Friday, March 10, 2017

Woodbine Mall Fantasy Fair

Amusement arcades and rides inside malls seemed to be common in big malls in UAE. Even when I visited Sharjah, one of the malls there had a little amusement park with rides and arcade games inside. It's not something that's common here.

There was a huge amusement park inside West Edmonton Mall which we visited, and it was huge, but that's an exception. In Toronto, we have the Woodbine Mall Fantasy Fair.


We had a Groupon deal that let 4 people ride unlimited for $30, so we went there last Saturday. The centre opens at 10 am and we were there at 11 am. It was great, there wasn't much of a line up at any of the rides, and we got to do everything at a relaxed pace, which is no mean feat with two toddlers.


The train ride is a popular one, and it goes all around the "amusement park", and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. I reflected that with the groupon deal, this was the first time I was actually riding the rides! Usually as father I am the one paying and taking pictures and not enjoying the rides.


Even though some of the rides had height restrictions, most of the rides were suitable for all kids (and adults).


If you were not into rides, they had some other activities like "rock climbing". What I liked most was that even the most "extreme" attractions were geared for being suitable for kids.


So even the ride usually known as 'drop zone' or 'freefall' was made sure it didn't go too high, and kids could ride in it, although this particular kid didn't seem to have enjoyed it a lot!


They also had dinosaurs all over the park, for some reason! Almost all types of dinosaurs, from the big to the small, herbivores to carnivores, were there on display, and these were moving and roaring! I don't really know why they were there; it didn't seem to fit under any theme and did nothing for the rides.


If you are visiting this place, I would suggest going early. It fills up very quickly and gets really busy on some days, especially long weekends.


There's no halal food food in the food court except a shawarma place. So if you are not a fan of that, and you can't eat anything else at the mall, you should either bring your own food.You can go in and out as many times as you like, there's no real "gate". They check you for tokens or tickets at every ride.



We had a stroller with us, but we could leave it beside the ride while we went on it. A stroller was also useful as the youngest one decided to sleep in the afternoon while one of us accompanied the older kid on the rides. It's also a great place to dump your jackets, caps and mittens!


Over all it was a fun morning and afternoon. Although the mall itself is nothing to write home about, you can have a good time at the Fantasy Fair, provided it doesn't get too crowded. Come early, and enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Toronto Light Festival


It's hard to get people to get out of their houses in our cold Canadian winter, even if the area to head out to is as fashionable as the Distillery District. So when I learned of the Toronto Light Festival, happening over there, I just waited for the right evening to head down there. Tonight the temperature was a balmy 12 C in the evening (very unlike our usual February weather!) so we decided to check it out.

 
The Distillery District is often the choice for bridal photo shoots and couple engagement pictures. It has an old work charm, with brick buildings and trendy shops and cafes.



The light festival has on their website one simple statement.

Winter sucks, and we simply want to make winter not suck so much. And oh, we really like pretty lights.


And I have to say, they got it right. The exhibits were bright, spirited and fun. And it was crowded (it was a nice evening) and everyone was taking pictures (and selfies) with all the cool exhibits.


My favourite was the ring of lights. It took some positioning (and practicing my crowd navigating skills I picked up in India) to get myself into the right spot to take the pictures I wanted.


Another crowd favourite were the tiger exhibits. I couldn't take every shot here that I wanted as it was simply too busy and our children decided they had enough and wanted to go home.


There were just white lights hidden underneath paper sheets (of different colours) held on a wire-frame structure. I know these were paper sheets as one girl accidentally managed to damage one of them!


There was no name to this next exhibit, but it was a series of images of an athlete doing some running and jumping.




Overall the Light Festival was fun (and free). Parking nearby was $2/hour. We spent nearly two hours here and while we finished seeing most of the exhibits, we didn't manage to check out some of the exhibits there were housed indoors. It's a great spot to spend some of the now not-so-sucky winter nights. On a crowded night, budget easily 3 hours here, especially if you are into photography.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ducks in the Park On a Cold Day

It was the day after the snow storm. A few friends and I were taking a photography workshop, and after the class decided to venture to a nearby park for some practice shooting.


While our aim was to get some portrait shots in outdoor conditions, the park we went to had a (semi-frozen) pond with lots of ducks (loons) in it. Now there are beautiful creatures, and you don't often see them this time in the winter as many of them head south.


So it was to our surprise that we saw a huge bunch of them. Flying, swimming and people were feeding them bread, even though a sign asked them not to!


It was something to see these ducks walk so sure-footedly on the frozen part of the pond. Even the banks of the small brook were completely covered with ice (we had freezing rain as well), so it was tough for us to walk on, but these ducks were racing each other.



It was really the first time I had ventured out to a park in the winter, and I guess I should do it more often, if only for the photography. Winter (and the dead trees and the desolate landscape) can often make for some really dynamic pictures, full of drama and mood.

Girl on a Bridge
This picture above - "Girl on a Bridge" - remains one of my favourite shots from the day. Everything about it, from the bridge framed in the lower one third of the picture, to the girl and her stare across at something, and the barren yet tree laden landscape behind her tells a story.


Finally, our enthusiasm for pictures and photography could not compensate for the fact that it was getting colder (and it was evening too, so high ISO settings), so in the end we decided to call it a day. But I won't forget the Ducks in the Park.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Snow Day in Toronto

You know you are a Canadian who lives in Toronto when you take pictures of the white snow covered landscape after a snowstorm in the city. After all, it's Canada, it's winter ... snow is therefore expected. But we live in Toronto, so we are a little spoiled when it comes to weather..


We got 10 cm of snow today, starting early in the morning. A snow day is not bad if it happens on a Sunday. I mean, you don't have to go to work, so there's no traffic to beat.


However, there's lots and lots of shovelling to do. Driveways are covered in snow and you have to clear it soon after it stops snowing (or there's an accumulation of a certain amount). I am not exactly sure of the law, but you DO have to clear your own driveway and sidewalk.


And then as soon as you get it all clean (and you are really proud of yourself, as it's hard work!), it starts snowing again!


You really have to marvel at the evergreens. Snow, hail, sleet - these little trees shrug it off as if it's no big deal. These coniferous trees never loose their green hue and are common across Canada.


Meanwhile, if you HAVE to go somewhere, make sure to give yourself plenty of time. We had to head to the airport during one snow storm, and our flight was one of the few that wasn't cancelled. We took double the usual time to reach the airport. And not to mention, have a car that has winter tires installed, especially if you are going away up north.




Our backyward is now a far cry from the oasis it was during summer. And it's amazing to think that such weather could only be 3 months away. How soon things change in a 100 days!



This slipper is the only remnant of summer still out in the yard. It's patiently waiting for sunny weather and long days. Soon, sandal, soon!


Winter is synonymous with short days and long nights. Great for fasting, or for khichudi. Which is what we had.

And there's one more way to enjoy the winter at home.


SNOWBALL fight!
How do you enjoy your snow days? Let me know in the comments.