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Unlocking the secrets of Catalonia

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Unlocking the secrets of Catalonia

By Marc Atchison
TraveLife Editor-in-Chief

SANT CUGAT, CATALONIA — The narrow, corkscrew highway I’m nervously navigating is known as the Via Romanesque (Road) and it zigzags through the Pyrenees, dipping dramatically into the bosom of the great mountain range before rising again as high as the pointed peaks.

My pulse quickens every time my little rental dives into one of the many hairpin turns — this must be the road where Spain’s two-time Formula 1 world auto racing champion Fernando Alonso perfected his driving skills.

Every so often, a yawning mountain tunnel swallows my little car and spits me out into Medieval Catalonia where the parched landscape has changed little over time and remains punctuated by the ancient Romanesque architecture I’ve come to admire — churches, castles and villages dating back to the 10th century.

Stone towers — they pop up like pins on a map — are my guide on this five day, 854-kilometre journey back in time. I follow them to the entrances of Catalonia’s treasured Romanic relics, some of which are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The thrilling back roads don’t just connect the dots, though. They also introduce me to Catalonia’s small rural towns that look frozen in time, the region’s unique culture, its pre-historic treasures — dinosaur footprints everywhere — its remarkable food (the tapas, croquettes, Iberian ham and cheeses from here are so good) and it’s fiercely proud, independently-minded people who make strangers feel so welcome.

My journey starts in Barcelona, Catalonia’s breathtaking capital, where I visit my first Romanesque treasure — an ancient burial slab dedicated to a former count of Barcelona, Guifré II, who died in 911AD. The burial slab rests inside the Sant Pau del Camp monastery, the city’s oldest church which is located in Barcelona’s vibrant Gothic Quarter, off the famous tourist walking street La Rambla.

My visit to Sant Pau del Camp only whets my appetite for more Romanesque architecture, which emerged around the 10th century throughout Europe and eventually evolved into the Gothic style in the 12th century. The best examples of original Romanesque architecture can be found in rural Catalonia, which was a collection of counties in Medieval times. The counts back then wanted to show Rome their commitment to Catholicism, so they erected some impressive churches and monasteries in the more artistic Lombard Romanesque design — smooth walls subdivided by pilasters and decorated with blind arches and doors with mouldings.

So, the next day I set out in the direction of Vic, a handsome city first settled by the Romans around 300AD that’s sandwiched between Barcelona and Girona, where a museum dedicated to Catalonia’s Romanesque architecture and art is located.

The landscape outside Barcelona features lots of cacti and palms and the well-marked divided highway I’m driving is canopied by plane trees. The Pyrenees are silhouetted on the horizon in my windscreen and I’m being lulled into a false sense that the entire five day drive will be this easy — wrong!

The Episcopal Museum located in Vic’s Old Town dates back to 1891 but moved to its present modern location in 2002. The Old Town is also where I find the city’s perfectly- preserved Roman temple.

The museum houses over 6,000 pieces of rare Romanesque art — a wooden depiction of the Crucifixion featuring five individual figures is its most eye-catching exhibition. Alter pieces, paintings and statues, all dating back to the 10th to12th centuries, which once decorated Romanesque churches throughout Catalonia, now have been moved here or to Barcelona’s magnificent National Museum of Art for safekeeping.

Vic’s Romanesque cathedral sits right next to the museum so I’m invited to make the dizzying climb up a narrow spiral staircase to reach the top of its bell tower. I’m glad I do because the view I get from the lofty height — the tower is the highest of its kind in Catalonia — is truly breathtaking. The city and countryside spread out below the tower and from it I see Vic’s dynamic main square that’s surrounded by candy-coloured buildings. Three of the tower’s original 11th century bells remain in working order and as much as I’d like to spend more time in this inviting city, another Romanesque treasure — the Monastery of St. Peter de Casserres — awaits 30 minutes down the road in Carretera. The highway outside Vic suddenly turns challenging — more twists and turns as I drive into the foothills of the Pyrenees. And the scenery here is much more imposing — lots of rocky outcrops and deep gorges.

After parking the car, I trek along a narrow ledge overlooking a reservoir — it feeds Barcelona — to reach the entrance of the former Benedictine monastery that was once home to 12 monks back in 1053 when it opened. While most Romanic churches are long and narrow, St. Peter, because of its confined space atop the rocky cliff, is wider than it is long. It took 100 years to complete but was left to decay after being abandoned in the 15th century. A restoration project between 1994 and 1995 has restored its glory — the cloister, priory chamber, dormitory, kitchen, storage vault and scriptorium where the monks illustrated precious books look as good as new.

While Catalonia’s Romanesque churches and cathedrals look much the same, each, I discover, has its own identity and some interesting stories and characters connected to them. Take St. Peter de Casserres, for example.

“The church was built on the orders of a count, whose son, just three days after being born, apparently spoke and told his father he would live only 30 days,” Silvia, my guide, tells me.

“The son instructed that after his death his body should be placed on a mule and wherever the beast stopped, then a monastery dedicated to St. Peter should be built. The mule stopped here and the father obviously complied with the boy’s wishes. The boy’s remains were actually kept in the alter by the monks for decades,” says Silvia. I didn’t have the heart to tell Silvia that had the mule not stopped, it would have plunged into the deep gorge.

Afterwards, I enjoy a delightful lunch at the Parador Vic-Sau, a charming boutique hotel that sits at the base of the mountain where the monastery is located. The view of the surrounding milky-white cliffs and reservoir from the elevated main dining room is truly spectacular.

The rest of my stops along my Romanesque journey are just as interesting:

• In Ripoll, a handsome town on the banks of the River Ter, I visit the tomb of Count Wilfred the Hairy — he apparently had a lot of hair — in the beautiful Monastery of Santa Maria, which he founded in 888. The count is revered because he gave Catalonia its flag; as Wilfred the Hairy lie dying after a battle, he dabbed four fingers in his own blood and ran them down a mustard coloured cloth, which Catalonia’s flag is based on today. More than 100 monks lived in the monastery during its glory days and produced important manuscripts from the 10th to 12th century — many were stolen during the Napoleonic Wars and have never been seen again. The monastery’s ornately decorated portal is its most stunning feature — delicate carvings tell the story of the Bible. The cloister showcases three original columns and one of its original bell towers is still functioning.

• In La Seu d’Urgell, a lovely town in the heart of the Pyrenees, I’m impressed by the Cathedral Santa Maria d’Urgell, which dominates the Old Town square. The stately structure stands on the same land where the Romans erected a temple. The present day version has a lot of Gothic design incorporated into its walls and showcases lots of 12th-century paintings. While just a hint of the amazing frescos remain, a guide tells me that at one time the entire interior and exterior of these Romanesque churches would have been painted. The town is also famous for producing three saints — St. Ot (the patron saint of rain), St. Ernengol (the patriot saint of droughts) and St. Emigdi (the enginering saint who produced bridges and canals). This outdoor paradise also hosted the white water canoeing and kayaking events at the 1982 Barcelona Summer Olympics and remains a training centre for many national teams, including Canada’s. The massive cathedral stays true to the Holy Trinity — it features three entrances, three naves and its bell tower stands 23 metres high. Next to Santa Maria stands the palace of the Bishop of Aragon, an autonomous state that resides inside Catalonia.

• In Sort, I stop for lunch at a charming restaurant called Pessets and enjoy a meal highlighted by the area’s delicious traditional sausages. A group of elderly Catalonian tourists entertain me with patriotic folk songs and I salute them with a glass of Catalonia’s excellent wine. There are many examples of Romanesque architecture in this forested area known as Pallars Sobirá, and the best is the Church of Santa Maria de Ribera de Cardós — its bell tower, rose window and main apse were all built in the Romanesque style.

• In Son, I leave the main highway and climb to the top of another winding road to reach the Romanic site of Son del Pi. From here I get jaw-dropping views of the Pyrenees and its lush valleys. The small temple was built between the 11th and 12th centuries and consists of a single nave. Its apse also features arches decorated in the Lombard style. Its most striking feature, though, is a slender square belfry with an interior staircase. Inside, there’s a 15th-century Gothic altarpiece depicting 23 different biblical scenes.

• In Arties, I discover I’m no longer in Catalonia but in Aran, the tiny but affluent principality — much like Monaco — tucked away in the Pyrenees bordering France to the north and Aragon to the west. Known as the Vall d’Aran, this is where some of Europe’s best ski resorts are located. It’s also where I find some great examples of Romanesque architecture in the form of Santa Maria d’Aries and Sant Andreu de Saladú i Santa Eulàlla d’Unha (St. Andrew for short). What makes these two churches so important is they still feature lots of original wall art. “There are many others hidden under the plaster but retrieving them takes time and lots of money,” Lola, my guide, tells me. Some of the paintings remain vibrant. “They ground rare minerals that are only found in the Pyrenees and mixed them with water to produce paint,” says Lola. At one time there were many of these Romanesque churches scattered throughout the Vall d’Aran and “their towers were used to warn of invasions,” says the guide.

• In the beautiful Vall de Boi, I discover the motherlode of Romanesque architecture — nine churches that sit in a picturesque Pyrenees valley outside the small town of Barruero. I spend the day exploring four of the most famous with a Romanic expert named Anna Monsó.

First stop: Santa Eulàlia d’drill la Vall church, which sits beside an information centre. Using interactive exhibits, it tells visitors why so many Romanesque churches were built here and how the counts stole land from their subjects to increase their own wealth and power. Inside Santa Eulàlia, I find the original stone alter and baptismal font and a replica of the wooden crucifixion scene that impressed me in Vic. The church’s bell tower stands 24 metres high and was used mainly for communication and defensive purposes.

Next, Sant Joan de Boi, where Anna points out the irregular shapes of animals in the faded frescos. “The artists only knew of these animals from the stories they were told, so that’s why the elephant has horns on top of its heads,” she smiles. This, like the other 10th-century temples I visit, was also used as a community meeting hall and “they even stored grain here in the winter,” Anna tells me. A lovely village has grown up around San Joan de Boi and it’s a nice place to wander before walking to Sant Climent, which was consecrated in 1123, features its original alter and a 13th-century bench reserved for the church’s hierarchy. An audio-visual system shows how the church once looked when its walls were completely decorated with frescos. Awesome!

A short walk away from Sant Climent, Anna introduces me to Santa Maria de Taüll, a unique church in that it sits in the middle of a stone village. “Most villages were built before the churches but this town was built around Santa Maria,” says Anna. The columns inside the church are bent like an old man’s legs — “they had to wrap the entire church with special supports to ensure it does not fall.”

• On the way to Tremp, where the Romanesque Castell d’en Mur sits, I drive through a semi-arid region of Catalonia that looks like the Arizona desert — large red rocks shaped into animal forms by the elements dominate the landscape.

The ruins of the 11th-century Castell d’en Mur and the Benedictine church that sits beside it, stand atop a remote mountain overlooking a vast valley. Both the castle and church were built from the same massive slab of rock that separates the two Romanesque ruins. While the roofless castle fell in on itself after being abandoned in the 15th-century, the church remains pretty much intact. Only 20 people ever lived in the castle and just a few monks manned the church, whose priceless frescos were sold off in 1919 for the equivalent of 42 euros (less the $100 Cdn.) in today’s money, and eventually found their way to a Boston museum, where they still reside today.

• My last stop before returning to Barcelona is the massive Sant Cugat monastery in the town of the same name — just 17 kilometres from Catalonia’s capital. The beautiful monastery, which sits in the city’s historic area, was started in the 11th-century and completed in the 13th. The Benedictine monks who built it actually arrived here in 985AD but records show the Romans occupied this area as early as the 3rd-century. The structure was partially destroyed in the Spanish Civil War but its beautiful cloister still features 144 original capitals. Some carvings tell the story of the bible, some warn monks of the evil waiting outside the monastery walls, others refer to mythological figures and one honours the man who created them — he worked on them for 20 years.

Finally back in Barcelona, I visit the castle-like Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, a treasure chest of Romanesque relics that was built as a pavilion for the city’s 1929 World’s Fair. It occupies a spectacular vantage point atop a hill overlooking one of Europe’s most fascinating cities. The frescos and wall art removed from the churches are now displayed in the National Museum’s 16-gallery Romanesque section.

Lia, a museum guide, says Italian experts were hired to painstakingly remove the frescos and wall art from their original places and reassembled here. “The movement to research, reclaim and preserve Catalonia’s art, poetry, literature and especially our architecture was started in 1833 by Barcelona’s elite and wealthy,” says Lia.

Walls in the exhibition areas are painted a muted grey to resemble the interiors of the ancient churches and monasteries.

Looking at the remarkable works, one can see how art in Medieval times evolved — crude animal and human features depicted in art from the 10th and 11th centuries become more life-like and softer in paintings from the 13th century.

The museum showcases more than 4,000 Catalonian treasures, but the Romanesque exhibits are by far the most popular.

A lover of Romanesque architecture could easily visit the National Museum and be thoroughly fulfilled. However, by doing that, they’d miss the thrill of driving back in time along Catalonia’s thrilling Via Romanesque.

I can assure you, it’s a trip of a lifetime.

Marc Atchison is a veteran journalist and a seasoned traveller with more than 20 years of travel writing experience. As the former Travel Editor of the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, and now Editor-in-Chief and Senior Writer for TraveLife magazine (Canada) and travelife.ca, Marc has been to over 100 countries in the world. Japan is one of his favorite destinations and he’s been there on numerous occasions.

http://www.travelife.ca/

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Canada Blooms invites you to the movies

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Canada Blooms invites you to the movies

Calling all movie buffs and garden lovers alike: get ready to be inspired at Canada Blooms 2018 with an array of floral and landscape designs influenced by some of Hollywood’s greatest blockbusters.

“We are very excited for our 2018 theme, ‘Let’s Go To The Movies,’ ” said Terry Caddo, general manager of Canada Blooms. “We cannot wait to see what our award winning florist artists, garden builders and designers have up their sleeves and how they will incorporate the theme into their creations.”

One garden that will transport you to an alternate ecosphere, filled with out-of-this world flora and space-age elements, will be the “Star Trek Garden” by Melanie Rekola Landscape Design.

“Horticulture is very much a science-based practice and I’ve always had a love for science – and science fiction,” said designer Melanie Rekola, “When I heard that Canada Blooms 2018 was movie themed, I saw the perfect place to merge sci-fi with horticulture.”

Also being presented at Canada Blooms will be not one, but three Plants of the Year, which come from Proven Winner’s National Plant of the Year program.

“We’re thrilled that Canada Blooms has graciously agreed to feature our three National Plants of the Year at their spring festival,” said Marshall Dirks of Proven Winners. “In just our second year of building this effort, we’ve been pleased that growers and retailers have embraced the National Plant of the Year program, making it easier for gardeners to experience these wonderful varieties.”

The Supertunia Bordeaux is the 2018 Annual of the Year — a petunia developed by Ken Lander of Sunrise Greenhouses in Pugwash, N.S. The other honourees for 2018 include the Primo Black Pearl, a heuchera named Perennial of the Year, and Spilled Wine, a weigela recognized as Landscape Plant of the Year.

For more than 20 years, Canada Blooms has inspired thousands of gardeners and the 2018 festival is shaping up to be no exception.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming back many of our exhibitors, such as the annual Toronto Flower Show and, of course, our several guest speakers and industry professionals who will be sharing gardening and floral advice on our celebrity stage,” Caddo said.

In 2017, Canada Blooms saw over 174,000 visitors who discovered the joys of horticulture through gardens, floral designs, Canada’s largest juried flower show and competition, over 100 presentations, special features, as well as 750 exhibitors. Co-located with the National Home Show, Canada Blooms will take place March 9 to 18 at the Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place in Toronto.

http://canadablooms.com/

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Healthy eating starts now

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Healthy eating starts now

NEWS CANADA — When you’re hungry and in a hurry, sticking to your New Year’s resolution can get tricky. Plan ahead and beat your cravings with these power crunch snack bars, made with Orville Redenbacher Smart Pop microwaveable popcorn. The popcorn is 100 per cent whole grain, high in fibre and now made without any artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

On-The-Go Power Crunch Bars
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 24

Ingredients:
No-stick cooking spray
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) quick-cooking rolled oats
3/4 cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 mini bag (34 g) Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop microwaveable popcorn
3/4 cup (175 mL) firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) margarine
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup (175 mL) dried cranberries

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375F. Spray 15×10-inch shallow baking pan with cooking spray. Combine oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl; set aside. Prepare popcorn according to package directions. Remove all un-popped kernels; set aside.

Combine brown sugar and margarine in large bowl using electric mixer on high speed. Add water and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour mixture; blend well. Reduce speed to low and add cranberries. Cover hands with plastic gloves or sandwich-size plastic bags. Incorporate popped corn into cookie dough. Spread mixture in pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool before cutting into 24 bars. Store in tightly sealed container.

Crispy Peanut Butter Chocolate Popcorn Squares
Craving something sweet and salty? These tasty popcorn squares are the perfect treat and great for snacking on during movies or serving at your next get-together. Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes Serves: 18

Ingredients:
No-stick cooking spray
1 bag (82 g) Orville Redenbacher gourmet buttery microwaveable popcorn
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter or margarine
1 pkg (10 oz) large marshmallows
1/2 cup (125 mL) creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) dry roasted peanuts, chopped
1 cup (250 mL) milk chocolate chips

Directions:
Spray 13×9-inch glass baking dish and wooden spoon with cooking spray; set aside. Prepare popcorn according to package directions. Remove all un-popped kernels. Place popped corn in large bowl.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add marshmallows. Heat 5 minutes or until marshmallows melt, stirring frequently. Add peanut butter and peanuts; stir until well combined. Pour over popcorn; mix well with greased wooden spoon. Place popcorn mixture in greased glass dish and press evenly using back of spoon. Sprinkle chocolate morsels evenly over popcorn mixture. Microwave on high 1 minute or until chocolate begins to melt. Refrigerate 1 hour or until chocolate is set.

Cut into 18 squares with serrated knife. Store in tightly sealed container up to three days.

National Popcorn Day
Snackers will have a reason to celebrate this January 19, as a beloved treat steps into the spotlight. Popcorn has been around for centuries, providing foodies with a satisfying crunch, enveloping aroma and savoury goodness. Popcorn is also a 100 per cent whole grain which is high in fibre.

Here are a few ways to celebrate this year.

Dress your popcorn: Mix things up by adding some seasonings. A pinch of chilli powder can provide some smoky heat, if you like spice. If not, try adding some cinnamon and sugar for a sweet and savoury delight.

Share your popcorn: Share a bowl of aromatic delicious popcorn with your family during a favourite movie to enjoy a warm sense of comfort and connection. For a wholesome snack, Orville Redenbacher has a new recipe of its microwaveable popcorn with no artificial colours, flavours and preservatives in most flavours so you can share a snack that your entire family will love.

Find more suggested seasonings and recipes online at https://orville.conagrafoods.ca/

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Predictions for the 2018 real estate market

Welcome to 2018!

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Welcome to 2018!

The only safe prediction for the real estate market for this year is that it will be unpredictable.

by Gale Beeby
HPG Editor-in-Chief

As we head into the Year of the Dog, the only thing I can predict with absolute certainty is that are as many diverse opinions about the state of the real market in the GTA as there are breeds listed by the Canadian Kennel Club.

According to the Chinese zodiac, the dog — full of energy, faithful and intelligent — has a long-held position as the protector of the home and as man’s best friend. So, regardless of what the economists say will happen, perhaps it is an auspicious year for the homebuyers.

MY TOP FIVE PREDICTIONS

Rough Time For First-Time Buyers

This is the sector of the market that is being hit hardest by new government policies, especially the new mortgage qualification stress test imposed by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OFSI). The rule requires anybody buying a property with less than a 20 per cent down payment of their own money (not mom and dad’s) be qualified for their mortgage at either the Bank of Canada’s rate of 4.99 per cent or with an extra 2 per cent added to their approved mortgage rate. Experts think this might eliminate about 10 per cent of buyers out of the market. Many will put off buying a new home until they can save enough money for a down payment under the new rules.

Interest Rates Will Rise

I know, we’ve been hearing that interest rates will increase the last few years, but the Bank of Canada raised the rate in July and September to its current rate of 1 per cent, up from a record low of 0.5 per cent. Experts differ on when — and how much — the Bank of Canada will raise rates, but they do all agree that rates are going up. I’m betting they are and I’m locking in my mortgage in the first quarter of 2018.

Condos Will Be The New Norm in Family Housing

As prices of ground-related housing (detached, semi-detached and townhomes) has escalated to point where most buyers can no longer consider anything but a condo unit in a midrise or highrise building, buyers are looking at multi-residential buildings, not just as an entry into the market, but also as their permanent home.

According to Altus Group, the average price of a condo apartment in the GTA in November was $702,992, while new single-family homes grew to $1,223,610. Builders are responding by designing larger condo units suitable for family living and Toronto is responding by building more schools and community centres around areas of intensification. Growing up in condo will become the new normal for many families in the GTA.

Detached Home Prices Will Continue to Escalate

Supply cannot match demand resulting in a squeeze for anybody with the dream of a owning a detached home anywhere in the GTA. In November, the average price of a new single-detached home was over $1.2 million, 25.1 per cent above November 2016’s benchmark of $977,890, according to Altus Group, adding that single-family home sales represented only 17.3 per cent of the new homes sold in the GTA in November 2017.

But the lower sales do not represent a decline in interest, warns the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). “Single-family housing is still the first choice for many people, especially for those with families,” said BILD CEO and president Bryan Tuckey.

The reasons for the lack of land supply is complicated — Places to Grown policy, Greenbelt restrictions, lack of serviceable land to name a few — but the fact is there are fewer detached homes being built.

Buyers will be moving out of the GTA in order to afford a new house. Hotspots will include the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Burlington, Hamilton, the Niagara Region and Bowmanville.

New Appeals Process Will Continue to Slow Development

In December, the province passed legislation to eliminate the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and replace it with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). Over the years, the OMB suffered from a reputation that was less than stellar, with many believing that the board sided with the developers in most appeals, which is, in fact, not the case. And, of course, an OMB appeal caused a lengthy delay, costing the builder/developer money, which is passed on to the homebuyer.

The government says that LPATs, on the other hand, will be an independent tribunal with the hopes of making the land-use planning appeal process faster, fairer and more affordable, and allowing community members have a say in how their neighbours are shaped. That’s a good thing, really, as community involvement should always be welcomed by developers.

However, I don’t believe that the LPATs will take any less time to resolve an appeal than the OMB. These things take time, and with more people involved, and more depositions to hear, LPATs could actually take longer. And when the tribunal is no longer made up of independent members who decide on a development using fact-based planning principles, then decisions are bound to be based on the dreaded NIMBY code rather than on whether the proposal has merit in and of itself.

Just remember, the Distillery District would not have come into existence if it were up to the City of Toronto — the OMB gave it the green light. And that’s just one example of a good planning decision made by the OMB.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

New Housing

The Conference Board of Canada expects an overall modest increase for single-family homes in 2018 and predicts the economy to grow by only 2 per cent in 2018, which will inhibit Canadians’ ability to buy new homes. The building industry has responded by making the shift toward multi-residential buildings, with two out of three new homes built today multi-family. However, Toronto’s real gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow 2.5 per cent in 2018, showing few signs of problems on the horizon for the region. The real estate sector will continue to benefit from this robust economic performance. People still crave the live-work-play lifestyle in the core and companies, eager to be close to talent, are moving into new office spaces nearby to fill the new tech and research jobs they’re creating. Urban intensification will continue, especially in Toronto, where the GTA will see significant densification efforts.

PWC reports that the condominium market will perform steadily in the near term, with demand steady in most markets. Downtown cores remain most attractive to young professionals, retiring boomers and young families. The size of condo units has been slowly increasing, the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) reports, in answer to the demand of family-sized units.

Resale Housing

According to research by the Bank of Canada and reported by the Canadian Real Estate Association, which oversees the resale housing market in Canada, tightened mortgage rules will reduce sales activity across Canada in the first half of 2018, particularly in and around Toronto and Vancouver. Some homebuyers will stay out of the market as they save for a larger down payment. Taking these factors into account has led CREA to revise its sales forecast for 2018. CREA also anticipates that tighter mortgage regulations will lead some buyers to opt for a smaller, lower priced home.

Re/Max predicts national home prices will increase by 2.5 per cent in 2018, with the GTA facing a flat year except in downtown Toronto and some suburban areas west of Toronto, including Oakville and Brampton.

Royal LePage predicts a 4.9 per cent price increase nationally and a price increase of 6.8 per cent in the GTA.



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Bob Dylan's Harlem townhouse on sale

Bob Dylan’s Harlem townhouse on sale

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Bob Dylan’s Harlem townhouse on sale

Historic 3,952-square-foot house located in Striver’s Row is priced at $3.595 million.

When Bob Dylan moved from Minnesota to New York City in 1960, he was just a few months from the start of his fast rise to stardom. The city quickly became his creative and inspirational playground where he could collaborate, learn from and work with some of the most innovative musicians of the time.

Inspired by people such as Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Little Richard, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and his coffee house musician buddies in Greenwich Village, Dylan explored all the genres of American song including country, folk, gospel, rock and roll and even jazz. But it was in songwriting where he made his mark, culminating with the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016.

His long career has spanned politics, social change, philosophy and literature and continues to entertain the fans who attend his Never Ending Tour, which has been running since the 1980s.

Dylan has sold over 100 million records and won multiples in the music award categories as well as an Academy Award for his song “Things Have Changed” from the movie Wonder Boys (which he often displays on stage during his concerts), a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, induction into three halls of fame and recognition from presidents and officials worldwide. In the words of Horace Engdahl, a member of the Nobel Committee, Bob Dylan is “a singer worthy of a place beside the Greek bards, beside Ovid, beside the Romantic visionaries, beside the kings and queens of the blues, beside the forgotten masters of brilliant standards.”

The New York City historic Harlem townhouse where Bob Dylan lived and wrote during some of his most musically productive years, has come on the market. Built circa 1890 and designed by the famous McKim, Mead & White architectural firm, it is located in the St. Nicholas Historic District, created in 1967 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, encompassing approximately 150 houses. Popularly referred to as Striver’s Row, the neighbourhood has attracted important residents through the years from politicians to artists.

Dylan’s four-story townhouse measures 3,952 square feet of restored 19th-century details with a complete 21st-century update for today’s lifestyles. Included are five bedrooms, three baths, six fireplaces with original mantels, formal dining room, large living room with Juliette balcony, a library, inlaid hardwood floors, crown moulding, wainscoting and high ceilings.

Bob Dylan’s former historic Harlem townhouse of 14 years is now for sale, priced at $3.595 million (U.S.)

toptenrealestatedeals.com

 



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Ice Breakers returns to Toronto's waterfront

Ice Breakers returns to Toronto’s waterfront

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Ice Breakers returns to Toronto’s waterfront

Ice Breakers will run from January 19 to February 25, 2018 with five art installations located on Queens Quay West.

A giant red bear reclining in the snow, a cozy cabin made from tree roots and a jingling wind chime constellation are just some of the installations that visitors to Toronto’s downtown Waterfront can experience this winter as the winners are announced for the second annual Ice Breakers event.

Ice Breakers, the temporary Waterfront art exhibition presented by the Waterfront BIA and produced by Winter Stations, asked artists and designers to look to the stars for inspiration for 2018, with the theme Constellation.

“After the huge success of last year’s Ice Breakers event, we decided to open the exhibition up as an international competition for 2018,” said Carol Jolly, executive director of the Waterfront BIA. “We were looking for installations that would bring colour, warmth and activity to the Waterfront, attracting visitors from across the city to experience this spectacular wintertime streetscape.”

On October 19, the Ice Breakers jury met to choose the final five art installations that will be built and featured along Queens Quay West. It was a full day of jury deliberations, where over 100 international submissions from around the world were reviewed. “We were bowled over by the high standard of entries this year, and the creative responses to the theme ‘constellation.’ We chose the winners based on their originality, feasibility and how interactive and engaging we thought they could be,” said Winter Stations co-founder Ted Merrick of Ferris + Associates.

Founded in 2015 by equal partners RAW, Ferris + Associates and Curio, Winter Stations is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing temporary public art to the city. The marquee Winter Stations Design Competition is now in its fourth year. Running along Toronto’s east end beaches, Winter Stations asks designers from around the world to transform utilitarian lifeguard stations into creative, imaginative works of publicly accessible art for six weeks of the winter. In 2017, the organization extended its programming slate with Ice Breakers produced by Winter Stations, a new event conceived on behalf of The Waterfront BIA.

Introducing the 2018 Ice Breakers installations:

“Through the Eyes of the Bear” by Tanya Goertzen of People Places (Calgary)

Inspired by Ursa Major, or the Great Bear constellation, this installation uses renewable, recyclable and compostable materials to ask visitors to consider how humans interact with nature, or to see the world through the eyes of a bear.

“Black Bamboo” by Bennet Marburger and Ji Zhang of 2408 Studio (Hangzhou Shi, China)

Black Bamboo is an installation made from 90 painted bamboo poles freely arranged to form a framework in an abstract cubic shape. Like the constellations, the cube as a shape only comes into existence within our heads. Black Bamboo is accessible and invites visitors to walk or climb through it.

“Winter FanFare” by Thena Tak (Vancouver)

Winter FanFare is a series of rotating fan-sculptures that collectively form a circulation playscape for winter exploration. Winter FanFare deploys individual fan-sculptures to create clusters of pockets where the public can meander through or run in and around.

“Ensemble” by João Araújo Sousa and Joana Correia Silva, JJs Arquitectura (Porto, Portugal)

Ensemble merges architecture, music and astronomy to explore the dialogue between humans and the urban environment. The installation is inspired by wind chimes, which visitors can touch to create beautiful abstract compositions and ever-changing soundscapes.

“Root Cabin” by Liz Wreford and Peter Sampson, Public City Architecture (Winnipeg)

Like a constellation, Root Cabin is a mystery waiting to be discovered. Coloured cuts of wood can be seen through gaps in an alluring pile of weathered roots. When further explored by a visitor, the colours reveal a void that can be inhabited, and an iconic nostalgic form of Canadian dwelling emerges.



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GTA's most expensive (and least expensive) home

GTA’s most expensive (and least expensive) home

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GTA’s most expensive (and least expensive) home

A search of the Multiple Listing Service at realtor.ca found the most expensive and least expensive homes in the GTA.

HIGH
469 Spadina Road, Toronto: $25 million
MLS Number: C4005944

New York meets Toronto at The Brownstones of Forest Hill Village. Builder AB8 Group is working with premier architect Richard Wengle, Master Chef Mark McEwan and Neff Kitchens, to create a luxury product offering a seamless blend of heritage and history in the heart of Forest Hill Village.

Once the site of a five-storey apartment complex, 469 Spadina Road promises the grandeur of a bygone era with its brownstone design. Based on the four-storey townhomes found in the U.S. and Europe, the innovative concept capitalizes on urban elegance in the 21st century.

The first floor is ideal for entertaining while the second floor is all about comfort and relaxation. The third and fourth floors are dedicated living quarters. The basement features a state-of-the art gym and multi-car garage. The rooftop terrace offers an unobstructed view of the city. Homes features five-plus-one bedrooms and eight bathrooms.

Re/Max Realtron Barry Cohen Homes Inc.
Barry Cohen, Broker
183 Willowdale Avenue, Unit 6, Toronto, 416-222-8600
Patricia Sun, salesperson, 416-930-6920

 



LOW
4645 Jane Street, Unit 828, Toronto: $59,900
MLS Number: W4002311

Great starter one-bedroom condo for a single person or a young couple at Edgeley in the Village. With a little TLC, this condo unit can bloom into a cozy and warm home. Open balcony, separate living and dining areas, parquet flooring, separate kitchen, one bathroom and one parking spot. Great views from balcony and living room. Steps to York University, shopping, Black Creek Pioneer Village and Farm and the new subway station at York and Black Creek. Includes light fixtures and appliances. Maintenance fees $594 per month.

Re/Max Premier Inc.
Wazir Shariff, Broker
1885 Wilson Avenue, Suite 200A, Toronto, 416-743-2000



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HPG celebrates 32 years of publishing excellence

HPG celebrates 32 years of publishing excellence

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HPG celebrates 32 years of publishing excellence

It was on November 13th, 2017 that HOMES Publishing Group held their 32nd Anniversary Party at Marlowe’s Restaurant in Richmond Hill, with over 350 guests coming to raise a glass to mark the special day.

“It was wonderful to see so many friends out to help us celebrate our anniversary,” said publisher Michael Rosset. “That is a lot of years for an independent magazine company, and we are grateful for the phenomenal support of so many wonderful clients and the millions of readers over the years who have looked to us to help them choose their new home.”

HOMES Publishing Group’s publications include HOMES Magazine, Condo Life, Active Life, RENO & DECOR, Renovation Contractor and Ontario Design.

MyHomePage.ca

HPG's Michael Rosset, Leanne Speers, Trish Sutton, Amanda Bell, Jessica MacInnis and Tony Loria.
HPG’s Michael Rosset, Leanne Speers, Trish Sutton, Amanda Bell, Jessica MacInnis and Tony Loria.

Mark Cullen, contributor to Reno & Decor and Leanne Speers and Tony Loria of HPG.
Mark Cullen, contributor to Reno & Decor and Leanne Speers and Tony Loria of HPG.

Amanda Bell, Cobi Ladner, Silvana Longo and Jessica MacInnis of HPG.
Amanda Bell, Cobi Ladner, Silvana Longo and Jessica MacInnis of HPG.

Bryan Tuckey, BILD, and Michael Rosset, HPG.
Bryan Tuckey, BILD, and Michael Rosset, HPG.

Michael Rosset, Silvana Longo, Ani Bogovic of Dekla Developments, Jessica MacInnis and Fay Splett of HPG
Michael Rosset, Silvana Longo, Ani Bogovic of Dekla Developments, Jessica MacInnis and Fay Splett of HPG

Trish Sutton, Michael Rosset, Hope McLarnon and Jessica MacInnis and HPG.
Trish Sutton, Michael Rosset, Hope McLarnon and Jessica MacInnis and HPG.


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Fresh Towns

A Fresh new take on capital living

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A Fresh new take on capital living

by Gale Beeby
Editor, HOMES Magazine & Condo Life

Ottawa may well be the ultimate company town, with most employment centered around the government of Canada, be it federal employees or any number of supporting industries from law firms to lobbyists to restaurant and hotel workers. It also has a reputation for being a little, er, straightlaced.

But that isn’t so true anymore. Residents of Canada’s capital no longer have to head across the Ottawa River to Hull, Quebec, in order to find some evening entertainment or fine dining. Ottawa has grown up and is now growing out and is seeing a growth spurt in population and residential developments.

And why, you may wonder, is this interesting? I always want to know what is happening in the real estate market, not only in the GTHA, but also throughout Ontario and Canada. So, when Fresh Towns came to my attention, I couldn’t help but be interested.

Located in Ottawa’s increasingly popular west end neighbourhood of Qualicum, Fresh Towns by Greatwise Developments has sold over 70 per cent of its first phase in less than a month and every indication points to the imminent release of the community’s second phase being met with the same enthusiasm.

With a unique urban design and highly desirable features, Fresh Towns offers a stunning contemporary option along with an affordable price point.

Greatwise used online surveys from the earliest stages of development to help pinpoint precisely who their buyers are and what they are looking for — the best in modern living with an indoor/outdoor element and lots of opportunity to tailor their homes to suit their individual needs.

As a result of this inclusive approach, available models at Fresh Towns include three-storey rooftop towns, which offer residents their own personal sanctuary overlooking this growing neighbourhood. Traditional three-storey towns are also available, and every model in both styles offers a private garage.

Features and finishes throughout are hand picked by Ottawa’s West of Main Interior Design. With designer backsplashes and countertops and engineered hardwood floors, buyers can also custom tailor their living spaces through lifestyle finishes packages.

The neighbourhood has everything residents want, especially families and first-time buyers, including proximity to schools, shops, transit, highways and downtown, as well as Morrison Park, Andrew Haydon Park, the Nepean Sailing Club and the Ottawa River, all big draws for those who love the great outdoors. For those looking for a delicious culinary experience, the area boasts numerous restaurants, clubs and pubs. Fresh Towns starts in the low $300,000s for more than a 1,000 square feet, and although the largest units are a spacious 1,663 square feet, prices go up only into the $400,000s. Highly affordable by GTA standards.

freshtowns.ca



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Tom Petty

Runnin’ down a dream house

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Runnin’ down a dream house

It never occurred to Tom Petty that gathering a group of friends to play music wouldn’t make them big stars. After meeting Elvis at the age of 10, and later watching the Beatles, he knew he was meant to be a musician and approached it with laser focus. In the late 1960s at age 17, Tom put his theory into practice, adding a few more instruments to the mix and was soon on his way to stardom. Nothing deterred him or slowed him down, even the disapproval of his father who was disappointed that his son would take the artistic route rather than what he considered a more masculine sports-oriented road into adulthood.

Tom’s first band, the Epics, started out in his hometown Gainesville, Florida, playing locally between odd jobs to keep them financially afloat until they hit the big time, which he knew in his heart was just a matter of time.

The Epics evolved into Mudcrutch, a popular band at the Gainesville University of Florida area bars, but failed to get outside attention. His next band, the Heartbreakers, quickly turned things around making it to the top in 1976 with their hit song “Breakdown.” Tom and the Heartbreakers never looked back, producing classics such as “American Girl,” “Free Falling,” and “I Won’t Back Down.” It was a career that lasted over 45 years.

Music poured out of Tom Petty like a fast-moving river producing hit after hit, many used for movie theme songs and sound tracks. Just as he imagined as a young boy, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers became one of the most popular American bands in history, garnering virtually every important award in the music industry and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Petty died in October at age 66 and now his much-loved Lake Sherwood getaway near Malibu and nine miles to the Pacific Ocean is for sale. Built in 1931 with walls of local fieldstone, Petty’s retreat has mountain and water views across the natural lake from almost every room and 125-feet of shorefront. Deceptively large at 5,300 square feet, the house has three bedrooms and three baths and underwent an expansion in 2004.

The home’s rustic feel is complimented by a balcony fireplace, redwood-panelled bathroom with a stone bathtub that overlooks the lake and vaulted-beamed ceilings and fireplace in the fieldstone living room. It’s a California house with a European mountain-lake chalet vibe geared to inspire creativity from its barrel-tiled roof to its enchanting terrace.

The home also has a private deep-water dock where one can sit and dream, launch a boat, fish or swim. Located high above the fog line, the property is guaranteed bright sunshine and cool breezes. Listing agents are Dana Sparks and Amy Alcini of Compass Realty in Malibu, California.

Rock and Roll superstar Tom Petty’s fabulous Lake Sherwood retreat near Malibu is listed at $5.895 million.

https://www.toptenrealestatedeals.com

https://www.compass.com/listing/1999-trentham-road-lake-sherwood-ca-91361/a7b593b809f90420535cd02d7a206a6b2da51d6c/?origin_type=Listing%20 Card&origin=Agent%20Profile%20Page




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