Walkablog

This is a blog about walking, rambling, hiking, trekking, and getting around. I walk, therefore I have sore feet.

It’s more of a journal than a travelog, and tells my story as I experience it walking. I hope it inspires you to get out and walk about your city.

TO Places – Riverside and Leslieville

Part of a series on my favourite places to go for a walk in Toronto

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Restrictions placed by either the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto may limit what you can do. Check the links for the latest info.

And now on to the regular post …..

One of the oldest neighbourhoods in Toronto is the area along Queen Street East, and east of the Don River. It has several names. The City calls it South Riverdale, on Google Maps it’s Riverside and Leslieville, and to Torontonians it’s now mostly thought of as just Leslieville. Whatever you call it, it’s a great area to wander and explore.

Location: For me, what I’ll call Leslieville is a bit more compact than what the City calls South Riverdale. I think of it as extending a few blocks north and south of Queen between Broadview and Greenwood Avenue to the east, and Eastern Avenue and Dundas Street to the south and north. Most Torontonians think of Riverdale as being a bit on the east and west sides of the Don along queen, from River St in the west to Broadview (or a bit past that to the train tracks) in the east. If that’s Riverdale to you, then Leslieville is the area east of Riverdale along Queen to Greenwood.

Public Transit: Take the Line 1 subway to Queen Station, then catch the 501 Streetcar east to about Broadview if you want to wander east through Leslieville. Or stay on the streetcar to about Greenwood and then you can wander back west. It’s only about 4.5 km along Queen back to the subway.

Why I like it:

I like it for several reasons. First of all, there are a ton of little shops, bars, restaurants, and funky dives. OK, it did go through an overly-hipster stretch a few years ago, but now it’s matured into a gentler post-hipster family neighbourhood that still tries to show a little edge here and there, yet not enough to actually be dark and edgy – the equivalent of parents in their early 30’s. For me as a parent pushing 60, it’s great walking around and seeing young families starting out.

Another reason to like it is that it’s a foodie place and I do like to eat. There are plenty of places and they create some competition for each other – you have to be good to stand out. And that foodie scene is then echoed in some of the food shops – cheesemongers, butchers, fishmongers, organic greengrocers, bakers, and more. You could dine very well for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and finish in a cool bar, anywhere in a 2 km stretch of Queen between Broadview and Leslie. That competition also means that places turn over, so if you go back every few months there will be something new to try.

One other fun fact – back in the 1980’s, Canada’s national broadcaster the CBC ran a show for teens called the Kids of Degrassi Street, about inner-city kids living on what is a real street that’s smack in the middle of the area. In the 2000’s, a revived and updated version of Degrassi Street starred a little known young actor named Aubrey Graham, who today is better known as Drake. Today, you can wander along the real Degrassi street looking at the renovated homes that are now everywhere – a far cry from the working class world of the original Degrassi Street TV series.

Sights:

The most obvious sights are along Queen, and just walking up and down here you’ll find something to catch your eye, whether it’s a cool design/clothing place, a retro bar, or a thrift shop full of bargains. The streets will be a mixture of locals and tourists, young and old, new parents, grandparents, kids, dogs, bikes, strollers, and little wagons. It’s a real neighbourhood, not a manufactured one, where people live and work and play. Walking around you see Toronto in its diversity, though it’s also true that the gentrification and ensuing increase in housing costs means that it’s losing some of its funky edge.

Besides the shops, you see that gentrification when you wander the side streets, increasingly full of older homes renovated and updated. The time to buy here was 5-10 years ago – a $500k fixer-upper then will probably be worth well north of $1m now. If you are into houses and home reno’s, wandering about will give you lots of ideas to try.

There are also some nods to history throughout the neighbourhood. Just north of Queen, on Broadview, there is the former Don Jail, built in the 1860’s and only closed in the 2000’s.

Today, the building has been restored and incorporated as the admin wing of BridgePoint Hospital, and you can tour the grounds to admire the architecture.

There’s also nods to local history at places like the Leslieville Pumps. This gas station is now known more for it’s takeout or eat-in BBQ than it is for petrol.

Food & Refreshment:

Too many to list, there’s everything from fine dining to bistros to diners along Queen. Toronto’s diversity is reflected as well – pizza, sushi, BBQ, Indian, Thai, Caribbean, you name it.

There are lots of coffee places and bars too, many with outdoor tables which are perfect for people watching. Summer is the best time for that, and sun-starved winter warriors are often sitting out in March or April whenever they can.

There are some public washrooms at the community centre at Jimmy Simpson Park. Other than that, a coffee place is your best bet for quick pit stop.

Diversions:

  1. It’s not massively far to start out at St. Lawrence Market for breakfast and then walk north and east through Corktown to Queen and then on over the Don River into Leslieville. You can of course go the other way, starting in Leslieville and ending perhaps at the Distillery District or at St. Lawrence. Either way, you tie together 2 great foodie areas with a nice 4-5 km walk.
  2. To the north of Leslieville along Gerrard Street, is one of Toronto’s several Chinatowns, centred around Broadview. A loop up Broadview from Queen to Gerrard and then east to about Carlaw will take you through that vibrant scene.
  3. If you keep going east on Gerrard, past about Leslie, you come to Little India, the downtown’s place for authentic south Asian foods, fashion, and charm.
  4. At the east end of Leslieville at about Greenwood, a short walk south and east takes you to Ashbridges Bay, which is basically the entry into the Beaches neighbourhood.

Favourite Toronto Walks -Mid-Toronto Loop

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! As part of its COVID-19 strategy, the City of Toronto had closed some facilities in the parks noted below. Check the City’s website for more info before you go.

And now on to the regular post …..

Graffiti art on the Lower Don

I was thinking about how to make an all-day walk that tied together some of my favourite parks and trails in mid-Toronto, and looking at a map I realized that I could put together something that stared and ended in mid-town and took in the Don Valley, the lakefront, and the parks and trails to the west around Roncesvalles. Here’s what I came up with:

This takes in a number of Toronto’s wonderful leafy parks (Moore Ravine Park, Corktown Common, Coronation Park, Marilyn Bell Park, Sunnyside Park, and Earlscourt Park), along with the Mount Pleasant and Prospect Cemeteries, and incorporates big chunks of the Kay Gardner Beltline and York Beltline Trails, Lower Don Trail, Martin Goodman Trail, and the West Toronto Rail Path Trail. Whew!

Length: Depending on your exact route and any detours, it will be about 30-32 km. Allow yourself about 7-8 hours to give time for breaks, picnics, and perhaps some shopping.

Surface: Mostly paved, with some gravel paths along the Kay Gardner Beltline.

Public Transit: Take subway Line 1 to Davisville Station and walk south 2 blocks along Yonge Street to Merton Street. Cross at the lights, walk about 50m east and turn into the laneway behind condo to reach the Beltline Trail opposite the gate into Mount Pleasant Cemetery. The finish is the same spot, so just reverse your steps to get back to Davisville Station.

Route:

Starting in mid-town on the Kay Gardner Beltline Trail on the north side of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, it follows that Trail through the Cemetery and then out on the south-east end, to continue down the Moore Ravine past the Don Valley Brickworks. Here, divert to the Brickworks for a pitstop, and then cross Bayview to join the Lower Don Trail.

Continue south on the Don Valley Trail to Rosedale Valley Drive. Since the Don Trail stops here, it climbs the hill beside St. James Cemetery and then enters Riverdale Park, following the trails there back down into the Don Valley to pick up the Lower Don Trail again. Continuing south, it reaches Corktown Common and then bends around to the west as it joins the Martin Goodman Trail along the lake.

Continuing west on the Martin Goodman Trail, you go all the way across to Sunnyside Park, and then take the footbridge over the roads and rail lines to reach Roncesvalles Avenue. Walking north up Roncy, you reach Grenadier Road, turn east for a bit, and then jog north up Sorauren Avenue to reach Dundas St W. Turning east, you follow Dundas for about 100m to reach the start of the West Toronto Rail Trail. This takes you north for several km past Bloor Street, and deposits you on Osler St, where you jog north and west to reach Davenport Road, just west of Earlscourt Park.

Cutting through the park, you emerge onto St. Clair Avenue at the bottom of Prospect Cemetery. The roads through here wind north and exit onto Eglinton Avenue. Turning west for a bit, you find Caledonia Road, go north to Bowie Avenue, and then turn west to pick up the start of the York Beltline Trail. This then curves north and then east, taking you eventually to Marlee Avenue. Exiting this trail, you cross Marlee at the lights, follow Elmridge Drive over the Allen Expressway, and then turn into the lane to join the Kay Gardner Beltline again at its western end. Following this all the way back to Mount Pleasant Cemetery completes the loop.

Sights:

What I like about this route is that it shows off so many of the best parts of Toronto – the parks, the ravines, the trails, the lake, and diverse neighbourhoods full of shops, restaurants, and bars. You get some natural fun along with some urban colour.

At the start, Mount Pleasant Cemetery is worth a visit all by itself. I love wondering its cool shaded roads and exploring the history of Toronto expressed in the headstones and monuments. The Kay Gardner Beltline Trail is incorporated into the Cemetery, so you can just follow the purple line painted on the road, or you can detour and explore a bit.

As you exit the Cemetery, you enter one of the best walking trails in Toronto, the Moore Ravine Trail. The trees, the quiet, the burbling of Mud Creek, and the people watching are all fantastic. It’s a short walk, but it then takes you past the Don Valley Brickworks, again a worthy destination on its own.

Cool Moore Ravine shade on a hot summer day

From the Brickworks, following the Lower Don Trail takes you under the Prince Edward Viaduct that carries Bloor Street and the subway over the Don Valley. Climbing the hill at Rosedale Valley Road takes you into Riverdale and east Cabbagetown. The zoo and park here are great fun for kids, and in summer the hot dog and ice cream vendors are worth a treat.

And of course, then there’s Corktown. The Common is one of my favourite recent additions to the City. I remember this area in the 1980’s as a post-industrial grey wasteland, and to see it now, transformed, is to be reminded that even if we badly bugger up the world, we can, if we put our minds to it, help nature reclaim and renew it.

The wavedeck at the foot of Spadina

The Martin Goodman Trail takes you through the Queen’s Quay neighbourhood, another area that’s seen huge changes over the past 20 years. The shops at Queens Quay itself have been joined in the area by many condo’s, and while I can’t say I’m a fan of tall glass towers, it does mean that there’s a much more residential feel in the area now. Combine that with reminders of industry like the Redpath Sugar Mills along with the marinas, the Harbourfront Centre’s art galleries, and little parks like the Toronto Music Garden and you get a diverse area with many things worth a detour and exploration.

Past Queens Quay, the lakeshore all the way west is mostly one big big green space divided into several parks – Coronation, Marilynn Bell, and Sunnyside. Each is chockfull of picnic areas, benches, Adirondack chairs, and cool shade. I could do without the roar of traffic from the busy nearby roads, but when you get a little quiet lull, the honk of geese and splash of waves reminds you that you’re next to Toronto’s greatest feature – Lake Ontario.

Little Norway Park along Queens Quay

Then you jump back into urban life, along Roncesvalles, where shops, restaurants, and bars abound. There’s a lot of life here and it’s changed so much over the past 20 years that I hardly recognize it. The recent addition of the Museum of Contemporary Art to the area just continues to boost an already-booming area.

The West Toronto Rail Path leads you into an area that hasn’t yet been gentrified (yes there are still some of those in mid-Toronto). This area still has a lot of older untrendy shops that remind you that actual working-class people still live in actual working-class houses.

Graffiti art along the West Toronto Rail Path

And then Earlscourt Park, leading to the Corso Italia area along St. Clair Avenue West brings you into a slice of Toronto that has seen waves of newcomers bring life along with their culture and foods. It’s changing still as it always has – come back in 20 years and the Corso Italia may become Little Mexico.

Prospect Cemetery is a cool oasis about 3/4s of the way through this walk, and like Mount Pleasant, it’s a reminder of so many things about Toronto’s past. Whereas Mount Pleasant’s early headstones show the Anglo-Scots surnames of the “Toronto the Good” era, in Prospect Cemetery the names are Irish, Ukrainian, Polish, and Portuguese – west Toronto has been working class for more than one hundred years.

Prospect Cemetery

You see that working class vibe as you leave Prospect and cross Eglinton. The houses and shops here are smaller but no less well tended than the bigger places near, for example, Rosedale or Forest Hill. And then joining the York Beltline, you are joining a path that follows one of the key transportation links that made this area an industrial powerhouse for decades. It’s slowly becoming more residential, and as you walk east back towards the finish, you move back in time from the newer redevelopments into the older, greener mid-town neighbourhoods.

greenery along the Beltline

In walking this, in many ways you do loops in time and in demographics as well as geographically. Along the way, the route takes you from the old City of York which dates back to 1780’s, neighbourhoods that grew up between the mid-nineteenth though to the mid-twentieth centuries, and up into the latest waves of downtown urbanization. It covers inner-city rent-controlled public housing, the latest young-homeowner condo forests, older working-class, and upscale old-money. And, it shows off the natural features of Toronto that I like the most – the ravines, creeks, rivers, and the lake.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the time of year will offer a lot of variety to this walk. You can do this in any season, though some of the trails can get icy in January and February. It’s, shall we say, bracing to walk along the lake in the winter, but when it’s cold and the waves are high the natural ice sculptures can be dramatic. Of course, autumn would always be lovely given the many treed paths and parks so a crisp October day might be perfect. And spring and summer offer their own joys. I did this walk recently, in July 2020, and picked a day that was in the mid-20’s. There are some stretches, especially near Ontario Place and on the York Beltline, where there is little shade, so if it’s bright and sunny you’ll definitely need sun protection.

Food & Refreshment:

There are many, many options along this route. If you like picnics, this route offers some excellent locations in the parks you pass. If you like quick bites, then there’s that too – food trucks, ice cream, coffee, and little cafes. And of course, there are restaurants galore, in parks like the Brickworks, or in neighbourhoods like Queens Quay, Roncevalles, or the Corso Italia.

Washrooms are located in most of the parks along the way, though many are closed in the cold months (November-April). There are year-round washrooms at the Brickworks, along Queens Quay, and in the community centres at Earlscourt Park and Memorial Park. There are also many coffee shops along the way where you can use the facilities for the price of a coffee.

In terms of water fountains, it’s best to carry at least some water. There are places in many of the parks but these are turned off in the cold months. Other liquid refreshment options abound along Queens Quay and in Roncesvalles.

Diversions:

  1. This is a route that is easy to break up over several days. The parks make good jumping on/off points – Corktown Common, Coronation Park, and Earlscourt Park are all near streetcar stops and can work well this way.
  2. If you are coming in from outside Toronto, you might want to stop/start at Union Station instead of Davisville. You can take the GO Train to Union and walk down Bay Street to Queens Quay, and join the loop that way.
  3. I’ve described this going clockwise around Toronto, but of course you could do it counter-clockwise. Either way, you have to descend from mid-town to the lake and climb back again, though I find the climb through Earlscourt and Prospect Cemetery to be a bit less steep than up the Don Valley and the Moore Ravine.
  4. In walking this, you’ll pass some great shopping/dining areas, especially around Corktown – the Distillery District and St. Lawrence Market are an easy detour away, and you can avoid the industrial grunge around the bottom of the Lower Don Trail where it joins the Martin Goodman Trail.
  5. If you really want to extend your loop, you can also incorporate the Toronto Islands. Just take the ferry at the bottom of Yonge over to Wards Island, walk the path west to Hanlon’s Point and ferry back to the docks to rejoin the path I’ve outlined. I’d allow at least 1.5 hours for this, including ferry waiting times.

Gear – Fitbit Charge2

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What is it?: Fitbit Charge2 fitness tracker. The Fitbit Charge4 is the latest version. The Fitbit Inspire is close to the Charge2.

How much?: I got the Charge2 as a gift almost 4 years ago. The current model, the Charge4, is about $200, and the Inspire is about $100.

Where, when, how do I use it?: In 2016, my health wasn’t great – I was overweight, with high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and suffering from stress-related angina. I knew I had to make some lifestyle changes, and my family helped out by buying me a Fitbit to get me off my butt and out walking.

And it’s worked. Since Nov 2016, I’ve logged more than 14 million steps over 10,600+ km while climbing the equivalent of 33,000 flights of stairs. I’ve lost about 30 pounds, my blood pressure is back to normal, and my cholesterol is under control.

Of course that’s not simply because of the Fitbit. I’m eating better, sleeping better, and walking daily. What the Fitbit does well is nudge you. I’ve set mine to vibrate every hour to remind me to get up out of my chair and walk at least 250 steps each hour. It also tracks my sleep so I can see how much restful deep sleep I’m getting. And it tracks my heart rate as it measures exercise, and that is logged against my activity targets. Having a goal and measuring against is a big part of the motivation you need to keep active – that, and having your son tell you that he doesn’t want you to die of a heart attack.

Over the years, it’s been pretty trouble-free. There isn’t much to do except wear it and charge it. So far the battery is holding up – I can still get about 3-4 days of use out of a full charge, down from 5+ originally, so I assume that is the limiting factor. Once the battery can’t hold a charge I’ll have to replace it.

That said, while this is supposed to be GPS enabled, it’s not super accurate on distances. Depending on the terrain, it can under- or over-shoot by as much as 15%, so on flat ground I find that I walk 10%-15% further as per Google Maps distance measurements compared to what the Fitbit says, and on hilly terrain it can be the opposite. For that reason, I take its distances with a grain of salt. What matters more to me is active minutes per day and per week – as long as it tracks my heart rate to motivate me to actually stay active, it doesn’t really matter to me whether Fitbit says I walked 9 km when I really did 10 km.

Would I buy it again?: Yes. I’ve worn out 3 bands on it, but the Charge2 is still chugging away. When I finally wear it out, I’ll by the latest model.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.

TO Places – Roncesvalles and High Park

Part of a series on my favourite places to go for a walk in Toronto

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Restrictions placed by either the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto may limit what you can do. Check the links for the latest info.

And now on to the regular post …..

Ronscesvalles is both a neighbourhood and a street, and its location next to High Park makes it a perfect area to explore, shop, and eat either before or after wandering the park.

Grenadier Pond in High Park

Location: The neighbourhood of Roncesvalles parallels the avenue of the same name for a few blocks to the east and west of the street. Roncesvalles Avenue starts a couple of blocks south of Bloor Street West, and runs south to end at Queen Street West. It’s bounded to the east by the train tracks that curve up from near Queen at about Landsdowne Street, and on the west by High Park, although many people would consider the streets immediately adjacent to the park to be the neighbourhood of High Park. Anyway, just aim for Roncesvalles Avenue and you know you are in Roncy the neighbourhood.

Art in the Park

Public Transit: Take Line 2 west to Keele Station, and walk south on Dundas a couple of blocks until the road forks – follow the right hand fork and you are on Roncesvalles Avenue. Or, take the 501 Queen streetcar from either Queen Station or Osgood Station on Line 1, and get off at the south end of Roncesvalles Avenue.

Why I like it:

Roncy the neighbourhood for me is really about the shops and restaurants along Roncesvalles Avenue. Years ago, when I first moved to Toronto, my brother had a tiny studio apartment at the corner of Dundas and Bloor. I used to visit and we’d walk down Roncy Avenue, which back then reflected the eastern European wave of immigration that had settled in the area in the 1920’s and 1930’s. You could get a decent schnitzel and a beer (but not much else) at a half-dozen places back then.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the area started changing. The older generation started to sell off to a younger, and as we moved into the 2000’s, these younger folks had a different food and shopping sense. The older eastern European places started to change hands and gradually, as part of restaurant trends throughout the city, new flavours and cultures started to settle. Today, it’s 2 km of funky restaurants mixed with old favourites, where you can get a great BBQ, quality seafood, Asian fusion, and much more. You can also shop for locally grown organic produce, cheeses, books, clothes, or antiques, stop for a local not-another-coffee-chain coffee, or indulge in a drink at one of several bars.

Plus, you are just a couple of blocks from High Park. It’s easy to start on Roncy for breakfast or lunch, then go for nice stroll around the Park and end up back on Roncy to pick up fruit and veg for dinner before heading home. Of course, you can do the opposite and start in the Park for a brisk, appetite-building walk before satisfying that hunger in one of Roncy’s many restaurants.

Sights:

To be honest, if your idea of sights includes tall buildings and high culture, then this may not your place. On the other hand, if your idea of sights includes some funky fresh menu options and window-shopping in a real neighbourhood filled with the diversity of Toronto, then you are in the right place. Combine that with the natural beauty of High Park and you’re set.

Even then, there is culture in the hood. Just east of Roncy there is the new Museum of Contemporary Art on Sterling Road. Since that opened, a number of gallery spaces have started up in the area, creating a new cluster of art buzz that takes you outside the cloister that used to be centred near the AGO in downtown Toronto. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Another cool option is the Dream in High Park, when the Canadian Stage Company puts on a full length play by Shakespeare during the summer. I remember going 30 years ago (Midsummer’s Night Dream?), and it’s still a tradition. [Sad note: COVID-19 has cancelled this for 2020, alas! Cross your fingers for 2021]

The Dream stage area looking very COVID neglected in the summer of 2020

Of course, walking in the park is its own type of culture. I like coming in any season. Autumn of course is a natural, with the turning leaves. Spring is also great, especially in May when the cherry blossoms bloom in High Park (beware the crowds though, weekends can be brutal). A summer day is great, and so is a winter’s afternoon. Oh, let’s be honest, it’s always good. Just come.

Food & Refreshment:

As I’ve said, there are many restaurant, food shop, and bar options up and down Roncesvalles Avenue. There are also many more along Bloor West which forms the northern border of High Park, especially to the west of the park. These days as well, if you walk the length of Roncy down to Queen West and then turn left (east), you’ll go through Parkdale and several other changing/renewing neighbourhoods. It can be a great walk that way too.

In High Park itself, there’s a couple of places to eat including the famous Grenadier Restaurant, and often ice cream or food truck vendors in summer. There are washrooms throughout the park and lots of water fountains [but COVID-19 has many water fountains shut off in 2020 so bring your own water], though these are open only in the warm months between May and October. In the cool months, there are lots of coffee shops back on Bloor or Roncy where you can have a quick pit stop.

Diversions:

  1. Starting just east of Roncesvalle Avenue, at Lansdowne and Queen, is the newish West Toronto Railpath. It runs sort of north-south, and takes you up north of Bloor to near Davenport Road. It’s being expanded and in a few years will be connected into the city’s wider bike plan.
  2. Within High Park itself there are many trails and roads, some paved and some not. On a quiet weekday, it’s easy to get lost in what can feel like a giant forest in the middle of Toronto. You can spend a couple of hours covering many km of trails.
  3. High Park is also home to the High Park Zoo, a small but fun place for kids. We took our son there many times when he was a wee lad.
  4. At the bottom of Roncesvalles Avenue, where it crosses Queen West, there is a bridge and connector trail that crosses the train tracks, the busy Gardiner Expressway, and Lakeshore Boulevard. This lets you jump onto the Martin Goodman Trail along the shore of Lake Ontario, at Sunnyside Park. Either direction, east or west, is fun. I like to go west and cross back over Lakeshore at about Ellis Avenue in order to walk north just to the west of High Park, through the neighbourhood of Swansea, and end up back on Bloor West. From there I can turn right (east) and finish back at Roncesvalles.

Favourite Toronto Walks -Rosedale Rambles

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! As part of its COVID-19 strategy, the City of Toronto has closed the parks noted below. The Trail itself is open for walking, but the parks and their facilities are not.

And now on to the regular post …..

Toronto, like any city, has many neighbourhoods and all of them have some history and uniqueness to them. Some are hip and trendy, some are gritty, and some are upscale and stately. Rosedale is the latter. It’s long been known as a district of fine older homes set amongst quiet leafy streets, and that makes it a great area for a summer’s shady walk. Here’s a route that I’ve done before, and it’s equally great in the spring and autumn too.

Length: around 8 km, so about 1.5 hrs

Surface: paved (except in the parks)

Public Transit: To start, take the subway Line 1 to St. Clair Station. The finish on the route map is at Line 1 Rosedale Station, but an alternative is to finish at Line 1 Summerhill Station, both on Yonge Street.

Route:

Starting at St. Clair Station, exit the subway onto St. Clair Avenue East. Walk east on St. Clair (on the south side of the road to Inglewood Drive. Turn south and follow Inglewood as it bends to the east. Cross Mount Pleasant Road at the traffic lights and continue east on Inglewood to its end, where it bends to the right (south) and becomes Rosedale Heights Drive. Follow Rosedale Heights south and back west until you come to MacLennan Avenue. Turn left (south) and walk down the hill to the ramp on your right leading upwards – follow that onto the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks, over, and down the ramp onto Summerhill Avenue.

Pedestrian ramp over the train tracks at Summerhill

Once you are over the tracks, walk east on Summerhill to Chorley Park (a great spot for a picnic). Wander through the park and exit on the south west corner onto Roxborough Drive. Follow Roxborough west, passing Rosedale United Church and Whitney Park onto Edgar Avenue. Follow Edgar west to Rosedale Park, and turn left (south) onto MacLennnan. Follow that south to the roundabout and take the road to the south-east, Highland Avenue. Follow that southeast to Glen Road. Turn right on Glen Road and cross the bridge over the ravine.

View at the Glen Road Bridge

At South Drive, turn right (east) and follow that to Elm Avenue. Turn right (east) and follow Elm until it turns into Castlefrank Road. Follow Castlefrank east and then south as it bends. At Dale Avenue turn right (west) and follow Dale west to Glen Road. At Glen, turn right (north) and follow it to Maple Avenue, turning left (west) onto Maple and continuing to Sherbourne Street. At Sherbourne, turn right (north) and follow it to South Drive. Turn right (east) on South Drive and follow the curve around to the north, where it turns into Crescent Drive. Keep following Crescent as it curves around to the west and crosses over Mount Pleasant Road. To finish, follow Crescent west to to Rosedale Station, on Yonge Street.

Sights:

What’s lovely about this walk is that you get a combination of stately homes and parks for a rest. It’s a people-watching walk too, as there are always pedestrians out for a stroll. And it can be a fun, spot-the-flash-car walk as well – you’ll run out of fingers and toes before you run out of Porches to count, for example.

Rosedale prides itself on what it thinks of as understated elegance. This is not a bling-house neighbourhood, it’s more old money than new, more Chanel than Versace, more Mercedes than Ferrari. You walk here because it’s fun to imagine the lives behind the curtains.

While there’s no truly dramatic scenery nor any particularly impressive architecture, streets filled with large, red-brick homes dating back to the late 1800s tell a story of solidity and comfort. There is history here, in that the red bricks of the oldest homes probably came from the Don Valley Brickworks, like many of the other famous buildings in Toronto – Old City Hall, Massey Hall, and so on. And the area dates from a time when Canada and Toronto was establishing itself, post-1867 Confederation, as a prosperous, industrious part of the Empire.

While today, Toronto likes to think of itself as hip and is proud of natives like Drake promoting the 6, Rosedale still has a whiff of the Toronto-the-Good era, the so-called blue-light Toronto when nothing opened on Sundays, temperance movements tried to suppress the evils of alcohol, and good citizens meant good Protestants attending church on Sundays. Back then, non-WASPs had their own neighbourhoods, and Rosedale was a solidly white upper-class enclave. It’s more diverse today, but its still upper-class – the area is the wealthiest part of Toronto.

That wealth is visible in the homes, the cars, the land, and quiet streets. It’s also visible in the shops along Yonge, between Rosedale and Summerhill subway stations. There was a time when a strange face wandering through Rosedale would draw attention. Today, it’s less hide-bound, less class-ridden, and less uptight. But there’s a reason that one of the first LGBTQ bookstores in Toronto was called This Ain’t the Rosedale Library.

Food & Refreshment:

Food and refreshments on this walk are mostly around the start and finish – there are many cafes, coffee houses, restaurants, and food shops along Yonge near St. Clair, Rosedale, or Summerhill stations. In the heart of Rosedale, on Summerhill Avenue just over the train tracks, there is the Summerhill Market, Rosedale’s version of a corner store (and a fab gourmet stop on it’s own). All this gives many options to load up for a picnic, and Chorley Park is the perfect spot for that.

There are water fountains at Chorley and Rosedale Parks, available between about May-October, and there are public toilets at Rosedale Park as well. There are also public washrooms at St. Clair in the shopping mall at the north end of the station. Finally, there are washrooms, a great cafe, and water at the Brickworks if you divert from this walk (see below).

Diversions:

  1. An alternative route is to turn north once you cross Mount Pleasant Road on Crescent Road, onto Wrentham Place. Follow that north to Roxborough Street and turn left (west), then north on Chestnut Park. Wind through these little streets and find Cluny Drive, turn north, and find Rowanwood Ave. Follow that around to the east onto Thornwood and then north and around to Pricefield Road. Take Pricefield west all the way past the Pricefield Playground and into Scrivener Square by the old Summerhill train station that is now the Summerhill LCBO at Yonge Street. Turn right and walk under the train tracks to Summerhill Avenue to the Summerhill Station on Line 1. This diversion takes you through more quiet, charming back streets and lets you end by the gourmet shops at Scrivener Square.
  2. Another fun diversion is to cut through Chorley Park and join the connector trail that descends into the Moore Park Ravine – this will put you opposite the Don Valley Brickworks, and you can pop in there for a potty stop or food/water/coffee. The Chorley Park connector trail also puts you onto the Beltline Trail, and you can follow that south and around past the Brickworks. The Beltline continues north up through David Balfour Park, under St. Clair Avenue, and on into Mount Pleasant Cemetery to finish near Davisville Station on Line 1 subway. Or you can climb out of the trail just before you get to St. Clair, and walk back along that road to finish back at St. Clair Station.
  3. You can also take the Chorley Park connector, follow the Beltline around, and then take Milkman’s Lane to climb out of the Yellow Creek Ravine and into Rosedale. This will put you onto South Drive by Glen Road, where you can rejoin the main route described above.

TO Places – Moore Ravine and the Brickworks

Part of a series on my favourite places to go for a walk in Toronto

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Restrictions placed by either the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto may limit what you can do on this walk. Check the links for the latest info.

And now on to the regular post …..

The Don Valley Brickworks Park is one of the best little walking parks in Toronto, and getting there by walking down the Moore Ravine trail just adds to the fun. Please note that as of this post (July 2020), the City of Toronto is doing extensive work on the Ravine that will continue through the summer of 2020. You can still walk it, though there is a lot of dust and noise at the north end of the ravine trail Mon-Fri. Weekends are quiet but still dusty.

All that said, it would be a shame to skip the Moore Ravine just because of work to make it even better. Once you get past the first several hundred meters, you the path is (literally) clear to walk and enjoy the shady tunnel beside burbling Mud Creek.

Location: Moore Ravine starts at Moore Avenue, just east of Mount Pleasant Road. It follows Mud Creek down into the Don Valley, and the northern entrance to the Brickworks Park is at the south end of the Ravine trail. The Brickworks can also be reached from the south, off of Bayview Avenue. It lies just to the west of the Don River.

Public Transit: If you are starting at the top of the Moore Ravine, then take the 74 bus from St. Clair station on Line 1. You can also walk from St. Clair station in about 20 minutes. If you are starting from the south, take the 28 bus from Davisville Station on Line 1.

Why I like it:

Pure and simple, it’s just a fun place to walk. The Moore Ravine trail is wide and well shaded, and for most of its length runs beside Mud Creek. On a peaceful mid-week day, I’ve been the only person on the trail and able to hear the birds, the water, the swish of a breeze in the trees, and the crackle of leaves underfoot. Then when you get to the Brickworks, you leave a forested, mostly natural setting and enter a man-made setting that’s slowly reverting to nature. The old clay pits are slowly being reclaimed by grasses, shrubs, marsh ponds, and trees, and the paths meander so that you can cover a few km in a small area.

I love these connected parks in any season. In spring I’ve seen turtles basking on logs, and heard frogs grunting amorously. In summer cool shade of the ravine is a blessing, and there’s usually a breeze in the Brickworks to make the tall grasses sway. Autumn is the best, to me at least, with the leaves exploding in colour, and in winter there’s a different kind of peacefulness on a cold blue-sky snow-crunching day.

Sights:

Turtle sunbathing on a May warm day

There are lots of things to see, both man-made and natural. Just south of the Brick Works Park is the Evergreen Brickworks, which occupies the old industrial buildings of the original Don Valley Brickworks company. This complex has become an environmentally friendly showcase for sustainable development and the reclamation of industrial sites.

There are always interesting things going on here, including festivals, weekend farmer’s markets, winter markets and winter activities like skating, and lots of kid and family friendly activities. To be honest, sometimes the kids get a little over the top for me, so I usually try to go during the week when it’s quieter.

The walks around the park and the ravine are the stars of the show for me. If you are a bird watcher, you’ll probably spot dozens of species, and if you are an amateur entomologist you will have a lot of fun spotting beetles, butterflies, and various hopping insects. Those more interested in flora than fauna are also in for a treat, because of the mixture of Carolinian forest, grasslands, and marshy ponds. There are wildflowers, blossoming shrubs and trees, and aquatic plants to explore, so if that’s your thing I guess spring and summer are your seasons.

And if you just want to wander, try climbing the hill on the east side of the Brick Works Park. From the top, you get a great view south over bowl of the park with the Toronto downtown skyline on the horizon.

Food & Refreshment:

Depending on when you go, there might be a festival on, or the weekend farmer’s market, and that means food trucks and food vendors. I’ve been there when there was a Latin American festival going, and besides the music, there were lots of empanadas, burritos, tacos, and more than I could possibly try. In winter there’s often a hot choco vendor, and in summer there might be ice cream.

And everyday that the Evergreen Brickworks is open (which is almost 365 days a year), there is Cafe Belong. It’s a full-service sit down restaurant that also does takeout, and they have a full bar too along with a gorgeous patio space that’s perfect on a summer day. The food is tasty, organic, and ethically sourced for guilt-free indulging.

Diversions:

  1. The Brickworks is one of my standard stops if I am walking the Don Valley Trail from Corktown Common to Wilket Creek Park. You can use the Brickworks as a great jumping off point too, starting there and walking the Trail south to Corktown to end up at the Distillery District.
  2. There are other connector trails too – if you start down the Moore Ravine, you can exit to the west of the Brickworks and take the Chorley Park connector trail up out of the valley and into Rosedale. From there you can walk through one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Toronto to end up back at Yonge Street.
  3. The Brickworks is also about half-way on the Kay Gardiner Beltline Trail. Walking down Moore Ravine, you’re actually on a section of the Beltline. It continues north of the Moore Ravine, cutting through Mount Pleasant Cemetery (worth exploring all by itself) and continuing all the way west to Bathurst Street. Or from the south end of the Brickworks, the Beltline curves back north and west through David Balfour Park and then Mount Pleasant Cemetery where it completes its loop.
  4. One other route I’ve done is to start at Ramsden Park on Yonge Street (opposite Rosedale Station on Line 1), and walk south-east down Rosedale Valley Drive to Bayview where I turn north and follow the Don Valley Trail back up to the Brickworks. From there I usually keep going up Moore Ravine, through Mount Pleasant Cemetery and onto the Beltline which takes me more or less home. Going in this direction I get lots of uphill walking.

Gear – Tilley T3 Hat

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What is it?: Tilley T3 Cotton Duck hat. It’s Canada Day, so let’s talk about Canadian icons!

How much?: I bought it in Sydney Australia in 2007 and now I can’t remember what I paid. Today you can buy it from Tilley for $85 CAD + tax.

Where, when, how do I use it?: This is my go-to summer hat. As I said, I bought it in Australia. I was posted there on a work assignment in January 2007, at the height of summer, and quickly learned how fierce the Aussie sun can be. We lived in a flat near Circular Quay, and close to that is an area known as the Rocks. This cluster of renovated old stone buildings is today a buzzing little shopping district, amongst which was a hat shop. I popped in on Australia Day (Jan 26) when we were out in the crowds enjoying the celebrations and I was getting scorched.

At the time, I was just looking for a basic hat, but when I saw the Tilley I immediately knew I had to buy this iconic Canadian classic and uphold my maple-leafness downunder. I wore it most days as we explored the countryside, and it’s been a summer staple since.

It’s getting a little battered and sweat-stained, but 13 years later it’s still going strong. I wash it occasionally, taking care to stretch out the band while it’s still damp so that it doesn’t shrink. Otherwise, since I started my walks in 2016, it just gets folded up and carted around and stuffed in knapsacks and worn in the sun. It has one job, and it does it really well.

I can’t think if any real issues with it. The light colour is reflective, it breathes pretty well through the vent holes, the absorbent brim keeps sweat out of my eyes, there are proper chin ties in case it gets really windy, and it floats if it falls in the water. You can even stuff an emergency $20 into the secret pocket in the top.

Inside, there’s information on how to get a replacement if it ever breaks down. Alex Tilley, who designed, says it’s the finest hat in the world. I’m not going to argue.

Would I buy it again?: If I ever lost it, then yes absolutely, though I won’t have to because it’s insured against loss (you get that when you buy it). But barring that, I can’t see how I’ll ever wear it out. You buy a Tilley hat once. I like that.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.

TONotL – Ideas for a Visit

The other day, I was describing my Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto journey to someone, and lamenting how COVID-19 is cutting into my ability to do something similar this year. It seems like it was a million years ago that I did that walk, yet it was only last autumn.

Since we are (fingers crossed) slowly moving towards easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario, and part of that recent easing includes the re-opening of some Niagara-area wineries for tastings, I thought it would be helpful to jot down where I stayed on my journey and where I had meals. If you are able to get out of Toronto, you might want to check out these places yourself.

Accommodations

If I were younger, I might have considered camping for at least some of my walk, in particular along the Bruce. If I had done that, I’d have had to stealth camp, because there’s no official overnight camping allowed in the various parks and conservation areas that the Bruce and Waterfront Trails cross.

Stealth camping means walking till dusk, setting up your tent and crawling in, and then waking at dawn to strike camp and get going before anyone comes along. Lots of Bruce Trail through hikers do it, and as long as you are discrete and respectful of private property, you can usually get through unmolested. Still, doing so would have meant carrying a tent, sleeping bag, etc. and that would have added 2-3 kg to my pack, plus extra food, and it would also have meant walking for longer days, dawn to dusk. I wanted the trip to be challenging, but I just couldn’t take the thought of it being that challenging.

Instead I opted for comfort. My muscles would be aching after a long day, so the thought of a nice hot shower each evening outweighed the thought of seeing if I could rough it. I picked all of these spots based on proximity to my route, more than anything else, but that said all of them were great.

An excellent micro-brew IPA from Bench Brewery
  • Shaw Club, Niagara-on-the-Lake
    • Great little place, a little bit off the main touristing stretch of Picton Street and yet only a few minutes walk away, and more importantly for me, just a few hundred meters from Fort George where I started my journey
  • Stone Mill Inn, St. Catherines
    • A converted warehouse property only a few hundred meters off the Bruce Trail, with welcoming staff, quiet, well-appointed rooms, and for me, HOT SHOWERS!
  • Jordan House, Jordan
    • One of the oldest taverns in Jordan, now with several rooms as well that are managed by the Inn on the Twenty. Simple yet close to the Bruce Trail and the bonus of a fab breakfast at the Inn
  • Crown Ridge B&B, Grimsby
    • A comfy B&B on the outskirts of Grimsby and literally across the road from the Bruce, where I had a large room with a balcony deck – it was great going to sleep to the sounds of crickets
  • Waterfront Hotel, Burlington
    • A clean, modern, mid-range hotel right on the Waterfront Trail by Spencer Smith Park in downtown Burlington
  • Waterside Inn, Port Credit
    • Another clean, modern, mid-range hotel right on the Waterfront Trail, this time beside the harbour in Port Credit
Breakfast at the Inn on the Twenty in Jordan Station

Meals

My basic plan, since I was staying at hotels, was to eat a hearty, healthy breakfast each day and a good dinner at night. That way, during the day on the Trail I could munch on snacks like dried sausages, dried fruit, an apple or orange, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and energy bars. When I’m working hard I don’t want a big meal anyway, and this meant I could have a snack at each rest break and keep my energy levels up.

The breakfast part worked out as I had planned, though the Inn on the Twenty where I ate after staying at Jordan House only served breakfast at 0800, so I lost a bit of trail time. Other than that, I really appreciated being able to fuel up in comfort each morning – instant coffee and oatmeal on the trail can’t compare to fresh fruit and a good strong cup of morning brew.

Similarly, being able to have a hot meal at the end of the day, and also I confess a good glass of wine, was a reward to myself. If you can’t earn your comforts and enjoy them, well, what’s the point? A good burger versus freeze-dried chili – what choice is that?

A tiny Niagara estate that makes a fantastic Pinot Noir
  • Treadwell, Niagara-on-the-Lake
    • A farm-to-table restaurant, they work with local Niagara-area farmers and producers to make memorable meals. Their sommelier is excellent and their selection of local wines means you can try stuff you’d never find on your own. It was a great way to get ready for my big walk.
  • Zees Grill, Niagara-on-the-Lake
    • We had breakfast there, as it’s attached to the Shaw Club Hotel. We were served outside on the veranda, and it was a lovely soft first-day-of-autumn morning.
  • Jonny Rocco’s Italian Grill, St. Catherines
    • This restaurant is attached to the Stone Mill Inn, which was just as well since my feet were tired and stiff after day 1 on the Trail. It’s a casual place with homemade Italian dishes, and their make-your-own-pasta was really tasty. I had penne, marinara sauce, fresh spinach, and flor di latte cheese. That’s how you carb-load for another day on the trail.
  • Cora’s, St. Catherines
    • This breakfast chain has a franchise on Tremont Road, where the Bruce climbs the escarpment, so you’re just meters from the Trail. I ate there the morning of Day 2, and got a big plate of eggs, toast, and fried potatoes with coffee for under $10. There are many locations around Canada and they’re a great option if you’re tired of Tim Hortons.
  • Jordan House Tavern, Jordan
    • It’s a pub, and it’s got all the pub good things you’d expect. The food is fresh and prepared in-house, so the burger and salad I had were made from high quality local ingredients, and the beer was a local micro-brew called Bench IPA.
  • The Martini House, Burlington
    • I took my parents there since we’d connected for the evening as I was passing through Burlington. This restaurant is a favourite of my in-laws, though I guess it’s quieter when they go there for lunch than it was in the evening. The food’s pretty good – I had a fab vegetarian dish and the wine list is simple with some good value wines.
  • Tim Hortons
    • If you don’t know what a Tim’s is, then where have you been? While they are predictable, they’re everywhere, convenient, clean, and good value. Plus you get the bonus of listening in on the regulars that seem to congregate in every Tims I’ve ever been in.
The courtyard outside Treadwell in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Let’s hope that COVID-19 stays under control. Please do your part by respecting the advice of public health authorities. Together we’ll get through this, and back to normal.

Gear – New Balance 1450 Walking Shoes

Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.

What is it?: New Balance MW1450WK walking shoes.

How much?: about $180 CAD + tax

Where, when, how do I use them?: I bought these in August 2019 after I had worn out my New Balance 990 running shoes. I knew I was going to be doing a long 200km walk from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto in a few weeks, and since it was partly Bruce Trail offroad hiking and partly Waterfront Trail paved trails, I wanted something that could handle both. Basically, I wanted something heavier than a running shoe but lighter than a hiking boot. These fit the bill.

They have GoreTex uppers so they’re pretty water resistant. I have worn them through my share of puddles and small streams and as long as it wasn’t above ankle height, they have kept my feet dry. In fact, I wore them in the late autumn and early spring shoulder seasons so they’ve seen their share of slush, sleet, and light snow as well as mud and puddles.

At this point they probably have around 500 km on them, and judging by the soles, I can get a bit more before I completely wear them out. I have had to have the local shoe repair guy put some soft leather into the back of the heels where I wore out the lining, but other than that they’ve held up well.

Since I wear custom orthotics, I got an extra wide pair which has proven to be a wise choice – there’s lots of room for both the orthotics and thicker socks. I did have some blisters early on as I was breaking them in, but I put that down to the wrong choice of socks. Since then, they’ve worked pretty well.

One thing to consider is that, if you aren’t carrying heavy loads, you can probably get away with these even on backpacking offroad trails. The high ankle style gives a good amount of support, and the soles and footbeds are solid too. I still wouldn’t say they are a true substitute for full-on hiking boots, but they can work. It might just boil down to your own preferences – since they are lighter than full hiking boots, that might mean the difference between a 25km day and a 30km day.

Would I buy them again?: I think so, if I still need a “between” boot/shoe. I like the NB 990 running shoes for roads and paved trails, and I like my Zamberlan hiking boots for off-road stuff. If in future it looks like I’m going to be in one of those betwixt and between situations where I can only take one pair of something, I think I’d look at these again.


Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.

Neighbourhood History

You are probably getting bored with me starting off a post by saying, “I was out for a walk in my neighbourhood” and I am getting tired of going out for a walk in my neighbourhood, but given COVID-19 is still hanging about I’m trying to do my part by sticking close to home.

At any rate, a recent walk took me I past an older home that I’ve always assumed had a story behind it, but I didn’t know what it was. Right now, there’s this sign out front, as they do work on the house.

As I learned, it’s known as the Snider House after the original owners, and it dates back to 1820, one of the oldest houses in Toronto.

this is it in 1923 – Toronto Public Library archives photo

I had seen that it had sold a year or 2 ago, and then in the past few weeks the dreaded construction hoarding went up. Too many times, this is a cue for imminent destruction. Fortunately, it’s a designated Heritage property which avoids:

I see these signs all over our neighbourhood. On one street nearby, in a 100m stretch there were 3 houses that have been demolished with new infill underway.

I’m happy that Snider House is being restored. It’s beautiful example of Victorian architecture and it’s a reminder that Toronto actually has a history, something we keep trying to erase every time we tear down a perfectly good though older home to replace it with something new.

I get it, on one level. In our case, we spent several years and hundreds of thousands renovating our last house, a 1920’s detached 3-bedroom in mid-Toronto, and in the end we still had a detached 3-bedroom home. Had we knocked it down, for not much more than we ending up spending on renovations, we could have had a larger 4-bedroom that would have been worth at least 25% more than what we eventually sold at. If you want all the latest modern wiring, heating, plumbing, bathrooms, kitchens, energy efficiency, and comforts it’s often cheaper to start with a blank slate.

And yet, when that happens up and down a street the character starts to change. Many mid-town Toronto neighbourhoods date from the 1920-1940 period, and were originally quite uniform with a mix of detached and semi-detached 3-bedroom 2-story homes along with some 2-bedroom bungalows. That characteristic look lasted for the 1st and 2nd generations of owners, into the 1970’s and 1980’s, but by the time the 3rd and 4th generation came along, the urge to modernize and extend became too strong to resist.

And so we have today’s streets, where many of the original homes, to my eye charming red-brick well-proportioned places, have been replaced by larger boxy stucco-sided 4-bedroom houses that loom over their neighbours. There are now so many that that they’ve started to blend together, but even so, to me the proportions of the homes have lost something. They are more spacious, more open, more energy-efficient, and just more. But do we need more? Can’t we renovate and improve without replacing?

Near the street with the 3 new houses, there’s another home that’s undergone extensive reno’s and is now just about finished. I’m sure it was pricy to renovate instead of tearing down, but I’m glad that they resisted the temptation to tear down a perfectly charming, functional place that just needed to evolve into the 21st century.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle are supposed to be our environmentalist mantra. Use less, use it longer, and then hand it on for other uses. On my way home from my walk, I passed a toddler toilet seat that had been outgrown (proudly I bet) and left out for someone to claim and use for a new toddler. It seemed an apt metaphor – poop happens. Learn from it.