For my last night in Toronto, I stayed at Planet Traveler hostel. It’s on College Street near Augusta Avenue and just at the edge of the Kensington Market. I do recommend staying here. The shared accommodation is cheap, clean and comfortable. It has the 3 C’s of hostelling that are hard to come by. It has free WiFi and free breakfast. Hard to go wrong with free breakfast. I just needed the one night, so I only got to know my roommates for a short while.
I have a great friend in Toronto who shares a passion for the urban environment and life. I was in Toronto at the end of May and beginning of June. On my first night with him, we hopped on a streetcar and ended up at the Kensington Market around Spadina Avenue and Nassau Street.
I’m actually surprised that I didn’t take any pictures when I walked through the Kensington Market. I guess they were all shops and I didn’t want to get the evil eye from some shopkeeper. The market is really fun to walk through with a mix of different kinds of bakeries and food shops. Some were Jamaican, some were Mexican, and some were Portuguese. Different foods for different strokes. There was even a Cobs Bread which surprised me. My friend said that he could only ever picture Cobs Bread being in Kerrisdale. It just didn’t seemed to fit in the Kensington Market. I kind of agree with him.
We made our way north through the market to College Street. You could tell that some higher end cafes were starting to invade the market. Some of the cafes seemed too polished to be in the area, but I guess things are always changing in a city like Toronto.
We headed west down College Street. We passed a few of the computer stores that I would frequent when I lived in Toronto. It brought back memories of me carrying my newly-purchased computer tower a few blocks to the streetcar – tiring. Then having to lift the tower up onto the streetcar – very tiring. Then lugging the silly tower a few more blocks from the streetcar stop to my apartment – my arms killed for the rest of the day.
Anyway, we sauntered westward along College Street. I didn’t rip out my camera until we came across this funky art gallery. It had giant colour palette on the outside and displayed some works of art for people to see from the street. One lady even stopped to take a picture of the building after she noticed that we were taking photos of it.
We passed by a new furniture shop that my friend calls the Ikea of Quebec. The shop is called Structube. He said he got some furniture from them recently. It’s for those folks who are tired of the Ikea feel and look, but still want something affordable, but not a huge jump up to the next level of modern furniture. It’s interesting to see that the store decided to set up shop in urban Toronto rather than having a big box store along the freeway. However, the store is still pretty large. It looked like it occupied a building that took up half a block.
After a few more stores, we came across Vespa Toronto. I must admit that I love scooters. I don’t own one and my family don’t want me to own one. They believe that scooters are too dangerous to ride around town. However, I just love scooters. It’s not overly-macho like motorcycles can be, but they give the same “wind-blowing-through-your-hair” experience as motorcycles – albeit, at a max of 60 km/h. The store wasn’t exclusively scooters, though. It also had helmets, clothing, and books. It was clearly a Vespa “lifestyle” store. I must admit I’m a sucker for these kind of places. But this store was a great find on our walk. Too bad it was just about to close as we walked in. Only got to do a quick once around. I could have definitely spent more time in the store.
Further down College Street is Little Italy. My friend pointed out the Big Chill, an ice cream street just off of College Street. The weather was particularly cool for a May/June evening and it was about to rain. So there weren’t many people having ice cream. My favourite part of the Big Chill, apart from their neon sign, is their awesome and colourful mural. Public art like this is quite valuble to the urban landscape. And if you have kids, that have some Power Wheels to keep them busy while you’re buying the ice cream.
We happened upon a little concert on the side street. The music was really loud. My ears hurt a little just getting closer to take a picture. It looked like a lot of fun. There were people just watching the performance and others decided to get up and dance. I particularly like the younger lady and older lady dancing together up near the stage. It was one of those random moments that I love to come across.
The sky was overcast and we could clouds were starting to gather above, but we were going to press on with our walk. We turned left onto Ossington to make our way to Queen. We didn’t expect to find much along Ossington, but surprise, surprise…