Cavalcade of Lights-Toronto

Tonight marked the 47th annual Cavalcade of Lights, featuring the illumination of Toronto's official Christmas tree. Around 6:15, the zamboni was clearing off the ice surface and there were skaters suited up waiting for a swing, glide or trip on the rink. At that time you could see through the crowd, but by 7:00 when the show began, with CHUMFM, Breakfast TV hosts, and a few songs from Choir Choir Choir, there was a sea of people waiting for the illumination of the tree to unveil...not before a surprise guest...

Yes our very own Mayor Rob Ford. Enthusiastic, happy, boisterous and everything we expect from him at this point. He started the count down and hundreds of thousands of paper confettis vanished into the sky, our hair and the gaping mouths of spectators at the same time.

The tree was lit up, and then performances by Tyler Shaw, Cold Specks and R&B soul singer Divine Brown (what a beautiful voice she has too) and Carvin Winans.

There were fireworks afterwards, and an open air skating party with DJ Dopey for the younger crowd. The tree lights continue to light up the square for the remainder of the holiday season so if you missed it tonight, there are plenty of other opportunities.

Nathan Phillips Square ice rink is always open during the winter months for skating (weather permitting) and skate rentals are available on site as well, for those of us who never did quite keep that pair of skates through childhood.

Courtesy of
Anonymous Peter Mykusz -Enjoy this video:Enjoy this video

Liberty Grand (Heritage Walk)

The Liberty Grande is a unique, three-sided structure and was built in 1926 to house the exhibits of the Ontario Government during each CNE. It was constructed with the influence of the Beaux-Arts style by the architectural firm of Chapman & Oxley (who won architects of the year in 1926).  It marks the entrance to the grounds from the Dominion Gate of Exhibition Place.

In 1986, the Ontario Government Building was designated as historically significant under the Ontario Heritage Act.  It now operates as a multi-room and multi-use special events facility.  In 2008 the Liberty Grande was featured in the Toronto Doors Open for Photographers.

There was a special function going on during the heritage walk, so most of the facilities were cordoned off for over 3,000 guests.   These pictures I took don't come close in showing the beauty of the ballrooms and dining areas.  This was the service entrance off to the side of the building.

The Liberty Grand has 27 foot hand carved wooden ceilings, 10 chandeliers, marble foyers, water falls and an outdoor and private courtyard, that I'm told is stunning in the summertime.  Every year they host over 400 events consisting of weddings and corporate galas, product launches, fashion shows, film festival parties and fund raisers. 

Their website has some beautiful pictures of the interior, and dinner menus.  I love looking at fancy dinner menus that describe food in such a beautiful way  

Medieval Times

Originally named the Government Building and later the Arts, Crafts and Hobbies Building, the Medieval Times Building was constructed in 1912 to showcase the exhibits of local and foreign governments.

It was designed by George Gouinlock and looks a lot like the Horticulture Building on the CNE grounds with its domed like centre piece.

Inside these walls is quite literally like stepping into the Medieval Times.  After paying quite a handsome fee, you will see jousting,  sword fighting, and medieval style games performed by over 70 actors and 20 horses. 

It's family friendly, so there aren't any gory details.  There is quite the hierarchy of training that a 'knight' must go through before performing on the horse before a crowd of eager onlookers.  You first start off as a squire.  No instant glory as they start their training by cleaning and brushing the horses, by helping load the weapons and by setting up the props and effects for the show.  From that point on, it's up to the Squire if he wants to take it to the next step in training.  This training comes from the crew who will show you how to fight and not get trampled on by the horses.  Like dancing, there is a real choreography to the stunts they perform.  Then only then do you become a Knight.

This location on the Exhibition grounds in Toronto is one of nine locations in North America, which is headquartered in Irving Texas.  Because it's such a unique building it sometimes gets picked up and featured as a backdrop in movies (The Cable Guy and Garden State as well as a few episodes of TV Show like Hell's Kitchen and Celebrity Apprentice).

While watching the show you enjoy a dinner as well.  The waitstaff refers to the audience as lords and ladies and the salespeople at this venue pose as traveling merchants.  They have a very strict no-tech policy for all workers at all times during show hours. So that means you won't catch them looking at their cellphone during showtimes.

The performance is a bit of an illusionary spectacle.  After all they are trying to convince you in this round arena thst doesn't miss anything that you have been transported in another place in time over 600 years ago.  The shouting between the Knights, the thunder of horse hoofs and the roar of the crowd makes the entire experience worthwhile. 

In reality the Knights (or performers rather) are very competitive and that plays a big role in the satisfaction for them.  As they are striving to be the best of the lot, so they can attain the glory spot of the weekly highlight show which happens every Saturday night.  The Saturday night shows get the largest crowds and most feedback.

I'd say although it is a hefty fee, its worth seeing the show once in a lifetime and although it projects a pure imaginative fantasy, it's still a good feeling to be there to satisfy the historical need at least.  I won't give too more away about the highlights of the show so you can experience that magic yourself.

Please understand no pictures are allowed during performances.

Princes' Gates (The Heritage Walk)

With the autumn nearing its end, and winter soon approaching we began our heritage walks around town once more, looking for the historical value I love, but this time with the architectural merit.  I don't usually enjoy photographing buildings but the Heritage Walk offers so much background it was worth exploring further.

Here is the Princes' Gates, designed by the architectural firm of Chapman & Oxley.  The opening of the gates were in attendance by the Prince of Wales and his brother, Prince George in 1927!

Goddess of Winged Victory
There are 9 pillars on either side of the centre of the arch and each one represents the participating province of the Confederation (Newfoundland later join in 1949).  I suspect by that time, an extra arch was not a necessary addition esthetically or functionally.

A very familiar and distinct figurehead on top of the arch, is the "Goddess of Winged Victory" this was sculpted by Charles Mckechnie and underwent some major restoration in 1987.

The Princes' Gates (often mispronounced as Princess Gates - myself included) were designated as historically significant under the Ontario Heritage Act later in 1987.  These gates marked the first place of our Heritage tour with much more interesting historical buildings, monuments, plaques and pavilions to follow.

Military Burial Ground Historical Site (Heritage Walk)

The earliest stone and unmarked now
This cemetery had opened in 1860.  It was third military burial ground in Toronto.  This cemetery opened in 1860 and was the third military burial ground in Toronto. It replaced one situated a short distance to the west, which was abandoned after a few burials and the bodies were moved to this location. The last known internment here was in 1911.

Scadding Cabin (Heritage Walk)

saw this cute little critter on the fence
The Scadding cabin is Toronto's oldest surviving house.  It was built in 1794 for John Scadding during the first years of the British settlement.  He was a government clerk and a good friend of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe.  He also accompanied Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe to Upper Canada in 1792.

A lakeview
The original location of the cabin was on the east bank of the Don River on a 253-acre land grant that stretched from present day Lake Ontario to present day Danforth Avenue.  John had lived there until he went back to England with the Simcoes in 1796.

When he returned to York in 1818, he sold the cabin and the land to a farmer named William Smith who then used it as an outbuilding.  In 1879 the cabin was offered to the York Pioneer Association.

In an early act of Toronto heritage preservation, the York Pioneers dismantled the cabin and then reassembled it on the exhibition grounds as part of the celebrations marking the inauguration of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (now the Canadian National Exhibition). In 1986, the cabin was designated as historically significant under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Fort Rouille and Shrine Monument (Heritage Walk)

You might have noticed along Lakeshore Blvd. (on the far western edge of the Exhibition Grounds) a modest sized monument about 8 metres high.  It was erected in 1986 and served as a depiction of Fort Rouille, a trading post from 1950 - 1759 when the threat of English invasion forced its destruction.

Built by the French in 1750-51, it was demolished by the French in a sad twist of irony.  Nine years later, a small-sized obelisk was placed to mark the spot of the Fort.  There was an excavation performed in 1979 -1980 by the Historical Society and again in 1982 by the Youth Committee which comprised of over 50 youths.  The excavating project was over seen by professional archeologists and funded by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Board of Education.

The sky was so temperamental and unpredictable, within an hour it went from mild sun, to wild snow and wind.   Made for interesting photos though.

Next to the Obelisk of Fort Rouille is a Shrine Monument, known as the 'Peace Memorial' .

Like the name, it carries a totally different symbolic purpose.  On June 12, 1930 the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine  presented to the people of Canada this bronze statue to commemorate over 100 years of peaceful relations between Canada and the United States.   The statue geographically faces the Niagara River, which forms part of the Canada-United States border.

Cathedral of the Transfiguration

You would think that something so breathtakingly gorgeous as this is would be appreciated and revered every day. 

It was like an abandoned work of art sitting in a field of dirt and rocks.  It was so sad to see.  No one was around to see me admire it.  No one came out of their cookie-cutout homes. Row after row of urbanization and development.  No children playing, no trees or birds in sight.  Not a soul around.  It was like everything stood still here.  In a sense it did... still and forgotten.

This was the Cathedral of the Transfiguration in amongst a cascade of rows of street lamps.  A vision of Stephen Boleslav Roman, who was a Slovak immigrant who conceived and funded the cathedral in hopes of serving 5,000 worshippers of Byzantine Roman Catholics across the GTA of the 35,000 across Canada.

He designed the building based on the structure of a church in the village he was raised in called, Vel'ky Ruskov, in Slovakia.  With the help of a famous architect Dennis Buttress who lend a hand in the design of the famed Westminster Abbey, the cathedral was built.  He imported French-made bells, the largest of which are over 16 tons and 3m in diameter.  The mosaics contain over 5 million tiles.  The tower rises over 63 metres high (20 storeys) and topped with a gold onion dome, which can be seen from quite a distance.  Sometimes when the sun hits it, it will glitter like a star. 

Here is where the story takes a turn: in 2006 John Pazak, who was head of Byzantine rite Slovak Catholics in Canada, had removed the blessed sacrament and the the altar stone from the cathedral.  The bishop suspended permission for his priest to celebrate Mass in the former cathedral and even went as far as to ask the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto to disallow Roman rite to perform Mass here.

The bishop's decision was based on the being unable to arrive at a sustainable working relationship with the Slovak Catholic Church Foundation, which owns the property.

I have seen this towering 22karat-gold onion-domed cathedral for years while traveling north on Highway 404, but have never come this close to it.  The other day by chance I saw the tower shining like a beacon in the twilight.  While the tones of the sky looked ominous with blues and greys, and hues salmon and yellow peeking behind the already setting sun, it called to me.  I had taken the time to get a closer look.  I guess this is one way of expressing that all that glitters isn't gold.

Final Note: Roman died of a heart attack in 1988, and did not see the cathedral completed. His funeral service was held in the partially completed structure, with 1600 people in attendance

Bruce's Mill Conservation Area

 Here's another trail I came across lately called the Bruce's Mill Conservation Area.  It's a little out of the GTA, north of of the core in Stouffville (Whitchurch and 404).  It's also a little late in the year now, but opens again in early March of 2014.

There are over 92 hectares which includes over 10 km of hiking trails, a driving range, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, and a pool.  This would be an awesome day trip for schools or family picnics.

I parked at the gate and walked around as far in as I could, but night was coming fast (despite the look of these pictures, darkness fell within half hour of taking them). I loved the house at the east of the front gate, so had to take some photos of that.

There is a splash pool called Bruce's Splash Pond, which is a hit in the summer months.  It must have been gorgeous in autumn with all the hardwood forests changing colours.  There are events here including pony rides, country bakes and a display of steam engines as well.

In the spring when the Conservation area opens there is a Maplefest at the Sugarbush.  Here's a video I found highlighting the festivities which start in early March when the park opens up again:  Bruce's Mill Sugarbush Maple Syrup

I don't know why, but I took this photo of this sign, which simply read "Humphrey A.W. Miles..Woodland, A Living Tribute".  Naturally since I love history so much I looked up who Humphrey A.W. Miles was, and found this link  To me, this seems almost like a marketing ploy, an advertisement for their business.  Either way, here it is.

I love this picture, with the lonely terracotta pot.  Maybe it's the sky in the foreground or maybe it's just the colors of the picture.  

If you are ever in the area of Stouffville, this offers quite a nice day trip to nature.