan is quite lovely. Related to and tasting much like lychee or longan, and costing $4 a pound, it weighs next to nothing. I paid about 30 cents CAD each for three of these fruits. If you have the time and inclination, peel and seed these fruits and fill seed cavity with a honeyed cream cheese. Yum!

Asian Grocery Store Spadina Avenue

With the streetcars running on tracks in the center of Spadina, and parking at a premium, both people and vehicle traffic can be chaotic. Just like -- well, you know. This shop was a few doors down from a CIBC bank, and boasted a nearby fortune teller.

Filming Location - Spadina near Bright Pearl Restaurant

Across Spadina from the grocery store above, the red traffic cones herald a film shoot in progress. This area borders the somewhat notorious Kensington Market neighbourhood. We crossed Spadina to the west side, and saw more trucks and traffic cones in front of the Bright Pearl, a huge (400+ seat, 2 storey) dim sum restaurant that's very popular.

Cat on a Chair Up in the Air

No idea of the backstory to this art work. If you know, post a comment!

CN Tower Seen from Spadina north of Dundas

The CN Tower (spiky thing in background) is easily visible from much of downtown Toronto. What's not so easy is to get a photo of the tower without power lines.

Not all shops in Chinatown are geared to bargain hunters. One lovely shop at 297 Spadina (east side) sold high end jade and Chinese artifacts, including stunning bronze sculptures and ceramics; a good percentage of them were priced in the thousands of dollars.

So if you find yourself in downtown Toronto, and yearning for a taste of China, then go west from the Eaton Center on Dundas until you get to Spadina. There are lots of good restaurants here, but if you're not in the mood for Chinese or pho, as we weren't that day, then walk north to trendy College Street, and find yourself a nice outdoor patio, like Kalendar.

Google Map Chinatown Toronto

More photos of China and Hong Kong on my travel site

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hong Kong Food, Wine, Mid Autumn Festival, China National Day Holidays

Hong Kong is a busy city --there's really no best time of year to travel there. But that's good, too, because it means that there is always something cool to do!

That's one of the reasons Hong Kong is my favorite city to visit. But what this does mean is that you have to book your hotel well in advance or risk finding no room at the inn of your choice.

Like this fall: October 1 is China National Day, which means lots of Chinese travelers will be moving around the country. Another really busy travel time is the Mid-Autumn Festival (a movable feast also called Moon Festival or Chinese Thanksgiving).

Crabs for Sale Hong Kong Market - Mid Autumn Festival

In 2009, the Mid Autumn Festival is October 3, 2009, which means, with two major holidays so close together, that transportation systems as well as accommodations will be stretched to the limits.

If your travel times are flexible, you may want to time your trip for a bit earlier or a bit later, say, towards the end of October when holidayers will have gone back to work.

Hong Kong residents are embracing Halloween -- no trick or treat -- but many will dress up and go walkabout, which is really fun to see. And then the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival is scheduled for October 30 to November 8, and that will be a great event to take in.

Culinary Special Jasmine Restaurant Jardine House

I was in Hong Kong several times at this time -- Sept-Oct-Nov. The weather was still very warm and humid, but quite lovely for touring around. I was treated to some great meals (Jasmine Restaurant at Jardine House was one), as well as in the SoHo (south Hong Kong) area.

On weekends, the SoHo streets are given over to pedestrians and the place rocks! Festival events mean that some roads will be closed, and the streets decorated and filled with performers, with food booths and restaurants offering their wares.

Sai Kung Seafood a Specialty

Fresh, fresh, fresh is the hallmark of Cantonese cuisine, and Sai Kung is the place to be. Well, there and Lamma Island. Especially after a walking tour from one end of Lamma to the other, you deserve the reward of fabulous seafood!

Bird's Nest Soup ~ Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival food event is organized by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), and offers celebrity chefs, wine experts and food critics a chance to do their thing. Festival events go from the downtown area and beyond:
  • Victoria Harbour Pre-dinner Sunset Cocktail Cruises
  • Hong Kong Island Tour with a special dim sum lunch
  • Lamma Island seafood and wine buffets
  • Wan Chai’s Revolving 66 Restaurant special menus (only revolving restaurant in HK)

Prayer Tree Hong Kong New Territories

A lot of activities and events are centered around this festival, including
  • street carnivals
  • food-district promotions
  • Sai Kung Seafood Festival
  • a hotel dine-around program
  • an International Wine & Spirits Fair
  • wine appreciation classes and ‘walks’
  • cooking demonstrations by renowned Hong Kong chefs.
  • live entertainment: jazz, dance and rock music
  • mime artists, clowns and jugglers
  • multi-media sound and light show
If this is a little overwhelming, then you can take a tour to the New Territories and toss a prayer into this famous tree!

Hong Kong Wine and Dine Travel Specials
Two Canadian tour operators have Hong Kong’s outstanding food and wine in their plans. Silkway Travel (Vancouver, BC) is offering a five-night Hong Kong trip at prices from $1,160 CAD (Cathay Pacific from Vancouver, hotel package, Hong Kong's great Cultural Kaleidoscope program ). This is a really good price, IMHO.

For travel from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, Jade Tours has a five-night Culinary Tour, at prices from $999 CAS via United Airlines, which includes a half-day Hong Kong Island tour, a night harbour cruise with dinner at Lei Yue Mun Seafood Village, a Museum of History visit and – from 31 October to 8 November – a Wine Appreciation Class at the Hong Kong Food and Wine Festival. A bargain!

If I can swing it, I am SO there! (and No, I get no $ from any of these agencies, though I wouldn't say no to a free and fabulous meal when next I'm in Hong Kong!)

More Info
Silkway tour
Jade Tours
Hong Kong travel, visa, pics info on my travel site
Maps, brochures and online goodies see Hong Kong Tourism Board
Really cool 3D map of Hong Kong

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Port Credit Outdoor Art Show - Missisisauga Ontario Events This Weekend

Update July 16, 2010 The Art Show is on this weekend in Port Credit.

Port Credit's 11th annual outdoor art show is in this weekend (July 17, 18, 19) at the Port Credit Marina (Mississauga, ON), so I walked into the village this afternoon to have a look. Chatted with some of the artists, met a TMAC member (I used to be one, back in the day), and took a few pictures of the sights. [click photos to enlarge then click back button to return to this page]

Outdoor Art Show Tents - Port Credit Marina

The Port Credit Marina is on the east side of the Credit River across from the landmark lighthouse. On this sunny then cloudy but warm afternoon, the marina was busy with weekend boaters and the art walk was a busy place.

Eileen Millen ~ Stone Faces ~ Williams Mill

One of the first artists I talked with is Eileen Millen. I immediately gravitate to stone art -- it's so touchable, smooth, cool and quite wonderful -- and hers is no exception. Eileen is one of the Williams Mill Stone Sculptors, working out of the Williams Mill Visual Arts Center in Glen Williams, ON.

Albion Art Gallery ~ Port Credit

Albion Art Gallery -- a 25-year-old Port Credit gallery -- is on the street where I live, so to speak, and each time I walk into the village, I am treated to new art works in the window.

Jim Lasby ~ Watercolours

Watercolours, too, are a particular favourite, and the works of Jim Lasby was quite wonderful. I don't have any other information than a business card with phone number and email. Let me know if you have other details, such as a gallery, website, etc.

Sharon Matthews-Stevens ~ Photographer

An award-winning travel photographer, Sharon also offers stock photos and fine art limited edition prints. Have a look at more of her work here.

Susan Adsett ~ Boswell's Progress ~ Port Credit Marina

As part of the art show display, Susan documents how a painting comes together, from concept to completion, as seen in the poster above. See more of her work on her website, and, she says, everyone who signs up for her newsletter will receive a small heat transfer print of Boswell, which, now, is finished!

Update July 28, 2009
See Susan & art at Art in the Park Oakville Holiday Monday August 3/2009.

Susan Garton ~ Watercolour Painting

Long time Port Credit artist Susan Garton sketches and paints from colour photographs, and loves to transform family cottages and homes to watercolours.

Visual Arts Mississauga

Visual Arts Mississauga (see web site) offers classes for youth and adults, as well as summer camps.

Gone Fishing ~ Credit River Lake Ontario

When you've had your fill of art and chats, take a walk along the boardwalk on the Credit River towards the lake for views of Toronto and Saddington Park (west bank). There's lots of places to sit and watch the boats go by, or stop into Snug Harbour Restaurant.

Port Credit Memorial Park Gardens

Or follow the trail along the Credit River under Lakeshore Road, and visit the gardens and information posts at Port Credit Memorial park. This park is home to many festivals and events, and it's a real treat to find you have it almost all to yourself on a summer Saturday.

There's one more afternoon to come out to the Port Credit Outdoor Arts show -- Sunday, July 19 from noon to 5 p.m. Look for the tent that was handing out fudge -- Yum!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Julie & Julia Child Movie Review and Alternate Ending Suggestions

Travel is my thing -- not doing reviews of movies.

But having been lucky enough to attend an advance screening of Julie & Julia last night (a few weeks in advance of the August 7 release date), I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts.

Call it a review, if you like, but for what it's worth, here goes.

And IMO it's impossible to 'spoil' Julie & Julia, so apologies in advance if this proves not to be the case.

Julie & Julia is based on two true stories: Julie Powell (Amy Adams), 29, young married, looking for direction, focus, who in one year cooks her way through every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogs about it.

Julia Child is, well, Julia Child (wiki details), played perfectly by Meryl Streep.

Both Adams and Child seem to be at the top of their actor game. In fact, Oscar thoughts danced in my head for a while there.

The film is billed as a biography drama -- somewhat surprising given the many ROTFL moments:
Child learning to chop onions, being too tall for the French beds
Powell learning to poach eggs, eating bruschetta with hubby

In fact the the first half of the film, I had tears rolling down my face!

The film is really two films in one -- bios of both women's lives -- seamlessly switching between 2002 NYC Julie to 1950s Paris Julia, giving a Then and Now aspect:

Julia Child 1950: McCarthy era, corresponding through letters, gorgeous flat in Paris

Julie Powell 2002: 9/11 aftermath, blogging, grotty flat above pizza place

There is a travel angle to this review: The shots of Paris will have you booking a ticket and a flat for the season. Absolutely gorgeous! The French aloof and rude? Not to irrepressible Julia!

Julie & Julia: From ROTFL beginning to WTF? ending

Yet for all the humour, great pacing, clear direction and overall I Love This Movie! excellence, the ending, for me, fell short, and set off a great long 'discussion' with fellow movie goer (FMG) about why this happened and how to fix it.

FMG claims Julie's one-year deadline to cook and blog had built-in stop point: No where to go at end of year.

So the end-of-film text explanation as to WTF had happened was all that could be done, except maybe, they could have shown that, just as Julia's book had made a difference in Julie's life, so too had Julie's blog made a positive difference in someone else's life.

Not so, say I, the fall-flat ending could have been fixed with better editing. Here's why.

Alternate ending for Julie & Julia

(With all due respect to those involved who may have been too close to the film or have knowledge I do not)

Here's how the the final scenes ran:

1. Scene with Julie and hubby hosting rooftop garden dinner for friends.

2. Scene with Julie and hubby visiting Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian

3. Scene with Child finally getting first copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Here's how these scenes might be remastered:

1. Scene with Child finally getting first copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking
-This would tie up the story for Child; in effect, as we said in journalism school, Kiss her off.

2. Scene with Julie and hubby visiting Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian

-Homage where homage due. Cute scene.

3. Scene with Julie and hubby hosting rooftop garden dinner for friends.
-Julie's toast to hubby at wonderful dinner with friends a high point; good to end on a high point.

Then, if you like, keep the closing scene of text citing what eventually happened to Julie and Julia. It then becomes thoughtful, good-to-know stuff instead of 'Gosh How on earth can we end this movie?' stuff.

Having said this, I'd still go to see the movie again. When you are laughing very hard, you tend to miss bits of dialogue, etc. And with clean language, no nudity, or violence, it's one movie that you can take your parents and or kids to, and not cringe!

If you haven't already seen the trailer, here it is:
Julie & Julia Trailer on YouTube

(and mark your calendar for August 7 : You're going to the movies that night!)

(Thanks to for a wonderful evening!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cosmopolitan Hotel Toronto Penthouse | Love at First Suite

In Toronto on Sunday to take in the Art Show at Nathan Phillips Square, we first swung by the Cosmopolitan hotel a few blocks away at 8 Colborne Street to check out a few of the suites.

Random, impromptu hotel site inspections are not one of our usual pursuits: Daughter has booked a room / suite at the Cosmopolitan for an early August wedding, and we wanted to get first-hand look at the layout and kitchen. Until today, we'd only seen pictures on the Cosmopolitan website.

Since the rooms are usually occupied and therefore unavailable for viewing, we'd timed our visit for just before the 3 PM check-in time in hopes of finally finding a few of them empty. We were lucky: A few were available. The guest services manager took us on a tour to show us several room layouts, including this designer penthouse.

And while the room / suites are indeed lovely, especially the south-facing ones with views to Lake Ontario, it was the penthouse suite that I fell in love with. I SO want to live here!

Penthouse Roof Garden Terrace

This is a section of the private rooftop garden overlooking downtown Toronto. You can see at a glance why the Cosmo is so popular with TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) visitors: Location, luxury, entertaining room.

Stairs to Penthouse Roof Garden

This penthouse has 1500 square feet -- lots of room to hold a small wedding, but not enough for screens for the Much Music Video Dance Party. But if you don't need room for a band, this just might work!

View from top of Staircase

View from the top of the stairs overlooking the living area / great room, with its tall windows and views of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario. All Cosmopolitan suites have balconies -- some larger than others, including some that wrap around corners.

Penthouse Living / Great Room

All suites have flat screen wall mounted TVs, CD players, microwaves, kitchens, etc. In short, all the mod cons and bells and whistles. Hard NOT to fall in love!

Master Bedroom Cosmo Penthouse

The master bedroom has a skylight with blinds (see top photo roof garden), and an ensuite behind the mirror panel headboard. A second, 'guest' bathroom is off the main living area.

Master Bath Ensuite

Wish I had a wide angle lens to better show the master bath! Dual sinks, lovely stone, baseboard lighting. The corner of the center of the room large infinity bath tub can be seen bottom of this photo.

Master Ensuite Bath Tub

The ensuite bath tub commands the center of the room, with overhead lighting and tub level faucets (not faucets on the ceiling, as some center of room tubs have, and which I find disconcerting). Not a bath person? An oversize shower stall is out of sight, where the white fluffy robes are hanging on the back wall.

Penthouse Second Bedroom / Office Area

A great space to get some work done, if you are here to work. But this den / office area doubles as another bedroom.

The kitchen is large, and sized much like a home kitchen, with an island open to the great room.

This penthouse was designed / decorated by the Designer Guys - and props to them! It's lovely!

Can you see why I fell in love with this penthouse? Oh, to win the lottery - BIG!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition Nathan Phillips Square

Sunday was the final day for the Toronto Outdoor Art show at Nathan Phillips Square. Here are some pictures I took of works by a few of the many talented artists and potters. I gave up taking photos as there were just too many to contemplate. Also showing were a number of jewelery designers and goldsmiths. Such lovely work, and since I am a sucker for shiny objects, I was in my glory.

Artist Tents at Reflecting Pool Nathan Phillips Square

The pool and tents set the mood while I had a very decent biriyani bought at a stall from one of the new ethnic food street vendors in this area. Not fine dining, exactly, but very tasty none the less.

Tents Nathan Phillips - Old City Hall Toronto

A closer look at the artist tents back dropped by Old City Hall, Toronto.

Emily Bicknell - Wave Paintings

Love at first sight (and second, and ongoing!) between me and these Emily Bickell paintings! She captures waves and I love waves. When I can (or feel free to get one for me), I want her to do a series of 5 narrow and taller ones for my living room.

Emily Bickell Paintings Closer View

I checked her website when I got home, and see she does way more than waves. How exciting to find a new-to-you artist whose work you love!

Trevor Craig McDonnell

Just as captivating in a different way, the art of Trevor Craig McDonnell. Really like these, too. Would help him SE optimize his website for any one of his 'speedscapes' :-)

Deborah Freeman Ceramic Vessels

Sheridan grad, I believe, Deborah Freeman does some really beautiful ceramics.

David Brown Encaustic Collage

Hadn't heard the term 'encaustic' before now, but David Brown explains on his site. As with McDonnell, would trade SEO for paiintings :-)

Chari Cohen Ceramics

Another talented potter (and Sheridan grad) whose work I found fascinating. Cohen is originally from Alberta. I wondered aloud if her gorgeous white birch bark pieces were made by pouring clay onto actual birch bark. "If it were as simple as that," she said with a smile, "everyone would be doing it." See her website here.

The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition program lists the dates for next year's show: July 9, 10, 11, 2010. Artists applications available mid-December, 2009, with submissions due by March 1, 2010.

Before our visit to the Art Show, we took a tour of rooms at the Cosmo Hotel a few blocks from here. See Cosmo penthouse pictures.

Update July 18/09
Port Credit Outdoor Art Show pictures, etc.


Artist Studio Art Set - 116 pc with Wooden Case, Sketch Book Value Pack, The Group of Seven and Tom ThomsonThe Group of Seven 2010 Calendar

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mississauga Storm Damage Cawthra Road

While Port Credit along Lakeshore Road seems to have escaped the wrath of Saturday's storm (see post July 11), the Cawthra Road neighbourhood south of the QEW - South Service Road has been hit very hard indeed. (See Toronto Star story). The last I heard, full hydro service will not be restored for several days.

With Cawthra Road still closed to traffic, my neighbour John walked over there this afternoon to have a look for himself. He took these pictures and gave me permission to post them here.

Crews Working to Clear Fallen Power Lines

High Winds Shredded Utility Pole

I cannot imagine the burst of wind strong enough to shred this utility pole into toothpicks.

Wide Angle Shot of Downed Tree on Cawthra Road

Lucky home owner: Had this tree fallen the opposite direction, it would have been a direct hit, from the look of it. Didn't do the vehicle much good, though.

Close Up Picture of Downed Tree

The tree stump is across the sidewalk; the rest of it lies several feet away. This tree did not just fall over, it seems to have been launched like a sabre.

Tree Down on Cawthra near South Service Road

A number of city buildings -- the Mississauga Seniors Centre, Cawthra Community Centre, Cawthra Estate -- and Cawthra Secondary School are within a few blocks of this location. My mom would normally be busing down to the Mississauga Seniors Centre each day; as it happens, she is in Kamloops for a few weeks.

Another Downed Tree on Cawthra

With such graphic evidence of the force of the damaging storm winds, you have to wonder about property damage. As yet, I haven't seen any news reports of how the residents are coping, and how extensive other damages are.

Neighbour John says Cawthra is closed from Third Street to South Service, which parallels the QEW. When I drove on the QEW past the Cawthra overpass, I could see traffic still using the South Service exits, and crossing Cawthra to go to Dixie or Hurontario.

Here's a googlemap of the area:

View Larger Map

Anyone with more information about storm damage to this part of Mississauga, please leave a comment.