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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
for the evening, leave High Park to the wallabies for the night.