Friday, November 30, 2012

Eaton Centre's new Christmas decorations

Gentle giants are visiting the Eaton Centre during Christmas time. 
Spread around the place, six 2-storey high deer dress up the shopping centre for the holidays. Everywhere you look, you're bound to see at least one of them. See-through and covered with small white lights, they elegantly fill the space.

In the centre of the mall, a tall modern tree is a big hit with all the teens admiring its changing colours and photographing each other next to it. (The new tree replaces the sparkling tree Swarovski had treated us with in the past few years. For a Swarovski tree, you'll have to go to Yorkdale Shopping Centre.)

What about Santa?
Don't look for Santa amidst the deer. They've moved him to the 27th floor (access from Level 3 near Roots). To attend their FREE Story Time with Santa you must pre-register on their website. The activity last between 30 to 60 minutes. They don't offer a picture service. Bring your own camera.

More Christmas-related posts from Nathalie Prezeau.

The Bay Christmas windows

Tonight, I walked by The Bay at Yonge and Queen and had a chance to admire once again the beautiful Christmas windows of The Bay (look for the windows with red awnings).
Soooo pretty! And to put us in the mood, they come with speakers playing Christmas music.

A few years ago, when we could not visit our family in Montreal for Christmas, we went downtown on December 25, expecting to find it empty. It was not! 

I found out:
1) that there were many families hanging between The Bay and Nathan Phillips Square
2) that the Eaton Centre remains open even when the stores are closed to allow those riding the subway to get out (so we got to admire the centre's decorations on December 25)
3) that the skating rink of Nathan Phillips Square is open on December 25, rental booth included 
4) that we could get a hot chocolate near the square.

There used to be a Timothy's at Bay and Yonge, it's been replaced by the restaurant Bannock, with a casual café counter. There's also a Starbuck's on the south-west side of that corner.

More Christmas-related posts from Nathalie Prezeau.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ross Petty: A Christmas tradition

The new Ross Petty Production started last week and will go on until January 5, 2013. 

This time, we're given a rewriting (or fractured rendering, as they call it) of Snow White, featuring Canadian Idol winner Melissa O'Neil.

No wonder this production has become a Christmas tradition in so many families. We've attended many productions and every time, we've left the venue uplifted and laughing. 

Smaller kids focus on the fun songs and cute characters. Older kids truly enjoy the villain's wacky plans (here played by Ross Petty himself as Snow White step-mother). Teens and adults can't wait for the next far-fetched allusions to pop culture. Add to this top notch musical arrangements, great decor and costumes, and high energy performances set in beautiful Elgin Theatre and you can't go wrong.

Cheat seats available
Look right now for availability on their website for the cheaper seats of $27 (plus $5 fee to Ticket Master, and tax). Otherwise, expect $256 (+ tax) for 4 tickets with the Family pack.

There are no shows on Mondays and on December 24 and 25. I think it is a great Christmas matinee outing between Christmas and New Years Eve. (It is also great to shake the post-Christmas blues after New Year's Eve.)

While you're there
Elgin Theatre is a 2-minute walk from The Bay's gorgeous Christmas windows (at the corner of Yonge & Queen) and across the street from the Eaton Centre (featuring 6 giant deer!).

Related blog:
The Bay Christmas windows
Eaton Centre's new Christmas decorations

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

(Nov. 28) About working in cafés

Welcome into my office
I love working in cafés.

Yesterday at a café, my neighbour asked me what I was doing (he saw I was playing with Google maps. I showed him the guide). We ended talking about all the great places in Toronto. He knew them all! If there were more people like him I'd be out of business. Turns out he is a magazine photographer with an eye. He was waiting for his wife to finish a girlfriends activity... (our kind of guy!). 

Three more walking circuits to do (I was supposed to be done by now but life got in the way).

About research
Sometimes, I have to go back to the photos I took of a neighbourhood to refresh my memory in order to select the best circuit. Yesterday, as I was working on my Roncesvalles Revamped Stroll, I was trying to remember how far north on Roncesvalles I wanted to go. I wanted to make sure to include the cutest little vintage clothing store: Maggie's Farm (431 Roncesvalles Avenue). 

Related blogs about:

Monday, November 26, 2012

White Christmas at Yorkdale Mall

I was teased into attending the unveiling of Yorkdale's Swarovski Crystal Wonderland last Wednesday by the promise, on their website, that it would become one of Canada's most spectacular holiday displays.

OK... it's nowhere as grand as I had imagined. But it is pretty, and white, and relatively sparkly. The perfect background for a photo with Santa.

I was more impressed by the gorgeous strands of crystal balls hanging under special lighting from the high ceiling in the corridor by the Rainforest Café (north-east side of Yorkdale Shopping Centre).

Good to know: The Rainforest Café offers a Family Night every Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to closing time, where kids 10 years and under pay $4 for a meal, with the purchase of one adult entrée. If you've never been, it is the restaurant where a crocodile greets you by the entrance, you enter through a huge aquarium and there's lots things to look at inside (including a simulated thunderstorm). A real adventure for young kids.

More Christmas-related posts from Nathalie Prezeau.

Approaching the Crystal Wonderland.

The crocodile greeting you at Rainforest Café.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

(Nov. 25) About dead-lines

About dead-lines
Yesterday and today, I've been slavering over Google maps to trace my circuits (thank to a great little feature on Google Maps!). I use it to create a rough of what I want my illustrator to do for the guide. 

We're going for the artisanal look. My illustrator Johanne Pepin will trace the circuits with carbon paper on watercolour paper, which she will then fill with soft pastel colours. Street names are hand written. She's also working on the new cover for Toronto urban Strolls Part 2 while preparing an exhibition. She's an angel...)

OK, fourteen down, ten to go! 

(Mental note to Nathalie: Don't forget you have friends over tonight for the Grey Cup and you need to feed these people if you want to keep your friends.)

Related blogs about:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

(Nov. 24) First blog about the making of Toronto Urban Strolls 2

First blog about the making of...
Saturday November 24, 2012

Today, I've decided I'd write a chronicle of the making of my next guide so those interested in self-publishing can learn about the process involved. (Those books don't just happen!)

My first guide, Toronto Fun Places... for families, is currently in its 5th edition and has sold over 40,000 copies. My second guide, Toronto Urban Strolls... for girlfriends (Part 1) was released last Spring. It made the Globe & Mail's bestsellers list in the Canadian non fiction category and sold 5,000 copies in 3 months.

I'm currently working on a Part 2 for Toronto Urban Strolls as well as the second edition of Part 1. My goal is to release both guides next Spring. We'll see how it goes!

I spent the last two months doing research for 24 new strolls I want to include in Part 2. It meant going out to take photos any time it was sunny. Yesterday was all grey, but the day before, I spent a fabulous day in and around High Park. Gorgeous!

Now, I'm down to a list of bits and pieces I need to go and shoot. I still need 3 sunny days before all the leaves are gone.

Writing Toronto Urban Strolls is pretty much like being pregnant: 
1) From one pregnancy to the next, you forget about all the work involved, only thinking about the outcome.
2) It's growing inside of me. 
3) I'm getting bigger (with all this research in the cafés, bakeries and cute restaurants).

Got to go. It's sunny outside!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Mike Holmes was here: Jamie Bell Playground

This week, I had the chance to see for myself the section of Jamie Bell Adventure Playground Mike Holmes rebuilt this summer, following an act of vandalism which burned part of the great wooden castle originally on the premises. The community pitched in money. The man delivered. Great job! (See the clip and article published in the Toronto Sun). 

Holmes is the star of Holmes on Homes, a series on construction. Of course, his work on Jamie Bell Playground was filmed to be shown on TV later on. Of course, it's good publicity for him. First thing you notice upon arrival is the large boulder with his logo on it (not there before).

But you've got to love the guy! He turned this boulder into something magical by adding... a sword in the stone! Bring on your camera for a great shot of your little Arthur trying to extract Excalibur from the rock.

The wood of the new castle hasn't darken yet but it blends nicely with the remaining old structure. It offers plenty of nooks and crannies and multi levels giving the impression of being in a labyrinth. 

Once again, the community can be very proud of what it has achieved in tis part of town.

Note that there are still animals in the High Park Zoo along Deer Pen Road, nearby. The little train is not in function at this time of the year but Grenadier Restaurant is open.

(You might want to read my related blog Fun walk in High Park.)

Fun walk in High Park

This week, I was at High Park and was so pleased to see that there were still plenty of yellow leaves on the trees, especially on the majestic willow trees brushing the blue waters of Grenadier Pond. It offered the perfect background for the contrasting dark branches.

Now, that's my kind of family outing: beautiful sights to admire while the kids have plenty to explore!

Did you know about the labyrinth?
Park behind the Grenadier Restaurant (quite affordable, by the way) and start the adventure with a peek at the labyrinth! (Yes there's a labyrinth! Based on the 11-circuit in Chartres Cathedral in France.). It is located over the hill behind the restaurant's big parking lot. 

Then, walk straight down the hill facing the restaurant to access the gardens. Quite lovely in the summer with a stream, it remains a fun place to run through, with little bridges and sinuous paths, and it leads you to Grenadier Pond. (Check the giant maple leaf on the way.)

Don't mess with me!
Chances are you'll see ducks and white swans by the banks. When visiting, I saw a foolish dog run into the water towards a couple of them and heard them hiss aggressively back at him. You don't mess with a swan!

A walk with a goal
If you want encourage your kids to walk, promise them a go at the newly renovated playground on the east part of High Park (a 20-minute walk). Keep walking along the pond towards the lake, the trail will take you along The Queensway then back into the park, past Colborne Lodge Drive.

Past a little bridge, you'll see a smaller pond. Walk along the fence to access the east side of that pond then keep going until you see Jamie Bell Adventure Playground to your right. (Following an act of vandalism which burned a part of the castle, Mike Holmes, the construction guy with a TV program, took on him to rebuilt it and did an amazing job. More about Jamie Bell Playground in my blog Mike Holmes was here!)

(This article continues below the photos.)

Once the kids are done playing, take Deer Pen Road. It will get you back to the restaurant's parking lot in 15 minutes and, as a bonus, you'll see High Park Zoo's animals along the way. (It's still there but needs our support to remain operational. See this link for more information and donations.)

Another option: the marsh
If you walk north along the pond instead of towards the lake, you'll reach a more secluded part of High Park, with a marsh. Fewer people explore this part of the park. (Bloor West is less than 20 minutes away.)