Archive for Toronto

Farewell Toronto

Our time in Toronto has been a collage of fun, warmth and laughter. The faces you see here are just a few of the many who have welcomed us into the heart of the city and made us feel right at home. I was a little intimidated by taking on Canada’s largest city but the locals have taken us into their homes and made sure we were well looked after.

Toronto is a city of many personalities, it is cosmopolitan with a fast paced nightlife, but has a softer side in the small suburban areas of The Beaches, Little Italy and Greektown. From the grungy colour and art of Kensington to the history of Corktown and Yorkville, each of them have had an impact on us over the last four months and we shall miss reveling in them on the street car ride into town or during Saturdays whiling away the hours.

But alas, there is a whole wide world out there to explore and we have plans to see a little of it before we head home to our own big city of Sydney. We will not forget the friends we have made no matter what other wonderful places we see and we look forward to welcoming them to our home if they ever visit Australia.

CN Tower

Canada may only ever receive a participation award in the Cricket World Cup but they can be proud to have held the record of being home to the tallest free standing structure in the world for over 30 years. Following our last day of work we went to check it out.

Similar in design to Sydney’s Centre Point Tower, CN Tower is far more impressive, measuring 553m, while Centre Point is a measley 309m (external view here)  . Suprisingly, construction finished on the Canadian tower in 1976, 6 years earlier than Centre Point. I would have thought Sydney could have gone the 200 odd extra metres to beat their Canadian counterparts.

While a very touristy place to visit we are glad we went, especially since it gave us a different perspective of the neighbourhoods we have become familar with. It gives a great vantage point to see Yonge St, the longest street in the world, stretching into the distance towards Lake Simcoe, and also allows you to really appreciate the size of Lake Ontario.

There is a resturant at the top (although it doesn’t revolve), a small section of glass flooring and plenty of windows. Unfortunately the windows were either very grubby or have lights behind them causing bad reflections for the camera. I’ve had a quick attempt at cleaning a few photos up but they’ll never be masterpeices.

Patience is a virtue

Over the past few months Gemma and I have been counting down a number of things.  Number of days left in Toronto, how many days of Work left, time before we arrive in Europe, number of days remaining on our trip.  But none have more agonising for me then awaiting the purchase of my new camera.

To be able to reclaim the Federal and Provincial taxes, purchases must be made within 30 days of leaving Canada.  That time arrived this past Tuesday so after work I did my best to rid our bank account of some hard earned Canadian dollars and I am now the owner of a Nikon D80.

So here are a few quick impressions after my first outing with it to the old Distillery district of Toronto.  Once again my dad and Derek are probably the main ones that will enjoy this, if you’re not into cameras maybe just check out the photos on flickr.

The handling of the camera is pretty much identical to the D200 I used in Calgary so I knew already I would like that. Having access to all the controls at your finger-tips rather than having to scroll through menus makes things so much easier.  It is a little lighter having a plastic body rather than magnesium but still got a bit of heft.  The bright viewfinder is great, and large screen with true RGB histogram makes checking exposure and focus a breeze.

My old FZ10 (currently for sale on ebay) while competent at most things, lacked a little in the Mega pixels department.  Having more than double the resolution, the D80 will definitely improve some of the large prints I intend to make, although is testing the power of this laptop during Post Processing. 

I picked up a used Nikon 50mm F1.8 AFD lens and have bought the much talked about Nikon 18-200mm VR for my dad (thanks for letting me use it on the rest of the trip!).

I have put 3 photos up so far from our day.  Click the ‘All Sizes’ magnifying glass button above the photos to see them large, the entire 10MP file are there.  The first, as seen above, and this one are of a Doge truck at the old distillery which may have actually been a truck from one of the breweries there many years ago.  Both were taken with the 50mm.  This is of one of the distillery buildings.  They are now all filled with art galleries, resturants and other stores.

I’ve never worked with raw files before so I still have a bit to learn.  I think I oversaturated the building shot a little but it was very vivid in person.

So now I’m all kitted up and ready for Eastern Canada, New York and Europe.  Plenty of more things to anticipate still.  Hopefully you will see some improvements as I get the hang of an SLR again.  I haven’t used one regularly since 1998 when I did Photography in year 11.  I’d love to get some feedback from those in the know (or anyone with an opinion for that matter) on these shots and any future ones.

-Simmo

Ice Skating at Nathan Philips Square

Following the International Womens Day march we took a long walk through High Park which is just shy of 400 acres in size.  A short subway ride west of the city, the park has everything from a swimming pool to a small zoo.  During winter the many trails within are used for cross country skiing.

Charlene, who we had given travel advice on visiting Australia a few months ago, returned from her journey earlier this week.  We meet with her over a dinner at a Korean BBQ resturant to catch up.  The tables house a small gas BBQ in the middle on which you cook your own food (pork, beef, chicken, ribs, salmon).  Being all you can eat we of course ate far too much leaving a little rounder than we had arrived.

Which brings us to the title of this post.  One of the ‘must do’ things on my list of Canadian tourist activities was ice skating on an open-air rink.  I had hoped to do this on a natural lake but none have frozen enough due to the late starting winter.  The next best thing is the ice rink right infront of Town Hall at Nathan Philips Square.  Being about 8:30pm when we started it was quite dark with only half the rink really illuminated by lights on the three ‘Freedom Arches’ (one of which has a chunk of the Berlin wall at its base).  I’m not sure if the lack of light was a hinderance or a help though.

Many Canadians are surprised to know that I have actually ice skated before, albeit probably about 12 years ago.  Either skating gets harder as you age or I wasn’t quite as graceful back then as I remember.  My first thought as I stepped onto the ice was ‘great, I just paid $9 to cling to a fence for 2 hours’.  It didn’t take too long for me to get my head around it though and wobble my way around the rink.  Gemma on the other hand was left clutching the fence at times.  Actually she did quite well for a first go and managed a few laps of the rink while holding my hand (truth be known she was holding me up as much as I was holding her!). 

Apart from a blister on my heel there were no injuries, which by our standards means a good night out.

-Simmo

International Women’s Day

Saturday morning hundreds of women and men met on Bloor Street to rally for various causes affecting women around the world. The official campaign issue of the march was the raising of Ontario’s minimum wage to $10 per hour.

The current minimum wages in Ontario is $8 and the majority of workers covered by this minimum are women. Given the cost of living, many people have two jobs so as to make ends meet (I worked with someone in Calgary who had three). A bill is now before the Ontario Government and a number of organisiations have banded together to lobby the government to adopt the bill ( www.amillionreasons.ca ).

In comparison, the minimum wage in Australia is $12.75 per hour and despite the Howard Government’s objections it has increased regularly over the last ten years. For increases to the minimum wage to take place under the new ‘WorkChoices’ legislation,  a review is undertaken by the ‘Fairpay Commision’ at its leisure. This commission is appointed by the Government of the day and has the power to determine wages in whatever way it sees fit (see 2006 Australian Government Submission). Therefore wage increases are not debated and voted upon as they are in Ontario, and they are not determined by an independent arbitrator as they used to be prior to Workchoices.

I only hope we prevent things going to far down the US track, where the mininimum wage is $5.15 per hour and has not increased in the last 8 years.

Something to keep in mind for the upcoming elections…

reference: www.rightsatwork.com.au