When the last dregs of winter have finally dissipated, and the scent of jewel-toned florals are ushered in by long warm afternoons, Torontonians emerge from hibernation and take off in a feverish scurry for the city’s beloved spring ritual, the cherry blossom festival in High Park. Much like tulip buds peeking through the soil, or the sight of fluffy goslings being herded across the street, cherry blossoms are the greeting call that spring has finally reclaimed its rightful place.
After having just missed the peak bloom period 2 years in a row, I was determined to catch the delicate pink blossoms in their prime this year. As luck would have it, the day before I was set to go, I sustained a fairly serious back injury. One wrong move and suddenly I found myself unable to walk down the stairs, lie down or even get into the car without bursting into a flood of tears from sheer agony.
Immediately, I went for an intense and painful session of acupuncture, and was put on bed rest for the remainder of the evening. After the most fitful night of sleep, during which I kept wondering, “What if I don’t recover in time to see the cherry blossoms tomorrow?” dawn finally broke. Although I still had to move slowly and gingerly (which is difficult when your mind hasn’t fully accepted that you’re injured, and still wants to go at 100 mph), I was thankfully able to resume my usual movements without crying at the drop of a hat.
In springtime, our senses are delighted by the vivid colours of new beginnings, and even the most ordinary of streets is transformed into a garden by the presence of dogwood, crabapple or magnolia blossoms. But none is more beautiful or more majestic than the cherry blossoms. Their gentle, understated grace, coupled with their fleeting beauty, makes their appearance all the more precious.
Standing in awe in their presence, it was humbling to be reminded of the impermanence of life. Cherry blossoms live brilliantly and die fast, but for us, life is only just beginning.
Last summer, before my close friend Cynthia packed up and moved halfway around the world (just kidding, Vancouver) to be with her fiancé, we spent one last glorious day together doing the YMCA in public and force-feeding her French pastries. The date started off as every great date should – with brunch. Word on the street was that Lady Marmalade boasted the best Eggs Benedict in Toronto, and I definitely had a thing for Benny.
Brunch was pretty good (although calling it ‘best in Toronto’ might have been an oversell), but I had a bigger surprise in store for Cynthia.
She had made no secret of her aversion towards macarons, which I stubbornly took to mean that she had just never eaten a good macaron. After all, they are made of sugar and delightfulness. So after brunch, I took her for a walk without divulging our next destination. When we arrived at my most beloved bakery in the city, Bobbette and Belle, Cynthia realized what was about to go down. Despite her protests of betrayal, she agreed to try a salted caramel macaron. And she liked it, ha!
We then visited some of my favourite spots in the city, including a little hidden garden where Cynthia took the opportunity to feel me up, under the guise of “that other couple over there is doing it.”
Some time and inappropriate behaviour later, we arrived at the very beautiful but very much closed Spadina Museum. It was only 4 o’clock in the afternoon, but I guess the garden needed its beauty rest. To compensate, we hung around outside the beautiful grounds, startling passerbys with our interpretative dancing (it was practice for the wedding!)
The final mission of the day was getting Cynthia to Grazie for dinner, which she presumed would only be the two of us, but was actually a little surprise gathering of some close friends. Annoyingly, the restaurant would not seat anyone until the entire party was there, so we ended up having to surprise Cynthia at the door!
Having just spent the most incredible morning at the Chateau des Charmes, it was hard to imagine how the rest of Niagara-on-the-Lake could possibly measure up. Luckily, it did not disappoint in the least. Every building, every street corner looked like a postcard snapshot. It was an impossibly charming town, and impossible not to love. Moments after these photographs were taken, we were horrified to discover that the quirky large ice-cream cone we had just hugged was, in fact, a garbage can. Oh, mon dieu! Luckily, just around the corner was a little wading pool to help us wash off and (try to) forget what we had just done! And oh – the flowers! Nothing brings a smile to my face faster than the sight and smell of flowers in bloom. And there were flowers everywhere. For dinner, we ducked into this little Italian restaurant whose name escapes me now, as it was some time ago, but the feeling of absurd happiness that this meal brought still remains. As we made our way home, we passed an open field that we had driven by at least five times already that day. The sun was beginning its descent, and the light being cast over the field was incredible. I couldn’t resist asking Erin to pull over so that we could get some photos. The grass was long and overgrown and tickled as we laughed and stumbled our way onto the field. And we twirled on and on and on.
It’s been almost a year since this trip took place, and there’s a huge backlog of photos just collecting dust and waiting to be blogged, but I decided to start with this trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake from last July because it was one of the happiest days I can remember. I took the train into Burlington that morning, and Erin drove us the rest of the way. We had the names of a few wineries we wanted to visit, but other than that, there were no set plans. Moments after pulling off the highway, we spotted the most beautiful and majestic vineyard, and knew we had to take a look.
Château des Charmes was quite the sight, with immaculate flowerbeds everywhere and a large welcoming fountain by the entrance, like something out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
Erin and I weren’t big into the wine tasting, but we sampled something fruity and something bubbly (the best way I can describe it!) and both were delicious.
We weren’t big into the wine cellar tours either, preferring to explore the estate on our own. Here we are laughing because I accidentally set the self-timer on the camera to take 10 continuous photos instead of 1. It happens more than you’d think.
Next, we took to exploring the vineyards, and since no one was around, did some interpretive dance in between the grape vines. As it turned out, we weren’t actually allowed to go back there and disrupt the grapes…oops. (In our defense, we were just trying to wish them good luck on the harvest).
Despite getting kicked out of the vines, we sat around and enjoyed the sunshine for a bit longer, discussing our hypothetical plans to get married here someday among the roses and forbidden grapes.
We didn’t want to leave, but the day was young and we figured there were other gorgeous wineries to visit. By the end however, we realized that we had actually just lucked out and hit the jackpot on the first try. No other vineyard in all of Niagara on the Lake quite measured up to the splendor of Château des Charmes.
(NOTL adventures to be continued…)
Oh, summer. It feels like you’ve only just arrived, and in the blink of an eye, you’ve left us again. Personally, I have a very low tolerance for heat and humidity, so this past summer of mild (and sometimes downright chilly!) weather has been just fine with me. I keep thinking I should move to a place where it’s mild all year round, but then again, I could never give up my beloved Toronto so easily (except for my dream city…)
As the summer races towards its inevitable end (it is still summer, isn’t it?), I wanted to share with you my favourite summertime outfit, the cotton LWD. Oh little white dress, what is not to love here? It’s light and breathable; the perfect antidote to those unbearably muggy days when just the thought of getting dressed causes you to break out in sweat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in front of my closet, riffling through every item I own, only to end up reaching for the same reliable dress. My advice to you: if you ever find that perfect little white dress that resonates with you; that deep down, you know you could not live without, just buy it and don’t look back! It will serve you well time and time again, you’ll see.
The Taste of Little Italy adventures continued on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon – balmy without being hot, breezy without even the slightest hint of a cloud in the sky. I couldn’t have dreamt up a more perfect day for stuffing my face, part 2.
After picking Erin up from Union Station, we headed towards Harbourfront for a light lunch and some lighter banter. Gradually, we made our way towards the festival, taking in the delightful smells and rambunctious sounds of thousands of Torontonians gathered together for the sole appreciation and enjoyment of all things Italian.
A vibrant selection of fresh strawberries.
The cutest lemonade stand, made cuter only by Erin.
Ohmagad! So good to see you, girl!!
Our double dates for the afternoon looking just darling.
The anticipation is palpable – take the picture so we can devour our Churros!
Life doesn’t get much better than mini ice-cream cones for a dollar. Which begs the question – what is Andy doing holding a fork?!
Dinnertime rolled around and it seemed like the right thing to do to finally sit down for a proper meal (after walking four laps of the entire festival), even though we were still digesting the various goodies sampled throughout the afternoon. Luckily, I had learned from the cheeseless, tomato-sauceless fiasco from two nights ago. This time, I came prepared to try a highly-rated Italian restaurant, meticulously chosen after hours of cross-referencing online reviews (pasta is no joke). The restaurant, Marinella, definitely lived up to its reputation; I enjoyed every bite of their delicious handmade pasta!
Cynthia’s penne alla vodka with prosciutto, mushroom, and vodka-infused tomato cream sauce!
Erin’s margherita pizza.
Andy (fellow possessor of excellent taste) and I both ordered the fettuccine alfredo with mushrooms, diced tomatoes (and sautéed chicken for Andy!)
Later, standing in line for Dolce Gelato (a tradition), I caught an anxious Erin glancing at her watch and wondering whether to ditch the gelato in favour of catching the train on time. “Trust me,” I whispered, “Once you taste the pistachio gelato, you will understand – this is all worth it.”
And it was.