toronto: branching out

when i started this blog, i wasn’t quite sure why i needed a blog. who wants to read about my knitting ventures? now i think i might be better off branching out into some other things that are less-oft written about and probably more interesting. my husband and i are both from new york. manhattan, specifically, where i spent every day for thirteen years commuting from midtown east to the upper west side. i knew every neighborhood and every little detail that set them apart, as well as the entire transit system, every yarn store, coffeeshop, and pizza place. now, we’ve been relocated to toronto.

while we both love it like a second home, its much more difficult to figure out due to the sprawling geography and undefined neighborhoods. now we have a mission: to explore every neighborhood on the subway line, discerning those little changes that characterise a community. every weekend we take a walk. i’m going to start posting those walks here and trying to sort out, piece by piece, what a real toronto neighborhood map should look like. of course i’ll also include the stops around the way, yarn store reviews, and overall impressions. eventually we’ll sit down and try to make a huge map of these little tiny neighborhoods. if you’re interested or want to put in your two cents, we’d love to get some feedback!

that said– here is our walk from yesterday. we took the subway out to main street and walked back on danforth/bloor to bay street, then south. (click for full size)

this walk was totally on a whim– we just got on the subway and decided how far we were willing to have to walk. throughout the first few miles, it was extremely obvious to us that we were in a non-pedestrian section of the city. every shop has a parking lot. every house has a driveway and a garage. and there was some sort of car repair place on every corner.

that being said, we did happen upon the wool mill just east of woodbine. the store was empty, which is sort of awkward because i tend to feel a lot of yarn and then buy very little, if any (my stash doesn’t need to get any bigger). plus i hardly ever work with wool so only one corner of the store was appealing to me– the acrylics. there weren’t any prices and the woman working there didn’t seem too urgent to have a conversation so we left. not a very welcoming place but i wouldn’t avoid going there just to pick something up.

the blocks began to get a little more walkable and the neighborhood more and more defined with a definite greek vibe. we thought we’d be able to find a real new york kind of diner– and we did– the bus terminal. but for some reason the doors were locked even though people inside were eating (and it was the middle of the day). it looked delicious but we groaned and kept walking.

the houses above the various shops looked as if they were a century old, but most weren’t well kept and some had been brutally (or hysterically, depending on how you look at it) altered. this add-on was one of the less successful ones:

yep, that’s a very nice old brick building with a concrete block dropped on it. so much for conserving the old. (couldn’t they at least tried to match the facade??)

for a little while between coxwell and donlands there was a bit of a middle-eastern section, full of new-construction houses, discount stores, and hole in the wall cafe’s. we stopped in at chocolate heaven at 974 danforth. we managed to resist the lure of the delicious sounding hot chocolate but got a cookie and a truffle (after sampling the dark and white chocolate, we chose a milk one– but they were all amazing). it was just what we needed– cozy, warm, and delicious. i wish we lived closer so i could go all the time.

the greek vibe picked back up, but it was a little hipper and more refined this time. still in the mood for a diner, we stopped in lick’s and got a burger, bbq chicken sandwich, and fries. just a step above fast food for sure, but my chicken was quite good– more than i was expecting. then again, it was considerably more expensive than a mcdonalds grilled chicken sandwich.

the sun began to set and the neighborhood was alive– every little cafe had a florescent sign, and what seemed like every young couple in the city was out taking a walk and grabbing a bite. there were even three huge grocery stores practically in a row– my absolute dream! we stopped in carrot commons because we had heard about it. i must say, organic grocery shopping must be the new hip activity because we couldn’t even navigate the tiny aisles on a saturday night. we picked up some organic salad dressing that we have yet to try, but it was definitely too expensive to make a regular shopping trip.

since it seemed like this was where all the couples like us were, we picked a nice street and tried to find one for sale or rent. one of the houses was asking $2500/month, and another, $1900. neither are affordable for us but considering the kind of space you get, it’s sort of amazing that we were only a short walk (i use the term loosely) from downtown. we also walked by a pocket of connected townhomes across from the chester subway station but i can’t seem to find any information about them online. even though they seemed really nice, this was their view:

an alley of garages, not dissimilar to those in forest hills, queens– except maybe a bit more suburban. oh well, it could be worse

we embarked on what we knew would be the most laborious part of the journey– the tangled mess of highways that lead back into downtown. first that godforsaken bridge, then the unlit country walk of castle frank, and then the elevated roads with a scenic view of intersecting highways and densely populated projects. the mood finally picked up when my hubby caught a glimpse of his favourite public artwork on church and bloor:

i still wish it reflected the people actually walking by it (in cartoon form) but he loves it the way it is. we stood, watching it, for a few minutes, until even the homeless were giving us weird “what are you looking at” looks.

the rest of the walk is one we take often, so i’m not going to go through those details now. but at some point i’ll do a big post about downtown (bloor to the lakeshore, yonge to spadina).

well. that’s that. i have a backlog of these walks so i’ll try to write them up at some point if i ever catch up.

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