mtl2We’re very fortunate in TORONTO to be within easy reach of another major metropolis with great architecture, fine food, theatre and nightlife, elegant shops, funky neighbourhoods – etc, etc. You don’t have to cross a border to get there and the dollar is strong and healthy.

mtl3Take the train, as I did last weekend, and 5 hours & 350 miles later you’re in MONTREAL, Canada’s second largest city.

mtl4Friday was crisp and sunny –  checked into L’Appartement Hotel, 455 Sherbrooke Street (perfectly fine and reasonably priced); visited several art galleries in the Belgo Building on Ste. Catherine Street, and then a concert by the OSM (Montreal Symphony Orchestra).  <IMAGE ABOVE“I met a witch through a mutual acquaintance.  Excitedly I asked her if she could put my soul in a bottle so that I could be embodied in my own work.  She told me that she would not, that it would be like asking her to kill me.  She said that she could put in a part of my spirit and animate that object with an essential part of my being.  MILUTIN GUBASH, the artist –  “I don’t know what the witch did or whether she did what she said she would, but I want to believe that artworks can live and walk and breathe and think.  I believe her like I believe an artist.”

mtl5Saturday cloudy – the Santa Claus Parade, then the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition at the Musee des Beaux Arts, followed by the William Notman exhibit (photographer to Queen Victoria) at the McCord Museum, and a Beatles recreation with 16-piece orchestra at the Maisonneuve Theatre.

mtl10<A Micro-Bibliotheque>


Sunday – freezing rain.  Excellent brunch at Juliette et Chocolat (finest galettes anywhere including Paris, squash soup and a chocolate crepe)

mtl12<Montreal Biennale at the Museum of Contemporary Art>

mtl14<‘LA PLONGEE’, an installation by Michelle Furlong on Ste. Catherine Street East>

mtl9mtl16<Ended the day at Carre St-Louis, one of MONTREAL’s most beautiful parks.  Still pouring rain.  Snow to follow.>


via13VIA, Canada’s passenger railway system, links TORONTO, Montreal and Ottawa with frequent departures seven days a week. Usually it arrives on time, the staff is friendly, the food is OK and the price is right – with weekly reduced fares to almost every province.

via1<Passing through MONTREAL’s containerland>

via2<The backyards of St-Henri>

via3<Century-old warehouses>  My comparison to the Trans-Siberian Railway is more about the countryside one passes through than about the train itself. The first major snowstorm of the season hit MONTREAL on the weekend – coating the land with a generous helping of blowing snow and freezing rain.

via4Getting a window seat and focusing on the scenery the five hours went by in no time. It makes you realize how vast and unpopulated this country is – and how wonderful it is to be able to see it this way. Vive VIA!



santa8santa6We do some things very well, and this is one of them. Founded by Eaton’s Department Store, The Santa Claus Parade is among the largest in the world.  The outdoor spectacular attracts hundreds of thousands every year – in person and on television. This year, more than ever, we need a little Christmas!



rarebooklibrary1Much of the late LEONARD COHEN’s life’s work is in the vaults of the University of TORONTO’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. The collection contains more than 100 self-portraits, countless hand written notes, letters to family and friends, fan mail, early drafts of his work, a 1960’s experimental novel ‘Beautiful Losers‘ and a 1956 poetry book ‘Let Us Compare Mythologies’.  Cohen sold some of his earliest papers to the University in the 1960’s and continued donating his archives in the years to come. <PHOTO – University of Toronto>

nbcttc3Who’d have imagined a partnership like this? The National Ballet of Canada and the TORONTO Transit Commission have teamed up to get people thinking more about public transit and our excellent ballet company. Roughly 40% of the National Ballet’s revenue comes from box office sales and subscriptions. The National Ballet’s goal is to up those numbers. The company performs at the Four Seasons Centre which has a TTC subway stop, and many of its young dancers take public transit daily.  The TTC has been partnering with organizations and events since last year’s Pan American/Parapan Am Games, the Raptors, Maple Leafs, Toronto FC and the Blue Jays.

economist1economist2This week THE ECONOMIST chirped “Liberty Moves North” about the many attributes of us!  “In this depressing company of wall-builders, door-slammers and drawbridge-raisers, CANADA stands out as a heartening exception. It happily admits more than 300,000 immigrants a year, nearly 1% of its population—a higher proportion than any other big, rich country—and has done so for two decades . . . . (Of course) it is easier to be relaxed about immigration when your only land border is protected by a wall the size of the United States.”  


royalalex2The ROYAL ALEXANDRA, Canada’s oldest legitimate theatre & National Historic Landmark, is celebrating its total refurbishment by opening with an American/Canadian musical “COME FROM AWAY” – which is enroute to Broadway.

royalalex5royalalex7The restored theatre – 1,497 seats reduced to 1,244; 9-inches of additional legroom; brand new much wider seats installed identical to the original 1907 models; rake of the orchestra level restored to its original angle; beaux arts mouldings on the balcony fronts and ceiling cleaned and restored.

royalalex1Architect JOHN LYLE’s revolutionary design of the auditorium has been kept with cantilevered balconies allowing all audience member’s pillar-free sightlines.

royalalex4“COME FROM AWAY” has already proven itself at the La Jolla Playhouse, the Seattle Repertory Theatre and Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC, and is now headed for Broadway with a 2-month stopover at TORONTO’s Royal Alex.

royalalex3As a ‘thank you’, the cast <PHOTO ABOVE> brought the production to Gander, Newfoundland, where the story behind the musical actually unfolded.  On September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was destroyed and commercial air traffic over American airspace was completely shut down 38 US-bound flights landed at Gander’s Airport unexpectedly, nearly doubling the town’s population.  Newfoundlanders who are, without a doubt, the most hospitable people anywhere, pitched in, fed and housed 6,000 stranded passengers. The townsfolk bonded with the travelers, and many relationships were established that have lasted to this day.

royalalex8The idea for the show was conceived by Michael Rubinoff, a TORONTO lawyer, producer and Sheridan College’s associate dean of visual and performing arts. On Broadway the show opens February 18, 2017 (previews) and officially on March 12 at the Gerald Schoenfeld TheatreTORONTO tickets –


sultan2SULTAN STREET is a tiny cul-de-sac in the Bloor/Yorkville district, an upscale neighbourhood in the heart of downtown. It’s become a prime condo development site and this row of Victorian red brick houses <PHOTO BELOW> are in the middle of it. They were taken apart and re-assembled with great care while a curvy office building went up behind. The project is almost finished and you can be sure the rents will go way up along this picturesque row.

sultan3<PHOTO ABOVE – the row as it was before the project began>

sultan1<PHOTO ABOVE – the row as it is today – Hariri Pontarini Architects>