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    Lunch With Julie : A Great Place, Person, Peach drink and Pizza

    at oretta restaurant king street west toronto near bathurst

    Whether you love it or hate it, there's no question that the boom in condo development in Toronto shows little signs of abating. According to this article from March 2019, discussing "The Crane Index" (it's a thing!), in the spring we had more building cranes here (104 of them) than did New York, LA and Chicago combined.

    From the viewpoint of a resident who walks around the city a lot, it seems like on any given block of the downtown core, if there isn't a new building, there's one in the process of being built, or a big sign stating that a request to build a condo has been submitted to city hall. Based on what I've read, apparently before the growth of all these new taller buildings in Toronto, we were considered a "short" city, in that we had fewer skyscrapers than other major cities, and the economic health of Toronto relied on the construction of more places for people to live downtown.

    As a result of all this immense change, there are many people who were here before all this growth, who are unhappy with what is going on. Indeed, there is a lot more shade on the streets, and the sidewalks are more crowded, for sure. However, I've noted some bright-sides, as well, which have made living downtown much more fun.

    One is that the city just doesn't just give the developers the right to build, without getting something for the residents back in return. Those contributions come in the form of space and funding for city parks and investment in arts and culture. To quote the city's website (here) : The Planning Act "allows the City of Toronto to harness growth by requiring all new development to contribute to the expansion and enhancement of the city’s parks and open space system." In addition to public parks, the city's official plan also includes something called "Percent for Public Art Program" (detailed here), which requires developers to either provide some form of art that is publicly accessible and clearly visible at all times. So, there are many new and refurbished parks around the city, plus sculptures, and seating areas all over the place.

    The reason I'm writing this today? Where once there were dusty empty lots, there are now all kinds of new shops, bars and restaurants located in the base of many of the new condo buildings! Just this week, I've walked to a grocery store, a clothing shop, a taco place, a drug store and a post office, all located in places that were mere patches of dirt when we moved to our Queen Street West neighbourhood 20 years ago.

    And, speaking of restaurants situated under condo buildings, at the invitation of my dear friend Julie, I've recently been to this new-to-me place, Oretta, located on the ground floor of a new condo building on King Street West, and it was a really good time!

    Before looking at photos of this beautiful place, though, here's a quick peek at what this exact spot looked like 8 years ago, in the summer of 2011. Did I mention dust?

    Prior to doing any digging in Toronto, a good look at the site has to be taken beforehand, in the form of an archaeological excavation. While this lot had previously been home to what was the last motel standing downtown, The Executive Motor Hotel, estimated to have been built in the 1950s, it was first the site of an estate that had been built in 1850. These photos show the remnants of that old home.

    What a Difference Six Months Make : Walking in a Blizzard

    snowstorm in toronto blizzard grange park february

    Hello! Not to be one who goes on about the weather, but today's post is, umm, well, about the weather.

    While we swelter here in Toronto on a hot muggy day that feels like 30 degrees (86f), with a forecast that calls for Sunday to feel like 37 (99f), we are still very much in the throes of summer.

    I'm reminded of a riddle that was in a colouring book that I had as a kid. The whole book was riddles and I remember thinking it was one of the best things ever. I realize now, that the jokes were as corny as can be, though. For example Q : What kind of keys don't open doors? A : Donkeys and turkeys. And, the reason I bring it up now -- Q : Why is the letter "G" so hot? A : Because it's in the middle of August!

    If you, too, are are sweating right now, perhaps the power of suggestion brought on by these photographs will cool you off a little bit. They were taken on February 13th, exactly 6 months ago, to the hour, while I walked through Grange Park.

    Back then, I'd already posted about massive snowfall we'd had in the city the previous week (seen here), so I held back on sharing more pictures of snow. Until now, that is, when I think they might be more appreciated for their oddity.

    Not that I'm wishing summer away because I'm definitely not, but some of my favourite walks have been those that were taken in the midst of a blizzard!

    Neighbourhood Exploration : Toronto’s Financial District

    buildings in toronto financial district

    Hello and welcome! My previous post (aka : Part 1 of our really long walk!) was about an afternoon spent with my friend Meghan, where we checked out Toronto's St. Lawrence / Old Town neighbourhood.

    This is Part 2, as we continued walking, going westward along Front Street, and took a look at The Financial District, which spans roughly from Front Street on the south, up to Queen Street West, between Yonge Street and University Avenue.

    Now, I understand that this might not sound like the most exciting part of the city to explore, but hopefully after seeing what we saw, you'll agree that Toronto's business affairs are conducted within a pretty spectacular looking forest of concrete and glass.

    In this particular neighbourhood, fewer historic pre-1900 buildings are found when compared to the rest of the downtown core. That's because a large swatch of the area burned to the ground during The Great Fire of 1904, when 118 buildings were totally destroyed in eight hours. (I discussed another "Great Fire" in the previous post, which occurred in Old Town in 1849, but as far as damage goes, this second one was the greater of the two, for sure.)

    To give scale to the devastation, it caused the loss of 5,000 jobs in a city of 200,000 people at the time. Considering that it was mostly men who worked back then, and families were quite large, this would have meant that a high percentage of families lost their main source of income. To this day, it remains the largest fire ever to have occurred in Toronto. Thankfully it happened at night, so no one was injured. One man, John Croft, an explosive expert, died while clearing the ruins afterward, though.

    So, that happened in 1904 and the first of the skyscrapers that currently make up the Financial District went up in the 60s, leaving about 50 years in between. I can find little information about what happened to the burned out landscape in the interim, except that The Royal York Hotel was built, opening in 1929, and the "new" Union Station opened in 1927 (it replaced the "old" Union Station that had been located to the west.)

    On with our walk!

    Neighbourhood Exploration : St. Lawrence / Old Town

    church street and wellington front historic old town neighbourhood in toronto

    Hello. As I say whenever I write about one of Toronto's many neighbourhoods, exploring different parts of your own city is said to make you smarter (based on this list entitled, "25 Daily Habits That Will Make You Smarter"). So, I'm doing what I can for the grey matter while hopefully providing you with something interesting to read!

    Considering that one of Toronto's nicknames is "The City of Neighbourhoods", and having nearly 100 officially recognized ones downtown, there are plenty of areas to choose from. Today, we're visiting a part of town known as "St. Lawrence", aka "Old Town".

    Technically, based on map boundaries, "St. Lawrence" and "Old Town" overlap one another, but the street signs have both names listed simultaneously. It's confusing and the name changes depending of what you're reading, so I've just joined the two.

    A Garden Party for Two : Lunch and Crocheting with Julie

    first crocheted swatches

    I'm not sure if it's the same all over, but here in Toronto, "summer hours" are a common thing -- that's when employers let staff have Friday afternoons off. As self-employed people, Nick and I usually treat ourselves to summer hours, too.

    So, a week ago Friday, after she'd finished up at work, my friend Julie came over for a little r and r on our patio. We had lunch followed by a crochet lesson.