Sunday, May 10, 2015

Toronto Walking Tour #1
Chinatown and Kensington Market
May 2nd, 2015

Start: St. Patrick subway station.

Finish: Queen's Park subway station.

Time: At least 2 hours. Depending on how long you want to linger at the Art Gallery of Ontario and at various stops, perhaps as long as 8 hours.

Best Times: Tuesday through Saturday during the day.

Worst Times: Monday, when the Art Gallery is closed.

This walk takes you through the oldest of Toronto's existing Chinatowns (the city's original Chinatown was on York St., between King and Queen sts., but skyscrapers replaced it long ago). Although at least four Chinatowns exist today, and most Chinese live in the suburbs, the intersection of Dundas Street and Spadina (pronounced spa-dye-na) Avenue is still a major shopping and dining area for the Asian communities.

From the St. Patrick subway station, exit on the NW corner of Dundas St. and University Ave., and walk W on Dundas St. Turn right onto McCaul St. At no. 131, you'll see:

                                          St. Patrick's Church

Built in 1861 for Toronto's Irish Catholic community, this church became the base of German-speaking Catholics from 1929 to the late 1960s. Inside, you'll find some of the most beautiful stained glass in Toronto. The church is also a popular site for concerts.

Go back toward Dundas St. and walk W along Dundas St. On your left is the:

 Art Gallery of Ontario

Newly renovated -- by local boy Frank Gehry, who grew up around the corner -- and now blessed with the brilliant Thomson Collection, the AGO is arguably Toronto's best gallery. Visit for the stellar collection of paintings by Canadian legends and European masters, the best collection of Henry Moore sculpture in the world, the photography gallery, and much more. A recent gift from local collector and philanthropist Dr. Ydessa Hendeles added 32 Canadian and international contemporary artworks -- the most significant single gift of contemporary art in the AGO's 110-year history.

Don't visit if you're wheelchair bound unless there's nothing on anyone would want to see. While the building is accessible, the crowds are not. We almost saw the Bowie exhibit here but couldn't get into any of the small rooms due to overcrowding and people's general ability to not see someone in a wheelchair. We've recommended they have "accessible only" times.

Here's a photo of one of Henry Moore's Two Forms outside the Art Gallery of.

Walk behind the AGO, following Beverley St. S. Behind the AGO, you'll find:

The Grange

This historic mansion was the original home of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Built in 1817, the Georgian mansion is still part of the AGO. Although there are tours of the kitchens, most of the building now houses the AGO's members club. The surrounding Grange Park is charming, if a bit rough in spots.

Walk W along Dundas St.; at the NW corner of Beverley and Dundas sts. is the:

Consulate General of Italy

It doesn't look like a government building: The rambling late-19th-century mansion, with its sandy-colored brick, quasi-Gothic windows and wrought-iron decoration, is a beauty. Too bad you can't go in.

You're now walking into the heart of Chinatown, with its grocery stores, bakeries, trinkets, and emporiums selling herbs and handcrafts. From Spadina and Dundas, north to College you will find a store or service that has just what you require.

Kensington has changed dramatically over the years. Originally a Jewish community, it then became home to Portuguese and other European immigrants, and then changed again as the bordering Chinatown expanded at the same time shopkeepers from the Caribbean, the Middle East, and elsewhere arrived. There are several Asian herbalists and grocers, as well as West Indian and Middle Eastern shops. Kensington Avenue has the greatest concentration of vintage clothing stores in the city as well as some good grub and excellent cafes for refueling.

From here you don't need any directions. Head west along Baldwin St., south along Kensington, west on Dundas, north on Augusta...and continue. More shops than you can shake a stick at; clothes, food, and whatnot. Don't miss out on the buskers.

Now you should be very close to Bellevue Park where you will find a bronze statue of the King of Kensington, Al Waxman. For you youngsters out there, he was Toronto's Ambassador before Drake went to Degrassi High.

A gentleman at the park directed me to the Star of David lapel pin and Al's statue.

And that he's looking directly at the synagogue opposite the park.

A little homage to the history of the area.

From here you can continue north to College St and walk east. More Kensington Market bohemia represented by bikes, (you can take your car there but there's no place to park it),  the Clock Tower and the status of Christ outside St Stephens in the field.

Turn back south at Spadina and your looking at an iconic Toronto landmark.
That's all for today.

No comments: