Yesterday, after a very early start leaving Philadelphia and my adventures with Stella, I headed back to Toronto. After a scary drive into downtown Toronto (I’m not sure what I was thinking since my sense of direction is terrible, that combined with not knowing Toronto and the speed of Canadian driving made for a somewhat nerve-wracking drive!) I was so happy to park the car and finding myself with some time, made my way to the Bata Shoe Museum.
When we visited Toronto a couple of years ago I was keen to go to the Shoe Museum but no-one wanted to come with me, so seizing the moment off I went and I am so glad I did! It was fascinating, 4500 years of history of the shoe in an exhibition called “All About Shoes”, too many facts to tell you here. However, here are two snippets which I enjoyed.
The phrase “well heeled” comes from the 17th century when the high heel started as a feature of upper-class fashion in Europe. “Well heeled” men, women and children wore high heels as a sign of wealth, style and status. Shoes became political in that only those who had been granted access to the French court were allowed to red high heels in the time of Louis XIV! Men abandoned high heels shortly after this, why didn’t women?
The other shoes that particularly caught my eye were in a section called “Spiritual Footwear”. The Kurdaitcha shoes, made of emu feathers and human hair, were worn by a respected elder, the Kurdaicha, amongst the indigenous tribes of Central Australia. The Kurdaicha, wearing the shoes, pointed a pointing stick at a wrongdoer and secretly send spiritual energy to kill him. I felt the human hair in the making of these shoes was rather chilling.
Other exhibitions included Native North American Footwear, with beautifully and intricately crafted beaded moccasins from all over North America. The exhibition explained how the footwear reflected the different lifestyles of different tribes depending upon which region of North America they lived in and whether they were hunters of buffalo or deer, nomadic or living in villages. I had no idea that so much could be reflected in a shoe.
There was also “The Shoe Project” which was set up to help women who had immigrated to Canada improve their written English and has resulted in beautiful, moving stories about their favourite or a particular pair of shoes such as the scarcity of shoes in a Syrian refugee camp or wedding shoes in Afghanistan.
Amongst the “celebrity” shoes were these simple Bata shoes worn, and donated, by the Dalai Lama when he visited Canada recently.
Having immersed myself in the Bata Shoe Museum I then had a wonderfully indulgent afternoon at the Stillwater Spa, after which I was not as stressed by driving out of Toronto as I was by driving into Toronto. But why is the speed limit seemingly only advisory in Canada, as, as far as I can tell, most drivers drive at, at least, 15 to 20 kms over the limit! And the sign by the roadside advises that if you are driving at 50 kms over the speed limit you will get your vehicle impounded and your licence removed! It seems to me the expectation then is that you can drive at 49kms over the speed limit without any problem!
Simon, in the meantime, is having a great time in Northumberland but I will tell you all about that tomorrow or perhaps I should wait until he gets back and can tell you himself!