Sunday, June 30, 2013 Home

Celebrate Summer with Minnesota's State Flower

A quick trip out to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum included an unexpected treat: Minnesota's state flower, the showy lady's slipper (cypripedium reginae), in bloom. 
These are rarely seen gems in the wild, so it was great to see big clumps of them in bloom at the arboretum.

They will still be blooming for a few more days (and there may be some in bloom at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Gardens), but you need to act fast if you want to see them this year.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013 Home

Brookfield Place, Toronto

There are clues that something amazing awaits within even before you enter Brookfield Place in downtown Toronto. (Hint: Look up.)
 
This would have been just another of many towering downtown office/commercial centers were it not for the fact that the exterior canopy becomes the soaring Santiago Calatrava-designed atrium (the Allen Lambert Galleria) linking the two towers.
 
As if this soaring cathedral of glass weren’t enough, the façade of the 1845 Merchants' Bank was reconstructed within, creating an odd interplay between the traditional stone building and the web of steel and glass in which it resides. It brings a bit of warmth to the space, humanizing it a bit more and making it a more welcoming respite.
 
 
The atrium was created to comply with a requirement that public art be incorporated into the development, with Calatrava’s design selected through a competitive process. The result is proof positive that government design and public art requirements can have a significant impact on the urban form and livability. Done well, it can be amazing.


Photographing Toronto

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Exploring Toronto

My 2013 visit to Toronto was a revelation: I discovered an attractive, vital city where I remembered only a concrete desert of hulking buildings, parking lots, and highways. Ok, I also recall wonderful paintings by the Group of Seven (particularly the boards they painted in the field) and the delightful Bata Shoe Museum, so it wasn't all bad. But I wasn’t in any hurry to return.

Turns out I waited much too long to give Toronto a second look.

Today’s Toronto is a lively, dynamic, multicultural city that seems to offer a high quality of life for its residents and a wealth of activities for visitors. I loved it from the moment we rolled into town during a downpour.

This latest visit gave me a chance to explore a few of the city's offerings, but this provides just a sample of what’s available.

Exploring Toronto: May/June 2013

Museums and Attractions 
  • CN Tower
  • Casa Loma
  • Art Gallery of Ontario
  • Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art 
  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • Toronto-Dominion Gallery of Inuit Art   
  • Textile Museum
  • McMichael Canadian Art Collection
  • Allen Gardens
 Architecture
Dining

Cruising the Harbor and Toronto Islands

The Distillery District

Construction Crazy: City of Cranes

I Spy the CN Tower

A vibrant downtown

Getting Around


The Travel Diary
May 29, 2013
Daily Snapshots
  
May 30 (Thursday)

May 31, 2013

June 1, 2013
June 2 afternoon
June 3

TBEX Toronto


Photo Thursday
An Old Door in Toronto (June 6, 2013)

Need a Little Space at the Bar? - Brookfield Place (June 20, 2013)



Return Trips: Museums and More (May 26, 2013)



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Thursday, June 20, 2013 Home

Photo Thursday: Need a Little Extra Space at the Bar?

Here's the answer for all of you with limited counter space - suspend your bar from the ceiling! 
(Taken inside Brookfield Place in downtown Toronto.)

This is my contribution to Travel Photo Thursday at Nancie's Budget Traveler's Sandbox. Head on over to see what she's posted this week and then follow the links to images from around the world.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013 Home

Bacon Tempura at Ki in Toronto, Canada

Ki is an upscale Japanese restaurant with several locations in Canada, including one in Brookfield Place in downtown Toronto.

It’s hard to miss if you happen to be in the area: If you’re outside you’ll notice the cheerful crowd in the restaurant’s leafy patio; if you’re indoors, you’ll stop to admire the restaurant’s dramatic glass-trimmed entryway just inside the Santiago Calatrava-designed atrium. 
Drama seems to be part of the theme at this elegant bar and restaurant. It has a subdued, but striking, décor and a tempting Nuevo Japanese menu. There is nothing bland or ordinary to be found here.

We chose the sake-sake (sake-cured salmon tartare with tobiko, wasabi crème fraiche and shrimp crisps) and the tempura bacon (yes, delicately battered and fried bacon) from a menu that offered many, many delicious sounding bites. 
The bacon was good, but maybe it is possible to have too much of a good thing, as the salmon was fabulous!

It’s not cheap, but everything was really good: our food, the food heading to other tables, the beverage selection, the service, and the atmosphere. I’m not surprised that both the patio and bar/dining areas were filled with customers as the work day ended -- happy hour at Ki would be a delightful way to end the work day.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013 Home

Photo Thursday: Old Barn in Rural Minnesota

I love old barns. I came across this one while driving through central Minnesota the other day.  
The landscape is still peppered with these wonderful old buildings, but every year there are a few less as they are abandoned for modern structures which are less picturesque, but far easier to maintain.

This is my contribution to Travel Photo Thursday at Nancie's Budget Traveler's Sandbox. Head on over to see what she's posted this week and then follow the links to images from around the world.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013 Home

Better than a Bacon Cheeseburger

The Palmer House is a historic hotel and restaurant in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.
Depending on your interests, the Palmer House is either famous as the model for the Minniemashie House in Sinclair LewisMain Street or for its paranormal activity.    

It SHOULD be famous for its house burger – a good, but otherwise fairly ordinary burger made sublime by the addition of bacon relish.

Yes, you read that right. The key addition is a sweet-savory bacon and onion relish. (They gave me extra - apparently in response to my concern that a relish couldn't possibly replace a few strips of bacon - so I can assure you the relish is delicious on its own!)

I’ll be the first in line to buy a jar of it if it ever shows up in my local market. Until then, I may have to find more opportunities to make a stop in Sauk Centre for one of those burgers!

Sauk Centre is right on the freeway, half way between Saint Cloud and Alexandria. Next time you are in central Minnesota, take a few extra minutes to get off the freeway and head downtown for lunch. Not only will you be rewarded with a great burger, but you’ll get to see the original Main Street too.

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Monday, June 10, 2013 Home

Como Conservatory and Japanese Garden, Saint Paul, Minnesota

As our gloomy spring weather continues, a quick trip to the tropics seems in order. Thanks to the Como conservatory right here in Saint Paul, I don’t have far to go! 
Como’s facilities have been undergoing renovation and expansion for the past couple of years.

This is my first look at the results and some of the changes are immediately obvious as we approach the conservatory . . . starting with the fact that the entrance has been moved to a consolidated visitor center that serves both the gardens and the zoo. To get to that entrance, I have to pass (and stop to photograph) the long narrow water garden that wraps around the conservatory and the new Ordway Gardens wing.
While the lack of spring this year means there are very few water lilies in evidence, the pools provide plenty of interesting reflections of the conservatory itself.
The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory opened in 1915. It’s a classic, graceful structure at the heart of the conservatory complex.  However, the new Ordway Gardens expansion provides additional space to for both indoor and outdoor bonsai displays, as well as an enclosed viewing area overlooking the Ordway Japanese gardens. It also connects to the main visitor’s center, creating a ample space for visitors moving between the zoo and the gardens.

Inside, the fern room provides a leafy green oasis around a small pond.   
The center of the conservatory still houses the palm collection, along with various orchids and tropical blossoms. This tropical theme continues in the North Garden and its collection of both beautiful and “useful” tropical plants. 
 
The sunken garden, with its regularly changing floral display, seems to be the most popular part of the garden. This is where visitors can linger amid brilliant colored blossoms.  
One reason for expanding the conservatory was to provide seasonal external space for the bonsai collection.    
 
The bonsai area also provides entry to the Ordway Japanese garden, designed by Masami Matsuda, a renowned landscape designer from Nagasaki, Japan. It was opened to the public in 1979 and renovated under Mr. Matsuda’s direction in 1990-1991. (It’s unclear exactly when the original garden was installed, although it appears it was developed many years earlier on a site that is now part of the golf course.) The garden has been closed for the past year and has only recently opened again, now with realigned views.
 
While the gardens generally look tranquil in these images, that wasn’t exactly the case. We arrived to find most of the gardens filled with families and large groups of rambunctious children who were, apparently, being detained in the garden before or after their visit to the newly opened gorilla exhibit at the zoo. Here’s a more realistic image of what the gardens were like when we visited: 
While the gardens did not provide a particularly peaceful place for reflection, they were lovely and the sun had come out by the time we finished our tour. It was a successful, if quick, visit to the tropics.

Plan a visit to the Como conservatory and gardens    

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