There is something invigorating about being a tourist in your own city. I am truly guilty of taking Toronto for granted and this week has alerted me to this fact. Staycation Day 3 sort of made me realize I could likely be a pretty good tour guide in a pinch which is exactly what I was.
For starters, we left the car behind and decided to use the TTC. For any readers who are not familiar with that term, it refers to the Toronto Transit Commission. It is very reliable and easy to use and a great way to avoid costly parking and traffic congestion when navigating the downtown. It helped that I had to drop my car off at the shop for a little repair and so it made sense to take the "better way". Starting at Royal York, we headed east to the University line and went south to Queen's Park. We disembarked there and took a quick glance at our province's illustrious and looming historical bit of architecture before making a "not as brief as I would have liked" stop at Princess Margaret Hospital.
My appointment there took longer that I had anticipated, but clearly a doctor's time is more valuable than mine, so I waited it out. Once that obligatory bit of tedium was finished, we ventured a little west and took a walk along Queen West and I was once again surprised to see that some of the old haunts were still open and some seemed to even be thriving. I pointed out such famous landmarks to my "new to Canada" friend such as The Rivoli, Fashion Crimes, Peter Pan and The Horseshoe Tavern. Talk about staying power! These joints were around when I was working for Metropolis in the late 80's. Most of the kids we saw on the street down there probably were not even born when they first opened. It made me feel old, but young in a way, so it was one of those trips down memory lane that you don't mind. I think I saw the ghost of The Bamboo as we walked by what is now Cube. To this day, I have never had Thai noodles as good as the ones they used to serve there!
We stopped for a most welcome rich and foamy latte and cappuccino as I decided to cheat a bit on my "cleanse" for the day. Amazing how good a simple pleasure like warm frothed milk and espresso can taste when you have been deprived for 10 days. Heaven! We crossed over and made our way up Spadina Ave. from there and headed into Chinatown. Same old, same old - the hanging roasted ducks in the shop windows, good smells, ghastly smells, crazy looking produce and racks of t-shirts for $5.99. It was time to head west and check out Kensington Market. It was colourful and bohemian as always and teeming with art students and oddballs. By now we were ready for lunch and a decision had to be made.
Hmmm, Thai? Mexican? Vegan? Italian? Then it appeared - YES! Wanda's Pie in the Sky! The place was jammed with students and a few folks our age and I swear, not one thing in the food cases looked any less than amazing. No wonder the place was so busy. With our upcoming venture to Spain top of mind, I thought maybe we would try to emulate a sort of tapas like grazing experience, so I suggested one piece of their incredible home-made vegetarian pizza, one slice of their cheesy spinach quiche, a shared bottle of aqua and if dessert HAD to be consumed, he could choose and I would just have a "bite". The 4 inch high slice of Wanda's famous warmed (in an oven) apple pie was chosen and my "bite" turned into half the slice. So sorry Wild Rose Cleanse, but I gave you 10 full days of my life - time's up! I justified it by the fact that I had still not eaten anything "processed". So there!
We sat at the counter in the window eating and were entertained with the most unusual cast of characters. A few hi-lights included a truly geeky looking guy in an aviator hat, a man in fuchsia pink plaid pants, a woman in leopard skin jacket with black tights and high heeled boots riding a bicycle and an unfortunate soul that was clearly afraid to step on cracks and continually swatted at invisible insects that apparently were flying about his head. That's Kensington.
North to College and across to Yonge on a streetcar, hop on a northbound subway train and then a slide west to the Annex to check out that hood where once again I noted many of the old haunts remained. Lee's Palace, The Brunswick House, Pauper's Pub and the infamous Madison Ave Pub where a quick beer to quench our thirst was in order. Not much has changed there either since my old days in the beer biz. Heading out after a glass of Mill St Organic Lager (SEE - still being "sort of cleanse conscious") we walked this hood all the way through little Korea to Christie before calling it a day and heading west on the subway to Royal York and our now seemingly "beige" neighbourhood.
I will end this little travelogue with a sign post I saw on a hydro pole in Kensington.
"Be a pencil, not an eraser."
Now go forth and create!