Favourite Walks – Lunenburg Loop

Part of a series on my favourite walking routes in the Maritimes.

Please note that some of the amenities, parks, or services listed below may have limited hours depending on time of day and the seasons. Check the links included below for up to date information on what’s open and what’s not during your walk.

The Lunenburg Loop is a great way to explore the area around the town, gulp down that fresh Atlantic air, and get some great views of the harbour.

Length: About 7.5 km, depending on diversions.

Surface: Paved sidewalks and firm gravel trail

Public Transit: none

Route:

I’ve started the route by the waterfront, at the bottom of the stairs/ramp down from Duke Street where it joins Bluenose Drive. The harbour is in front of you and the red-coloured Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is on your right.

To start, turn towards the museum and walk west on Bluenose Drive, towards the west end of the harbour. After about 100m you’ll pass a public washroom – good place for a pit stop!

At the corner of Bluenose Drive and Montague, turn left and follow the gravel path to enter the little park – this is the Harbour Walk path. Follow this west past the end of the harbour, and up the wee lane to join Falkland Street. Cross Falkland here at the cross walk, and then turn right. Walk along Falkland past the Bluenose Lodge inn, heading for the cross walk at Dufferin Street. You’ll see the Knot Pub right in front of you on the other side of the street. After crossing Dufferin, turn left (unless the pub beckons) and walk about 20 m, then bear right into the car park of the old railway station. The Back Harbour trail starts here – it follows the route of the old rail line that once carried fish and freight to and from Halifax.

Proceed northwest along the Trail till you come to a fork in the path – bear right to stay on the Back Harbour Trail (left takes you onto the connector to the Rum Runner trail to walk to Mahone Bay, a lovely 10km walk in itself).

Follow the Back Harbour trail through the woods and then some open spaces.

The view in October

After about 1km you’ll come to the cross walk over Starr Street. Pick up the trail on the other side, and continue along, taking in the views of the back harbour and its fishing boats and leisure craft. After about 1.5 km, you’ll come to Sawpit Road – use the cross walk and pick up the path again on the other side. Follow the trail through the light woods and shrubs, past frog ponds and fields, until you come to the road crossing over Blue Rocks Road. The trail continues, on a diagonal line on the other side of the road – rejoin the Trail and follow it for another 200-300 m or so till it ends at Battery Point Road.

Turn right down Battery Point Road for a wee bit. At the intersection of Hospital Road, you can turn right, climb the hill for about 30 m, and take the left dirt lane by the post boxes. This dirt lane is the old Shore Road. Follow it up the hill, squeezing past the gate at the top (don’t worry, you’re fine). Follow the old Shore Road, up the hill and then bearing to the right, as you climb up along the ridge behind the fish factory. You’ll emerge at a little clearing with a new path in front of you that continues gently up the hill following the old route of the Shore Road.

Alternatively, instead of turning up Hospital Road off of Battery Point Road, you can keep going down Battery Point road towards the fish plant. The road ends at the car park for the fish factory – turn right and cut across the car park towards the harbour and the old warehouses and docks. At the end of the car park there’s a dirt road climbing up towards the right – at the top you’ll the see the little clearing and a path on your left – follow this to join the old Shore Road towards town. Going this way across the car park can be a bit better in winter if there’s ice around.

The old Shore Road path offers lovely views south and west of the harbour on your left and there are some great lookout points. There is also a wonderful spot with a bench where you can have a rest.

After a few hundred meters, the footpath ends at a traffic barrier and here you rejoin the current paved stretch of the Shore Road. Follow it west and down hill to the intersection with Pelham Street. Bear left and follow Pelham west for several hundred meters, to Shipyard Hill Road. Turn left and go downhill to join Montague Street, bearing right (west) here. Follow Montague for several hundred meters to the corner where it’s joined by Bluenose Drive. Turn left and follow the road down a slight hill and then right (west) along Bluenose Drive, to finish where you started by the Fishery Museum.

Parts of this walk are pretty exposed, so keep an eye on the weather and dress appropriately – the summer sun can be stronger than you think, and the winter winds off the harbour can freeze your eyeballs. The walking surfaces are usually fine, just be careful of ice in winter. There can be some muddy stretches just after a heavy rain, but other than that, for the most part you can walk this route in running shoes or light trail shoes most of the year.

Sights:

I love this walk because of the varied sights – the history of the town on display in the views of the harbour front, the historic buildings like the Bluenose Academy (today, housing the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance as well as the town library), the working life of the town seen in the fishing boats,

and the wildlife that lives along the trail. I’ve seen deer many times,

along with ospreys, herons, finches, ducks, geese, frogs, salamanders, snakes, turtles, mice, foxes, racoons, squirrels, and chipmunks. Stretches of the trail take you through a gorgeous tunnel formed by the arched branches of birch trees, and beside little ponds. The harbour views along Shore Road are some of the best you’ll get. And the houses tucked along Falkland, Pelham, and the Shore Road are a big part of Lunenburg’s Unesco Heritage designation.

One of the attractions of this route, for me, is that the sights change with the seasons. The spring brings chirping frogs and toads, crocuses and wildflowers, budding trees and greening grass. Summer is cool shade and warm breezes. Autumn is an explosion of colour. And winter is snow clinging to branches and ice in the harbour, tinged with the scent of wood smoke.

Food & Refreshment:

There are many options for refreshment at the start and end of the trail, near the harbourfront, ranging from ice cream to light snacks for full dinners. I live here – they’re all good! That said, I would be remiss in not mentioning our neighbours, John and Samera, who own J3 Pizza on Montague Street. And of course, the restaurant group that includes the South Shore Fish Shack, Half Shell Oyster Bar, the Salt Shaker Deli, the Beach Pea Kitchen and Bar, and the Bar Salvador (all along Montague Street), are favourites in part because our house used to be a restaurant where Martin and Sylvie started out.

I also can’t omit the Grand Banker, the Old Fish Factory, and the Shipwright Brewery along Montague, and the Dockside restaurant, the Ice Cream shop, the Savvy Sailor cafe, the No. 9 coffee bar, and Rascal’s Run Burrito Bar – all also along Montague Street. Plus there’s the Smoke Pit BBQ shack on Bluenose Drive, and more places up on Lincoln Street, including Lincoln Street Food, the Laughing Whale coffee roastery and cafe, the Moontown Market cafe, and the Lamprai and Spice Sri Lankan takeout. For a small town, we’re packed with options for refreshment.

And there’s more! Beyond all those yummy options, you might also want to pop into Foodland on Montague to grab picnic supplies and snacks. There’s also the Subway sandwich shop on Montague, and the Burger King on Falkland. And don’t forget about the Knot Pub, which does great food plus local beverages. On the other side of the harbour from the Fishery Museum, off Tannery Road, there’s the Lightship Brewery Pub along with the Barn coffee spot. Plus, just outside of the old town on the Bridgewater road, there’s Alex’s Chill and Grill for burgers and fish and chips, the Independent grocery store, the local Nova Scotia Liquor Commission store, and the local Tim Hortons. Spoiled for choice, we are.

There are public washrooms located along Bluenose Drive, at the west end near the start of the Harbour Walk trail, and at the east end by the Zwicker wharf. In summer, there is usually a portaloo located near the Back Harbour Trail where it crosses Starr Street.

There are park benches and picnic tables at several spots along the Back Harbour Trail, so why not bring some refreshments and enjoy the views while you have a rest. Please remember to take all your garbage and waste with you – you’ll find bins at several spots around town and by the trail access points where you can dispose of it.

Finally, there are water fountains located near the public washrooms. Take some water, because there are no fountains along the Back Harbour Trail itself.

Diversions:

This route can easily be extended or shortened, as desired.

To extend it,

at the start of the walk, as you cross Falkland Street before turning towards the Knot pub, keep going straight up Broad Street. This will take you through what’s known as New Town, up the hill towards the Hospital. It makes a nice comparison to the houses you’ll see later along the route in the Old Town. If you continue all the way up Broad to High Street at the front of the hospital, turn right and follow High Street to Dufferin. Turn right on Dufferin and continue down the hill following the street, and you’ll come to the start of the Back Harbour Trail by the Knot Pub. This will add about 2 km to the walk.

To shorten it, you can jump off the Back Harbour Trail at several points – after about 1km where the trail crosses Kissing Bridge Road – turn right here onto Starr Street and follow that south back to Lincoln Street; or at Hopson Street (follow that south up and over the hill and back down, to rejoin Pelham); or at Sawpit Road (follow that south up and over the hill and back down to rejoin Pelham)

Also, if you follow the full route as described, then you’ll notice that beside Battery Point Road, there is a small trail leading off to the east – this is the entrance to the Salt Marsh lookout.

Follow this trail for about 100m and you’ll come to a shaded platform that offers great views out over the salt marshes and the many birds that make it their home. It’s a peaceful, cool spot for a picnic too. To rejoin the route, follow the trail back to Battery Point Road.

At Sawpit Road, where the trail crosses, you can turn left and follow the road north down the hill. Cross the highway here (no cross walk so use caution) and follow the road down the hill to walk down to Sawpit Wharf. There’s a bench on the end of the wharf which makes a great rest spot where you can look out over the back harbour. To rejoin the route, simply follow Sawpit Road back up the hill to the Trail crossing.

Another option is at Starr Street, where the Back Harbour Trail crosses it – you can exit the trail here and bear right to go up Kissing Bridge Road. You’ll be walking uphill with the Hilltop Cemetery on your right. About halfway up the hill, you can follow a lane into the cemetery and wander through it up towards the Academy – a lovely way to view the building. To rejoin the route, follow the cemetery paths back to Kissing Bridge Road, down the high to where the Trail crosses it.

Enjoy exploring Lunenburg.

About Town

I like walking around town here in Lunenburg, now that we’re a bit settled in. Several times a week I’ll do a bit of a wander, like a dog visiting his patch (though I promise I don’t mark my territory on lamp posts). If I go up the hill behind our house and then east along Lincoln Street,

I can wander past the art galleries and on towards King, and see if there’s a sale on a Stan’s Dad and Lad clothing store, or maybe some interesting specials at the Lincoln Street Diner, and the aroma of roasting coffee will tell me if the Laughing Whale is making a new batch.

And if I keep going past King and Prince and Hopson and Kempt and climb the hill on Lincoln towards Blockhouse Hill, I’ll go past a house that some folks are building that will be spectacular when it’s done, and sometimes they’ll be sitting out taking a break on their harbour-view deck. “Coming along”, I’ll shout, and we’ll wave to each other.

And then round the corner and up to Blockhouse Hill and round the park and up along Kempt a bit and then back west along say Townsend, past a few of the churches

and up and down the hills and along to Kaulbach, where I can swing right and walk up past the Hillcrest Cemetery entrance and take a turn past the wonderful Academy building,

and then swing back west along Lawrence and walk back to Kempt, and then go downhill past the Ironworks Distillery (yummm, smells like a new batch of rum is in the works) and left onto Montague Street.

And so back along Montague heading west a bit and then cut down onto Bluenose Drive and wander east along past public wharves and the dory boats and the Fisheries Museum, just mingling with the tourists.

Oh, the Bluenose is in port today.

And say, did I just hear a bit of German, and Farsi, and Hindi, and French, and Spanish. Plus those Yankee accents – oh yeah, must be that car with the New York license plates.

And speaking of license plates, is that car from Iowa? Haven’t see one of those all summer – COVID-19 is finally fading (fingers crossed) and the tourists are really back from all over.

And then keep going up into the Pioneer park and along the Harbour Walk – but look at that, someone has hung red dresses in the trees next to the historic plaques near the “pioneer” cemetery as a reminder that those early settlers didn’t arrive to an empty country and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are still missing and still missed and even a small town like Lunenburg cannot turn its back on history and social wrongs.

And then past that over to Falkland and left towards the park by the tennis courts where some older players are getting in a game, and then on past the arena and the curling club where the ice is now in and hockey and curling seasons are about to begin.

And past that around to the east through the basketball courts where some teenagers are having a game (yeah, the Raptor’s season starts soon!) and past the new Bluenose Academy and then down to Tannery Row and around back along Falkland and then up the Harbour Walk and then Montague towards home. A wave to John in the pizza shop, and a shout up to Robert our neighbour to the north who’s puttering about in the garden.

I like our little town. And I’m very grateful to be able to live here.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Little Walks – Lunenburg Harbour

Before we moved to Lunenburg, we’d visit every couple of years, and most times we were here I’d go for a stroll by the harbour. Now that we’ve moved in, I’ve come to appreciate that walk even more. Rain or shine, it’s a lovely spot.

We live just a block up from the harbour front, so I like to meander east along Montague Street past the shops and restaurants, to where Bluenose Drive curves up to meet Montague. Then I follow it down and head back west along Bluenose Drive, past the fishery buildings and then the piers and the Fisheries Museum.

I’ll keep going further west and where Bluenose Drive curves back up to meet Montague, I’ll turn left and follow the Harbour Walk path along the edge of the west end of the harbour.

The Harbour Walk past the old cemetery

The end of the trail leads up to Falkland Street, and if you turn left here and follow it past the shops and the Foundry, past the tennis courts and Nellie’s Takeout, you’ll come to Tannery Road. Follow that south and east and past some houses and businesses, and you’ll come to a little picnic area the town has built along the south side of the harbour.

And here you get that gorgeous view of the town that has tourists making a beeline for this spot so that they can take another of what must be a million photos a year, and yet in all weathers this view never gets tiresome.

If I want to stretch out a little more, I’ll keep going along Tannery Road towards Mason Beach Road and the entrance to the golf course. Here, if you look up, you’ll see the nest that a pair of osprey’s have made and return to year after year. They are surprisingly chatty birds, screeching and cawing and sometimes circling over your head, as they keep an eye on you. Their view back over the harbour must be fantastic.

And then the stroll back home, retracing my steps, and sometimes popping into the newly-added Barn coffeeshop that’s been joined with the Lightship Brewery pub and PJs Snacks in a building on a little point that juts into the harbour. It’s one of the best places in town to enjoy the view and now I’ve let the secret out that the locals like to keep to themselves.

It’s not a long walk, maybe 45 minutes if you stroll at a leisurely pace, but a great walk is about more than how much distance you cover.

Whimsical Walks, Lunenburg edition

Earlier in the year, I posted about the idea of making a game of your walks as a way to keep things interesting. A friend of mine read it and took it to heart, and quickly did a series of alphabetical walks that covered street names in Toronto for every letter of the alphabet except I think X (there is no Toronto street starting with X) and Z (only a handful).

Having moved to Lunenburg, I took a look a the map and realized that it wouldn’t take long to cover the alphabet here.

Having walked the length of Yonge St in Toronto, it took me much less time to walk Young here in Lunenburg, to cover off the Y. But there are no streets that I can find in town that start with E, I, Q, R, U, X, or Z. I was somewhat surprised to realize that there’s a King but not a Queen street in town, since most towns in English-speaking Canada seem to have both, and the lack of a street starting with an R was a bit of a surprise too. I’m giving myself the letter O, by the way, as Old Blue Rocks Road, so if you don’t think that counts then there’s no O either.

But nevertheless, in under 2 hours I had pretty much covered all the other letters of the alphabet, and had learned a bit about the town as I went. The UNESCO-designated heritage area of the Old Town, with its colourful houses and well-preserved wooden churches, is always delightful to wander through.

More surprising to me, perhaps, was wondering through the New Town area to the west of the harbour, up near the hospital, where I went to catch the W’s (Wolff Ave and Whynacht St). Visiting the town as a tourist, I hadn’t wandered up here before. The lower part of the New Town has some stately Victorian-era homes turned into B&Bs, and as you continue up the hill the homes get progressively more modern until up by Wolff they are just a few years old.

It’s good to see the growth in town that way. There’s more to Lunenburg than just the chocolate-box cheer and the colours of the Old Town. There’s more to it than just tourism, for that matter – there are factories and shops and services along with the restaurants and museums and galleries. There’s a school and good coffee shops and a pub where the locals go, and a hospital, and groceries, and a library, and playgrounds. The harbour is a working fishing port as well as a picturesque background, and the hills rising above the harbour have more than pretty views.

I like that it’s a complete place, self-sufficient and year-round. I like that we welcome people from round the world and share our place with them. And I like that come the autumn, it’s going to be our place, where a close-knit community keeps a steady beat until the next cycle of tourists come round.

Settling in

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to go for longer walks around Lunenburg. I feel like I’m getting to know the place.

It’s helped that we’ve had some lovely summer days. Heading off for a few hours when the sun is shining just feels good, and knowing that come winter I’ll be missing that sun puts a little zest into taking advantage of it now.

So I won’t complain about it being too hot, and truth be told there’s usually a breeze that refreshes as you walk. And it’s also been the case that a hot day here is 5-6 degrees cooler than in Toronto, and that’s another aspect of settling in.

There are some nice walking trails nearby, like the Back Harbour Trail, and the Bay to Bay Trail. I’ve done those, and I’ve walked some of the back roads out to Blue Rocks, Mader’s Cove, and the 2nd Penninsula too, plus wandered around old town Lunenburg and the new town too.

It’s been fun getting to know the place better, the way you do on foot instead of in a car. You notice the houses, and the little touches in the way gardens and kids toys and flowers and yard tools are scattered about, that let you guess at the lives of those who live there. I’ve also noticed the wildlife – I’ve seen ospreys, gulls, herons, ducks, deer, and snakes all within a few km of our home.

I can’t help comparing things to Toronto. There are way fewer fancy cars, and more bikes and pickups, and less traffic. There are lots of lawn chairs and fire pits for sitting about at night. There are fewer people out walking dogs, and no apparent nannies taking kids for a stroll. There’s money about evidenced by toys but these are outdoor toys like boats and ATVs.

The biggest thing you realize is that the cultural mosaic of Toronto is very muted here. Instead you notice a smaller number of surnames attached to roads and bays and coves and houses – the local families that have been here for 200+ years.

So I’m liking it, as I settling in. There are more walks to do and more to learn and see. I’m looking forward to it.

Quiet Walks

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been walking a bit around town here in Lunenburg and the surrounding area. There are some nice little trails nearby, and the backstreets of town are also fun for contemplative wandering, getting to know the place better.

I also finally walked the trail to Mahone Bay (something I’ve been itching to do for months), and really enjoyed getting out for a proper 2-hour walk, something I haven’t done in ages. And afterwards in thinking about that walk, what made the strongest impression on me was the quiet soundscape – just crunching gravel underfoot, gently-stirred breezed-on leaves, and the chirps of birds and croaks of frogs. No leaf blowers, no airplanes, no lawnmowers, no chainsaws, and only a distant occasional whoosh of a car on a road.

I can’t remember when I’ve been able to take a quiet walk, a truly quiet walk. Toronto is always filled with sound, even in neighbourhoods I thought at the time were sleepy. The Toronto trails are nice but often near roads – for instance the Lower Don Valley Trail is mere meters from the Don Valley Parkway with its 6 lanes of constant traffic. You really cannot hear yourself think, but you get so used to it that you come to hear that cacophony as normal.

And then you move to a place like Lunenburg and you realize what a quiet walk actually should sound like. It’s gotten me looking forward to some further explorations, something to plan for in the still evening silence.

I’m going to like it round here, right up till I start moaning in winter about how it’s too damn quiet.

Favourite Toronto Walks – Yonge Street

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

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Also be aware that some of the amenities, parks, or services listed below may have limited availability. Please check the links included below for up to date information on what’s open and what’s not.

And now on to the regular post …..

Samual Johnson once said, “when a man is tired of London he is tired of life”. With a nod to Dr. Johnson, I’d say that also applies to Yonge Street in Toronto.

The foot of Yonge looking north from the Lake

Many cities have a well-known street – Broadway in New York, Oxford Street in London, George Street in Sydney – but Yonge is a different from those thoroughfares in that, in a sense, there isn’t one “Yonge Street”. While it may be a single road, because it’s such a long street it takes on many moods, so that multiple stretches of Yonge form distinct little neighbourhoods, referred to usually by the cross streets – Yonge & Dundas, Yonge & Bloor, Summerhill, Yonge & St. Clair, Yonge & Eg, and so on as it goes north. Walking any 3-4 km stretch of Yonge between Steeles and the Lake will take you through at least a couple of these neighbourhoods, each with its own atmosphere and vibe. That, and Toronto’s famous mix of cultures from round the world, means that walking Yonge is like a mini tour of the United Nations dipped in maple syrup. I love it.

Length: Yonge is a little more than 20 km from the lake to Steeles, so allow about 5 hours if you want to walk the whole thing. That said, an hour’s stretch at picked at random is lots of fun and lets you explore the surrounding neighbourhoods too.

Surface: It’s a public road so concrete, concrete, concrete, and in winter add large dollops of salt. Wear comfy shoes.

Public Transit: Subway Line 1 runs most of the length of Yonge, from King up to Finch, and bus route 97 covers most of Yonge as well so it’s very easy to pick start and stopping points based on one of the subway or bus stops.

Route:

If it were me, I’d pick a stretch partly based on the weather and partly on the kind of food I like to eat. Starting down at the Lake on a sunny late spring day can be fantastic, and so can exploring mid-town or uptown. Downtown, mid-town, and uptown there are too many restaurants and shops to count, and there are parks like Ramsden or Alexander Muir Gardens or York Mills along the way too.

One way to decide is to simply pick a subway stop at random and then tell yourself you’re going to walk at least 3 subway stops either north or south along Yonge – keeping in mind that north of St. Clair, the stops are quite a bit farther apart than they are downtown.

The Beltline Bridge over Yonge, just south of Davisville

However you do it, try walking not just Yonge but also the surrounding streets that parallel it. Often a block east or west of Yonge takes you into residential streets and that’s a great way to explore too, and also get away a bit from the traffic and hustle.

A favourite stretch of Yonge for me is in mid-town, between Bloor and north past Eglinton. This stretch goes past Ramsden Park (a mid-town jewel) as well as Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and it’s lovely to detour into those treed oases for cooling greenness on a hot summer day.

The entrance to Alexander Muir Park on the east side of Yonge, about 2 blocks south of Lawrence Ave

Sights:

Sights on Yonge are as much or more about the people than about the buildings or shops. People watching on Yonge is a year-round sport, and endless fun. Part of that is being people-watched yourself – the way you walk down Yonge, what you wear and what you carry, will provide gossip for others just as much as you can gossip about them. In summer, that includes sitting at one of the sidewalk cafes and patios and people-watching the street scene, sipping a cold glass of something while the passers-by judge you by the food you’re eating. Oh the joys.

Of course, there is history along Yonge as well, if you want to explore. Yonge-Dundas Square, which has become a celebration point when something big happens, like the Raptors NBA Championship win in 2019. Or little bits of history like the plaque that marks the Montgomery Tavern at Yonge and Montgomery, where William Lyon Mackenzie set off with a group of like-minded followers in 1837 during the so-called Upper Canada Rebellion to protest against the government of the day. And landmarks like the clock tower of the old CN rail station at Summerhill that’s now become an iconic location of the LCBO.

The Hockey Hall of Fame at Yonge and Front Street

Of course, for many people Yonge is really about the shopping. For most of it’s length, it’s lined by shops of all descriptions – antiques, clothing, shoes, foods, guitars, bikes, tea, electronics, and so much more. We lived for many years just off Yonge in mid-town and did all of our daily shopping within a 2-block stretch of Yonge that included a fishmonger, a greengrocer, a cheese shop & deli, a bakery, and a butcher, all great little shops where we knew the shopkeepers and they greeted us by name. Sure, Yonge has its share of the big chain stores, but why would you bother when you find some little neighbourhood gem for a unique experience? Between the shops and the many unique little restaurants and bars, you can shop local and follow your 100-km diet. Who needs more?

Food & Refreshment:

It’s Yonge, so expect at least a coffee shop if not an actual restaurant or takeaway every few hundred meters pretty much the whole length of the street. You’ll find virtually every type of cuisine the city offers, and every type of establishment from bars to bistros. There are also countless food shops, butchers, cheese shops, fishmongers, grocery stores, and greengrocers, so you can do all your shopping along Yonge – bring a knapsack and some shopping bags.

Keep in mind that Yonge is an urban streetscape for most of its length, so a hot summer’s day can feel even hotter, just a cold winter’s blast of wind can freeze to the bone. The many shops and refreshments along the way will give you breaks from the weather.

Finally, while there are no public toilets or water fountains available on Yonge Street itself, there are many options available. Downtown, there are washrooms & water fountains in the malls off Yonge at the Eaton Centre, College Park, and Yonge-Bloor. At mid-town, there are washrooms in the mall on the north-east corner at Yonge & St. Clair, and on the north-west corner at Yonge & Eglinton. Uptown, there are malls on the north-east corner at Yonge & Sheppard and the south-west corner at Yonge & Steeles. Of course, there are tons of coffee shops along the way so you can always pop into one of those.

Diversions:

  1. Make a game of it – how many coffee shops can you find along Yonge? How many couples walking dogs will you spot? How many BMWs per block?
  2. You can also use Yonge as a corridor between wider neighbourhoods that are well worth exploring, like Yorkville, Rosedale, Deer Park, or Lawrence Park. In that case, pick a couple of neighbourhoods that are separated by a few km of Yonge, and use the street to walk between them.
  3. There’s much debate about what counts as “downtown”, “mid-town”, and “uptown”. If you want to break down Yonge by those labels, then I’d say downtown is Yonge from Bloor south to the Lake; midtown is Yonge between Bloor and Eg; and uptown is north of Eglinton. Of course, ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different definitions so try exploring what your friends suggest is downtown or midtown or whatever.
  4. Yonge is ever-changing and flows with the seasons, so exploring any part of it will be very different in December versus June.

Walks Past – Munich December 2013

2013 started out as a very good year. I turned 50 as did several other close friends, and we had a joyous laughter-filled and wine-fuelled collective birthday party in the spring. My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary that year as well, in Paris, strolling hand in hand. And we had a couple of lovely little summer city breaks, to Montreal and to Chicago, where we explored and soaked up the sun.

And then the year went to shit, to be blunt. First my wife Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer late that summer, and just as she was recovering from a partial mastectomy, our dear friend Paul passed away suddenly in the autumn.

By late autumn, we were exhausted emotionally and physically, and desperately in need of a break. Since I had a business trip scheduled to Munich in early December, we decided to go as a family. And so, noses alive with the scents of Glühwein, we set out to explore the city.

I had been to Munich several times previously on business, and knew my way around somewhat. For my son and my wife, it was all new and all worth exploring. I had business meetings during the day, so they would go out exploring and quickly fell in love with the city, a feeling I shared. Munich is a great place to visit, any time of the year.

Then in the evenings we would go out together and wander through the glorious Marienplatz, alive with winter market stalls, humming with people, ringing with music, and redolent with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg from the spiced cakes, cookies, and drinks on offer.

After my meetings wrapped up, I had a couple of free days which we spent toodling about the city, visiting the markets, nosing into shops, and trying out our limited German – danke, bitte. One outing took us to the BMW Museum, where we had fun playing what if ….

Since my son was taking a few days away from school, his teachers had given him an assignment to look for historical features of buildings, especially gargoyles, so on another day we spent several hours wandering around with our noses in the air, looking up at churches to see who could spot the most freakish and frightening examples.

And of course, all that wandering about left us ready for warming cups of hot chocolate, which the many cafes were happy to oblige.

It was a magical few days, a relief in many ways, and a reminder that there are times when you have to simply seize the opportunities that arise along life’s journey. The events of the previous few months had taught us that carpe diem is the best way of dealing with the unexpected.

Over these past few weeks, as we lurch from lockdown to lockdown and huddle inside, waiting for spring and for a COVID-19 vaccine to open the world back up, I’ve been thinking about that trip once again. It helped us heal as a family then, and recalling it now is a reminder that despite the shocks and roadblocks that the world will put in our way, there are always little things that can brighten your mood.

Stay healthy, hug your family, smile at your neighbours, and enjoy the sun when it shines. Happy Holidays!

Hand-made card from my friend Fiona who has used her COVID cloistering to become a very good painter

Walking by numbers

Recently, we’ve been in a stretch of above normal, spring-like November weather. It’s a bit incongruous to be out in shorts and a t-shirt under balmy blue skies and warm temps, while shuffling through piles of autumn leaves.

That said, it’s meant for glorious days that beg for a walk, and I’ve obliged as much as I can. Out recently, I decided to walk from our place in mid-town Toronto to meet my wife in Leslieville. It’s an easy walk, mostly downhill through the heart of the city, and as I was out, I got to thinking about it in terms of numbers.

There are numbers about the walk itself – about10km, about 1:45 minutes, 20 C, etc. And then there are numbers about things along the way, like how many parks I passed by or cut through – 7 of them, if you count Riverdale East and Riverdale West as two parks. Or the bridges that I crossed over or under – 5 as I recall, including the delightful Glen Road pedestrian bridge over the Rosedale Valley.

And what about the number of languages I overheard as I walked – there were at least 6 I think, not counting English – French, Arabic, Hindi, Italian, Spanish, and what I think was Cantonese and Russian. Plus, at least 6 accents to the English voices I overheard – mid-Canadian, north-east American, Caribbean, English, Irish, and South African.

I also passed by 3 cemeteries at Mount Pleasant, St. Michaels, and St. James, and marvelled at the gorgeous colour in each.

I stopped counting upscale cars very quickly, as in passing through Rosedale every drive seemed to have multiple examples. I did count 1 completely over-the-top car, however – a Rolls-Royce middle-finger-to-the-world SUV that was more tank than anything else, that rolled majestically through Cabbagetown down the middle of the road piloted by a blond middle-aged woman who may as well have had “Karen” stamped on her forehead.

I also stopped counting the number of people I saw who were also out for a stroll – dozens of fellow walkers, all in Lululemon it seemed, and ranging from new parents with infants to retired couples in their 80’s. Will they still be out in January when it’s -20?

Countless as well were the number of scents and aromas that I could distinguish as I passed – cannaboid funk in many places, 5-spice cookery along Broadview in old east Chinatown, frying onions from a dozen pubs, and everywhere autumn leaves, along with stale urine in the Glen road underpass, and the dreary pall of diesel exhaust.

All along the way, there was only one real constant, and that was the clear blue above as it danced through the golden leaves.

And there was only one ridiculously cute great-nephew whom I met at the end of my walk – Miles, named after mine and my nephew’s favourite musician. Kinda blue, just like the sky.