Neighbourhood Exploration : The Annex

Since first reading this article almost two years ago, entitled “25 Daily Habits That Will Make You Smarter”, I’ve revisited it regularly to ensure I continue to make an effort to practice the good ideas it contains, because, well, who doesn’t want to be more smart?!

One of their suggestions was to aim to read one book a week, and I am happy to say that I accomplished that in 2016. (I have a dedicated post coming up soon, about the reading journey I undertook last year, which has been rather mind-blowing, I must say.)

Number 20 on that list is a suggestion to explore new areas. The description goes on to say, “If you can’t travel every day, at least try to find something new within your hometown. You’ll meet different people, learn new facts, and understand something new about the world. It’s a lot more productive than staying at home and watching TV.”

Encouraged by that point, I have, indeed, gotten out of my own neighbourhood to check out other places in this wonderful and diverse city in which I have the good fortune of living, and aim to see more during 2017. On my list of places to go are: Little India, Riverdale Farm, The Beaches, The Scarborough Bluffs and The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, which is the second oldest building in downtown Toronto that remains standing. Scadding Cabin, the oldest building in the city, is also on my list. These are all places I’ve never visited in spite of having lived in or near Toronto almost my whole life.

But now, back to today’s post — when Andrea suggested I join her in a little poke around the western part of The Annex on Saturday, I gladly took her up on it.

The area located along Bloor Street West, between Bathurst and Avenue Road, was originally a village on its own, separate from Toronto, called Seaton Village. It joined, or was “annexed to”, the city in 1888. Today, its residents are a combination of students, as the University of Toronto is nearby, and the established wealthy living in the many old mansions located north of Bloor Street, which date back to the late 1880.

While this is not a neighbourhood I’ve never been to before, it has certainly been a while since I walked that strip of Bloor Street West, so I was keen to have a look around.

In fact, I once lived in the area, in one of those huge mansions! I only lived in this beautiful building for a summer, between second and third year of university, when I shared a tiny room with an old friend, whose twin bed was no more than five feet away from mine. We were staying in one of the fraternity houses, where females were allowed to rent a room for the summer while many of the boys had returned home between school years. Needless to say, the walk on Saturday brought back many old memories, good, sad and bad.

Andrea’s goal was to find some comic books for her collection, so we met at The Bathurst Subway Station and walked westward to BMV Bookstore, passing some old haunts on the way.

^ The “By the Way” was a place I’d been a couple of times back then, but more importantly, it was where my honey Nick worked in his early twenties, gaining his first exposure to cooking (regular readers will know that cooking is a passion of his today, this being where that interest was sparked). It was good to see that it is still going strong, knowing that the two of us had spent time there, before we had met one another. The ghosts of our pasts touched shoulders within those walls. ^

By the way, it was friggin’ freezing out there!

^ This building at 481 Bloor Street West, is on the south east corner of Bloor and Brunswick. Considering that it was home to a tavern/bar/beer hall called “The Brunswick House”, for 140 years before closing last March, I imagine anyone who’s ever lived in Toronto has probably been in there at some point. Built in 1876, as you can see, it is currently in the process of being restored to its former glory. I wonder what it is to become. ^

^ In BMV Books – With four floors, spanning 15,000 square feet, this is Canada’s largest bookstore for pre-loved and discounted books. No doubt, you can get lost in here. Not only is there an uncountable number of treasures to be found, with over a thousand different items shelved every single day, your choices can be yours for very reasonable prices. For example the vintage childrens’ books, some of which are pictured below, were only about $5 each.^

^ Unused vintage childrens’ books! ^

^ What Do Mothers Do? — I’m sure the answer has changed significantly since this was published in 1966. ^

^ My cute friend :) ^

They also have a vast selection of used vinyl and videos.

^ Since Andrea received a new turntable for Christmas, she wanted something to play on it, deciding on an Emmylou Harris album. ^

Andrea found some of the comics she was after there, but they didn’t have everything, so we crossed the street and stopped in at The Labyrinth where she found the rest of what she was looking for.

^ Amounst other things, she got a copy of Paper Girls Volume 2 ^

^ At The Labyrinth ^

^ BMV Bookstore as seen from the other side of the street. ^

^ Another shot of the restored historic building at 481 Bloor Street West. ^

Next stop was a lovely gift shop called Juxtapose. My first impression upon entering was how amazing it smelled in there! In addition to that, the place is packed with nice things.

^ I took advantage of the opportunity to get Andrea a gift that I knew she’d like, after she sampled this Pacifica Perfume in the Mediterranean Fig scent. This brand makes a wide array of bath and beauty products that are 100% vegan and cruelty-free, many of which are carried at Juxtapose. By coincidence, I currently have a bar of their soap on the go right now, and I really like it. The scent is so nice. (If you can’t make it to the shop, their products are available on their site Pacifica Beauty.) ^

Following our shopping, a snack and drink were in order. We went to El Furniture Warehouse, a place where every food item can be had for a mere $4.95. There’s another one near where I live, however I’d never been, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure how the food would be when offered at such a low price. I’m happy to report that it was good, and served in generous quantities. I had the Cheese and Potato Perogies from the appetizer list and Andrea had a grilled cheese sandwich with ginger carrot soup. The cocktails we tried — a Raspberry Marguerita for me and Caesar for Andrea — were good too.

We really enjoyed the excellent mix of 80s/90s dance music and accompanying videos they were playing, so I asked how they were doing it. I wondered if they subscribed to some sort of a service and, to my surprise, the response was a finger pointed at a dj booth I’d not noticed in the back. I can’t recall ever eating in a restaurant while being entertained by a live dj! It made for a very fun time.

Since this has morphed into a pretty long post, I’ll stop here, however we also saw a cool art installation that I’ll tell you all about in my next post.

Thank you very much for reading.
xo loulou

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6 Responses to Neighbourhood Exploration : The Annex

  1. Norma says:

    Great bookstore! That’s a place I’d like to visit.
    I probably read a book a week now I come to think about it. I shall have to try to keep note and see if that’s true. X

    • Loulou says:

      Hi Norma. One thing I did at the beginning of last year was set up a Goodreads account. Now it has become my most visited site on the internet. I’ve been using it to track and rate what I’ve read, what I want to read and to get suggestions for other things I might like based on my preferences, and it’s wonderful for that. I also enjoy reading the reviews people leave for books they’ve read, although I’ve not yet left a written review myself. Anyway, I highly recommend the site!

  2. A book a week? Wow. I’ve always read a book a month for as long as I can remember but last year, you know how many books I read? NONE. ZERO. Well, I mean not including Elmo and Dr. Seuss books… see what I’m getting at? Kidz – they change things. LOL!

  3. what a fun time and place! happy happy new year to you my friend!!! xO!
    http://www.thehautecookie.com

  4. Julie says:

    I love BMV! Haven’t been in ages, because I can’t go in without buying at least 3 books, and my shelves are layered due for a purge. I lived in The Annex when I was 25-29, and I loved it- a perfect neighbourhood to be young in, or at least it was back then. I wonder what the old Brunny is going to become!! I haven’t been back in ages, but your post is reminding me that it’s good to revisit, there are clearly some cool new finds and no doubt some ghosts that I’d love to see again. Please tell me New Generation sushi is still there!

    • Loulou says:

      It is a great neighbourhood! And yes, New Generation Sushi is still there. In fact, while I’ve never been myself, I noted it as we went by because it was jammed! “Must be good”, I thought to myself. Let’s go for lunch sometime.

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