Monday, June 10, 2013

High Park in Toronto

Two weeks ago Friday we found ourselves on a plane headed for Toronto, Canada. My cousin Līga’s confirmation was that Sunday, and we were joining most of my side of the family for a couple days. For the boys it was their first time in Canada, and although we didn’t have time for sights like the CN Tower we did manage to see a few places and sights that Roberts and I hadn’t yet seen.

A nice surprise was the Cheese Boutique, a gourmet grocery; “At Cheese Boutique prosciutto hangs from the ceiling, truffles are flown in every Wednesday, foie gras sits under lock and key, beef is dry aged 60 days, there are olive oils from 80 different terroirs and jams made from green walnuts, the best artisanal breads of the city, not to mention the chocolate boutique, pastry temptations and daily handpicked produce - but it is for the cheese that one must really come here.” (From the website) Note to self - next time you visit Toronto, drive. That way you can fill the trunk with French cheese.

Make sure you get a peek (and whiff!) of the cheese vault (middle)
Our relatives live in the vicinity of High Park, and that is how it came to be that Saturday we spent the majority of the day strolling through this 400 acre park. Originally purchased by John Howard as a sheep farm, the property was donated to the City of Toronto on three conditions; first, for Mr. Howard and his wife to continue to live in their house, the Colborn Lodge, second for no alcohol to ever be served in the park, and third that the park be named High Park and be free for people to enjoy. Opened in 1876, a large part is natural forest, with the oak savannah maintained by prescribed burns. With gardens, sports fields, picnicking areas, a beautiful children’s playground and a free zoo, there is more to do than can be seen in a day.

We followed small trails through the woods along the west ravine, which leads past Wendigo Creek and Wendigo Pond. Named after the wendigo, mythical cannibalistic creatures of Algonquian mythology, we did not linger long….It was discovered in 2003 that the eastern ravine lies over an ancient river; when capping two artisan wells a plume of water, sand and gravel shot fifty feet into the air. Research shows this pre-glacial Laurentian River System 160 feet below the surface had been undisturbed for thousands of years.
On the western edge of the park is Grenadier Pond, covering 35 acres and named after the local Town of York garrison of the 1800s who used the pond to fish. It is believed that British Grenadiers fell through the ice when crossing to defend the city in the War of 1812, and another urban legend claims the pond is bottomless and that the bottom has never been touched due to layers and layers of mud. On our visit the shore was dotted with fisherman fishing for bass, crappie, perch, pumpkinseed, bluegill, bullhead and carp.

We stopped in the zoo, the home to American bison, emu, llamas, peacocks, fallow deer, capybara, Highland cattle, yaks, Barbary sheep, and Mouflon sheep. Our favorite was the little wallaby that was returning to its enclosure from an outing. Although Lauris wasn’t keen on petting the joey, my cousins Annelī and Andis were! In 2012, the Toronto City Council discontinued funding to the High Park Zoo. Luckily the Honey Family Foundation stepped up to sponsor the zoo for three years, hopefully allowing the Friends of the High Park Zoo time to find a permanent source of funding.

Our next stop was the children's playgrounds, built in 1999 and named the Jamie Bell Adventure Playground after the volunteer who initiated the construction. A little over a year ago a portion was destroyed by arson, but the local community banded together to build a grand castle as a replacement , and the combined playground is fun for kids of all ages. The wooden walkways, towers and bridges brought back childhood memories of Indian Boundary Park in Chicago, the fieldhouse of which was also destroyed by arson in 2012.

We did not have a chance to visit the Grenadier Café, nor the produce market, Nature Center, pool or the Colborn Lodge Museum. We saw the little trackless train drive by (also free) but going for a spin will have to wait for a future visit, as will attending on of the Shakespeare in the park plays. The cherries had already bloomed (the first of which was planted in 1959 by the citizens of Tokyo), but to me all this just means we’ll have to return again soon. Nevertheless, the boys were growing tired and there was a long evening of preparations ahead for the next day’s confirmation, and so we headed back to krusttēvs Māris’s house for the evening, leave High Park to the wallabies for the night.



  1. One more nice place and in Canada! It looks, that you are in travelling mood this summer! I can only admire the way how you are travelling with boys! I just can imagine how not easy sometimes it is. Well done!:) And hope to see soon a new post with new adventures.

  2. How frustrating it must have been to have been in a store with all of that delicious French cheese and not to have been able to buy any of it! That would have drove me nuts!


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