May 2023 Highlights

The last weekend of the month is when I do my monthly review. What have you been up to in the past four weeks? Here’s what’s been happening in my corner of the world and what I enjoyed in May.

Family & Fleurs de Villes

My sister visited our Toronto family for ten days. The weather was mainly sunny during her stay. We did family activities together, including multiple outings, BBQs and a Mother’s Day celebration. The ten days flew by. I’m grateful for the quality time we shared.

While my sister was here, we walked the Fleurs de Villes Voyage floral trail on a beautiful sunny day in the Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood. We oohed and aahed over more than thirty incredible floral arrangements. It was my sister’s first time to a Fleurs de Villes event and she really enjoyed it.

I include a slideshow of ten of the floral designs below, five outdoors and five indoors. To me they are art and since the event is free, it’s public art. Click on the arrows to move through the slides.

Fitness & Friendship

It’s been lovely to get outside and enjoy spring. I continue my cycling, walking, strength training and yoga. After having so many beautiful bike rides and walks this month, I feel like a multi-millionaire. Spring is in full swing which means everywhere I look there are newly blooming flowers.

Some of my 8K walks are with friends. We choose a different route for each walk and since we are in a big city called ‘A city within a park‘, we often start and end in a park. I greatly appreciate our friendship and the green space to absorb the peace and natural beauty of the outdoors without leaving the city.

Travel: Montreal

Last weekend I traveled by train to Montreal for a three-day visit. As I was in Montreal more for family than tourism, most of my time was spent with family. I took walks every day and enjoyed being in this dynamic city.

In the following gallery, top left, clockwise: Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, a National Historic Site of Canada; The Cathedral dome seen from Dorchester Park; Murals in Montreal Central Station designed by Toronto artist Charles F. Comfort and carved by Sebastiano Aiello depict Canadian life, cultures, industry and passages of the national anthem.

On The Blog

The weekly Weekend Coffee Share and Photographing Public Art Challenge continued to thrive in May. Thank you to all who have shared updates, comments and/ or photos from around the world. I wrote my three ‘Postcards from Portugal‘. Here’s the links for May’s posts in case you missed any and want to catch up:

I’m contributing this post to #WBOYC and #TheChangingSeasons link parties.

Weekend Coffee Share

I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #120 InLinkz below.

Happy June!

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Postcards from Portugal: Coimbra & Porto

Today’s post is the third of three in my Postcards from Portugal series. The first post on Lisbon, Cascais & Sintra is here. The second post on Évora, Fátima & Tomar is here. As usual, when you see an image gallery, click on an image to get a better view and use the arrows to move through the gallery.

Coimbra

On Day 6, from Tomar, I headed north to Coimbra, the third-largest city in Portugal. I visited the University of Coimbra, among the oldest universities in Europe, with more than 700 years of history, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Upon arrival, I met two University of Coimbra students in their uniforms. They were fundraising for their upcoming graduation. The university campus has amazing art and architectural details in all directions. The walkway to the main courtyard has unique star-shaped tile design. I took time to look up, down, left, right and around to appreciate this incredible site.

Students in robes at the University of Coimbra

In the photo below, note the distinct tiles on the roof, the beautiful columns, statues and carvings that frame the entrance. Then there is a small black iron gate at the entrance with some garments. The tradition is that once the students receive their final marks and pass, they throw their gowns as high up on the entrance as possible. Some of the gowns get stuck there.

The university’s Palace Gate
A mosaic of the university’s seal in front of the main gate
The University Tower in the main courtyard
The Minerva Stairs – A popular spot for graduation photography
Doors in Manueline style

The tour at the university is very interesting and shows beautiful art and architecture inside. Most rooms have gorgeous tiles (azulejos) on the walls, paintings on the ceilings and texture-rich furnishings.

The jewel at the University is the stunning Joanine Library with its rich baroque decor. However, no photography is allowed inside. I learned that there are small bats in the library. They eat insects and naturally preserve the books. Each night, all surfaces in the library are covered with fine leather to protect them from bat droppings.

Porto

From Coimbra I continued my journey to Porto (or Oporto), Portugal’s second largest city with a 2000-year history. The Historic Centre of Oporto, Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I visited the Church of St. Francis and and walked the upper part of Porto to get a fantastic view of the city, the Clerigos Tower and the Duoro River.

A palace well worth visiting is the Stock Exchange Palace, renowned for its exquisite neoclassical façade and ornate gilded Arabian Hall.

On the last afternoon in Porto I enjoyed a Douro River Cruise to view the city from a new perspective. The boat passed by the numerous port wine cellars and under the magnificent bridges crossing the Duoro river valley. I visited a Port Wine Cellar for a tasting. It was a wonderful way to end my trip.

Weekend Coffee Share

This post concludes my three-part ‘Postcards from Portugal‘ series. Thank you for following along. For more door photos, visit Dan’s #ThursdayDoors photo challenge.

I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #119 InLinkz below.

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Outside the Box | People

This week I resumed organizing my digital images. Today’s batch includes five utility boxes designed and painted by three Toronto-based artists. I organized these images under the Outside the Box | People theme and listed them by artist’s last name below.

Gary Taxali’s Designs

Gary Taxali is a Canadian contemporary fine artist and illustrator known for his iconic retro style pop art and illustration. The following two “Good Fun” boxes have subtle differences between them.

Gary Taxali’s design, Box #1 – Front view
Gary Taxali’s Design, Box #1 – Side view
Gary Taxali’s design, Box #2 – Front view
Gary Taxali’s design, Box #2 – Back and side views

Colin Tea’s Design

Colin Tea is a Toronto-based artist who is also known as Colin Turner Bloom. The design is meant to transport those passing by into the tranquility and beauty of nature.

Colin Tea’s design – Front view
Colin Tea’s design – Back and side views

Madeline Yee’s Designs

Madeline Yee is a Canadian illustrator and animator. The designs on two back-to-back boxes feature people activities in the neighbourhood.

Madeline Yee’s design, 2022
Madeline Yee’s design – Box #1
Madeline Yee’s design – Box #2

Weekend Coffee Share

I enjoyed checking out the designs on these boxes and discovering Toronto-based artists. I usually look up the artists after my walk to learn more about their art portfolios.

Did you like any of the above designs? For more door photos, visit Dan’s #ThursdayDoors photo challenge.

I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #115 InLinkz below.

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In Pictures: 7 Fun Outings

It was my first week back from Portugal and back to the familiarity of home. I resumed my exercise routine, chatted with family and friends, booked coffee and walk dates, restocked the refrigerator, did laundry, and caught up on emails and blogs.

It was also a week with plenty of sunshine and unusually warm temperatures. The daytime high temperatures reached 29C (84F) on Wednesday and 31C (88F) on Thursday. I was happy to cycle to some of my favourite places in the city. I also took daily walks, met friends and together we enjoyed spotting spring flowers and watching birds and turtles.

Seven Fun Outings

Here’s a selection of my nature photos from Toronto, taken in the past seven days.

One Mural

To continue my floral theme, for the Photographing Public Art Challenge (PPAC) this week, here’s a mural painted by Alexandra. It was on the side of a flower stall in Rossio Square in Lisbon, Portugal. Obrigado means thank you.

Weekend Coffee Share

How was your week? I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #114 InLinkz below.

For more pastels and white, visit Terri’s Sunday Stills April colour challenge.

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Doors and Gates in Charleston

As mentioned in my previous post, my sisters and I had a reunion in Charleston, South Carolina in early March. The Charleston Historic District is a photographer’s dream and anyone interested in architecture and history would enjoy wandering there. During our stay, we walked every day and admired many beautiful and historic homes and buildings.

Since I live a car-free lifestyle, I love that the Charleston Historic District is walkable and the streets are kept clean. Even though the Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) operates three routes on the Charleston peninsula and the ride is free, we chose to walk and explore at our own pace.

Today’s galleries include photos of Charleston-style houses, doors and gates in The Battery and King Street neighbourhoods. I love the house architecture and unique black iron gate designs. Click on an image in the gallery for better view and use arrows to move through the gallery.

Charleston-Style Houses

I learned about five distinguishing features of a Charleston single house: 1) A long, narrow shape 2) A wider side 3) A faux front door 4) A porch, and 5) A consistent interior layout.

The Charleston single houses have tall, narrow fronts and are typically only one room wide on the home’s street-facing side. From the side, however, they can be the width of several rooms. Although single houses appear to have a centralized front entryway, this door actually leads to a small piazza or porch.

The piazzas always appear on the side of the house with the front door which, to take best advantage of local winds, will be the south or west side. The true entryway was typically placed along the porch, so the house residents could have more privacy entering and exiting their homes.

The Charleston double house faces the street at its full length—rather than just one room’s width. Charleston double houses are less common than single houses.

The Battery

This gallery includes photos of gates at different heights. Some gates are flanked by green plants or lion statues. The gate with the lamp atop is the entrance to the historic Edmonston-Alston House circa 1825. The pink house adds privacy with green plants on two of the three archways. The double wooden doors in the last photo are solidly handsome.

King Street

This gallery includes three narrow single iron gates and three wide double gates. Two of the single gates are slightly ajar. The hanging planters with pretty flowers and the red bricks are lovely to see.

Weekend Coffee Share

I spotted this mural near Charleston City Market and thought it was perfect for today’s Weekend Coffee Share and Photographing Public Art Challenge.

Mural by David Boatwright, 2020 in Charleston

What do you think about Charleston-style houses? Did you see any door or gate you like? For more door photos, visit Dan’s #ThursdayDoors photo challenge.

Please note that there will be no linkup on March 31 as I’ll be taking a blogging break next week. I’ll return with a fresh post and resume hosting Weekend Coffee Share on April 7. Thank you.

I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #112 InLinkz below.

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Postcard from Charleston

My sisters and I recently had a reunion in Charleston, South Carolina in the United States. It was the first time we were in one place since the pandemic started. Charleston was new to us and was sort of “half way” for everyone so we decided to meet there and explore the city together.

I lucked out with the weather throughout this trip. My flights (which took place in between two snow storms) were on time including connections. While we were in Charleston, it was sunny or partly sunny with daytime high temperatures ranged from 23C to 27C (73F-81F).

We explored the beautiful Charleston Historic District on foot every day and took a side trip by car to John’s Island one afternoon. We also window shopped, savoured local cuisine and did near non-stop talking and laughing. Our reunion was joyful and I am grateful for the wonderful quality time we shared.

Here are my 7 favourite experiences in Charleston.

1. Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park offers 10 acres of scenic landscapes and water views, along with the beautiful Pineapple fountain that symbolizes hospitality. One length of the park is lined with palmetto trees and the other length is full of blooming pink, red and white azaleas. Within the park, big trees provide beautiful shades over benches and water fountains. On one of our strolls by the Charleston Harbour and Cooper River, we were delighted to spot playful dolphins jumping out of the water.

Pineapple Fountain

2. The Battery and White Point Garden

The Battery is a historic seawall and picturesque promenade that hugs the shores of the Charleston peninsula. On this walk, we oohed and aahed at the stunning views, charming homes and iconic buildings. We ‘recharged’ at White Point Garden where several Civil War relics and memorials commemorate the city’s role in the battle.

The Battery

3. Rainbow Row and Historic Buildings

We took an architecture walk to explore gorgeous and historic homes and buildings in downtown Charleston.

Rainbow Row comprises of 13 colourful, Georgian homes

4. Charleston City Market

Originally established in the 1790s, Charleston City Market features four blocks of historic buildings, artisan shops, traditional food vendors, and more. We enjoyed shopping and lunch here.

Charleston City Market entrance

5. King Street

It was fun to wander on King Street and discover antique stores, art galleries, trendy restaurants, and stunning homes and buildings.

6. Southern Cuisine

Our favourite dinner was at Magnolias, a refined Southern eatery. We enjoyed several dishes and agreed the Shellfish over Grits was the best we’ve had.

7. The Angel Oak Tree

We drove to John’s Island to visit the majestic Angel Oak tree with its wide-spreading canopy and massive limbs resting on the ground.

The Angel Oak

Estimated to be between 300-400 years old, the tree towers 65 feet high and has a circumference of 25.5 feet. Its area of shade is 17,000 square feet and its largest limb has a circumference of 11.25 feet, and a length of 89 feet.

The Angel Oak is a Live Oak (scientific name Quercus Virginiana) that is a native species found throughout the Low country (Coastal Carolinas). Live Oaks only grow along the Eastern Coast. It is said to be the largest tree east of the Mississippi.

The naming of the tree was acquired from the tree’s previous owners, Martha and Justin Angel, who owned the property, which dates back to the early 1600-1700’s.

Preserve The Oak information board

Weekend Coffee Share

I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #111 InLinkz below.

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Visiting the Arid House

This weekend, on Sunday March 12, daylight saving time begins in my corner of the world. I am looking forward to more greenery and warmer temperatures outdoors. In the interim, I cycled to Allan Gardens Conservatory and visited the Arid House, one of five greenhouses in this indoor botanical garden.

Exploring the Arid House

The Arid House is located on the northwest side of the conservatory. It is home to a large display of unusual cacti and succulents including collections of agave, opuntia, haworthia and aloe.

The Arid House

Walking through the Arid House, I enjoyed examining the plants, their shapes, sizes, and colours. Their fun names made me smile. I was mindful of where I was standing to take pictures as many of the plants have thorns.

Golden Barrel Cacti and Haworthia (Zebra plants)
Mother of Thousands
Blue Chalk Sticks
Crown of Thorns
Aloe
Assorted Cacti
Orange Kalanchoe

The Arid House was nice and warm. I felt rejuvenated and relaxed after being with the plants. I headed home feeling pretty good about my choice of outing for the day.

Welcoming Public Art

Last week I stopped over at Philadelphia International Airport while on my way to meet my sisters. I discovered the beautiful Over the River and Through the Wood mural created by Philadelphia artist Constance Culpepper. I found the mural soothing and cheerful.

Over the River and Through the Wood mural by Constance Culpepper
About the artist and her art

“My painting is a place where everyone is welcome. Explore, smell the peonies, drink a cup of tea, feel the grass between your toes, look up at the clouds in the sky, take a seat. Maybe here, you can discover something or someone anew.”

Constance Culpepper

Weekend Coffee Share

How green is your corner of the world? What do you think of the mural? This post is my contribution to Terri’s #SundayStills March colour challenge and Jo’s Monday Walk.

I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #110 InLinkz below.

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Murals in Chinatown

A few weeks ago I cycled to Toronto’s Downtown Chinatown or West Chinatown, then walked along Dundas Street West to photograph murals that I’ve seen on another visit.

The history of Toronto’s Chinatown stems back to the late 1870s. Although the West Chinatown (Dundas Street West/ Spadina Avenue) is more well known, there are also East Chinatown (Broadview Avenue/ Gerrard Street East) and other Chinatowns in the Greater Toronto Area.

Here are five huge murals in Chinatown, located on the south side of Dundas Street West, between Beverley Street and Spadina Avenue.

1. Mural at Number 397

Located at 397 Dundas Street West, this mural features people and young children. I took photos of it in four sections. Unfortunately I was unable to find the artists’ names.

Mural at Number 397, section 1
Mural at Number 397, section 2
Mural at Number 397, section 3
Mural at Number 397, section 4
Mural at Number 397, sections 2 to 4

2. The Great Wall Mural

Located at 421 Dundas Street West, this mural was designed and painted by Blinc Studios artists Allan Blender, John Nobrega, Rick Sauve, Brian Broders, Jesse McCuaig and Ming Lau in 2013. It features the Great Wall of China and is the longest of the five murals. I’m sharing six sections although the mural has about a dozen of them.

The Great Wall mural, section 1
The Great Wall mural, section 2
The Great Wall mural, section 3
The Great Wall mural, section 4
The Great Wall mural, section 5
The Great Wall mural, section 6

3. The Forbidden City Mural

Located at 433 Dundas Street West, this mural was designed and painted by Blinc Studios artists Allan Blender, John Nobrega, Jesse McCuaig, and Elaine Teguibon. It features two fierce lions outside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.

The Forbidden City mural
The Forbidden City mural
The Forbidden City mural

4. Milky Way Mural

Located at 449 Dundas Street West, this mural was designed and painted by Blinc Studios artists Allan Bender, John Nobrega, Azadeh Pirazimian and Jieun June Kim in July 2017. It features the Chinese fairy tale of the Herd-Boy and the Weaver-Girl.

Milky Way mural
The Herd Boy
The Weaver Girl

5. Dragon Mural

Located at 493 Dundas Street West, the Dragon mural was designed and painted on a metal surface by Blinc Studios artists Allan Bender, John Nobrega, Jesse McCuaig, Azadeh Pirazimian, Chris Brown, Frannie Potts and Mohammad Jaberi in 2016.

Dragon mural
Dragon mural close-up

Weekend Coffee Share

It was a fun walk to see the murals in details. The list of artists shows that it was a team effort to paint them. The finished murals look beautiful, coherent and impressive. They’re my contribution to Terri’s #SundayStills Out of this World photo challenge and Jo’s Monday Walk.

Which mural do you like?

I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #109 InLinkz below.

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Dreams & Fantasies #Icefest23 #WordlessWednesday #Photography

For Wordless Wednesday and Sunday Stills Out of this World – Let your photo(s) tell the story.

Elegant Carriage to travel the Ice Sculpture trail

Are you participating in Wordless Wednesday? I’d love for you to share the link to your Wordless Wednesday post in the Comments. I will visit your post and leave you a comment (provided the post contains no words, just pictures).

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Outside the Box | Animals

It’s been a good week with spring-like temperatures, plenty of sunshine and blue skies from Saturday through to Tuesday. I cycled most days and walked every day. On Wednesday, the daytime high temperature reached 14C (57F) which is unusual for mid-February here.

I photographed the following five utility boxes on my walks. I organized them under my Outside the Box | Animals theme and listed them by artist’s name. Most of them have different designs on the front, side and the back so two pictures for each box.

1. Raccoon by Jeff Blackburn

The raccoon is holding a camera like a tourist as this box is near St. Lawrence Market, a tourist-friendly area.

Raccoon – front
Raccoon – back

2. Pets by Tak Bùi, 2017

The design hopes to celebrate the affection humans have towards the two most popular pets. I spot a monkey, do you see it too?

Pets – front
Pets – back

3. Stinkpot Turtles Toronto Return by Jungle Ling, 2019

The design attempts to draw attention to the Eastern Musk Turtle or the Stinkpot Turtle which only grows to 5″ long. They once were common in South Eastern Ontario in our muddy flats and shallow rivers. Such habitats continue to disappear due to human activities.

Stinkpot Turtles – front
Stinkpot Turtles – back

4. Fish by Charles Weiss, 2015

The vertical design shows bright contrasting shapes of Lake Ontario fish. The largest fish is the Chinook salmon in two different colour patterns (brown for fall and silver for summer).

5. Birds by Avril Wu, 2021

Soft images of birds on the front and a striking crane on the back of this box.

Birds – front
Crane – back

Weekend Coffee Share

I enjoy these designs that highlight animal life around me. Which design(s) do you like?

I’d love for you to share what’s been happening, simple joys from your week and/ or favourite public art photos from around the world in the comments or Weekend Coffee Share linkup #107 InLinkz below.

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