Following my speaking engagement this past weekend in Toronto I had some spare time before my flight back to Vancouver. It was warm and sunny, showing signs that winter was a thing of the city’s past, so I decided that a photowalk was in order. The best (and most friendly) photographer I could think of in Toronto is Rannie Turingan, whom I first met in 2008 when we were on CBC’s Test the Nation. A few Twitter direct message exchanges later and we were on our way to brunch in the Distillery District.
Transformed brick warehouses and industrial buildings are now home to studios, brew pubs, and artisan shops. We meandered along an aging brick pedestrian mall, surrounded by shiny new condos, and ducked into SOMA for some chocolate.
This is a magical chocolate boutique that is also a chocolate factory, lab, and gelato shop during the warmer months. I couldn’t resist picking up some English Toffee and a bar of the Aleppo Pepper Bar (dark Peruvian chocolate laced with Aleppo Pepper and Maldon Salt).
We then headed West toward Kensington Market, which is actually a stretch of a one-way neighbourhood road flanked by houses that double as markets, restaurants and shops. It reminded me of a much more narrow and compact Commercial Drive but with the same cultural flare.
Walking down through Chinatown and across Queen Street West, Rannie told me we had to check out Graffiti Alley. In Vancouver we have our own alley in Gastown that is covered in impressive and colourful spraypaintings however Toronto’s version spans several blocks, turns around corners, and I swear it’s where Rick Mercer’s done a rant or two.
Now Rannie must be a pretty popular guy because we were stopped at least four times on the street by friends, Twitter friends, and people that recognized him. We even had someone send out a tweet with a photo of us from afar.
It was this connection and the exploration of quaint and diverse neighbourhoods that actually made Toronto feel more like a community to me for the first time since I started visiting in 1999.
There is no Miss416 per se, however Toronto’s top blog (in my opinion and probably many others’ as well) is BlogTo. Check it out for events, history, and much more happening around the city if you’re in town. You can view the rest of my photos from the walk on Flickr.