Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TBEX: Pre-Conference Art Tour in Toronto

Along with a couple of workshops, TBEX also had a large number of tours available prior to the conference, with options that included beer tasting, urban development, specialty foods, and graffiti. Because my spouse registered late (meaning many tours were already filled), we only signed up for one. So, after my morning photo walk and lunch with Leigh from Hike Bike Travel, my spouse joined me and one other participant for the “Art a la Canadiana” tour.
 photo by Dave Cynkin via flickr

The tour begins with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) where we were fortunate to view the Collected Shadows show. The show was drawn from the collection of the Archive of Modern Conflict and curated by them (it was shown in Paris last year) and included a broad, seemingly random mix of historic photos. It was confusing, amazing, beautiful, bizarre, thought-provoking, and totally engrossing. I could have spent the whole afternoon there.

But, of course, there were other museums to visit.

Our next stop was the Art Gallery of Ontario where I expected to spend time communing with the art of the Group of Seven. Instead our tour focused on the museum’s new expansion, which was designed by Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry.
The expanded building truly is architecture as art!

We also made a detour to the basement to see the Thompson Ship Model Collection, which sounded goofy, but turned out to be amazing.

Our last stop was supposed to be the Museum of Inuit Art but, as my spouse and I found out the day before, that museum is closed as they completely update the galleries. Instead, we headed back into the heart of the financial district and the Toronto-Dominion Gallery of Inuit Art. My husband was here earlier in the day (while I was out learning to be a better photographer), but was happy to return to this wonderful collection again . . . as am I.  

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TBEX: Pre-Conference Workshops in Toronto

Two photo walks and a writing workshop were available as pre-conference professional development opportunities before the actual openning of the TBEX conference in Toronto. However, you had to be fast to get a spot. I wasn’t fast enough to get into the writing workshop (which filled almost the instant registration opened), but I did get into one of the photo walks – which became my first official TBEX event of the year.

During the morning we visited the financial district, the arts district, and the Kensington Market neighborhood. Despite a too large group and hot muggy weather, the “walk” (we also traveled by bus and trolley) provided a good introduction to the city and a few good photography tips. 

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I Was in Toronto For a Travel Blogging Conference

I was in Toronto this spring to attend the TBEX (Travel Blogger Exchange) new media (travel blogging and more) conference.

Yes, there really is an international conference (two of them actually) specifically for travel bloggers. (Over 700 bloggers and travel industry professionals attended last year, with attendance this year twice that.) I attended last year for the first time and was a little overwhelmed (in a good way) by all the information and the chance to meet some of the people behind the blogs I follow.

It was amazing and I was eager to dive in again this year.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Exploring Toronto’s Distillery District

The Distillery District is currently one of Toronto’s new hip neighborhoods where bars, restaurants, and galleries line the streets and new housing is going up all around (everything in Toronto goes up, as the city is skyscraper-crazed).

The area gets its character, however, from its past. Formerly the home of Gooderham and Worts, which became the world’s largest distillery, the district includes over 40 historic buildings, many of which were built between 1859 and 1895. Most buildings were designed by David Roberts, Sr. and his son, David Roberts, Jr. Together they created a beautiful and harmonious example of Victorian industrial architecture.

A touch of art makes it the perfect place to simply wander.  
Today these large industrial structures – distilleries, cooperages (where barrels were made), boiler houses, tank houses, and more – have been lightly restored and repurposed as  bars, restaurants, and galleries. I say lightly restored because, unlike so many buildings where only the exterior retains its integrity while the interior is gutted and modernized, the renovations here seemed to have largely consisted of a clean-up and polish. The industrial form and function of each building is still visible within as the businesses that now inhabit these spaces incorporate the structural elements and equipment of the past. It makes for fascinating spaces.

Many of these buildings now house restaurants, but we could eat at only one during our day there. Our choice (in part because of the lovely patio) was Archeo where I had an absolutely sublime mussel and pasta dish while my husband had a mediocre pizza.
For dessert, we headed over to Soma for a scoop or two of magical gelato and sorbetto.  (The blueberry/basil is amazing, but everything we tried was wonderful.) 
There are lots of wonderful art galleries and shops here as well. We didn’t have much time for shopping, but a few that caught my eye include:
  • A Taste of Quebec, a specialty food shop and gallery featuring some of the Quebec’s finest products.
  • Artagallery where we enjoyed a show featuring beautiful photos. 
  • Cork Town Designs with a great collection of fun, modern designs. 
  • Soma where you can watch chocolate being made, taste a truffle or two, sip a specialty chocolate beverage, and then purchase your favorites to bring back home. They also have the gelato shop noted above. (Their chocolate is really good, but also really expensive – even for what it is.)
  • The Thompson Landry galleries which are housed in two different buildings, each of which has a very different feel. We were particularly taken by the work of Tommy Zen, a ceramicist whose deep, rich glazes can sometimes be found on enormous pieces. It’s striking work. We particularly liked the feel of the smaller Stone Building gallery, which has a more intimate feel.
There is a lot more, particularly in the way of jewelry, art, and clothing that we missed. And, of course, there are a number of spots selling all manner of things related to beer and brewing!  
 The Distillery District makes for a nice excursion as it provides a (relatively rare) opportunity to feel surrounded by Toronto’s history – and you can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner and maybe a bit of shopping at the same time! In addition, art openings, theatrical performances and other events are regularly held in the area, making it ideal for an evening out.

For those interested in learning more about the history of the area when they visit, the Distillery  District Heritage website provides maps and information for self-directed walking tours. Guided walking and Segway tours of the area  are also available.

Wandering Toronto’s Distillery District

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Photo Thursday: Lupines Galore Along the Shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin

Lupines don’t grow wild where I live, so it is always a treat to find myself in their presence when they are in full bloom. I was lucky in northern Wisconsin this year: My visit coincided with the peak of the lupine blossoms. Once we passed Wasburn, the roadsides were carpeted with purple and pink blossoms. 
I took time to wade into them for a more extended photo session at Eckels Gallery near Bayfield. 
Art and flowers. What could be better?

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

Exploring Wisconsin's Apostle Islands  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Memorable Travel Moments: When the Pacific Lay Shimmering Like Glass

We took a rather epic cruise over the Christmas holidays one year, traveling from Tahiti to Florida via the Panama Canal.

The single most amazing thing I saw during nearly a month on the water?  The Pacific Ocean, lying as smooth as glass.  
(I still find this unbelievable. Sure, I’ve seen the surface of Lake Superior as smooth as glass on occasion, but how can it be so still in the middle of a vast ocean?)

I spent hours gazing at the water, fascinated, thinking of the adventurers who crossed this ocean in sailing vessels. Remembering stories of sailors stranded on the still water, slowly baking in the still, hot air. Now I understand what it would mean to be stuck in the Horse Latitudes, why sailors would go mad after weeks becalmed in the great still sea.

Of course, for us the eerily still water simply made for days of smooth cruising under power. 

More Memorable Travel Moments 

Tahiti to Florida Cruise  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Feeding the Gulls in Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota

Canal Park is Duluth’s true  gathering place, the place where people come to watch the lakers (ships that carry freight through the Great Lakes) come into the port under the 1905 lift bridge, grab a bite to eat, shop for gifts, or just hang out.

The gulls like it here too.   
No doubt their preference is driven in part by the variety and quantity of food available.

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

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Photo Thursday: What I Expected my 4th of July Photos Would Look Like, Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

I had the great pleasure of celebrating the 4th of July on a sailboat on Lake Superior.

A calm morning led to a light wind and pleasant sailing into the harbor at La Pointe, Wisconsin. We slid into the harbor in mid-afternoon, giving us plenty of time to settle in and wait for the evening fireworks display. I spent much of that time sitting on deck enjoying the activity around me as the boat bobbed and turned in the breeze and the wake from the other boats moving around the harbor. It’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon, but it also gave me plenty of time to wonder how to photograph those fireworks.

For those of you who aren’t photographers, firework photos are usually shot using a tripod. This keeps the camera still during the longer exposures necessary for good pictures of fireworks.

While I had my tripod with me, I didn’t see how it would help if I set it up on a boat that was continually moving. In the end, I didn’t even take it out, because I was pretty sure that even with a tripod all of my photos would look like something these: 
Although I actually like a couple of those because they convey the FEELING of watching fireworks, I also was able to get some marginally acceptable (although really grainy) standard fireworks shots. They generally looked like this:
What do you think? Does a little blur better capture the feel of watching a fireworks display?

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

Celebrating the 4th of July on the Water 

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Quiet Gallery Devoted to Inuit Art in Toronto

The modernist Toronto-Dominion Bank complex houses what feels like a secret gallery. 

This is the Toronto-Dominion Gallery of Inuit Art, which includes 200 pieces of exceptionally fine Inuit art.   Most of the pieces on display were produced between the end of World War II and 1967 and were part of a collection created to celebrate the bank’s centennial. The collection (now greatly reduced in size) includes many carvings, a few prints, and a number of other objects. 
Among the more unexpected items on display are a finished print and the printing stone from which it was made. (Stones used for printmaking were generally ground down for reuse, scratched or broken to ensure additional prints would not be made in the future.) 
It’s a lovely collection and you are likely to have it all to yourself.

A few items are displayed on the first floor, but most of the collection is housed up one level in a gallery specifically designed for this purpose. The gallery is free and open seven days a week.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrating the Fourth of July on the Water at Madeline Island, Wisconsin

An afternoon under sail brings us to the small town of La Pointe. Each year La Pointe is the focus of the island’s Fourth of July celebration, which begins with a parade in the morning and ends with fireworks that evening.

Although there is also a fireworks show at Bayfield, the Madeline Island display is popular with the boating crowd, who anchor out in the bay to watch the show. We plan to be among them. This is our second year here, but last year’s unpredictable weather and incompetent anchoring by a neighboring sailboat drove us out before the show began. Today’s calm weather and our early arrival bodes well for this year.
People (or at least their boats) are just beginning to settle in when we arrive, although motor boats - many towing inner tubes and water skiers – are still zipping between those already at anchor. As the afternoon wears on, a steady stream of boats of all sizes and types glide out of the marina in search of a spot on the water. 
 It’s a lovely spot to sit and watch the activity as the sun sets.   
 As night deepens, the water becomes satin in the still, warm air. It is a perfect night for fireworks.  

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