In Pursuit of Beauty & Boots: Part 2 – “Boots”

1 May 2014 – And so here I am, back on the steps of the Gardiner Museum, full up with beauty — not least my friend Gerri Orwin’s two raku vases, which (I learn later) both sold, to the same delighted Museum member. Part 1 of the day’s walk accomplished. On to boots!

This means my next target is Mountain Equipment Co-op, the extraordinary destination for active sport clothing and equipment. Founded in Vancouver in 1971, it now has 16 locations across Canada and renown far beyond our borders. (I once sat next to a couple of young Greenlanders, flying to Toronto for a conference. First stop, they told me, would be MEC. Boy, did they have a shopping list!)

I decide to abandon the zigzag approach that got me this far, and adopt straight lines for the next leg: west on Bloor St. to Huron St., south-south-south on Huron, with a touch of necessary zigging from Huron-to-Soho-to-Peter, then around the corner on King. And there I’ll be, at MEC.

More architecture along the way. Funny… this walk, my eye seems to be snagged on architecture. I love the fat, happy curve of this Huron Street porch, just south of Bloor …

porch, Huron St s of Bloor

… and only afterwards notice the discreet touch of graffiti climbing the brick wall above it.

detail, house on Huron s of Bloor

At College Street, I pass the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library, one of the most interesting branches in the entire system. Interesting for its specialized collections — the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, the Osborne Collection of Early Childhood Books — but also for its quirky architecture. Not old-old and quirky by present tastes, but relatively new and intentionally quirky. Retro-medieval-castle quirky.

Let the entranceway give you a sense of the whole.

TPL Lillian H. Smith Branch

Still on Huron, now south of Cecil St., I peer down an alley and swing left to take in a garage.

garage off Huron, s of Cecil

Strong style, strong statement — and an equally strong, totally different, statement across the alley.

alley off Huron, s of Cecil

Huron ends (or, starts…) at Phoebe St.  From Bloor on south, I’ve been walking through what are sweepingly described as “mixed” neighbourhoods — an umbrella term that can be one of disdain, or  delight. My reaction is closer to delight; there’s nothing really upscale, and quite a bit of scruffiness, but there’s a lot of style and diversity in that scruffiness, so the overall energy is very appealing.

For example, this stretch of art & gardening, obviously done by residents, although on the city-owned land between sidewalk and road. The garden beds have already been cleared of winter debris, even though no spring flowers have yet appeared.

What am I saying? Look — flowers.

residents' streetside garden, Phoebe at Huron

Even a concrete utility pole can bloom.

I glance idly at the large building I pass as I heel south again from Phoebe onto Soho St. Oh! Still-legible letters,  carved high up: “Robert Elder Carriage Works Limited estd 1872.” Unfortunately, that’s the most interesting thing about the building, so I do give it a nod, and scribble down the name, but take no photo. (Subsequent research: southern Canada’s first carriage business, supplier of delivery wagons to the Eaton’s Company.)

Much livelier discovery at Soho & Queen. I hear it first: strong young voice, microphone-magnified, chanting an assured showman’s patter. Yes, there’s a crowd all around; yes, he’s wearing a top hat; and yes… why yes indeed, he is waving a blazing torch in his left hand. It’s the Fire Guy!

Fire Guy, Soho & Queen West

I assume he does eventually pop it down his throat — that’s the point, isn’t it? — but I don’t wait to see. On I go, south now on Peter St., getting closer to King and MEC (and boots, I hope) with every step.

Okay, you’ve seen this image already, I used him last post to promote this one.

alley-cat! off Peter St., s. of Queen West

What can I say? I’m a sucker for this little alley cat. There was other stuff down that alley … but … all pretty generic. Only alley cat amused me.

After that, I’m at King St., I turn west, and in moments I’m pushing through the doors into MEC. Goodness, it is busy. Well, what do I expect, Saturday afternoon, weather cycling us into a new season, everybody gearing up.

I climb to the 2nd floor, blink gob-smacked (as usual) at the display wall of boots, then get a grip, pull out the name of the boot I’d researched in their online catalogue, and ask for it. Nice Young Man brings it. It’s fine, it fits, all good — but meanwhile, I’ve been eyeing that wall again, and fallen for a pair of boots with a blazing bright vamp.

Made by Keen (good brand) + waterproof + light trail designation + on sale = perfect. Then Nice Young Man warns me the reason they’re on sale is that they are the very last pair in the store of a 2013 model. Rats. Usually the last pair left is some midget size that even Cinderella couldn’t wear.

But no! They are my size. I put them on, lace them up, jump around like a demented Dorothy trying out her ruby slippers in Wizard of Oz. I buy them, of course I do.

my beautiful new Keen boots

What a day of beauty. Even my new boots are beautiful!


Leave a comment


  1. Thanks for the lovely day we spent together in my pretend world…

    • Aren’t pretend worlds wonderful? You can have them whenever you want them, and never get too hot or too cold or too tired in the process… Glad you enjoyed our outing

  2. Snazzy shoes!!

  3. I love your new walking boots!

    • Thank you, I saw those bright happy colours, and I was smitten. Out walking in the drizzle in them, and they were like sunshine on my feet…

  4. Like this walking tour – how lucky to get the footwear you wanted – sounds as if you will need several pairs to keep up your walking

    • I’ve worn the new boots on my last two walks, and so far no blisters or other problems, so think I was very lucky.

  5. I loved that porch, and was immediately imagining sitting there on a warm evening sipping something cold…. And then there was the library! What a great building to fire the imagination before we have even crossed the threshold. Thanks Penny 🙂


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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