We debated many possible ways to spend the afternoon before returning to the States. My request was for a tour of the city, and the Cabana Boy was willing to oblige by being the driver. (Tho it must be said Canadian drivers are very polite, if somewhat unpredictable.)
First we headed to the waterfront at Queen’s Quay. Off on our right are islands, from which, C says, children take the ferry in for school and people kayak to work. The Harbourfront area is a new home for thousands of condominiums, springing up like recalcitrant weeds at the lake ends of the downtown streets. Summertime is festival time, and the Harbourfront is home to many events, including the largest vegetarian food fair in the world.
From there we contined east along the waterfront to St. Lawrence. Although known to tourists mostly for the St. Lawrence Market, with its history, antiques and archives, what I found interesting was the history of some of the very attractive apartment buildings C explained were public housing. In the 1970s then-mayor David Crombie decided that since the area was losing its industrial nature as businesses moved out of the city, that new residential areas would be built, but that they wouldn’t look like “projects,” as so many of these places do. Instead, the public housing would be built so it looked like any neighborhood in the city, and each building would have health services, libraries and schools right in them, integrating them into the neighborhood and providing residents with the services they needed.
Here we found the Distillery District, a pedestrian-only complex of preserved Victorian buildings, that used to be part of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery. Now there are a multitude of restaurants and small shops, many of them belonging to artisans who have banded together to create studios. While we were there, several artists were actively painting and weaving, and glad to speak to us. Live music also issued from one of four or five stages strategically placed throughout the complex–a charming walk!
Another interesting site was the Toronto Police Station for the 51st Division built into an abandoned munitions factory, restoring what they could of the front building and adding more modern facilities in the rear.
Uptown, past the University with its fine trimmed lawns, we found Yorkville, near Bloor Street, the “tony” end of town. This is where you’d purchase your Lamborghini from the neighborhood dealer. The rental blurbs say residents can buy everything they need within a five-minute walk. At today’s petrol prices, that’s not too shabby!
We made a wide circle then through the international neighborhoods of this “world’s most ethnically diverse city.” There are four Chinatowns, each created in a different era, Little Portugal, Little Italy, the Gerrard area India Bazaar, a Greek community, and many other nationalities. C works as the director of an agency that helps train and service the many agencies who help new immigrants who come to the city. Canada recruits professionals from other countries to emigrate, he said, because the Canadian birth rate has declined in recent years. We drove past the public housing on Parliament Street where many of these new immigrants live when they first arrive, before they’ve really decided where to settle. But the biggest chuckle we got for the day was this:
Yes, it’s true: you can get Italian styles…in Chinese.
All too soon it was time to go. B and I have always been close, so it was a delight to see her; C was a charming host and a wonderful tour guide. I learned more about the city than I’d ever known, and I await my next chance to visit its beautiful neighborhoods. A bientot!