A visit to the ROM and other adventures around Toronto

August 11, 2016   ·   0 Comments

ConstanceToronto is a mere hour’s drive (give or take the traffic) from here and, as such, we may be granted that luxury to visit few places within its boundaries but visit them well. In this feature, we suggest a tour of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the largest museum in Canada and one of the largest in North America, a jewel in the cultural crown of Toronto.

At this time of year, of course, there can be lots of children rushing from dinosaur to dinosaur – why do we love them, we wondered but we do. Are they fascinating because they were so big, lived so long ago and yet, there is so much known about them? At any rate, there is a fine collection of assembled bones at the ROM with solid explanations for what is on view. In fact, the first body, as it were, that one sees on entering the museum is the tremendous sauropod skeleton  extending for several metres immediately inside the entrance to the building.

There are always special exhibits at the ROM, frequently artistic, anthropological, specific scientific discovery displays, interesting, amazing and, naturally, wholly instructive. At the moment, down stairs from the main hall, is the Chihuly glass exhibit. This astonishing artist, a glass blower, takes the visitor from wonder to wonder with his command of light within and around his elegant, sometimes strange, constantly captivating glass figures and shapes.

“I want to show light in a completely different way,” he says in his comments on the display and, to be sure, he does just that.

Nearby, is an exhibit of the art of tattooing as it is done in many cultures around the world where tattooing is taken to a level of obsession and high art. The caveat issued is that there is some nudity involved in showing the full scope of some of the tattooing.

Back to the entrance from which “The Crystal” named after philanthropist Michael Lee-Chin houses the dino exhibit, one of the largest in the world, boasting a large number of fossils and standing, flying, roaring, animated dinosaurs to satisfy the imaginations of all family members. There is an amusing digital aspect (naturally) for an interaction with one of them, take a photo and send it to the ROM for their collection.

Returning to the main building with its fine wood and architecture, we are awash in ancient history, truly fabulous collections of artifacts of all the ancient world from China, across Asia and Africa; Europe and Canada. All our ancestors are considered in the flow of the galleries throughout this magnificent building. It takes time and a bit of perseverance to appreciate it all fully.

For us, the Egyptian gallery calls. Several mummies, complete, sleep now in glass cases, their trappings still by their sides. The tools and luxuries of the ancient tribes of Egypt give a reasonably clear idea of their lives: the very small number of fabulously wealthy people – kings and otherwise – stood on the shoulders of workers and slaves who spent their lives employed in the building of temples, palaces and tombs and supporting the wealthy. There was a small number of merchants and travellers in the middle bringing goods and news from other parts of the world.

A tight circle that has spun its way across all the cultures  and all the ages of this earth. Basically, without variation to this day.

We could eat at the ROM and shop: there are cafes and shops, but we have a date in Chinatown and head for there, feet tired, hungry but highly satisfied with our trip to the ROM, ready to recommend it to all.

Chinatown and Kensington Market is often referred to by foreign visitors as the soul of Toronto. The old market of Kensington has been a destination for generations and some shops go back 50 years and more. What a joy it is: a real market place where food and goods can be bought for reasonable prices – produce, meat, cheese. Clothing of many styles; vintage, art, Islands – it is simply great.

For an inexpensive lunch, we go to King’s Noodle on Spadina Avenue, where the noodle soup is almost always more than you can eat and the place is full of people of Asian descent, a reassurance that the food is high quality and authentic in its flavour.

For baskets and plates of dim sum, go across the street at St. Andrews and Spadina to the all day dim sum restaurant, also very reasonable and the “real thing.”

Take your time to browse the marvels of the shops around Kensington Market, enjoy the food – there is more than Chinese restaurants, if you prefer: Portuguese, vegan, creperies, hamburger, have a wander – look around.

By now, you have been in town for hours. You have missed the crowds of the tourist places, for the ROM is much more than that; you have eaten well and, perhaps, bought yourself something you like which is not available in a box store.

You didn’t even have to book a flight for the adventure.

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