Presenting: Toronto’s WinterCity Festival – Culinary Treats, Arts and Entertainment

Presenting: Toronto's WinterCity Festival - Culinary Treats, Arts and Entertainment

There is no doubt that Canada is a northern country and that our winters here in Toronto can sometimes be a little harsh. But that’s no reason to hold anyone back from getting out there and enjoying the city to the fullest.

To ease the winter blues, the City of Toronto has developed a series of special events dedicated to bringing the city to life in the middle of winter. The WinterCity Festival is a city-wide celebration of Toronto’s culinary offerings (the popular Winterlicious restaurant promotion), a wide variety of free entertainment events and a showcase of Toronto’s vibrant arts scene, featuring live music, dance, theatre, spectacle shows, rink-side concerts and even aerial acrobatic performances. Throw in a number of child-friendly events, and WinterCity has something for everyone in the family.

I had a chance to talk to Grant Ramsey from the City of Toronto who is one of the key people behind WinterCity and he is providing a much more detailed overview of all the special events, artistic and culinary treats on offer.

1. Please give us an overview of Toronto’s WinterCity Festival. When did it come into being? When and where is it held?

This year will be the fourth WinterCity held. Prior to the name change, it was called WinterFest, which took place on one weekend. Since expanding the festival, it now runs for two-weeks and is held primarily at Nathan Phillips Square from, Jan. 27 to Feb. 9

2. Please tell us more about the “Wild on Winter Series”.

The Wild on Winter Series (WOW!) combines some of the best performances in Toronto. Two large outdoor spectacle shows, “Walk the Plank” and “Il Corso”, which take place on Saturday and Sundays of both weekends, feature some of the best pyrotechnic, special effects and sound displays in North America. Other WOW! Series performers include, stellar Canadian talent presenting the best in dance and live music all at Nathan Phillips Square.

3. Please tell us more about the “Warm-up Series”? Where does it take place, what events does it include?

The Warm up series offers great discounted events at some of Toronto’s hottest destinations. For those who just can’t brave the cold, The Warm Up Series offer excellent interactive entertainment at The Toronto Eaton Centre and other venues around the city.

Toronto Eaton Centre Schedule:
- Spin Cycle
Monday, January 30: 12:30 & 5:30 pm
The international vaudevillian duo of Greg Tarlin and Kristi Heath combine their talents as award-winning circus performers, Second City comedy veterans and skilled writers to engage, amaze and entertain with skills that include juggling, unicycling, stilt dancing and more.

- The Silk Road Acrobats
Three Man Acrobats & Hula Hoop Act
Tuesday, January 31: 12:30 & 5:30 pm
This performance combines the grace, delicacy and poise of the Chinese acrobatic tradition with the power and athleticism of Russian acrobatics. Three professional acrobats perform multiple towers, falls and strength poses along with an up-beat performance using a multiple hoop apparatus.

- The Silk Road Acrobats
Seven Man Acrobats & The Female Contortion Duo
Wednesday, February 1: 12:30 & 5:30 pm
Professional acrobats perform an amazing group demonstration of strength, coordination, group dynamic and impeccable timing. While balancing delicate vases on their hands and feet, the acrobatic female duo perform graceful contortions and remarkable poses, creating an effect that is truly enchanting.

- High Strung Aerial Acrobats “Dy-no-mite”
Thursday, February 2 & Saturday, February 4, 12:30 & 5:30 pm
A two-woman high energy aerial show with a sassy disco flair. Performed to hits from the 70s, like Disco Inferno, Ring My Bell and Macho Man, the show features aerial straps, a swinging ladder and trapeze. Throw in some audience participation, acrobatics and a kick-ball change or two, and you have a spectacle like no other.

- High Strung Aerial Acrobats “Impressed”
Friday, February 3 & Sunday, February 5:
12:30 & 5:30 pm
Witness aerial dance artistry, superior and surprising manipulations, and skills that seem to defy gravity. Wonder and marvel as these two breathtaking airborne lovelies perform startling acrobatic feats.
Events & Shows hosted by some of Toronto’s top attractions

Don’t miss this series of special WinterCity events at Toronto’s top urban destinations. For more details, contact each attraction directly.

4. Please tell us about the WinterCity Weekend SeeSaw at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People.

WinterCity Weekend SeeSaw at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People
Meet four ordinary kids coping with the ups and downs of their lives. Paige, the popular yet insecure girl. Adam the tough bully who is also a budding artist, shy Josh who learns magic tricks in order to become invisible and Charla the new girl who wants to be everybody’s friend. (recommended for ages 9-12)

Saturday, January 28 & Sunday, January 29, 2 pm
Kids and adults WinterCity price just $12 each.
Regular price $15-20 each
165 Front Street East

6. You also have an event planned that involves “Franklin the Turtle”, “Elliot Moose” and the CN Tower. Please tell us more about that.

Franklin the Turtle, Elliot Moose & friends visit the CN Tower
Join Franklin the Turtle, Elliot Moose and their author friends, Elizabeth MacLeod, Irene Luxbacher and Aubrey Davis, at the CN Tower. Enjoy winter crafts, no-bake chocolate recipes, storytelling and more.

This fun filled event is included with your special CN Tower coupon admission of 3 people for $30

Saturday, January 28 & Sunday, January 29
11 am – 4 pm
3 people for $30
301 Front Street West
For full details on this event please visit,

6. You also offer special free skating events, beer tastings, a big band event, discounted opera events and theatre performances, please provide an overview of those.

DJ Skating Night @ Harbourfront
Slide down to Harbourfront’s beautiful rink and skate to music including house, progressive and breaks with DJs Phantasm, Simon Jain and Tommy Gunners!

Free hot chocolate! Skate rentals, sharpening, lockers, snacks and drinks all available.

Friday, February 3, 2006
8-11 pm
235 Queens Quay West, South of York Quay Centre

A Bite before Twilight
Under 30? Join the Canadian Opera Company for a feast of traditional Bavarian fare at the exciting Bier Markt Esplanade and a quick update of “the story so far” before gorging on the dramatic final installment of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle – The Twilight of the Gods (Götterdämmerung). Meet other young opera lovers and fortify yourselves with beer and worst, fine food and good cheer in preparation for the experience of a lifetime.

Saturday, February 4, 2006
$60 for opera ticket and meal (includes taxes and gratuity)
4 pm dinner
Bier Markt
58 The Esplanade

6 pm performance of Götterdämmerung
Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. E.
To order tickets, call: Ticketmaster at 416-872-2262

A Return to the Golden Era of Swing at Casa Loma
Dance the night away in one of Toronto’s most beautiful rooms with the Toronto All-Star Big Band. Resembling a Mediterranean Courtyard, Casa Loma’s The Conservatory is a spectacular setting with its gleaming brass doors, opulent marble and 30-foot stained glass dome. One of the most exciting bands around, the 17-piece Toronto All-Star Big Band, “cooks” with its powerful tributes to the heady hits of the 1930s and 40s. It’s like watching Goodman, Dorsey, and Miller live.

Saturday, February 4, 2006
8:00 pm
$25.00 per person (includes G.S.T. and finger foods)
Tickets available on-line at
One Austin Terrace

Letters from Lehrer
CanStage offers a 20% discount to the February 9th performance of Letters from Lehrer – written and performed by Richard Greenblatt featuring the words and music of Tom Lehrer.

There will be a Satirical Lyric Writing workshop for the closet songwriter. This pre-show workshop will run from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm, followed by the performance at 8 pm.

Thursday, February 9, 2006
6:30 pm to 7:30 pm (workshop)
8 pm (performance)
20% discount on regular priced tickets
Regular price range: $26 to $51
Berkeley Theatre
26 Berkeley Street
Box Office: 416-368-3110

Coupons for discounted rates are available by visiting: where they can be printed.

7. Please tell us about “Winterlicious”, Toronto’s winter restaurant promotion.

The phenomenally successful restaurant promotion Winterlicious, presented by American Express, returns to Toronto January 27 – February 9, 2006. The fourth annual Winterlicious is part of the WinterCity Festival, an award-winning 14 day city-wide celebration of Toronto’s culture, creativity and cuisine.

More than 120 participating restaurants will offer a special three-course prix fixe menu where patrons can sample the establishment’s tasty fare at fantastic price points. Prix fixe menu price categories are $15 or $20 for Lunch and $25 or $35 for Dinner. Prices are per person, plus taxes and gratuity. Beverages are additional.
In addition to the hugely popular prix fixe menus, 10 establishments will be offering unusual food-related events. These culinary experiences allow guests to savour delectable meals followed by dancing, unique tours and other rare experiences. To obtain details on the Winterlicious Culinary Experiences, the public can visit

In past years Torontonians and tourists alike have enthusiastically celebrated Toronto’s diverse and innovative cuisine with delicious menus available at restaurants city-wide. Winterlicious 2005 sold more that 183,000 meals over the 14 days – an increase of 67% from the previous year and resulting in an estimated $6.4 million in economic activity.

8. Please tell us about the family entertainment offered in the American Express Cool Ice Lounge, including ice sculptures, carving demonstrations and live entertainment.

The third annual WinterCity Festival, the City of Toronto’s city-wide celebration of the world’s coolest winter city, presents the most fun one family can have with 200,000 pounds of ice at temperatures below -5 C — the American Express Cool Ice Lounge.

Created by Custom Ice Art and managed by the Liberty Entertainment Group, The American Express Cool Ice Lounge is Toronto’s first ice lounge ideal for the whole family.

During the day, stroll through the Ice Lounge enjoying contemporary ice sculptures, carving demonstrations and live entertainment. Stop for a beverage and snack at the ice bar and relax on the frosty furniture. Catch ice carving demonstrations twice a day at 2 & 5 pm on January 28 & 29 and February 4 & 5, 2006.

By night, this venue is transformed into a frozen night club venue complete with icy seating, an ice bar, and Toronto DJ’s spinning the latest tunes.

During the day, the American Express Cool Ice Lounge will include live family entertainment, including:

The Magical Comedy of Stephen Elvay
Sunday, January 29 & Saturday, February 4 at 12 noon & 6 p.m.
Witty, engaging and supremely entertaining, Elvay is one of Canada’s funniest and most popular entertainers. His fast paced and visual extravaganza of comedy and magic is expertly interlaced to provoke mystery and laughter.

Flying Debris Show
Saturday, January 28 & Sunday, January 29 at 1:30 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
Kansas, USA native Richard Holmgren brings his hilarious comedy, amazing magic and unmatched juggling skills to the WinterCity festival. You’ll be amazed by the wide variety of objects flying through the air during his show.

Flyin’ Bob
Saturday, February 4 & Sunday, February 5 at 1:30 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.
This one man three ring circus from Red Deer, Alberta has been entertaining audiences across Canada and around the world for the last seventeen years. Flyin’ Bob’s action packed show showcases his own brand of physical and verbal comedy, energetic juggling, spectacular balancing, and audience participation.

Scot Free Daredevil Stunt Show
Saturday, January 28 & Sunday, February 5 at 12 noon & 6 p.m.
One of Toronto’s favourite performers! Check out this skillful mix of character comedy, exciting daredevil stunts, sharp improvised wit and audience interaction. Fun for all ages, come see if this daredevil gets off … Scot Free!!

9. Please tell us about “Soup’s On!” – a special event offering cooking demonstrations and soup tastings.

“Soup’s On!,” presented by Liberty Tax Services, offers cooking demonstrations and soup tastings from Toronto’s top chefs matched with live performances from some of Toronto’s most diverse bands.

The world of soup is vast and sophisticated. There are thick soups such as bouillabaisse that nearly cross the line from soup to stew, thin clear consommés, and everything in-between. Nearly all cultures have their own soup specialties: hearty Russian borscht, garlicky Spanish gazpacho, and Pot-au-Feu, a French clear soup made from boiled beef and vegetables.

Featuring soups from Spain to China and Jamaica to Greece, the “Soup’s On” pavilion will have something for everyone. Hosted by food enthusiast Marty Galin, chefs from Toronto-area restaurants will provide live cooking demonstrations in a heated pavilion on Nathan Phillips Square with the public able to taste-test the results while listening to music from the themed country.

10. Please tell us about the “Tower of Light” performance.

Toronto’s 14 day city-wide celebration, the WinterCity Festival, presented by the American Express Philanthropic Program, presents the North American premiere of The Tower of Light, a large-scale outdoor production blending fireworks and fire sculptures, music, lighting, special effects and spectacular visual images. The production is performed January 27, 28 and 29 at
7 p.m. outdoors at Nathan Phillips Square.

Framed by the silhouette of Toronto’s City Hall, this 30-minute production features a 15m tower of light and a carefully orchestrated outdoor performance of vibrant special effects and atmospheric music. Buckets of fire rise up into the sky as the lighthouse pulses with flares. Fireworks erupt from every level as the performers dance beneath the silver rain. The show comes to a dramatic close with a spectacular fireworks finale.

Walk the Plank is widely recognized as one of the UK’s leading producers of innovative shows and magical spectacles. The company was established by John Wassell and Liz Pugh, its current management team, in 1991. Site-specific shows and fireworks have been a feature of the company’s work since the beginning, but this area of work has expanded and developed over recent years. In 2001 Walk the Plank undertook its first international work with shows in Singapore and Portugal.
The Tower of Light has been performed at the Singapore Arts Festival, Greenwich and Docklands International Festival and Stockton International Riverside Festival.
10. Please tell us about “Il Corso”, a 60-minute open-air theatre spectacle.

11. Please tell us about “Il Corso” performance, based on a book by Pablo Neruda.

WinterCity presents the North American premiere of Il Corso, a 60-minute open air theatre spectacle featuring actors, acrobats and musicians from Germany’s Theatre Pan-Optikum. The production is performed February 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. outdoors at Nathan Phillips Square.

Il Corso will take place all over Nathan Phillips Square as the venue is transformed into a stage. Individual spectators will continually change their positions as they are caught up in the movement and, ultimately, even become part of the performance. Featuring a wall of fire, dancers on 10 ft. sway poles and huge metal structures including a human propeller, the production combines dramatic movement, installations, music, text, huge expressive images and pyrotechnics.

Il Corso tells the story of a human being in search of fulfillment and happiness and is based on “The Book of Questions” by Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda. The 74 short poems contained in the book are structured as two-line verses raising 316 puzzling questions. Many of Neruda’s questions are ones children sometimes pose such as “Where do shadows disappear to?” and “Why are leaves green?” These questions often expose the fact that adults cannot explain everything they claim to know. As Neruda says, “What we know is so small and what we assume so great.”

In 2001, the “Kunstfest Weimar” art festival opened with Il Corso. In 2002, Il Corso was chosen from 80 invited open air productions and awarded 1st prize at the street theatre festival in Holzminden, after which Il Corso played 27 times in Germany and the Netherlands. Il Corso is currently the most played open air production in Europe.

10. What about the “Winter Moves” dance performances?

As part of the WOW! (Wild on Winter) Series, The WinterCity Festival presents Winter Moves – dance performances from four of Canada’s top contemporary dance companies. Performances take place outside at Nathan Phillips Square on Festival weekends. Participating companies include:

o Company Blonde – Company Blonde has a unique and vital presence in the independent dance scene in Canada. Since it’s inception in 1999, Company Blonde has been dedicated to creating dance works that are accessible to a vast audience of all ages blending comedy and theatre with classical modern dance. Company Blonde will perform:

o Awright, Awright, Awright! — Clad in bright 70′s style one-piece snowsuits this highly energetic piece was designed for the outdoors but has found its way onto many small stages. The dancers (Monica Dottor, Michelle Debrouwer, Jennifer Helland, Sunny Horvath and Nicole Rush) arrive in a car, music blaring, put out a few plastic palm trees and dance with all their heart to the pop music of Outkast. It is nearly impossible to resist shakin’ it along side them. Awright, Awright, Awright! premiered at the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival in March 2004 and has been performed many times since, at schools, on stages indoor and out and always in snowsuits.

o Binder Twine — This hilarious Wild West piece features outlaws, saloon girls, line dancers, tumble weed and baked beans! Featuring dancers Monica Dottor, Michelle Debrouwer, Jennifer Helland, Sunny Horvath and Nicole Rush Binder Twine premiered at the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival in April 2005 and was performed at the T.O Twang Festival at Harbourfront in August 2005.

o CORPUS — Founded in 1997, CORPUS is devoted to creating original work for broad audiences including children. Led by Sylvie Bouchard and David Danzon, CORPUS is known for its precise and surrealist humour, the company combines contemporary dance and physical theatre. CORPUS will perform:

o Les moutons (The Sheep) — Les moutons is a humorous “live installation” where reality meets fantasy. Meet Julie, Marie-Louise, Bernadette and Cesar, three healthy young sheep and an old ram. The Shepherd is here too, talking you through a carefully studied overview of sheep behavior.

o Tina Fushell / Choreographer / Dancer — Born and raised in St. John’s, Nfld., Tina Fushell studied at the Quinte Ballet School and the School of Toronto Dance Theatre. In 2002 Tina co-founded Ambitious Enterprises (AE) with Kate Franklin and Samm Higgison, producing the “At the Wrecking Ball” series, a now yearly event which has garnered much praise for the young company and ushered in a new generation of choreographers and collaborators from various disciplines. Tina Fushell will present:

o sTOries — sTOries is performed to live jazz music. This contemporary dance piece is inspired by Torontonians stories about Winter. The highly physical sTOries features a trio of dancers (Tina Fushell, Anisa Tejpar and Kate Franklin) dressed for Winter in full wool skirts, blazers and boots.

o Larchaud Dance Project is known for their strength-testing choreography and gravity defying movement and are certain to captivate, provoke, and entertain all audiences. Larchaud Dance Project’s upcoming June 2006 production is based on the world and culture of videogames. Each piece in the show is based on a world/level of the game, albeit a jungle, a labyrinth, underwater, etc. At the WinterCity Festival, Larchaud Dance Projects will present:

o Ice World — Of all the levels of a videogame the ice world proves to be the greatest challenge. Not only must the players overcome the treacherous conditions of their environment, but they must conquer the evil Queen and her Henchman. It is she who controls this world, and in her defeat, they may progress onto the next level.

11. Toronto’s WinterCity Festival will also feature a number of live music performances. Please tell us about those.

The WinterCity Festival, presented by the American Express Philanthropic Program, the award-winning 14 day city-wide celebration of Toronto’s culture, creativity and cuisine, will feature two weekends of FREE live music and DJ’s on an outdoor stage at Nathan Phillips Square as part of the WOW! (Wild On Winter) series. The WinterCity Festival takes place January 27 – February 9, 2006.

Friday Jan. 27

Opening Concert

Les Batinses, 7:30 p.m.

This young sextet plays world music with a Québécois slant. They embrace music from anywhere and everywhere to marry old-style folk and roots ballads with funk-driven acoustics.

Saturday Jan. 28

Sizzling Hot! Latin Dance Music

DJ Billy Bryans, 12 noon

Get on the ice and move! DJ Billy Bryans drops the latest in Latin music, reggaeton, salsa and the hottest timba cuts directly from Havana.

Chiva featuring Brownman, 12:30 p.m.

Toronto’s Chiva fuses seductive Colombian rhythms with funk grooves and urban hip-hop beats against a Latin-jazz backdrop.

Latin Roots Orchestra, 2 p.m.

With a nod to the golden age of Latin music, this Toronto group blends the hottest sounds of classic salsa with the latest hip-shaking Latin grooves guaranteed to burn up the dance floor.

Tumbao Inc., 3:30 p.m.

One of Toronto’s newest Latin orchestras, Tumbao Inc. offers catchy lyrics and memorable melodies combined with powerful percussive beats in merengue music and electronica.

Brownman & CRUZAO featuring Fito Blanko, 5 p.m.

Led by multi-award-winning trumpeter Brownman, CRUZAO mixes authentic Latin rhythms, jazz harmonies and modern urban grooves. CRUZAO is joined by special guest Fito Blanko, Toronto’s rising star of reggaeton.

Ricky Franco, 6:30 p.m.

Talented singer/songwriter/composer, Ricky Franco delivers slick vocals layered over powerful Salsa Descargas with a soulful edge and the popular dance rhythms of Bachata.

Between sets, DJ’s will spin. Following the final band, DJ’s will spin club music outside until 11 p.m.

Sunday Jan. 29

Cool Blues

Ndidi Onukwulu, 12:30 p.m.

A new voice in Toronto’s blues community, singer/songwriter Ndidi Onukwulu was born in BC and grew up listening to a variety of music including Nigerian juju. Set for release early in 2006, her eclectic debut album defies labels.

Tyler Yarema, 2 p.m.

Originally from Thunder Bay, Toronto pianist-vocalist Tyler Yarema dishes up high-energy boogie-woogie complemented by a smooth, fiery vocal delivery.

Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions ( Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.

Hello from Toronto – A Culinary Tour of St. Lawrence Market & An Exploration of St. Lawrence Hall

Life works in really strange and wonderful ways. At the beginning of this week I talked to my brother in Austria on the phone, and he said he’d been reading this German travel magazine and there was a big write-up about a Toronto-based tour guide who provides culinary tours of the St. Lawrence Market, one of my brother’s favourite places that he discovered on his recent trip to Toronto.

I asked my brother what this fellow’s name was and he looked it up and said “Bruce Bell”. I did an internet search and within a few seconds I had located Bruce Bell Tours; and I knew I had to meet this person. Bruce Bell, the popular history columnist for the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Community Bulletin, is also an award winning playwright, actor, standup comedian and the honourary curator of the most photographed building in the city of Toronto, the historic Gooderham Building better known as the Flatiron. Bruce just recently published a book on Toronto called “Toronto – A Pictorial Celebration”.

Immediately after I hung up with my brother I was on the phone with Bruce, we briefly introduced ourselves and he said, come down, join me on Thursday for my culinary tour of the St. Lawrence Market. Sure enough, this morning, punctually at 10 am I arrived at the souvenir shop at the main entrance of the market and I met Bruce and the other participant in our tour, a young architecture student.

As the official historian of the St. Lawrence Market Bruce has special access to all sorts of areas of the building that other people never get to see. Right away he took us up some stairs, pulled out a special key and led us into the former mayor’s office, since the market building used to be the original city hall of Toronto. The building has undergone several transitions, and the two side wings were removed to make way for a steel-girdered shed built in 1904 that was modeled after the Victoria Train Station in London.

From the former mayor’s office we had a perfect view of the market and we also had a beautiful vista of the downtown skyscrapers and the famous Flatiron Building to the west, and St. Lawrence Hall to the north. Bruce took us down the stairs in the market hall itself and shared various tidbits of history with us. The shoreline of Lake Ontario used to be right at Front Street, and after landfill was added, the Esplanade became the waterfront, and today several hundred meters of additional landfill have expanded the city’s territory to a new waterfront.

Under Bruce’s guidance we started our tour of the shops which include bakeries, butcher shops, fish mongers, fruit stands, delis, dessert places and specialty vendors of all kinds. The first place he took us to was a bakery that also serves lunches, and we got a delicious taste treat of smoked salmon and backbacon, each on a small piece of bread. I am not usually a big fish eater, but this savoury morcel was delicious. At another store we got to sample “Indian candy” – smoked salmon cured in maple syrop. What a treat!

We walked by some of the butcher shops, many of which have been in the same family for generations. I admired the creatively presented cuts of pork loin stuffed with spinach, cheese and bacon, a perfect solution for a non-chef like me – just stick it in the oven and pull out a delicious gourmet meal.

After a brief tour outside the building where Bruce explained the building’s history and early Toronto society to us, we went into the lower level, where all the dessert shops, fruit stalls and specialty vendors are located. We got several more samples: a huge variety of delicious honeys from New Zealand, a sampling of speciality jellies and jams, tender white chocolate truffles that just melt in your mouth, and for dessert – after all these sweat treats – Nutella-filled crepes. All the samples we received were utterly delicious.

Bruce took us into the bowels of the building, today mostly used for storage and refrigeration, but in previous times these areas were the men’s and women’s jails. Bruce explained that in the 1850s women had no rights and many men simply stuck their wives in prison, especially after child-birth or during menopause, when they got a little cranky. The iron hooks that prisoners were chained to are still visible on the walls.

The basement is also decorated with a number of murals that explain Toronto’s history. As the official historian of the St. Lawrence Market and a well-known columnist of the St. Lawrence Community Bulletin, Bruce is actually depicted on the mural. About 15 historic plaques throughout a variety of buildings in the downtown area provide insight into noteworthy past events and are titled “A Bruce Bell History Project”. So there is no doubt that this is a real expert, even a local celebrity.

Just outside the St. Lawrence Market used to be the terminus of the Underground Railroad, the pier where thousands of the former American slaves arrived after having made their secret passage from the American south to Rochester and on to freedom in Toronto. It’s amazing how much history there is, even in a comparably young city such as Toronto, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Bruce’s unique stories.

From the St. Lawrence Market building we walked north through a courtyard to another former City Hall of Toronto by the name of St. Lawrence Hall. It was the former city hall of the City of York, that was officially renamed the city of Toronto (an Indian word for “meeting place”) in 1856. St. Lawrence Hall is a beautiful classical building, and Bruce took us inside to show us the ballroom, the most well-preserved original ballroom in Canada. The chandelier is original, was originally lit with coal gas and today is illuminated with natural gas.

This was the heart of Toronto’s elite WASP (white / Anglo-Saxon / Protestant) society during the 1800s and Bruce shed more light on the many behavioural norms of the time. Women were not considered persons and could not walk on the street by themselves or accompanied by any man other than their husband. Men had to defend their wives’ honour in duels and sometimes ended up having to shoot their best friend as a result of a harmless (by today’s standards) misunderstanding. The city and country were run by English noblemen, and Catholic immigrants from Ireland, arriving in masses after the potato famine of 1849, were despised by the local ruling class.

As a result, the Catholics were segregated, but they did receive a spot inside St. Lawrence Hall, a big room called St. Patrick’s Hall, where they were allowed to congregate since they were barred from entering the ballroom which was reserved for the WASP elite. Irish Catholics had to enter St. Patrick’s Hall through a back staircase since they weren’t allowed to mix with the English aristocracy. The portion on the northeast side of St. Lawrence Hall housing St. Patrick’s Hall incidentally collapsed in 1967 and was completely rebuilt.

After St. Lawrence Hall we walked through a beautiful Victorian Garden outside of St. James Cathedral, Toronto’s largest house of worship, and the 5th church in the present location. Bruce took us inside and shared more historical information with us, about the original British settlers of Toronto and ruling elite of the times, which included the famous Bishop Strachan, the creator of St. James Cathedral. Bruce showed us the various stained glass windows that adorn the church, all of which were crafted at different times. Especially stunning are the Tiffany stained glass windows on the east side which have a particularly intense coloration.

St. James Cathedral marked the end of our culinary and historic tour of the St. Lawrence Market area. We had received a great introduction to Toronto’s history and enjoyed the diverse culinary delicacies of Toronto’s greatest market. Bruce’s entertaining and informative lessons on a time in Toronto’s history when women and men were segregated, when society was strictly regimented by expectations of etiquette and social status, and when Irish and English weren’t allowed to mix made me realize how incredibly far Toronto has come in the last 150 years.

Bruce Bell offers other interesting tours about Toronto’s Distillery District, its Art Deco skyscrapers and a tour called “Comfort and Steam” that takes you through the Fairmount Royal York Hotel, Union Station, the Skydome and the Air Canada Centre, among other places. Considering everything that I learned in the St. Lawrence Market tour, I hope to have a chance to catch another one of Bruce’s tours and broaden my local knowledge of this city in the near future.

Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions ( Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.

Presenting: Ottawa’s Byward Market – Special Events, Culture & Art, Boutiques and Culinary Delights

Ottawa has a myriad of sights to visit and the ByWard Market is one of the major entertainment areas in Ottawa. It combines a great selection of restaurants and night spots, with funky boutiques and retailers, galleries and artsy places and a busy outdoor market. Throw in a good dose of special events and you’ve got yourself a happening place!

I myself will be heading off to Ottawa on February 10 to sample Canada’s capital, and to check out Winterlude, Ottawa’s winter festival, which will be held this year from February 3 to 19, 2006. Winterlude includes skating on the Rideau Canal, the world’s largest outdoor skating facility according to its Guinness World Book of Records designation of November 2005.

Let me give you an idea of the enormity of this skating opportunity: the Rideau Canal’s surface is the equivalent size of 90 Olympic rinks and stretches for 7.8 km (4.8 miles) through downtown! And it features all kinds of outdoor entertainment as well as the famous Beavertails, Ottawa’s signature pastry, so skating on the Canal will be a definite must on this upcoming trip.

So, after a good round of outdoor exercise I will certainly be checking out what the ByWard Market area has to offer and quench my well-deserved hunger with a great meal.

In anticipation of my visit I had a chance to talk to Meg McCallum, from the ByWard Market Business Improvement Association, who was able to give me a great overview of this eclectic area.

1. Please give us a general overview of the ByWard Market, its location and its history.

Established by Lieutenant Colonel John By in 1826, the ByWard Market is one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. The legendary builder of the Rideau Canal, Colonel By himself laid out the street plan of the Market, designating George Street and York Street to be extra wide to accommodate the creation of a public market and gathering place. 180 years later, the Market is still going strong!

Within an area roughly four blocks square, you’ll find cafés, specialty food shops, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, pubs, hair & aesthetics salons and more! Easily accessible on foot, by transit, by bicycle or by car, the ByWard Market offers a unique experience for all.
Whether you’re here at dawn to welcome the outdoor vendors with their overflowing stands of fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, and art & crafts; joining some friends for brunch/ lunch/ dinner or shopping; or staying up till the wee hours at one of our hip nightspots, you’ll find the ByWard Market has something for you!

2. The ByWard Market still houses a farmers market today, please give us more information about that.

Outdoor vendors are an integral part of the ByWard Market experience. You’ll find ByWard’s vendors outside, no matter the weather, 363 days per year (closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)! At the peak of summertime, there may be 175 stands operating, selling fruits & vegetables, bedding & gardening plants & cut flowers, arts & crafts, maple syrup & honey. In the winter months, you’re more likely to find Christmas trees, natural wreaths & garlands, firewood, cut flowers, maple syrup & honey, and art & craft.

The farmers market is surrounded by specialty food retail shops – butchers, bakeries, imported items and more. As an example of the variety of goods you’ll find, there are over XXX types of cheese to be found!

3. Please tell us about the variety of culinary experiences that are available in the ByWard Market.

With over 80 restaurants, you’ll never run out of options for dining. In the summer months, patios are the place to go, both to take advantage of the sun and warm weather and to people watch. In the winter, you’ll find a warm welcome in some of the area’s most beautiful heritage buildings, such as the Courtyard Restaurant and Mamma Grazzi’s Kitchen. The ByWard Market is home to several internationally recognized chefs and sommeliers – try the Social, Luxe, E18hteen and Domus Café. You’ll find Canadian cuisine at its finest, along with Thai, Mexican, Indian, Aboriginal, Japanese and more. If you’re in a hurry, the ByWard Market building is home to several take-out options, or you can assemble a picnic lunch with breads, meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies from the farmers market. Don’t forget dessert – there are several bakeries and gelato shops to choose from, as well as the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory or Sugar Mountain for those with a sweet tooth!

4. What type of retail and shopping opportunities can be found in the area?

With most retail shops being locally owned and operated, Market business owners are masters of their crafts. You’ll find quality, experience and cutting edge trends in the many fashion, housewares and specialty boutiques. If you’re looking for locally designed jewelery and clothing or picks from designers across North America and Europe, the shops on Sussex, Clarence and Dalhousie will wow you! If your interest in cooking has been piqued, try Ma Cuisine, Les Concepts Zone or Domus Housewares for kitchen gadgets galore! From there, of course, you’ll start to want to redecorate your whole house… and this is the place to do it. Roche Bobois, Philip Van Leeuwen and many more furniture shops are to be found, along with specialty bath and bedding stores such as Mon Lit and Bed Behaviour. This is only a sampling of the variety of shops – you really have to visit to see for yourself!

5. There are also a number of nightlife opportunities in the ByWard Market. Please tell us about those.

The Market is home to over 20 nightclubs featuring world renowned dj’s and live music; as well as more than 50 restaurants, pubs and lounges that stay open until 2 am. You’ll find everything from martinis and single malt scotches to a world wide selection of wines and spirits. Venues run the gamut from intimate to extravagant; for the salt of the earth and the cream of the crop. Some not to be missed experiences include Fat Tuesdays New Orleans Experience (cajun cuisine and a carnival atmosphere), the Rainbow Bistro (live blues music), The Collection/Mercury Lounge/ Bar 56 (3 floors of martinis, dj’s, culture and style), and Zaphod Beeblebrox (recently made famous as the filming location for the Rolling Stones latest video).

6. What special events are you planning during the ByWard Market Mardi Gras?

Warm your fingers, toes, and your spirits as you take part in a variety of great activities all week long. From a masquerade ball to live Southern bands, you will find fabulous entertainment options for everyone at ByWard Market Mardi Gras from February 3 – 14th.

Plus, all week long, take advantage of extraordinary discount prices at 20 of the ByWard Market’s trendiest boutiques and salons. Over 25 great ByWard Market restaurants and bars will be serving up special Mardi Gras Menus all week; with tasty Southern dishes and beverages such as all-you-can-eat Creole mussels, Mardi Gras martinis, Cajun seafood jambalaya, and much more.

7. You are planning a “Winterlude Stew Cook-Off” for February 3, 2006. Please tell us about this special event.

For only $10 you can sample stew created by over 20 of the Market’s finest restaurants, including last year’s winner of both Judge’s and People’s Choice awards, Luxe Bistro. The 15th annual Winterlude Stew Cook-Off takes place at the south end of the ByWard Market Building on Friday, February 3, between 12 and 2 p.m.

Winners are chosen by the public as well as by a panel of celebrity judges including a master chef from Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School. All proceeds from the stew cook-off will be donated to Operation Go Home.

8. You have another special event planned for February 18, 2006: a Snow Volleyball Tournament. Please tell us about that.

Winter doesn’t need to be spent inside! The Snow Volleyball Tournament brings out up to 40 teams to compete for bragging rights in friendly competition. The action takes place on Saturday, February 18 at 3:00 pm beside the Whiskey Bar at 112 York Street. Proceeds raised at the event will be donated to Operation Go Home.

9. Please tell us about the galleries and the arts and culture opportunities that are accessible in and around your area.

To start with, the National Gallery of Canada anchors the Market at it’s north-west edge. And just across the street is the Notre Dame Basilica – a beautiful cathedral worth a visit to see the marbled painted archways and pillars. Throughout the Market you’ll find many small galleries, commercial and publicly owned. The Ottawa School of Art offers short courses, workshops and lectures, and has a shop, a student gallery and a large public gallery. Lafreniere & Pai Gallery is home to works by some of Canada’s best glass and ceramic artists, and Gallery of the Kanadas showcases aboriginal and inuit art. Many restaurants host exhibitions, and the Sussex Courtyards are home to several whimsical sculptures.

10. What are the ByWard Market Ambassadors?

The ByWard Market Ambassador program is operated through a community partnership and includes tourism, safety and information functions. Each summer ByWard Market Ambassadors circulate throughout the Market area contributing to a positive Market experience by…

- Providing tourists & the public with an on-street resource for questions about the Market & the City

- Providing a safety &security function by monitoring the street activity & responding to situations that require intervention

- Providing front-line response & first aid treatment in the case of accident or injury

- Maintaining positive community relations with all Market stakeholders

Look for the bright yellow t-shirts with INFO on the back…
Thank you, Meg, for giving me a good overview of the ByWard Market. I look forward to checking out some of these places in person in a few weeks from now.

Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions ( Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the transitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.

Hello from Montreal – Dinner at Galianos and Celebrating Canada Day

After my official Montreal bike tour, my individual explorations of the Lachine Canal and my chat with André from Ça Roule, I decided to go for a little stroll to explore Montreal’s Port area which was hustling and bustling with celebrations on this Canada Day. I strolled out on Jacques Cartier Pier to an outdoor concert stage where two well-known Canadian singers, Kim Richardson and Sylvie Desgroseillers were enchanting the audience with Mo-Town and R&B melodies.

I walked east and happened onto a huge playground area on the little island in the Bassin Bonsecours that was a family entertainment zone. Kids were sliding up and down and in and out of a whole variety of huge inflatable slides. Freestyle skiers were jumping off a large ramp and performing summersaults and various aerial acrobatics. The whole area was packed with people enjoying themselves on a beautiful summer day. I walked up Place Jacques Cartier and into a small pedestrian street called Rue des Amables which is full of portrait artists and galleries. At the end of this little street I found my dinner destination: Galiano’s.

Galiano’s is located in a 200 year-old building on a small cobble-stoned street in Old Montreal. Formerly a “boîte à chanson” it opened its doors eight years ago. The restaurant stretches over two floors with an open area in the middle and a wooden staircase leading up to the second floor with seating on an interior balcony. The street-side patio adds additional seating capacity and ambience to this rustic restaurant.

Always a big fan of Italian cuisine, I was looking forward to a filling meal after a day packed with exercise and activities. The whole area around the restaurant and Old Montreal in general was absolutely hustling and bustling with people and everyone was in good spirits, ready to celebrate since it was Canada Day. Street performers were entertaining the crowd. At just before 6 pm it was still a bit early and I was fortunate to find a seat in the lounge area of the restaurant that features several tables flanking an arrangement of leather couches in front of the fireplace.

For a few minutes I was able to catch the owner, John Tsinas, to find out more about this culinary establishment. John is part of Montreal’s famous Antonopoulos family that owns a variety of hospitality restaurants and hotels in Old Montreal. His uncles are silent partners in Galiano’s. John’s younger brothers Manny and Peter also work with him in the business. At 40 years of age John is the oldest, and the two other brothers are each five years apart. John says that Manny is the people person and today Manny was seating customers, tryig to keep up with the sheer onslaught of customers that were just streaming into Galiano’s.

Manny is also the man with the creative ideas and he was the one that came up with the idea for lounge area and some of the new decorating styles featured at Galianos. Another new idea is to use a small balcony area above the entrance door as a location for a DJ or some live music. And a wine cellar next to the entrance is presently under construction and will be opened in the near future.

John has a lot of experience in the hospitality industry: he started working in the restaurant business at age 14 and has worked his way up all the way from the bottom. He even ran a food warehouse for McGill University which included restocking the vending machines and was a waiter at three different restaurants prior to opening Galiano’s. John added that he still thinks like an employee and because of his hands-on experience he always treats his staff members with respect. His working style is very hands-on, he says that today he will be calling out the orders in his kitchen and preparing them for the waiters.

Galiano’s is known for its Italian cuisine and its generous portion sizes. Everything is made from scratch at Galiano’s. John mentioned their signature dishes: Scaloppini alla Veronica, their Antipasto Misto, a Filetto Tre Sapori, home made Lasagna as well as their Quattro Stagioni Pizza. John recommended that I try Galiano’s Calamari Fritti. Just about 10 minutes after my order a steaming plate of juicy and tasty calamari arrived, the perfect introduction to a filling meal. I followed it up with a Galiano Salad: a huge plate of salad with cold cuts and cheese. John wasn’t kidding when he talked about huge portion sizes!

John of course had to get back to work after our little chat, but I thoroughly enjoyed my evening meal and by the time I was finished, the lineup was stretching all the way out the door and down the street. Galiano’s is obviously a favourite destination for many in Old Montreal and for me it was a great starting point for my evening discoveries which would include the official Canada Day Celebrations and a big concert in the Old Port of Montreal.

Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions ( Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences & interesting life journeys, interviews with travellers and travel experts, cross-cultural issues, and many other features.

Top 4 Themed Restaurants in Niagara Falls, CANADA

Hard Rock Café

This is the place to be for an experience that will rock all of your senses! At the Hard Rock Café in Niagara Falls, Ontario you can view timeless, rare pieces of rock & roll memorabilia, set to the backdrop of some of Rock & Roll’s most famous (and infamous) musicians & groups from every era of Rock’s history! Located on Falls Avenue, you will even find a specialty room dedicated specifically to “The King” Elvis Presley. It’s quite the walk down memory lane watching familiar videos, viewing your favorite band member’s actual instruments played at venues you may have been too yourself. Be sure to check out profound quotes from the likes of many of Rock Music’s most remembered, like Jim Morrison, Eric Clapton or John Lennon, just to name a few.

Let’s not forget the popular American style menu with all your favorites, including staples like cheeseburgers, fries, sandwiches, gourmet salads, appetizers, and of course your favourite cold beverages served from the iconic 80 ft Guitar Bar.

Planet Hollywood

The Planet Hollywood in Niagara Falls, Ontario CANADA is located on Falls Avenue, in the heart of Niagara, by Clifton Hill and literally beside the Rainbow Bridge connecting Canada and the U.S.A.

This popular themed restaurant is well known across North America for its Hollywood themed memorabilia decorating its walls & ceilings.

The popular restaurant swaps prop items with other Planet Hollywood locations in North America making a guest’s repeat experience even more enjoyable since there is always something new to be viewed. What also makes the Planet Hollywood a great restaurant is the fact that they will allow you to come visit without a reservation, in fact go visit even if your don’t plan on staying for their fabulous California inspired menu, you can explore the restaurant and view the timeless stage and screen items.

Rain Forest Café

Now talk about fulfilling your senses, this themed dining establishment not only has the visual and audio experience to make for a great visit, but also includes a thunderstorm every 20 minutes with lightning and rain to make it a truly one of a kind adventure while enjoying a safari jungle-themed menu of all of our favorites.

The entrance to this location, which is on Clifton Hill, is ideal for the shopper in the family looking for exclusive Rainforest Café souvenirs including items that feature your favorite Rain Forest animal to cute stuffed animals, endearing yourself to that special someone. Be sure to check out the Live Shark or Reptiles while your there. Don’t Knock on the Glass!

Massimo Capra’s Rainbow Room Fallsview Restaurant

This dining gem is located within the luxurious Crowne Plaza Hotel Niagara Falls – Fallsview a Niagara Falls Hotel with a rich history in the Niagara Falls area, which has been frequented by many celebrities over the years.

While not themed dining like some of the other options on the Falls Avenue Resort, Massimo Capra’s Rainbow Room Fallsview Restaurant carries celebrity cache of its own in renowned Chef Massimo Capra. Most often recognized as the host of Food Network Series “Restaurant Makeover”, Capra and the Crowne Plaza culinary team have designed a menu using a fresh market approach that results in the rich ingredients produced in Niagara in the spotlight. The Rainbow Room’s exquisite fine dining and spectacular view of the Falls is an experience not to be missed.

Donnie Nesbitt
Falls Avenue Resort

Visit Falls Avenue Resort, home of many local restaurants, including the Fallsview Restaurant, or the NEW Massimo Capra’s Rainbow room Fallsview Restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ontario, CANADA

The Falls Avenue Resort also has a Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe, Rainforest Cafe and Massimo Capras Rainbow Room Fallsview Restaurant on premise.