Dancing with Spadina

11 December 2014 – A walk can be something like a dance, I’ve decided. Choose a partner — a trail, a park, a street, an event — but feel free to loop & twirl around that partner as well.

I choose a bustling N/S artery, Spadina Avenue, & begin right downtown. (Truth is, I walk to that starting point from home, but feel the walk isn’t “official” until I hit Spadina.)

It was once heart of our rag trade and, here at the southern end, is still clothing & textile-related.

King Textiles (also home to Accurate Pleating)

I am so tempted by some of the sewing accessory shops!  I don’t need anything they offer, but can still spend amazing amounts of time fingering the displays — all those buttons, embroidery silks & trimmings; all those colours, shapes & textures.

But before I can yield to any of those temptations, I fall smack into the arms of another. One I share with you often. First my head turns to peer down some tiny little side street, then my feet follow.

mural on Bulwer St.

Sometimes other, completely unrelated objects can give a mural an extra hit of energy.

When I come close to this one, I’m amused by the big eyes that seem to be peeking over the edge of a parked car.

detail, child mural, Bulwer St.

If this building was ever some kind of child facility, it doesn’t seem to be one now. In fact, there’s something oddly inert about all the old buildings along the block.

But not about the art!

Should you want admittance to the neighbouring house, for example, and follow instructions on its locked street door to “enter by the red door,” you will be led to it through an explosion of colour.

along Bulwer St.

Or you can stay on the street itself, and contemplate a lion …

on Bulwer St.

… or a bright yellow car, butting its nose against the next mural along …

on Bulwer S.

… or, perhaps, settle with relief on this bit of parking lot advice:

on Bulwer St.

Which I do.

And then take myself back to my main partner for this dance, Spadina Avenue.

By now I’m entering the Spadina-area Chinatown (distinct from the one in the city’s east end). Houseware shops, a beautiful bonsai shop, restaurants, greengrocers galore. People are poring over the bright sidewalk displays, and — the merchants hope — taking the polite signage to heart.

greengrocer on Spadina Av.

There are variations on this sign all over town, not just here.

We’ve had a huge up-tick in the number of people once again shopping with their own bags — which can also mean a rise in the number of people using them as they select items, and then honestly or deliberately forgetting to pay for those items as they leave.

More mural art as I continue north, this one I imagine commissioned by the seafood restaurant on the corner, and probably featuring the Great Wall of China at their request. I am not sure how much of the rest was commissioned, or added “unofficially.”

Xam Yu Seafood Restaurant

I decide to dance away from Spadina for a while, take myself north-west into the streets & shops of Kensington Market.

But I don’t even get to dance with that partner immediately! En route, I peer down an alley, an alley lined with garages for the residential streets either side. And I see this:

near Nassau St., Ken Market

Of course I walk it, right to the end. (And then have to back-track. It’s a dead end.)

My head swivels at all the colour & imagery, I’m spoiled for choice, yet for me this … this “shrubscape” … is one of the most compelling scenes of all.

behind Nassau St.

Nobody planned it, but it still seems beautifully composed.

I like this one a lot, too.

It’s not the artwork, it’s the impact of the frame that surrounds it.

alley behind Nassau St.

Who knew tatty old distintegrating insulbrick (or whatever it is) could be so theatrical?

Into Kensington Market at last, and a different artistic ethos.

Augusta Ave.

This is one corner of a burrito outlet. I almost go in, drawn as much by the goofy artwork as anything else, but instead continue one block farther north and stuff myself with enchilada pie.

Back to Spadina, where Chinatown is more or less giving way to academe. We’re getting into University of Toronto country now, old & new buildings & support facilities all over the place. This graduate studies centre, for example, hanging the final “o” (TorontO) out over Harbord Street.

Graduate Studies building, Spadina & Harbord

Then, finally, up at Bloor, I leave my dance partner behind — good-bye Spadina — and start back east.

I’m still in UofT-land, but fast approaching the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) and, beyond that, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).

We all know where this trio is headed, don’t we?

on Bloor West, outside the RCM

Of course.  To the right, into the RCM.

I stick with Bloor, but not for long. Soon I too peel off to the right — in my case through the 1901 Alexandra Gate, and into Philosophers Walk.

1901 Alexandra Gate, Philosophers Walk

It’s a study in architectural contrasts: wonderful Edwardian flourishes, silhouetted against the 21st-c. austerity of the ROM Crystal.

And home I go.




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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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