On & Off Yonge St. (To Reykjavík.)

21 August 2014 — Cinematographically speaking. A recommended movie, set in Iceland, caused me to walk the Dundas-Eglinton stretch of Yonge St. that took me to the theatre.

Yonge St logo n. of Dundas

I cover 8 kilometres or so, not bad, though the merest nothing compared to the 1,896 km. of this road’s total length from Lake Ontario to Rainy River — and an even tinier nothing compared to the 4,205 km. between Toronto & Reykjavík. (And that’s just flying distance. Wait ’til I tell you the walking distance!)

Yonge is an an important N/S artery & the city’s accepted centre-line, but still a curious mix of low- and high-rise. The latter shoots up around major E/W intersections, while the former stretches out in between, housing endless little shops in older, largely 2-storey buildings.

Yonge St. nr Charles St.

I’m north of Dundas, south of Bloor at this point, and frankly, it’s pretty tatty around here. Full of life and commerce and activity, but tatty. Lady Red Dress is the classiest element by far, and she’s just passing through.  At speed! (How can she walk that fast, in heels that high?)

Cross Bloor and I’m on the edge of Yorkville, heading toward Rosedale, moving up-the-market I am. Past the handsome Toronto Reference Library, into Frank Stollery Parkette, a tiny but effective wedge of greenery & benches on the west side of Yonge at Davenport. I revisit the Bell boxes for their murals, and read again the inscription beginning, “Ancient wisdom of the land …”

Frank Stollery Park, Yonge & Davenport

And look, kitty corner across Yonge, one of the painted traffic signal boxes that are now popping up — copying the Bell initiative, I think, and what a good idea. I cross to check it out, discover it’s by visual artist Elicser, and am slightly embarrassed I hadn’t guessed that for myself. Still … a shirt-&-tie-guy by Elicser?

Yonge & Davenport traffic signal box, artist Elicser

Soon Ramsden Park on my left, Rosedale subway station on my right, all known territory, and then I stop short, because I’ve never noticed this entrance before. It could be in Europe, a quiet, cool iron gate with understated shrubbery behind and near-anonymous, discreet signage. Somehow, the rust on the gate simply adds to the aura of faded, stylish mystery.

1920s building, n. of Ramsden Park

The mood is broken by two delivery men wrestling large plastic mats through the gate. Whatever offices this building now contains, the inhabitants choose to protect their floors from twirling computer chairs.

By now the older, low-rise sections on Yonge are beautifully restored — not still deteriorating, as they tend to be, farther south — and they house suitably elegant boutiques and spas. I leave Yonge for a bit, walk north up a parallel lane just behind the shops. Not so elegant here! Still, I love the remaining hay lofts.

haylofts in Paul Hahn Ln, n of Ramsden Pk & w. of Yonge

Drab looking, but sweet smelling. Someone near-by is cutting grass, and the scent of new-mown grass fills the air.

I laugh when I rejoin Yonge at Roxborough. A block farther south, I’d admired the vivid blossom a passing woman has tucked into her black fanny-pack, and wondered idly where she’d found it. “Bet she pinched it,” I’d thought, perfectly happy for her to have done so.

Hah! Here’s the source: a café patio, its screening a mass of blooms.

resto patio, Yonge & Roxborough W

They’ll never miss the one that disappeared onto a fanny-pack.

Soon I’m nearing St. Clair, with another cluster of towers rearing into the sky. I duck into a lane between two smaller, older structures as I approach, for a moment at the gate to St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Cemetery. It is surrounded now by buildings, but still imposing its own peace, its own sense of enternity, within its grounds.

St. Michael’s R.C. Cemetery

I enjoy the break from busy sidewalks, but the man next to me is using the relative quiet to hold an intense cell-phone conversation about his overseas real-estate investments.

Back to Yonge, and Book City. I always stop at a Book City, there are always bargain bins on the sidewalk to tempt your eyes, fingers & wallets.

Book City s. of St. Clair

No purchase this time, but I often tuck something into my pack after one of these stops.

And now I’m north of St. Clair, into a stretch with no shops at all, just open-cut subway tracks on my left and, across Yonge, the western edge of sprawling Mount Pleasant Cemetery. I think of entering it and walking its curving paths for a while, but decide to stick to Yonge as planned. (Very loosely planned.)

Just south of Davisville, I walk beneath the overpass for Kay Gardiner Belt Line Park. Phyllis & I often walk over it, linking our way from the Belt Line Park into the cemetery and on south.

beneath the overpass for Kay Gardiner Belt Line Park, Yonge St.

And then it’s just a few more blocks to Eglinton, to the movie theatre complex … to Reykjavík.

The movie is called Land Ho! It’s rightly described as a “small” and “gently amusing” film about two 60-something former brothers in law, American and Australian, who head for Iceland in search of their lost youth but in the course of events come to terms with their age instead.

I am gently amused, and I lap up the travelogue background, of course I do, it’s what drew me to the film in the first place. Memories flash back of my own time in that country.

memorial in Reykjavik

Not a shot from the movie — one of my own photos, the lovely little sculpture on (I think) Túngata dedicated by the people of Latvia to the people of Iceland, in thanks for their recognition of Latvian independence. “We are a small nation,” reads the inscription (in English as well as Icelandic); “We shall be as great as is our will.”

I do not walk back home. By now it’s quite late in the day, I hop the subway south and jump out again at Dundas, to walk from there.

And there he is, Living Sculpture guy, a street corner regular who was mysteriously absent earlier in the day. Now he’s in full stop-&-go action, revolving from pose to pose on his stand.

Living Sculpture performer, Yonge & Dundas

I line up with others to take his picture, and then head home.

Walking Distance, Toronto to Reykjavík

As promised.

When I googled the distance online, I found myself on a site offering a lot of travel-related factoids between the two cities. They were presented in a drop-down menu that included — to my fascination — the heading “walking distance” as well as “flying distance.”

Who could resist? So I clicked. And it said:

“Really Far.”

Well, I asked for that one, didn’t I?


Leave a comment


  1. I LOVE these photos!

  2. Love the bikes along the flowers shot! Another wonderful walk!

  3. A fun walk and I’ve often marvelled myself at the various worlds contained in any single stretch of Yonge Street.

  4. Outstanding! Seems to me, given your photos and musings from the day’s expedition, that you traveled Really Far in one day! 🙂

    • I probably did going on 9 km — really must replace my broken pedometer! I find when there’s lots to look at, you don’t know the distance very much… Thanks for your interest


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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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