What better place to start a day’s walking tour of Toronto, than on Yonge Street. It has been previously considered by the Guinness Book of World Records, as the longest “street” in the world. Although, I think now there is speculation about this. Anyway…even better than being on a really, really, long street, I was meeting a friend, Rey, who I had known for a few years in Adelaide, Australia. Rey grew up in Toronto…so who better than her, to show me the city on foot!
Babbling with excitement we met at the Bloor/Yonge subway, where Rey told me the history of Yonge Street’s claim to fame as the longest street. From here, giddy with catching up, we continued along Yonge Street, until we went left onto Yorkville Avenue – where we visited 312 Fire Station. It was a spontaneous thing…we just stumbled across the station. Out comes this adonis-movie-star-good-looking-fireman, dressed in a navy ‘get-up’ and boots, and says ‘Hi’. I had to lean on the firetruck from going weak at the knees. I know, there is a bit of a height difference between us, a bit like those buildings? But…?
After tearing myself away, we headed left onto Bay Street and right onto Cumberland Street, Yorkville. This area of Toronto, Rey explained, was a good location for a fancy birthday party dinner, or a night out, or where big rock bands might stay.
From there, we headed left onto Queens Park Road, past the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), through Queen’s Park, to the University of Toronto grounds. The gardens and buildings were elegant and quaint, reminding me an old majestic English estate. I imagined, it would all look so picturesque under snow. Rey, while qualifying that she did not want to ‘sway me away’ from spending winter in Canada, admitted trudging from one side of campus to another, in snow blizzards, were not always the most pleasant of jaunts.
We then headed down to College Street, taking a right until we reached Spadina Avenue – both being good locations to get classic Toronto skyline photos of the CN Tower and street-car wires.
Turning left down Spadina Avenue, we walked towards Kensington Market, a colourful, vibrant and eccentric hood, where we stopped for lunch. For Rey – traditional Toronto waffles…with chicken. I couldn’t quite come to terms with that, and instead opted for some Vietnamese fresh rolls.
Kensington Market is alive with all sorts of folk; hipsters, hippies, junkies, local residents and workers, and tourists. It’s an eclectic bunch of people gathered here. In fact… it’s a melting pot. You could easily spend a whole afternoon, walking the streets, people watching, getting lost in some super cool recycled-vintage stores, and stopping off for a drink in a bar to meet some of the colourful locals.
We didn’t have all afternoon, unfortunately, so again I had to tear myself away. The tour had to go on! Next was China Town, which meant us getting back onto Spadina Avenue and walking towards the Lake Ontario side of the city. We passed lots of Chinese product shops and restaurants before we got to Queen Street. Now, Rey informed me, we were approaching the central hipster area.
I have since coined the phrase, CHD – ‘CENTRAL HIPSTER DISTRICT.’
‘Hipster’ is a very loose term these days, but let’s just generalise by saying it’s a fashionable but not too upper class, arty, youngish, fashionable, edgy, often bearded type of person!? Or maybe, that guy on the bike below!?
We turned right onto Queen Street West. After a coffee and some visits to some boutiques, we veered left onto Bathurst Street and left onto King Street West. Here we stopped for a well deserved cocktail and some snacks on the patio at Valdez, a Latin street-food venue.
We didn’t have that much more steam in us but we were determined to finish the last few streets of the day. As we walked along King Street West, and reached Roy Thomson Hall, I knew the ‘CHD’ was now becoming the ‘CBD’ – where the old and the new architecture collides, where men in suits slap backs and talk finance and women walk awkwardly in high heels.
Continuing along King Street West, we arrived back at Yonge Street, where we started, albeit blocks away. Our last stop was left, Yonge and Dundas Square, a mini “Times-Square,” full of lights, shopping and buzz.
Thanks to Rey, I got a guide to inner city Toronto on foot. We were pretty tired after a solid day’s walking. But we still managed to muster the energy, of course, to celebrate later with cocktails at a bar on Queen Street West.
If you have more time than a day or so in Toronto, stay tuned for an upcoming article on what else to do whilst in Toronto.