Category Archives: Travel

ALLEN GARDENS OFFERS BEAUTIFUL HOT-HOUSE FLOWERS IN HEART OF TORONTO

20150111_145237I recently enjoyed a quick trip to paradise…or at least the closest thing we have here in Toronto’s grey, chilly downtown core.  Allen Gardens is a series of botanical greenhouses offering a variety of climates from tropical to desert and I always welcome the opportunity to wander through the pathways breathing in the fragrances or spotting the unique and beautiful blooms.  I managed to catch the tale end of their Christmas displays so there were tons of poinsettias in all shades of red, pink, yellow and event white (below) and there were even some “flower people”, too.

20150111_144322 20150111_144747 20150111_144020 20150111_144030I then took a stroll through the cactus & succulent collection (below) with all the prickly stems and hot dry atmosphere….

20150111_144354 20150111_144422 20150111_144505 20150111_144609…and on the way back, I took in the beautiful hibiscus and a few random plant decorations (below)

20150111_144249 20150111_144210 20150111_144305 20150111_144315Passing through the big palm house, I then went into the area with the ponds, statues and lots more flowers, including some stunning orchids.

20150111_144909 20150111_145053 20150111_145226 20150111_145337They have a charming pond that’s populated with koi as well as a few turtles who decided to make an appearance just as I passed by….

20150111_145319 20150111_145423Throughout the greenhouses, I found a number of festively decorated Christmas trees (below)

20150111_144901 20150111_145503After about 30 minutes of enjoying the floral beauty, I headed back outside, past a few more pretty flower beds…

20150111_145443 20150111_144102 20150111_144845…then back up Jarvis Street, passing by the beautiful old Victorian/Edwardian houses on my way home.

20150111_143202(0) 20150111_143237All in all, a lovely way to spend a grey old winter’s afternoon in Toronto.

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For information and hours, please visit: http://bit.ly/1u5PKc6

 

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CHEF WHO RAN WILD PRESENTS INT’L PHOTOGRAPHIC ART SHOW & NOT-SO-TAME CATERING

I’m thrilled to announce the upcoming exhibition of LYNDON WIEBE‘s photographic art Lost In Travels: Solitary Confinement at URBAN GALLERY, 400 Queen St East, Toronto, which opens Thurs. January 15th with a special reception for media and art fans.  See: http://www.urbangallery.ca for details

Lyndo- HEAD SHOT6Along with two other chef friends, Lyndon (pictured above) starred in the CHEFS RUN WILD TV series which has been broadcast on APTN and Travel+Escape TV networks in Canada as well as 40 countries worldwide on the National Geographic Channel. On their featured two-year trip, he discovered his love of photography. The photos in this exhibition were taken over several years of travel in Asia, Africa, Canada and New Zealand. The show will run from Jan. 15th to February 28th.

I recently asked Lyndon a few questions about his photography, travel and culinary passions:

What prompted you to undertake your “chefs run wild” reality series & why did you choose to take 2 others with you?
Well, originally we wanted to create our own web-based food and travel series which became Without Borders. We had all been travelling for years and thought this might be our last big epic adventure so we decided to do something different. We were tired of simply travelling and drinking and doing the usual adventures, not that there is anything wrong with it as we did it for years but we wanted to take advantage of our knowledge of food and expand it and come home with a different experience. At the end of the day it would not hurt our resumes or our repertoire of food knowledge. After making over fifty YouTube videos and winning several awards in the U.S. for Best Food & Travel series on the web, we were starting to get noticed and our production value went up. Marcus Samuelsson (who is a well known celebrity chef) used to show our videos all the time on his own website and promote them for us because he loved them. Eventually our footage was bought from us and commissioned into a 15-episode series called Chefs Run Wild here in Canada on the Travel + Escape Network. (Lyndon is pictured below, right)

1380782_10151909619221014_1362482927_nWhat life-changing events did you experience while travelling around the world?
I spent seven years of my life abroad so it’s hard to pinpoint certain experiences. I think in general, all of those experiences helped me become a better person. Traveling taught me patience and understanding. If you have neither you will have a hard time in some countries. It taught me that slow is better and you don’t always need to rush. You appreciate things more when you can actually relax and take it all in. (Masai tribesman, Africa, pictured below)

Invitation Image Masai Tribesman TanzaniaYou’re originally from Winnipeg – what brought you to Toronto?
After travelling and undertaking the Without Borders adventure I decided to move back to Winnipeg. I knew after a few years I had to go to a bigger city, so was set to move to Vancouver to live with my brother on the coast when my producer suggested I move here to Toronto as the TV networks were all here as well as the production studio. So it made sense as we were doing a whole bunch of media interviews and spots to promote the show in Toronto. After moving here to give it a try, I fell in love with the city and have been here for three years now.

When/how did you come to work at UrbanSource Creative Catering?
I started at Urban Source in March of 2011. I had moved to Toronto six months prior to promote the TV show and had been slowly looking for work but no longer wished to work in restaurants – they no longer appealed to me with the long hours and dismal pay. I had done some catering in Calgary before and I liked it so I thought I would send out some resumes to different catering houses. Urban responded and when I went in for an interview, it turns out they were hiring a head chef and I felt up to the task.

How do you describe your cooking style?
Very loose and playful, I would say. I’m not rigid when it comes to following recipes unless it’s baking which  needs a little more attention. I like comfort foods, braised dishes and love smoking my own meats and making my own pickles. I prefer simple, well presented flavours that are evenly matched and not too bold unless they need to be.

ArtofFood14Do you have plans for expanding your culinary skills or do you plan on opening your own restaurant one day?
I try new recipes all the time when I’m at home and at work when the time allows and the ingredients are available in the kitchen. As for my personal ventures, I do love teaching people how to cook and do personal lessons from time to time in the comfort of their own home over a glass of wine. I used to volunteer at The Stop Community food centre teaching kids how to cook in an after-school program and I loved it. As for the immediate future, I will continue to offer lessons and small dinner parties whenever I get the chance.

Your travel photos are stunning and will be shown at Urban Gallery Jan.15 to Feb 28th – how did you select which photos are shown and why?
Going through all of my photos over the years, the ones that really made an impression on me were the ones that gave a sense of loneliness and isolation even in a busy environment, so I decided to choose the ones that put me in that sense of calmness and reflectiveness when I look at them.

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Apart from the large prints hung on the gallery walls, can people purchase other prints?
Absolutely – people can order a smaller print size, if they so choose. This is my first exhibition and if it goes well there will be more to follow.

Any exciting new travels planned for the near future?
My girlfriend and I are off to Cuba for a friend’s wedding in April and other than that, maybe a trip to the Bahamas or somewhere warm with my family this year. I no longer desire the six-month trips abroad. A month is more than enough for me now.

ARTIST’S STATEMENT:  Lost In Travels: Solitary Confinement looks at feelings of isolation in the world around us. Even in a group, we are still alone in our thoughts. Nature can make us feel isolated when it opens itself up to us – the more surreal and beautiful the moment, the more removed from our surroundings we become, lostin thoughts of awe and wonder.    Lyndon Wiebe 2014

Urban Gallery hours:
Monday-Saturday noon  to 5pm
Thursdays noon to 8pm
Closed Sundays & Holidays
400 Queen St East in the historic Corktown district of  downtown Toronto   http://www.urbangallery.ca

UrbanSource Creative Catering: http://www.urbancatering.com/

 

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FESTIVE SUNDAY STROLL IN DOWNTOWN TORONTO

It was a grey old day in Toronto but unseasonably warm, and having suffered with severe bronchitis over the past 10 days, I really needed some outdoor exercise so on went the good walking shoes and I headed down Yonge Street (the longest street in the world, apparently) to take in the Christmassy sights.

20141130_130611 20141130_130641My first stop for quick snaps was the gorgeous old College Park building which still has a number of its original bronze light fixtures (above) and architectural details in tact. when I first arrived in Toronto in the mid-70’s, this was a big department store called Eatons, with many floors of clothes, furniture, home decor, toys and haberdashery – it even had a wooden escalator which, I’m told, is still there hidden behind false walls. The building has been converted into stores, offices and condos – sad but that’s progress for you. If you look up and also up close you’ll notice beautiful carvings and bronze roundels (below)

20141130_130702 20141130_130803A few blocks further down and I came to the Yonge-Dundas Square, a gathering place for tourists, students and shoppers, and today there was a community event promoting drug-free student life with all sorts of exhibits and displays (below)…..

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20141130_131623 20141130_131617… sadly, all I could smell in the air around the area was dope!! At least the folks in the Square were doing their best. Surrounding this square is a mass of billboards and advertising hoardings, sorta like a mini Times Square…and the famed Hard Rock Cafe (below)

20141130_131758 20141130_131856 20141130_131921Moving further down Yonge St, I walked past the stunning Elgin Theatre (below) where the annual Christmas pantomime Cinderella was playing. Look at this magnificent entrance….

20141130_132035Last night, the annual lighting of the city’s official Christmas Tree took place – this year I stayed in bed with a box of tissues, Buckley’s cough medicine and crap on TV, so as I wasn’t able to enjoy the entertainment and fireworks in person, I decided to pop over to Nathan Philips Square and take a few shots of the tree, City Hall & the skating rink in daylight and without all the crowds.

20141130_132827 20141130_132850 20141130_132921Heading to Yonge Street along Queen Street I looked at the festive windows of The Bay department store – how cute are these?

20141130_133300 20141130_133411 20141130_133424 20141130_133442In the store’s display windows at the corner of Queen & Yonge I found these cute sheep promoting the store’s own traditional blankets and colours….

20141130_133554 20141130_133600 20141130_133617As I walked back up Yonge, I noticed a large tent with signs saying it was a pop-up Christmas market featuring local artisans and craftspeople so I popped in for a quick look-see and the first vendors I met were a delightful couple featuring African hand-crafted cushions, carvings and other home decor pieces.

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Jean-Renaud (above left) and Kalinka (above right) told me about the beautiful cushion covers that Kalinka designs – leather corners and heavy cotton with stunning tribal prints. She is an interior decorator (Klemya Interior Decoration) as well as designer [ http://www.klemya.com ]  Jean-Renaud (JR) heads up a company called mTIDI which represents beautiful handcrafted items from Cameroon [ http://www.mTIDI.ca ].  Directly behind them was Rococoa Chocolates, a local chocolatier with delicious treats including these dark chocolate pearls…

20141130_140701…and (below) chocolate covered Oreo Cookies…complete decadence! http://www.rococoa.ca

20141130_140729I started feeling a bit fatigued – this was my first real outing since being in bed for 3 straight days) – so decided to grab the subway home. Caught myself in the mirrored advertising display at Yonge & Bloor subway station…hmm, not looking too worse for wear, eh?

20141130_144139I more block to go before bed and a nice cuppa tea. One more photo opp of the Christmas tree 1 block from home.

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Whew! Made it…am now sitting down, watching The King’s Speech on TV and enjoying a nice refreshing mug of Earl Grey tea.  And how was your Sunday afternoon?

 

 

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QUICK VISIT TO ST. LAWRENCE MARKET, TORONTO

Last Saturday, I made a flying visit down to Toronto‘s historic St.Lawrence Market  to meet up with a friend for lunch. While I waited for her, I snapped a few shots that show how wonderful the market is, even in overcast weather!

20141101_105156I walked therefrom the King subway, past the Scott Street location of one of my first jobs in the city in the mid-70’s – Royal Insurance (Investment dept.) and, woe and behold, the building has been brought down and another bloody condo is under construction (below)

20141101_104606 20141101_104641At least the gorgeous old Flatiron Bldg (below) is still standing – they take a wrecking ball to that and there will be thousands lined up in front!

20141101_10485420141101_105006So many wonderful century warehouses and buildings line the streets around the St. Lawrence Market, sadly most have been unsympathetically converted into tacky stores and chain restaurants, but if you look up, you can still “feel” the vibe of the 18th and 19th centuries.

20141101_104958 20141101_105057The north market, a newer 20th century building (and pretty ugly, too) is home to the weekly Saturday “farmers’ market” and ongoing Sunday antique markets – here are some sights I snapped prior to my lunch.

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20141101_105611Sometimes it’s fun to play “tourist” in your own city…I encourage you all to do the same. I’m off to Chinatown next so will make sure my Samsung Galaxy is fully charged for snapping quick pics for you!

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TAKE A STROLL ALONG TORONTO’S WATERFRONT

20141018_143759It’s been a blustery old day today with big grey clouds chasing each other across the Toronto sky…my favourite kinda afternoon to spend down on the city’s lakefront. I started off by taking the streetcar to the beautiful “Music Garden” at the bottom of Spadina Ave. The gently rolling landscaped grounds offered up visual treasures around each turn of the path…..

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Yaaaar, matey! I played pirate with the Empire Sandy, one of our famous tall ships that are pressed into service every summer, ferrying tourists on booze cruises around the inner harbour and islands.

20141018_130554My personal opinion….leave those damn fish alone! Too much mercury, I don’t care what anyone says.

20141018_130731Found another of the tall ships tied up and getting ready to wait out the snow and ice of the coming winter.

20141018_131103As I walked east towards Queen’s Quay, I passed by the emergency rescue & water police services and was greeted by this pretty tree wearing its fall red coat…then around the corner I saw the moving memorial (The Last Alarm) to those who lost their lives during rescues.

20141018_131249 20141018_131421 20141018_131452How incredible does the waterfront look here? Wow…and all the colours of the boat hulls, up ended and stored for the winter. Love the photo with the lone gull standing guard (bottom)…I call this shot “The Sentinel”…LOL

20141018_131510 20141018_131654 20141018_131819 20141018_131842 20141018_131906As I watched these two yachts (below) battle the wind, I wished I could be out there, all very Moby Dick of me….or was I looking for my Gilligan moment?!

20141018_131935Sooooo……I took a cruise! One of those touristy 1hr boat rides around the islands and along the waterfront that was only $25. Best twenty five bucks I’d spent in a long time. Nice bunch of fellow sightseers, cheery crew and the scenery was magnificent, don’t ya think?

20141018_140202 20141018_140749 20141018_141411 20141018_143712 20141018_143931 20141018_145135This is an adventure anyone can have, especially if you’re bored, alone and have a limited budget. The walk along the waterfront looking at all the beautiful plants and tress and boats cost me nothing and if you don’t want to spend a lot on a guided cruise, hop on one of the Ward’s Island ferries that run throughout the fall and winter months. Ahoy, matey, Gilligan and Skipper would be proud of you!

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CANADIAN COMEDY AWARDS – THE WINNERS & THE COOL MOMENTS BACKSTAGE

So the CCA’s are done and dusted for another year….big congrats to awards Founder Tim Progosh and his team of producers, volunteers and particularly to my PR colleague, Jennifer Murray, whose Twitter fingers must be crippled after posting almost a thousand tweets over the 5-day Festival period and the lead-up weeks. Bravo, everyone!  Here is a list of the winners and photos from backstage after the presentations. For more info, please visit the website:  www.canadiancomedy.ca and follow them on Facebook and Twitter, too. Below, Tim poses with Cathy Jones (l), his sister and the Ottawa’s hometown boy, Mike MacDonald (r).

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And Tim welcomed Paul Hartman (below) who was on hand to present a special award in his brother’s name – “The Phil Hartman Comedy Award” later that evening.

Tim with Paul H

So many cheers and tears but everyone had such a blast. Many of the comedians, comic actors, improvisers, writers and directors had not met before as the winners came from across the country – from BC to Nfld!

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THE WINNERS 2014

1) Comedy Person of the Year                                  Dave Foley

2) Best Feature Film                                                   Lawrence & Holloman

3) Best Writing in a Feature                                        Jeremy LaLonde – Sex After Kids

4) Best Comedy Special or Short                               Torturous

5) Best Male Performance in a Feature                     Jon Dore – Stag

6) Best Female Performance in a Feature                 Ingrid Haas – That Burning Feeling

7) Best Audio Show or Series                                     Stop Podcasting Yourself

8) Best Audio Clip                                                       Bee Circus

9) Best Web Series                                                     Convos With My 2-Year-Old

10) Best Direction in a Web Series     Mike Fly & Simon Fraser –The Dark Night Versus Valerie – Versus Valerie Ep. 10

11) Best Writing in a Web Series         Bob Kerr – Acting Class– But I’m Chris Jericho! Ep 104

12) Best Female Performance in a Web Series        Kayla Lorette – Everyone’s Famous

13) Best Male Performance in a Web Series             Scott Thompson – But I’m Chris Jericho!

14) Best Breakout Artist                                              Ken Hall

15) Best Taped Live Performance                             Darrin Rose – Just For Laughs All Access

16) Best Male Stand up                                              Chris Locke

17) Best Female Stand up                                          DeAnne Smith

18) Best Sketch Troupe                                              Peter ‘n’ Chris

19) Best Improv Troupe                                              The Sufferettes

20) Best Male Improvisor                                           Adam Cawley

21) Best Female Improvisor                                       Kayla Lorette

22) Best Variety Act                                                    Morro and Jasp

23) Best Comedic Play, Revue or Series                  Peter n’ Chris Explore Their Bodies

24) Best One Person Show                                        Weaksauce

25) Best TV Show                                                       This Hour Has 22 Minutes season XXI

26) Best Direction In a TV Series          Nathan Fielder– Gas Station/Caricature Artist – Nathan For You #103

27) Best Writing in a TV Series or Special                 Nathan Fielder-Gas Station/Caricature Artist – Nathan For You #103

28) Best Female Performance in a TV Series           Nikki Payne – Satisfaction

29) Best Male Performance in a TV Series               Nathan Fielder – Nathan For You

SPECIAL AWARDS

Phil Hartman Award:                                                  Kenny Robinson

Dave Broadfoot Award:                                              Ron James

Roger Abbott Award:                                                  Kyra Williams & Gary Rideout Jr.

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Am so proud that my friend Kenny Robinson was presented with the Phil Hartman Comedy Award. I’ve known and worked with Kenny since the 80’s and he was always reliable and one of the most respectful and respected stand-up comics I’ve ever worked with. Kenny was truly surprised and touched by this award….congrats, big guy, this honour is so well deserved.

20140914_202917 20140914_202957 Paul & Kenny

Phil made the rounds and schmoozed with all the stars – yes, some of the late great comedian’s ashes are in the award itself. Here, Paul introduces “Phil” to Ron James, Scott Thompson, Tom Green and Ben Miner (below)

Paul & Ron Paul & Scott Paul & Tom Ben Miner w Paul

We had the wonderful Mr. Hollywood (Matt Demers) and his crew shooting interviews for the Awards gala at the Ottawa Little Theatre – a great theatre offering professional tech support, box office, bar staff and a beautifully appointed soft-seat auditorium.

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Thanks so much, Matt, Jessica and Kyle http://mrhollywood.net/ – you can sub-in for ET Canada anytime!

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Lots of activity before the show – lots of schmoozing, comparing jokes, and cocktails!!

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…and then the lights flickers and the bells chimed…it’s SHOW TIME!

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“Ladies and gentlemen, your host…..Tom Green!” And so the Awards began and nominees and winners streamed backstage for their photo opps.

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Even the Founder of Yuk Yuk’s and the “godfather of Canadian stand-up” Mark Breslin enjoyed the sponsored backstage refreshments!

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So it’s congratulations to everyone and a big thank-you to Ottawa for making us all feel welcome.

Jennifer and I headed back to Toronto yesterday afternoon, courtesy of our travel sponsor VIA Rail and I think this pic of Jenn taken at the station sums it up well – tired but very happy that everything worked out well.

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Thanks to CTV Ottawa for all your awesome support with interviews and on-site news cameras, radio TSN1200 for having comedian Graham Kay sit in on your sports show and thanks to the Courtyard Marriott who helped out with ongoing WiFi assistance.

Kudos to all the club venues – their patient and hospitable staff and mgmn’t – for hosting multiple shows: Yuk Yuk’s, Absolute Comedy, Arts Court, The Velvet Room, Great Canadian Cabin and PPL

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So it’s goodbye from me…and goodbye from them!

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EARLY MORNING WALK AROUND OTTAWA

Woke up early so thought I’d take a brisk walkies around the city. Needed some exercise since I’d been sat on my duff all week, Facebooking, Tweeting and media pitching for the Cdn Comedy Awards – the “Beavers” are given out tonight.

20140914_095820I love the statures and sculptures around the city…this HUGE spider (above) is in front of the National Gallery. Directly opposite ipsy-wipsy was a beautiful heritage building and a stunning Catholic church (below)

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There’s so much green space, I was very impressed. And how wonderful to be alone…only sharing the scene with a couple of very horny squirrels!

20140914_100329 20140914_100354 20140914_100434 20140914_100444A herd of joggers (above) went by, but other than them, still nobody in the park at 9am Sunday.

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20140914_100938Loved this statue of John By (below)…but a QR code slapped on the front? Oh come on now.

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The British Lt. Colonel By was one of the greatest early engineers in Canada. He built the 200 km Rideau Canal.

More beautiful vistas of the Parliament Buildings…

20140914_100716 20140914_101038Then a quick breakfast stop at Mello’s on Dalhousie Street (best freakin’ bacon ever!)…

20140914_104107…and an even quicker nibble on my first Ottawa “Beavertail”…way too sweet but when in Rome…

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One more day then it’s back to reality on Toronto – big art/food event on Thursday at Urban Gallery with Whisky & Spice, then launching/promoting Shelley Marshall’s “Hold Mommy’s Cigarette” 28-day run in Toronto. I guess this morning’s “touristy” walk was my only vacation this year!

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