Sunday, March 21, 2010

lions, ice and men in green


I always talk about how Toronto surprises us all the time with small fests of one time or another. I guess that's what you get when some 50% of all Torontonians are actually from ABROAD. Small celebrations, for sure, nothing totally outrageous or huge scale, but charming nonetheless, and definitely varied! 

So, come February 14th, what did we celebrate?  No, not St. Valentines Day, but Chinese New Year!  We're just blocks from Chinatown, and after four and a half years living in the Middle Kingdom (hell, all in all, for me, counting THREE separate periods, 7 years!) there was not a fat chance we were going to miss a Chinese New Year here!   So, we headed there, picked up some delicious and absolutely authentic and delicious fried sesame balls with black sesame paste filling (you don't know what you're missing until you try them), and spent a good while watching lion dances in front of businesses, seeing store owners put red envelopes with money in the lions' jaws, and hearing the whole street party.  Fun!   And yummy, since we also dropped by our favourite Chinese place, Mama's Kitchen, for some fantastic Chinese dumplings made to perfection.  Gooooood.


And the week after?  Toronto's IceFest!  Granted, this was no Harbin Ice Lantern Festival, (especially now that they do them grander and grander all the time in China), but it was definitely good for an enjoyable walk without leaving the city, enjoying the fine weather, and looking at some nice ice sculptures.   Apparently, the area, which is quite quaint, looked especially nice at night with all the sculptures lit up, but we missed that.  Still, that was one relaxed, nice Sunday.


And finally, on March 14th, what did we have?  the Saint Patrick's Day parade!   I had never seen one, so I was quite excited about it.   I even wore a very definitely green jacket, and off we went to watch the parade.  As it happened, we watched all of it, as it wasn't very long.   I'm sure some found the odd parts the most fun, like a sort of McDonald's clown in green, or a series of "hillbillies" cars, or even the Phillippino Band (actually, that was probably the most numerous band that participated! LOL).  But, good old boring me, what I liked best were the Pipe Bands.   There's something in their sound that draws me so.    Oh, and as for odd things, how about the "green pope" (St. Patrick)! Check the last picture.   Anyhow, having meet so many wonderful Irish in my life, I was happy to go out and celebrate even if just a bit and wish far away friends Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig! (no, I can't pronounce that; being the amateur linguist I am, Irish spelling still baffles me like few do)



So, there!  Lions.  Ice.  And men in green.   Next (probable) stop:  Niagara Falls!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Boston, Boston, Boston part IV


Our last day in Boston we still had quite a few hours left before the flight, so we hit some of the places that we had seen from the outside but hadn't been able to go into because our first day there was a banking holiday.

We went to the Boston Public Library, and explored all of it, its halls, rooms, its paintings and murals... We checked out the Old South Church, which was a lot nicer from the outside, actually, but which did have a very interesting stained glass window above one of its doors:  an angel surrounded by numerous wings with eyes... But the jewel was Trinity Church, with dozens of beautiful stained glass panels in different styles and, to add to the atmosphere, they were practicing on the organ!



And just by chance, as the icing on the cake, we stumbled upon the Prudential Tower Skywalk, an observatory on the 52nd floor with 360 degree views of the city.  And then, after having walked the city so much, and admired so much of its architecture from ground level, we got a chance to take it all in.  Beautiful.  The river, the rows of heritage buildings, Cambridge and its crazy Stata Center, I.M. Pei's Christian Science Center...  Loved it.   And that was the perfect way to say good-bye to the city (well, cities, Boston AND Cambridge) that surprised us so nicely and that was one of the few places on earth that considered all human beings as equal and let our friends, two gorgeous, fun, intelligent, amazing women, get married.

Go Boston! 

artsy sunset



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sun, glorious sun!




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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Boston, Boston, Boston part III


Our next-to-last day in Boston was, quite unsurprisingly, full of satisfaction.  It's amazing how every single day left us feeling real good about all we had seen and experienced.   This time, we went for yet another tour of other parts of town, including a visit to the Old State House, from where the Declaration of Independence was read to Bostonians in 1776.   Now THAT's an important moment in history, not just for the United States but for the rest of the continent, as the American and French Revolutions unchained a series of revolutions continent-wide that made America (the continent) what it is today...   

Our walk took us all the way to the waterfront, near the North End, where the sun was shining and the look of the river was calm and beautiful, and from where we climbed up Copp's Hill past picturesque neighbourhoods until we arrived to the Old North Church, beautifully set at the end of a small park (somehow the snow and the dry trees gave it a very special and pleasant atmosphere) and the oldest active church in the city (which, by the way, boasts an inordinate number of very nice churches).   And, very logically, not far from the church, was Copp's Hill Burying Ground, with some really old tombstones with, interestingly, some very odd skull depictions.  


After all our explorations, we were pretty hungry and tired and, lo and behold, near the iconic Zakim Bridge, and next to a huge and very interesting industrial-looking apartment building, we found Equal  Exchange Café, with tons of delicious vegan food!!!   Wow.  I had, let me tell you, a Roasted Sweet Potato wrap (which was out of this world) and a cup of hot, dark, rich, milk-free cocoa.   Awesome.  Loved it.   If you can, GO.  Plus, the staff was really welcoming, which is always nice.


And the day was FAR from over.  We still made a quick hop to Cambridge, to a linguistics bookshop!  You know me.  And you must know I was in heaven.  Or I should have, because there was too much to see!  There was literature on any number of languages (I FINALLY got hold of some of Saramago's books in Portuguese!) and there was a ton (or two) of books ON language.   I even found my favourite language-course publishing house, Assimil, which is very little known outside Europe!   


And (yes, AND) we had to be on time for the rehearsal dinner (remember our friends were getting married, right?), so we chose (what a pain it is to choose), payed (which was painful, too, LOL), and hurried back to the hotel for a quick change of clothes and off again and back to the North End for dinner!   Italian food.  Very yummy, very authentic, in excellent company, and celebrating a very worthy occasion: the coming marriage of two great friends, one Australian, one from the U.S.A., who were making use of one of the few places in the United States (Massachusetts) with enlightened 21st century legislation that allows same-sex marriage (or, more accurately, marriage-for-every-human-being legislation).   Dinner was followed by finger-licking-good Italian pastries nearby, and drinks at some place (I'll never remember the name) where, well, there was no drink list (kind of like that Lesbian bar I told you about in a previous post, remember?).  What you did was tell the staff what you felt like (you know, "I'd like something dry... but strong, with peppery flavour..."  or whatever) and they would suggest and concoct something.   And after a (fairly decent for a celebration) number of "concoctions", we called it a night since next day was our last, and we were still determined to see a few more things.  What an amazing day!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Do Animals Cry?

"Do Animals Cry?" @ Fleck Dance Theatre, by Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods




Physical theatre? Dramaticised dance? Play, love, sex, isolation, death, madness. Family.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Boston, Boston, Boston part II


After all we had seen of old Boston, we were ready to cross the river and see what Cambridge had to offer.  The main attraction:  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and, particularly, its Ray and Maria Stata Center.   Why?   Two words:  Frank Gehry.   


Isn't he amazing?  The colours, the shapes, the distribution... It's a shame it was snowing and then raining (man it's tricky to get those damn photos while avoiding snow-flakes and rain-drops!), but we had a fantastic time there, looking at the building from different angles, discovering interesting views,  exploring, wandering inside...  This is the kind of buildings I'd like to see super rich groups building more of, instead of non-descript super-huge blocks of glass and concrete...

To finish our visit to the M.I.T., we did a tour of the area, seeing sculpture, the river (which, to be honest, with the snow and the fog looked pretty beautiful to me), cool modern structures... My favourite sculpture was Transparent Horizon, by Louis Nevelson, which looked especially interesting with the contrast of its colour and the snow, and my favourite building (besides the Stata Center, of course) the List Visual Arts Center, which had a glass door with the following sign on it:  

E15-001
LEGO Learning Laboratory                 Center for Bits and Atoms
Smart Cities
Computing Culture
Lifelong Kindergarten 

Now, is that inviting or what!


And what could follow the M.I.T. but a visit to another renowned institution:  Harvard.   And, best of all, we had a guided tour by a friend of our friends who were getting married.  Not only had we great company, but we even got a peek at a number of places that only deserving PhD's had access to!   And their Harvard-Yenching Institute... as much as I'm enjoying my break from China, I did feel like I would have loved to be able to spend a few days exploring all the institute had to offer...
 

Having had such a fulfilling day, we headed back to Boston to rest, 'cause next day we were going to explore quite a bit:  more of downtown, the waterfront area, the North End.  AND on top of that we were going to have the rehearsal dinner, plus a night out!   I'm telling you, one day, one day we'll have a relaxing holiday where we go somewhere and lie down and do nothing... but I'll probably have to be tied down to do that, 'cause it's like my feet are on fire and the only way to put it out is by keeping on the move!