Exploring the Aga Khan Museum

20171021_103948 (2) This blog post took more time than I would have expected. Part of my reticence in writing about this particular funventure was that our first attempt at visiting the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto ended with the boy and I involved in a rather serious multiple car accident that shut down the highway and sent people to the hospital. The boy had to undergo quite a few physio sessions in the months that followed, while our vehicle got its own special brand of surgery. It took some time and a bit of a nerve wracking first drive back to Toronto, but I was determined to pay a visit to this hidden cultural gem.

The Aga Khan Museum is situated in a rather unassuming area of Toronto just off the Don Valley Parkway. Sitting in the oozing Toronto traffic allows you to glimpse a modern geometric structure that doesn’t quite fit into the suburban landscape its been placed in. However, this is a perfect introduction to this museum.

It is a place that is meant to shake up your knowledge on a culture and religion that few of us know anything about. Displayed in a beautifully serene setting, belied by the exterior of the building, the permanent collection consists of paintings, objects, and architectural pieces from civilizations of the Muslim world. A particular emphasis is placed on the Arab Near East, Iran, and Hindustan, highlighting the distinctive character of each culture under the Muslim and Islamic umbrellas.

Both the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions are well thought out, highlighting important pieces that impart both knowledge and a cultural awakening. For a few hours, on a quiet Saturday morning, the boy and I were immersed in a beautiful foreign world that left us speechless until the end.

20171021_104516 (2)20171021_104528 (2)20171021_104550 (2)      20171021_104535 (2)20171021_104939 (2)20171021_105011 (2)20171021_105224 (2)20171021_104926 (2)      20171021_105412 (2)20171021_105524 (2)20171021_105730 (2)      20171021_110925 (2)20171021_110131 (2)20171021_115412 (2)20171021_105806 (2)20171021_110316 (2)      20171021_110326 (2)20171021_110148 (2)  20171021_110550 (2)      20171021_110342 (2)The manuscript painting on the right caught my attention in particular. It’s titled “The Cremation of Talkhand and the Grief of His Mother” and dates to the 17th century. What I found interesting when reading the display sign was that this scene depicts an event that is connected to the creation of the game of chess.

Apparently when the queen found out about the death of her son Talkhand at the hand of his brother, she was so distraught that she set the palace on fire and planned on dying by throwing herself on a pyre. Gav, the murdering brother, tried to stop her. and explain the tragic events of a battle that lead to the death of Talkhand by inventing the game of chess.

20171021_112233 (2)20171021_111018 (2)20171021_111920 (2)      20171021_112518 (2)20171021_111145 (2)20171021_114553_HDR (2)      20171021_114910 (2)20171021_114933_HDR (2)20171021_115155      20171021_115023 (2)Member's Lounge, Aga Khan Museum, TorontoMember's Lounge, Aga Khan Museum, TorontoMember's Lounge, Aga Khan Museum, TorontoThe boy and I were invited to take a sneak peak into the private Patron’s Lounge where members can relax and enjoy snacks and beverages while overlooking panoramic views of  Toronto. However, you don’t have to be a member to enjoy top quality dining service at the museum.

I speak from experience that the Diwan restaurant, under the direction of one of Toronto’s top chefs, Mark McEwan, is an unforgettable experience both for the food and the atmosphere. The decor, harking to the luxury of private Syrian homes of the early 19th century, sets the scene for an innovative meal inspired by the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. We spent two hours over various starter plates and glasses of Moroccan tea while in a discussion with a pair of diners at the table next to us. What an experience!

20171021_115759 (2)Despite of inauspicious start to our first visit to the Aga Khan Museum, I was delighted that making the effort to explore this relatively new addition to Toronto’s cultural scene was worth it. With the warmest of invitations I encourage you to visit the museum if you have the chance.


Afternoon Tea at Eldon House

Tea tables, Eldon House, London, OntarioThis past Sunday, the boy and I spent a sunny, relaxing afternoon drinking tea on the grounds of Eldon House in London, Ontario. Nestled under the shade of a magnolia tree, we were treated to the sounds of a ballgame floating over the river, a game played in the oldest continually operating baseball grounds in the world. It was the perfect summer afternoon.

Having lived in London for quite a few years now, I don’t know why it has taken me this long to experience the tea program offered by Eldon House. I’m glad I didn’t wait much longer to rectify this mistake or I would have had to wait another year. Afternoon Tea is only offered from the end of June to the end of August, with a handful of special tea events sprinkled throughout the year.Porch, Eldon House, London, OntarioGrounds, Eldon House, London, OntarioUrns, Eldon House, London, OntarioAfter choosing our spot, a little table set for two, we were attended by a staff member dressed in a service uniform. She explained our tea choices; I opted for the Boston tea and the boy ordered the Eldon House blend. She soon returned with a tray filled with warm scones, jam, butter, whipped cream, fruit, and warm tea pots. We filled our charmingly mismatched cups with the deep amber liquid and left a trail of crumbs for the ants. The tables around us were soon occupied by visitors of all ages, laughing and drinking the genial beverage.

Staff, Eldon House, London, Ontario   Tea Service, Eldon House, London, OntarioCarriage House, Eldon House, London, OntarioFront Garden, Eldon House, London, OntarioServing tea, Eldon House, London, OntarioTea tables, Eldon House, London, Ontario       Cobblestones and Cappuccinos, Eldon House, London, OntarioMagnolia tree, Eldon House, London, OntarioPost tea, the boy and I took a tour around Eldon House, which is included in the price of the tea service. Although we had an option to poke around on our own, we opted for a guided tour.

It was worth every penny to learn that the original estate, built in 1834, stretched to the Thames River and covered 11 acres which included a golf course and pool. The house and most of the contents are original and were donated to the city by the great-grandchildren of John Harris, for whom the nearby park is named. The museum is an exciting and rather rare glimpse into the lives of London’s most prosperous residents. I urge you to check out the contents of the curio cabinet in the smoking nook!

Grounds and pond, Eldon House, London, OntarioWith only three weeks left until the Eldon House Tea Program is over for the season, I highly recommend a visit…and don’t forget to make a reservation! You can find all the information you’ll need right here.


Historic Alton Mill

Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonWith beautiful weekends dwindling quickly, the boy and I like to take advantage of all the sunny days, colourful landscapes, and dry roads that crop up. So on a recent long weekend, my feet got itchy for another funventure drive somewhere we’ve never explored. With only gps coordinates to my most recent discovery, we set off on a drive to Caledon. Our final destination was a heritage building known as the Alton Mill Art Centre.

On the banks of Shaw’s Creek, and housing artist studios, galleries, a museum, shop and cafe, it was the perfect destination for a sunny weekend drive. Only steps from the luxurious vintage hotel and spa of Millcroft Inn and numerous lush forests, it’s very easy to make this area of Caledon a romantic overnight stop, but it’s also just a 2 hour drive from London.Gallery windows, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonGallery space, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonDetail of exterior door, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon Art studio, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonTurkey sculpture, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon    Paintings, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonArtist studio, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonLandscape art, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonPaintings for sale, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonOutdoor tree sculpture, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonCobblestones and Cappuccinos, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonArtist studio, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonMill museum, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon   Outdoor face sculture, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon  The Mill houses a small museum dedicated to its more than 130 year history. Established in 1881 and originally known as the Beaver Knitting Mill, it was renowned across Canada for producing fleece-lined long underwear (a Canadian winter must!). The building escaped the great Alton flood of 1889 but was struck by fire in 1908. After rebuilding, the Mill had many industrial incarnations until its present day and remains one of only two 19th century mills still standing in the area (there used to be 12).  Mill mechanics, Museum, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonMill mechanics detail, Museum, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonMill mechanics, Museum, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonFlowers, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonCourtyard, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonHistoric plaque, Alton Mill Art Centre, Caledon  Outdoor cafe seating, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonMill pond with kinetic sculpture, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonExterior, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonLivery exterior walls, Alton Mill Art Centre, CaledonOutbuilding at Alton Mill, CaledonInspired by all the art around me, I just had to get creative with a little snap I took of us at the Mill.  Posterized portrait of Cobblestones and CappuccinosOur experience at Alton Mill has definitely put it on our favourite list of “Fall Drives”. Hope you take the time to visit.