Friday, August 31, 2012

Loblaws @Maple Leaf Gardens

When I finally visited the gorgeous Loblaws inside the revamped Maple Leaf Gardens, I was greeting by a welcoming grocer praising his merchandise, laptop in hand, in the produce section. As I got closer, I realized I actually was looking at the clip of a grocer projected on a screen, a cutout shaped as a life-size man!

As a reminder of the building's original purpose (the Leafs won eleven Stanley Cups from 1932 to 1967 while playing at the Gardens), an artwork was commissioned. By the entrance, look up for the huge maple leaf made out of reclaimed stadium chairs.

This Loblaws is visually unique, and bigger than the others (even the one at Portland and King). It includes an inviting sushi bar, a gorgeous Ace bakery, a yummy cupcake counter, lots of take-out options and a high wall of cheese.

It is worth the detour, just a few minutes walk from Yonge and College (where you'll find a Winners).
If you walk around the Winners building, you'll get to seen the vast reflecting pool in College Park.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Huge splash pad at Petticoat Creek Pickering (and a cliff trail)

Last weekend, I revisited Petticoat Creek C.A. in Pickering to have a look at their new pool and splash section before it closes for the season (September 3). I also took the time to explore the surroundings and found out the park includes a fantastic cliff trail.

Last time I was there was probably 15 years ago! Gone is the huge wading pool of my kids' childhood (but don't cry, you can still enjoy the one in Bronte Creek Provincial Park).

It's been replaced by three very big wading pools (which I'm sure feel like three big lakes to explore from a toddler's point of view) and a shallow pool with one beach-like access. Next to these four pools, they've added a huge splash pad, not unlike any good splash pad you'd find in a municipal park but bigger (which must look like a "rain forest" to the young kids).
With older kids, I suggest you explore the cliff trail before heading to the pool. As you walk towards the lake from the parking lot, you'll meet the paved bike trail. To your left, you'll notice a dirt trail getting closer to the edge. Follow it to access a gorgeous trail under the shadow of trees with great panorama overlooking... the Pickering Nuclear Generating Centre. It reaches the paved trail again further east.

If you walk 30-minutes (2 kms) eastbound, you'll reach the secluded and great beach of Frenchman's Bay Park.

We were there on a gorgeous Saturday and there was plenty of FREE parking spaces in a parking lot off Beachpoint Promenade just before the beach as well as along the dirt road between the bay and the lake. Next time, we will park there, do the cliff trail, grab an ice cream cone at the truck in front of the pool area in Petticoat Creek, and return for a dip into the lake. (A sign specifies the waters are not to be trusted within two days following a rainfall.)

• You have UNTIL SEPTEMBER 3 to enjoy the water attraction. The park itself is open until October 8, 2012.
• The park admission is $6.50/adults, $5.50/seniors and it's free for kids 15 years and under. Pool access is $4.75 per person ($2.75 if you're a TRCA Parks member) and it's free for kids 2 years and under.
• To get to Frenchman's Bay Park, follow Petticoat Creek's cliff trail eastbound. You'll come across a steal bridge which runs over the stream of Petticoat Creek. Then walk through the private trail at the foot of Marksbury Road (everybody does) and take the first street on your right out of the private trail (called Beachpoint Promenade). You'll see many entrances to the beach. Parking spaces are at the end of this road.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In kayak around Toronto Islands (girlfriends outing)

We get a very different point of view of a place when we stroll through it rather than simply drive by. Now, try exploring it in a kayak for yet another take of the site. I just did, exploring Toronto Islands, and it was something!

This week, thanks to a friend who owns two kayaks, I got caught in a bottleneck of water lilies. I caught a crawfish with my paddle (as I was fighting my way through the lilies). I enjoyed a ballet of dragonflies. I chilled with a white crane while eating cherries. I also came across the Log Ness Monster but that's another story (you can check the photos of a recent post on my French blog). 

As we paddled along the canals, we could read some funny names on the mooring boats (such as AppropriYatch and Breakin' Wind). At one point, sliding past majestic weeping willows, I couldn't believe we were so close to downtown Toronto.  (But the sound of boats and planes was a good reminder.) 

West of Centre Island's ferry dock, I counted close to 100 white swams by the shore!

Can't reach it on a boat

If you have a look at City of Toronto's map of the Islands, between #23 and  Long Pond (to the right of the 4 little people in a canoe), you'll notice a small bay including a circle of greenery. You can only access this spot (where the water is less than 15 cm deep) on a canoe or a kayak. That's where you'll find cranes and crawfish amidst the water lilies. 

This little bay is 15 minutes away (paddling) from the Boat Rental building. (See building on the left hand side of the map)

Kayak or canoe rental

No need to have a friend who owns two to enjoy a kayak ride around Toronto Islands (I know, I'm lucky!). You can rent one at the Boat Rental place, a two-minute walk east of the large white bridge in Centre Island, or at HarbourFront Canoe and Kayak Centre.

I've seen a few kayaks amidst the canoes and paddleboats at the Boat Rental. Unfortunately, I could not find rental fees on the City of Toronto's page on Toronto Islands (go figure!). I can only recommand you go straight to the rental as you get on Centre Island to reserve the next one  available. Allow two hours for a good ride along the canals.

At HarbourFront Canoe and Kayak Centre, you could share a double-seat kayak in tandem with a friend, $85 for the day. It will take you approx. 20 minutes to paddle to the Islands. Bring a picnic in a plastic bag, and go have lunch in the middle of the water lilies.

More blogs about Toronto Islands:
8 TIPS: Toronto Islands with teenagers
5 TIPS: Toronto Islands with older kids
5 TIPS: Toronto Islands with younger kids

Monday, August 20, 2012

Beachway Park: Family outing for August 20-26

Feeling guilty because the summer is winding down and you haven't found the time to take the kids to the beach? The family outing suggestion this week on is the long beach with narrow water of Beachway Park in Burlington.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Art in a forest near Mont Tremblant

If you intend to be around Mont Tremblant in Québec between now and mid-October, you've got to include a visit to Val-David and its amazing Jardins du Précambrien.

Val-David is less than one-hour drive away from Mont Tremblant. It is one of the cutest places in the vicinity, with the P'tit Train du Nord passing through (a fantastic initiative which turned a train track into a 230-km biking and hiking linear park ), little restaurants, bike and canoe rentals.

As if it weren't enough, it includes the best outdoor art installations I've seen in Quebec and Ontario: Les Jardins du Précambrien. Nested in a vast precambrian forest (from the times when the first forms of life appeared on Earth), the attraction offers a series of marked trails amidst trees and boulders.

You never know what awaits around the corner, which makes it the perfect outing with kids. The whole experience turns into a treasure hunt. They'll walk 4-5 kms without realizing it. It took us 2 hours to tour the whole thing at a leisure pace. You'll need more time if you want to read all the info posted throughout the site.

As a picture is worth a thousand words, see my photos of some of the best installations.
The Foundation Derouin is behind this project. René Derouin is a fabulous (and highly rated) artist whose work you can admire in the adjacent art gallery.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's a sign: Toronto signs with attitude

I saw these two signs on the same glorious weekend. Two different attitudes...

Which one are you? Ed's or Firkin?