Open Doors (28/05/11–29/05/11).
For one weekend a year, here in town, over 150 buildings are opened up to the public for them to have a little look-see for the annual Doors Open Toronto. A lot of these places are not normally accessible to us mere mortals pedestrians. In order to be a part of this event the buildings must have been built before 1940 and you can look at any or all of them (if you have the time!) for free. [Early Bird note: Sounds a bit like Melbourne’s Open House.)
While this may not be something that everyone gets excited about, I am in awe of old buildings and enjoy perusing the architecture and sticky-beaking inside. I set out on my own on Saturday and my first stop was the Old City Hall building: by far my favourite building in Toronto from the outside, so I was very excited to take a look inside.
The building was designed by Edward James Lennox who also designed Casa Loma, another notable Toronto landmark, and about 70 other buildings around town.
These days Old City Hall is used as the provincial court house. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside but I did get to look at the amazing foyer, complete with murals, and an example of one of the court rooms. It even had the upstairs viewing area, reminding me of the court room used in the film version of To Kill A Mockingbird.
After that I was bound for a firehouse at the top of town, station 311, about an hours walk from where I was. Well, what was probably meant to be an hour turned into two, and a very sore body. I kept passing intersection after intersection, hoping the next street I would get to would be the one I was looking for. Eventually I found it and went in for a look around. It was rather dull in comparison to what my expectations were.
With no one there with me to take a photo of me behind the truck’s wheel or at least hanging out the window I was a little let down.
Since most of my Saturday was filled with walking I didn’t have much time and/or energy to go to any of the other buildings on offer, but luckily there were some to look at on the walk back down the hill, homeward bound.
I had made plans on Sunday to go explore The Beaches with James but I decided to squeeze in a little excursion beforehand to the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre and the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto, time permitting.
When I got to the theatre there was a line down the block and I thought about just bailing. But seeing it as my only chance to look around inside, for free, I decided to just join the back of the queue and hope that I wasn’t too far down the line and would actually make it inside. Turns out they had a really good system in place. We all filed into the lower level, the Elgin Theatre, and all took seats. An older gentleman welcomed us and proceeded to give us a lovely rundown of the history of the theatre, being the only double-decker theatre (that’s one theatre positioned directly above another theatre), and some information about the kinds of things it had been used for.
After that we headed upstairs to the Winter Garden Theatre for yet some more history and an in depth description of the theatre’s construction.
Some interesting things that I learnt were that the ceiling over the seating in the Winter Garden theatre is decorated with approximately 80% real leaves that have been through a process to preserve them in a life-like state and that the ceiling of the Elgin theatre is actually floating, suspended from the floor of the above floor.
After the informative talk and a good look around the theatres we were invited to hang around to look at some memorabilia and perhaps purchase some wares, with all of the proceeds going to keep the theatre running. I got myself a badge for my collection and picked up the book, as well, as a memento because it was full of wonderful photos and ran through the history of the building. When making my purchase, the lady who served informed me that me that the man who had compiled the book was standing right behind me! I got him to sign my copy and thanked him for his informative speech and shuffled out.
I looked at my phone and realised I actually had enough time to squeeze in a trip up to the Arts & Letters Club.
I headed further up Yonge St (which for those of you playing at home is the longest street in the world and the same street I had spent what felt like all day schlepping up the day before!) and easily found the quaint building at 14 Elm St. I snapped a photo of the historic society sign out the front and was informed on the way in that there was no photography allowed inside. It was, of course, to protect the artworks but I really just wanted to take photos of the building. Having spent a little too much time exploring, I raced to meet James for our trip to The Beaches. He decided that, since we were in the neighbourhood, he’d like to take a quick look inside Old City Hall, too. So, in one weekend I got to explore it twice!
After another sticky beak we jumped on a streetcar out east. Thanks to James’ choice to sit near the front, we got semi-harassed by some crazy homeless guy who made inappropriate comments and felt up my leg. Eek!
When we jumped off the streetcar I saw another fire station, this one also open as part of Doors Open Toronto. James agreed to come take a peek with me and was very please to find an old style Pepsi vending machine where the cans were only 50 cents. Bargain!
This station, 227, was much like the one I’d already seen but I did get to enjoy a nice mini-tour with one of the fireman who filled me in on some history and the amount of call-outs they get a year. Pretty crazy!
With that, we made our way to explore The Beaches. Our journey started at the Kew Gardens where we looked at the Alex Christie gazebo and a few war monuments. We met a sweet little squirrel that a lady was trying to feed a mint. He took it, tried storing it in his mouth, then spat it out and decided to bury it. All of which I got photos of. Absolutely adorable!
Making Progress (30/05/11–04/06/11).
My fifth week in Toronto got a little bit quieter. With Sol gone (that’s right, he went off to camp. Did I not mention that?!), and the others having moved into their sublet, I was on my own again in the hostel. Luckily, I had my second job interview to distract me.
Again I was left with nothing to wear so I had purchased another H&M dress. This one was a pale pink, rather modest, and somewhat fitting for a job interview.
This time my interview was with the assistant manager of the store and covered some of the same questions, just a little more specific. Being a business running inside a hospital I fielded some questions on my experience with similar environments/experiences and felt like I answered them quite well. I got to know a little bit more about the job itself and the people I’d be working with.
Again, it was over pretty quickly but I felt fairly confident in my efforts. And who can complain about getting through to a second interview for the only job you actually applied for?! I just had to wait a few days to know whether or not I had the job. Fingers crossed!
Having not much else to do and only really seeing the others at night, I was quite delighted to be asked by the bar manager to pick up where Sol had left off in painting the tables for the hostel’s patio bar. So my week consisted of my touching up painting over the old flags that were on each table so they were all shiny and new again. This time they also had lacquer so I sealed them as well. It took me a few full days and a few hours here and there to get it all done to my liking. My work actually got me four free nights in the hostel, much to my surprise. Works out to be the same as being paid minimum wage here. Handy!
On the Thursday, when waiting for Sarah, as we were going to have lunch together, I got a call from the bookstore to tell me that I had been successful and that they wanted me to start work the following Monday! I was so excited to now have something to fill my days with. I shared the news with Sarah straight away. We also met up with the boys, Thomas and Declan, who congratulated me on my news.
Thanks to my new job I had to go pick myself up some new clothes to fit in with the dress code. After scouring H&M and other cheapish stores, I ended up at Sears where I found discounted black pants that fit me perfectly and a respectable collared black top to team with my black shoes. I also treated myself to a new warm jacket, since the weather was still miserable.
I had a job. Now the only thing left was to find a place to live!
Today marks my first day as an employee in a Canadian workplace! I can now officially say I work ‘in a bookshop’!
I am envisioning it being something like the show Black Books. I’d like to be Bernard but I know I’ll be Manny! No seriously, it’s going to be fun and a little bit hard since I really have no idea about books, but I am incredibly confident in my ability to serve customers so that bit is going to be easy. The book smarts can come later.
The first thing my new boss said to me was actually that he knew when he met me that he wanted me to work in his team, that I would fit in really well. He listed a lot of things that he identified in my from my interview. Some true, some not so true. Man I’m good at that bullshitting interviewing thing!
Summer Wonderland (08/06/11).
With the weather predicted to be 31 degrees (that’s Celsius, of course!), we decided it would be a good time to head to Canada’s Wonderland, an elaborate water/theme park about an hour from downtown Toronto, public-transporting it.
After all meeting up on the subway, we headed off. Arriving there we discovered the water park was only open on weekends, despite it being summer holidays, a fact the Internet neglected to mention! Our crew for the day—myself, Thomas, Declan, Sarah, Yann, Peter, Tanya and new recruit Gary—decided we’d just wander around the park, clockwise it would seem, and select rides that took our fancy.
There were a few in the bunch that didn’t partake in some of the rides due to their specific dislikes/fears: heights, the feeling of falling, the resulting dizziness or going upside down. I must admit to some degree I’m not okay with any of those but with the chances of anything going horribly wrong (à la Final Destination 3) very slim it was pretty irrational to be afraid of a ride. Gary pointed out all fears were irrational and, with that being a very valid point, I decided to overcome ignore my fears and go on all the rides the others suggested. Oh, and of course to preserve my dignity!
We spent the day going on pretty terrifying ride and, when we enquired about going on one again, we were told the park was closing. It was 6pm. The Internet had said the park was open until 9pm.
We had only made it about halfway through the rides and had missed the one we’d been building up to all day, the Behemoth.
Slightly morose, we headed back to collect our belongings and grab the bus home. As we were packing up it started to rain. Following that came a massive thunderstorm just as we were making our way to the bus. As we drove back to the subway station we watched the lighting crack all around us. So vivid. So close. So intense. Yann helped lighten the mood with his own rendition of Kiss From A Rose by Seal!
All it all it was a good day. I didn’t let the freak weather at the end sully my memory of all the crazy fun we had riding our way around Wonderland. I only hope we can go back again soon and check out the amazing water park.
I left the park bruised and battered, with a throbbing neck and very tired eyes but a very warm feeling in my heart.
Related: [Explorational] Homepage.