Tour de Greenbelt

Ontario’s Greenbelt is an area of protected greenspace and farmland, where some of the best agricultural land in Canada is located.To promote the Greenbelt, volunteers and sponsors put together a bicycle ride each year called the Tour de Greenbelt. I saw an ad for it last year but we weren’t cycling as much then so postponed our participation till this year. There are four different rides to choose from and although I really wanted to do the one through the Niagara vineyards, we were busy that weekend. The second choice was the ride out of Newmarket, a small town north of Toronto. Why? Because it would start and end at a farmers’ market and I couldn’t pass that opportunity!

The weather forecast wasn’t good. After weeks of perfect weather, they were calling for rain on Saturday but we bought some rain gear and decided to go anyway. In the end, the weather held, the sun came out at certain points of the ride and the rain only came when we were back in Toronto. It was an amazing day! We’ll definitely do some of the other rides next year; maybe we’ll even volunteer! Click below for a slideshow:

Greenbelt_23.jpg

Cycling through the core of Toronto

The Toronto Bicycling Network is a volunteer run cycling club that organizes hundreds of events throughout the year. Among their many activities are sociable, evening rides, in which people simply meet and a designated spot and head off for a 1-2 hour cycle eventually ending up at a patio or restaurant somewhere for dinner. We went for a Friday night ride a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it so much that we joined the club this past week. So yesterday we set out for another Friday night ride. This one took us through the core of Toronto – most of the path was through bike paths or quiet streets but there were enough of us (at least 20 cyclists) that we felt safe even on the busy streets. Here’s the map (I missed a bit by the lake, but you get the idea):

cycle

We started at Riverdale Park, passed through Cabbagetown, the Gay Village (which was in the midst of celebrating Pride weekend!), U of T, Harbord St, then up to the Junction, down through High Park, to the lake, then it was on the Martin Goodman Trail (lovely at dusk!) all the way to Jarvis and then up Church st to our place. We separated from the group at Jarvis (they continued on to the Danforth to have dinner) but thoroughly enjoyed the evening. We did about 32 km in perhaps one and a half hours and the night was simply magical – warm but with a nice breeze. Cycling through some really nice neighbourhoods made me once more aware of how nice this city really is.

A sign of summer…

Itinerary

KensingtonWith temperatures reaching 24 C today, we couldn’t help but enjoy the nice weather. I must warn my friends from other parts of the world: the inability to stay home when the weather is nice is a sure sign that you have been assimilated. Or maybe it’s just a sign that you have survived the winter. Anyway, today marked our first cycling tour of the year. We left the house at 9:30 AM and went for our traditional coffee at Kensington Market (blue line on the map). There we met our friend J. and chatted for a while with some nice women visiting the market for the first time. After making sure they had a good impression of the place and its people, we went to the bike shop to get a few choice items (Alan needed a new seat and J. a panier) before proceeding to Mitzi’s a brunch spot I had heard about near Roncesvalles Village (red line).

After an amazing brunch, we made our way to High Park, where we faced some serious hills before finding a nice spot in the shade, by the pond. We settled there for a while enjoying the sound of the birds, children playing nearby, and the simple joy of perfect weather.

We then left (purple line) and stopped for a coffee at Coffee & All that Jazz, a quaint little place near Roncesvalles. Alan and I had been there last week with our friend Jackie, who was visiting from Calgary, and really enjoyed the atmosphere. Plus, they serve Dufflet pastries! We hung out there for a while, reading the papers and just sort of relaxing before coming home.

It was a perfect day. I’m physically exhausted and feeling slightly sunburned (this is the first bike ride of the year!) but sooo happy and relaxed. There is something about physical tiredness that is quite relaxing… I don’t know if you know what I mean. Plus the energy in the city is really amazing. Everybody is happy because of the summer-like weather. All the patios are crowded and the good mood is really contagious. That’s one of my favourite things about the seasons here in Canada – winter is so long that when the weather changes, the difference in people’s moods is palpable. It’s worth 6 months of winter to experience it!

Unfortunately, my camera ran out of battery by the time we got to the park, so all I got were a couple of pictures from Kensington (notice all the people in summer clothes) and one from Mitzi’s.

Kensington

Mitzi's

Bicycles as public transit

I wrote about Bicing, Barcelona’s new bicycle-sharing program, a little while ago. It came into effect the day we left Barcelona, back in May, so we didn’t have a chance to use it when we lived there. We finally got a chance to see it in practice when we were there over the Christmas holidays. I’m sold!

The system is simple – for 24 euros/year you can get a card that allows you to check out bicycles from any of the hundreds of spots around the city. The first half an hour is free, then you pay 30 cents for every half an hour up to 2 hours. After that you pay a higher fine. The point is that you shouldn’t need more than half an hour to get from point A to point B, where you can drop off the bike in another bike stand. Joy and Jesús lent us their cards and off we went around the city in our bikes!

Bicing Stands

Taking pictures

We even took a bike to go only 3 blocks!!

To our delight, our other favourite city also started a similar service! Called Velib’, the Parisian system was equally ubiquitous and open to all.  There it costs 29 euros/year or 5 euro/week, 1 euro/day. We saw the bike stands all over the place but didn’t use it because it was a bit too cold when we were there.

Velib Velib