The Toronto Years

I moved to Toronto in November of 2015. Here are my stories of living in the Big Smoke. View photos I've taken while living in Canada's largest (and therefore best) city on Flickr.

Fifteen Months of Sheltering in Place

Toronto feels like a city gain.

On Friday, Ontario opened up retail businesses to limited capacity and allowed outside dining on patios, and while I managed to avoid the lineups and had breakfast by my lonesome outside my favourite diner, it felt like a breath of fresh air had swept through and that we could breathe again. There was also the late-breaking news that a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine would be offered to those a part of Generation AstraZeneca (which includes yours truly) 8 weeks after the first dose instead of the customary 12 weeks, and that we could pick our brand. There are several (thankfully short) articles on the tradeoffs involved, though it must be said that the necessity of what really amounts to flow charts is the result of public policy and messaging. How hung up am I on it? I wasn't going to vote for the political party in power the next time an election rolls around anyway, and I don't know anybody who is, so I'll take it as a win that I have some agency in the decision.

The better weather means eating outside on my balcony more, and I aim to eat all three meals there as many days as possible.

I've been listening in on Clubhouse, the drop-in audio voice chat mouthful application, and heard one person says "we've spent fifteen months inside," and until then it didn't sink in how long it has been since I've attended an in-person event. My American colleagues are returning to the office as to weeks ago, and we're treated to scenes of fans at sports games while all events in Toronto have been cancelled until at least after Labour Day.

I did get to see illegal fireworks on the May Two-Four long weekend, which made me feel like a real Torontonian. That weekend also featured a one-day-only edition of the Lakeshore Boulevard Activeway, which I caught the very end of. No more for the rest of the summer, so I've been taking an hour-long walk on weekend days. It has been impossible to plan more than two weeks ahead, but with vaccine uptake what it is, I now expect that time horizon to expand for the rest of the year. I have vacation coming up, making day trips a lot more feasible. I expect to spend most of my waking hours at home still, but this feels a lot better than the previous 14 months.

Fourteen Months of Sheltering in Place

This month was uneventful except for one day. Up until then I had spent a month wondering when I'd get a vaccine. I had registered with UHN when they offered appointments to 18+ in my postal code, and quickyly shut it down after getting too many registrations. I also registered with my local Shoppers Drug Mart and with Rexall, thinking that while it didn't cover all the bases, at least it covered some.

That was in late March. Hoping for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, but willing to accept the AstraZeneca vaccine, I waited another month, with the messaging from health authorities being "Get the first vaccine you can." In the meantime, I made sure my email filters didn't sent the drug stores' emails to my spam folder, and started accepting every call that rang my phone. On Sunday, April 25th, intending to sleep in that day, I heard my phone's text message and email notifications chime almost simultaneously. That could only mean one thing, so I leapt to my computer and filled out the appointmnet form. It being 10 AM and the next available appointments being available at 10:45 AM and noon, I decided I wasn't so anxious for it that I couldn't have a relaxing breakfast and watch an episode of the Icelandic political drama The Minister before making my way a couple of blocks.

They pharmacy asked me to be there no more than 10 minutes early, but since I'm early for everything, that was too much to ask. I arrived 20 minutes before my appointment, and 10 minutes later I had a shot in my arm. I took a vaccine selfie, but only posted it to Facebook, thinking by then it was a widespread enough phenomenon that nobody needed the inspiration anymore. (I do regret that I didn't post to Twitter, since I would have enjoyed the wave of likes there.)

The late-breaking news is that the Ontario government paused the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and that came on the heels of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization making a preffered vaccine recommendation, which gave a lot of people the feeling that there was mixed messaging around the "Get the first vaccine you can" messaging. I don't know exactly what to expect for my second dose, but I do feel a lot more protected than I did two and a half weeks ago.

Thirteen Months of Sheltering in Place

The March weather was unseasonably warm, and restaurants were allowed to open their patios, so extroverts were happy to see each other again. I was happy to get out of the house and break out my lawn chair and sit in the park. The one closes to me is under construction until at least September of this year, so I am walking 10 minutes to a park nearby. It does not have a closed-off dog off-leash area, so dog-owners have taken over the middle of the park for that. That said, a little over a week ago, the Ontario government declared its third state of emergency, and this time all patios are closed province-wide. Still not much change in the way I do things, at least, but the mood in Toronto is quite dour, especially after extreme uncertainty about when people are going to get their vaccine.

To help pass the time, I'm taking a course on Moby-Dick, the classic American novel by Herman Melville. It's been a dream of mine to read the book, having long been a fan of whales. I'm halfway through the book at this writing, and only now do we meet the namesake of the book, if only briefly. There's a lot going on in the book, the changes in styles, the copious references to the Bible and Shakespeare and other literary works, helpfully explained in the footnotes of the Third Norton Critical Edition edited by Hershel Parker. I've been to the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, having made a day trip there while on a business trip to Boston so I'm already primed for some of the references in the book.

Just before the declaration of the state of emergency, I did an architectural tour and made a trip across town to buy DVDs. I'm hopeful that the vaccination situation will improve by the warmer months, and so I'm planning day trips, with the hopes of Kinmount being one of them. I have renewed interest after the Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto (which I'm the secretary of) produced two episodes on the failed Icelandic-Canadian settlement there, the first one documenting the history of the settlement and the second one documenting the research and monument that stands in honour of the lives lost there. We plan on making those episodes available at our Saga Connections page later this year.

I'm looking forward to biking more as the weather warms in Toronto, both as a commute to the office and for activity. April seems to be a critical month of the pandemic for Ontario, with the hope coming from the effective vaccines dashed by a confusing rollout. I continue to do the things that I have control over and try to let go of the things I can't, and to continue doing what's asked of me even if we haven't gotten what we've asked for from Ontario's provincial government.

Grange Park Heritage

12 degrees Celsius and sunny during “Spring” in Toronto was the perfect weather to do a tour from the book Toronto Architecture: A City Guide by Patricia McHugh and Alex Bozikovic. Ontario lifted its "strict stay-at-home order" last month, so I no longer felt guilty about wanting to visit the neighbourhood adjacent to mine. Grange Park is a neighbourhood in downtown Toronto that feels like a neighbourhood, with mostly two- or three-level detached houses and apartment complexes (especially "The Village" on McCaul St.). It was striking to see a residential neighbourhood inside the downtown core that is 3 storeys or less for the most part. From what I gather about the cohesiveness of the neighbourhood, that's no accident.

This walking tour had me starting out in Grange Park, which acts as the Art Gallery of Ontario's backyard. Today I saw a busy dog off-leash area and a number of small groups of people taking advantage of the sunlight and cool breeze. (I can't get agitated about the safety of outdoor groupings during a pandemic because there have been so very few cases of COVID-19 associated with visiting in the most ventilated place possible.) Before I could get to the park, however, the horns of the legendary Big Smoke Brass band performing lured me to Soho and Queen, where I heard covers of funk Lettuce and TK Having not attended a concert in quite some time and having been looking for a way support live (in-person) music, I dropped $20 in the donation bin.

The Legendary Big Smoke Brass

I've already seen much of The Grange by walking through it on my way to other places, especially the AGO, but there were some spots new to me. That included the parklet behind St. Patrick's Market (that building now controlled by the City of Toronto after the private lease was terminated), itself called St. Andrew's Market Square, and only because I decided to take Renfrew Place from John St. to McCaul St instead of the busier Queen St. I walked up McCaul, hung a left on Dundas, and then up Beverley St. to Cecil St., cutting through on Ross St. to College St. (closed partly for emergency road work), then back down Spadina, returning to Cecil and making my way down Huron all the way down to Phoebe. I tracked the walk on Strava:

Though having walked by it dozens of times, the highlight of the walk was still the Ontario College of Art & Design University (which everybody here calls OCAD), and to read from the book about the architectural principles, where I learned that the elevator shaft bears a great deal of the load for the addition.

OCAD University

I wanted to go inside the Cecil Community Centre, since the sign was so inviting, but I'm sticking to essential visits to buildings for the time being.

Cecil Community Centre

One photo I didn't take was of The Grange itself. I try let people pass by my framing when I'm taking a photo (and, unless they're the subject of the photo, I try to blur their faces). I couldn't this time, as there were two friends sitting on the steps.

I've posted the photos I took as a set on Flickr.

A Year of Sheltering in Place

First, the summary for March: Ontario only recently lifted its “strict stay-at-home order” for Toronto, which most people interpreted as a strong request. Retail shops opened to limited capacity while restaurants still cannot accept dine-in patrons. The vaccination effort in Canada has only really gotten off to a start. While the government had set that expectation, it has been frustrating to see the United States jump out to a 30% to 7% lead as of today, March 13th, though we are told that this week marked the first major delivery of vaccines to provinces. If critics of the Ontario government are to be believed, the provincial authorities had planned on the federal government not delivering on its promise, and thereby blaming them for the ensuing mess. All signs point to that not being the case, with the feds more or less meeting the expectation and municipalities picking up the slack of setting up the infrastructure.

I didn't run much in the last two weeks of Feburary/first two weeks of March due to some achs and pains plus cold weather. I did set out to walk for an hour every Saturday and Sunday with shorter walks during the weekdays.

A Year of Sheltering in Place

My pandemic "anniversary" is today. The February 29th, 2020 headline that helped me realize that COVID-19 was here and a serious threat was the Toronto Star's “The Wayne Gretzky of Viruses” (see below).

Headline in the Toronto Star on February 29th, 2020: The Wayne Gretzky of Viruses

Even so, at work, for the first two weeks of March, we would wash our hands when entering and leaving, and we had the feeling was we were doing enough. I worked from home on Friday, March 13th, as I normally would do so once a week or so. That day the rumours inside the company that they would assess the situation in a week after that, but my direct manager called it right away, urging us to work from home the following Monday. Every month on the 13th of the month, I would write a summary of how I felt and what I did. I've collected them all in once place, in chronological order, at justagwailo.com/sheltering-in-place.

Up until then, I was planning a big trip though the United States. It was to start in Kansas City, to catch a Royals game, visit the Negro League Hall of Fame, and stroll through downtown. Then I would go on to Las Vegas to take in a show (Penn & Teller) and a baseball game, and more or less that’s it. Then on to Portland, OR to visit co-workers and friends, with the possibility of swinging through Vancouver, B.C. on my way home to Toronto. Luckily I didn’t buy any tickets or book any hotels, as airlines in particular struggled to figure out how to compensate travellers who weren’t going on their planned trips.

My last haircut before sheltering in place happened a week before, so I had a couple of good hair months while many people were upset that barber shops and hair salons were closed. I joked to my sister that I was growing my hair out, though I realized this was a good opportunity, as not many people would be interacting with me for a while. I haven't gotten a haircut since. The current plan is to celebrate receiving a vaccination by waiting a few weeks and getting my mane shorn.

Things that have kept me sane:

  • Watching a movie every Saturday night with co-workers, organized by one of our line managers at work. That was an inspired decision by her, and helped us get to know each other a bit better.
  • Keeping active through #ActiveTO by biking the Lakeshore Boulevard Activeway in the warmer months and kickstarting running in the colder months.
  • I initially doubled the amount of cooking I did per week, but reduced it slightly when it emerged that I was bored with 6 servings of a meal. I still cook more than pre-pandemic times, in part to eat healthy, but also as a way to pass the time because there are no events to go to.
  • Weekly calls with my parents and getting closer acquainted with my siblings, all of whom are in British Columbia.
  • Doing architectural tours of Toronto when the "strict stay-at-home order" was not in place.
  • The two trips to Toronto Islands.
  • The time fixing my blog (the one you're reading!) was worthwhile.
  • Studying Chinese through Duolingo has been fun, with much of what I leared in university coming back to me. Don't worry, I'm aware of the implications of a white guy learning Mandarin, and my motivations are a bit different than the criticisms levelled against doing that.
  • While not something I talked about much publicly, I have an interest in mindfulness, and a perk from my employer is a free account on Headspace. It has helped calm the nerves and give me strategies to avoid thinking about COVID-19 so much.
  • Something I go back and forth about is drinking alcohol. My rule before the pandemic was no alcohol on a day before a work day. I've bent that rule to one beer an evening, and it has to be an Ontario craft beer. At the outset of the pandemic, I worried about having to go to the LCBO to stock up, but I caught wind of the Ontario Beer Delivery Index (after relying on a poorly-maintained page by a running group). A recent article in The Globe and Mail on Canadians' relationship to alcohol, especially during the pandemic, has put my decision in perspective.
  • Two great purchases during the pandemic:
    • Good speakers for my work area, though it will be my last Sonos purchase, most likely, as I'll replace the system entirely in the years to come.
    • A sturdy lawn chair for sitting in the park. If I wasn't going to venture far, I still wanted to sit in the neighbourhood park and relax during sunny days, which Toronto has an abundance of.

Things I avoided:

  • I didn’t attend many virtual events. At work I was on an always-on Zoom, so I didn't want to be reminded of that. That said, I don't think I suffered Zoom Fatigue, because videoconference has been a normal way of communicating for a while now. I did attend a virtual meetup or two, but I generally avoided lectures or live musical events, because they reminded me of missing the in-person events.
  • I didn’t start any new hobbies. No sour bread baking for me. I attempted to commit to PC gaming with mixed results.
  • I didn't binge-watch anything. I almost always had a full day at work on weekdays, plus an apartment to keep tidy, plus other volunteer commitments, so I was busy enough that I didn’t watch several episodes of TV shows. That’s to say I didn’t watch any episodic series. I watched all of The Crown one episode per day, and restarted watching The Expanse, also one episode per day. I plan on restarting watching Westworld, having forgotten where I left off (DVDs don’t keep track of the episodes you’ve watched like streaming services do). I assumed I would watch more movies during the week. The aforementioned Saturday movie night helped with that.
  • I avoided bringing COVID-19 to somebody. Living alone means there was nobody in my household to bring it to, assuming I ever carried it. (The truth of the matter is I don’t know until I get an antibodies test, which I hope to get sometime before receiving a vaccination.)
  • I did not go home for the holidays for the first time ever. Staying in Toronto over the Christmas holidays was the right decision. My family kept a Christmas Eve tradition alive, and I even cooked Christmas dinner!

Surprises:

  • How busy the Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto would be in hosting virtual events.
  • How inactive the neighbourhood association became. We made our voices known in a virtual setting, though there was less activity in the neighbourhood to respond to. The local park’s redevelopment was postponed until this year, and few new developments were announced, though all developments proceeded, so we kept aware of those as best we could.
  • I thought I would spend more time gaming, but that has not come to pass.

Frustrations:

  • The way people were talking about the virus was as if COVID-19 were a death sentence. I don’t want to quote “survival rate” numbers because a) I don't think they're real and b) every single person who talks that way never cites their source. That said, at times, it felt like some people believed it killed everybody on contact. Also, we won’t know for some time what the effects of someone who has tested positive for it are.
  • Dating felt next to impossible. I matched online with some women over the course of the year, but with no desire on my part to meet up.
  • Having experienced a rough Valentine's Day just before the declaration of a pandemic, I set out (yet again) to do something about the isolation. An in-person counselling group was just the ticket, and after a few sessions, my mood improvded tremendously. It moved online due to the coronavirus, and was for the most part about coping with the anxiety introduced by the pandemic. I decided to skip it, joining the virtual sessions for guest speakers only.
  • Not owning a car meant braving public transit, which at the outset was a great unknown, to venture out farther than city limits. I took transit maybe 2 or 3 times, just to run a couple of errands. I didn't get the sense that any other town had much to experience anyway, but I decided against hiking trips because I don't drive. Maybe I might be more comfortable this year as vaccines increase in uptake.

Regrets:

  • I regret not joining a mutual aid society. That would have been quite the learning experience.
  • A course on urban planning for non-planners that ran late at night in my time zone would have been bearable for the one day a week it happened, but I decided not to enroll. At least the course is recurring.
  • Beyond the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer, which were eye-opening to me (someone who considers their eyes open), I don't think I learned much else over the course of the year. I read fewer books than hoped for, and even work seemed to stagnate (though my manager doesn't fully agree, and he has a point).

I had time to reflect on the things that were shut down that I missed, and what the pandemic revealed to be the reality:

What do I think I miss Reality
Concerts I attended them alone, and never met anybody. It was annoying when someone nearby would be talking, or would walk in front of me (thankfully I’m tall), or would bump into me (I would be constantly making way for people).
Dining in restaurants I dined alone about 95% of the time before the pandemic anyway.
Going to the pub I do miss the pub nights when it would be a watch party or a meetup, especially if it was a basketball pool draft. One pub in particular was my go-to for a first date, since it was a public place with the privacy of the surrounding din.
Working in an office I definitely miss that, having moved to Toronto for that experience. I’ve spent most of my career working remotely and it’s very isolating. None of the objections to aspects of working in an office have been compelling to me.

I didn't come out of 2020 stronger, nor did many people I know. It was a downgrade of a year. There were signs of hope at the start of the pandemic and they've only grown in number. 2021 looks to be quite the improvement over the last one.

Eleven Months of Sheltering in Place

We are still in lockdown. The previous weekend, the Ontario floated two trial balloons, one suggesting the province would reduce restrictions, another to say they would go on for longer. I've done more or less what I've been able to do since the outset of the pandemic, which is to say go for daily activity (and, now, thrice-weekly runs) and get takeout from restaurants in my neighbourhood. To help pass the time, I have long active streaks in the Duolingo app (language learning), Headspace (mindfulness practice), and Timehop (years in review). If I worried about not being able to do a Toronto Architecture walking tour for a month, the cold weather and icy sidewalks might have dissuaded me anyway.

I started taking my dental health seriously just before the pandemic started. My first appointment during the pandemic was like a scene out of E.T., the Extraterestrial, with doors having zipped plastic and everybody wearing masks. It turns out the dentistry was renovating their practice anyway, and my recent appointment was a lot more comfortable, with glass doors while still undergoing the same precautions.

I finally replaced my 2010 MacBook Air, which barely runs Zoom, with a 2020 M1 MacBook Air. It's the fastest computer I've owned, by far. I plan on trying out the Cloud Ready operating system to turn my old MacBook Air into a Chromebook, mainly to see what it's like. I haven't touched my PC gaming laptop much since buying it in October, though that should change soon with the purchase of a controller. I've only opened the box of the Raspberry Pi 400 I bought in November and haven't turned it on yet.

Since last month, I've kept busy, as usual. I still have a full-time job, my two non-profit board positions. The Icelandic Club is about as busy as ever, with events shifting to online. We are getting good at it, starting a speakers series and keeping alive our movie nights.

I've spent time reflecting on the fact that I'm the sole member of my household. It has been nice not to worry whether I'm bringing the novel coronavirus to anyone I live with. Not in any way to diminish the work that goes into taking care of a family, not by any means, but living alone is a lot of work. If I don't keep my living area not only tidy but clean, and don't do all the dishes, and don't do the cooking, nobody else will. I've lived alone before, and I did much less around the apartment than I do now. There have been cartoons and discussions about how the pandemic made it harder for those living alone, and that is definitely true to a strong extent. I've been careful to deal with what I can control, and try to let go of what I can't. Now that every day in Toronto is longer than the last for the next few months, I'm hoping to get more sunlight each day and get psychologically ready for whatever we're calling the era after COVID-19 vaccines are widely distributed.

Ten Months of Sheltering in Place

Christmas came and went. For the first time in my life, I did not go to Vancouver Island for the holidays, and did not go to Vancouver to see friends. I kept the family tradition of eating Pizza Hut pizza on Christmas Eve alive, as did my family. On Christmas Day, I cooked Christmas dinner for myself. Turkey (though fried, not baked) with Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy. With that under my belt, I'm hopeful that for Christmas 2021 I'll be able to help my family cook it. I spent New Year's Eve wandering around my apartment looking for fireworks, and instead finding people on their stoops and wishing them a Happy New Year, then staying up to watch the replay of CNN's NYE coverage.

Before the holidays started, the Province of Ontario announced that enhanced lockdown measures would start on Boxing Day. While Toronto stores were open for curbside pickup, York Region stores and malls were open, and the predicable happened. Currently, as of this writing in the second week of January 2021, all of Ontario is subject to a "stay at home" order. (I wish it was a "shelter in place" order.) This is different than a curfew…somehow. I had read that theory about Quebec's 8 PM curfew was to cut down on people visiting for dinner and staying late. It seems unclear to Ontario's police forces what reasons people will be allowed to claim for not being home. I interpret the exception for exercise allowing me to continue running, though I expect not to be able to take a self-guided architectural tour of Toronto without being asked what I'm up to. Beyond that, not much has changed for me, since there's nowhere for me to go except the grocery store and restaurants for takeout. I don't expect a supply chain disruption this time, since it's at a pandemic equilibrium. I still have years' worth of soap and toilet paper, and that was from not wanting to have to go to the store for it so often pre-pandemic.

Vaccination is taking place, happening slower than expected at the outset. I don't expect to get mine until well after older, higher-risk and essential groups of people get theirs. Though I normally favour American terms, I've taken to calling it "the jab" after the British term for it. While I wait, I'm getting ahead of the anxieties around vaccines by listing them and adding to a thread of anxiety-causing headlines I come across.

It feels like end-of-March/start-of-April again. I'm re-visiting an infographic of things that I can control and things I can't control on a daily basis again, though this time around, toilet paper is plentiful, both in stores and in my own storage. I expect this two-month period to be the worst of it, but I don't know what to expect afterwards.

University of Toronto Heritage

To ring in the new year, I completed the University of Toronto tour from Toronto Architecture: A City Guide by Patricia McHugh and Alex Bozikovic. It took place over 3 separate days, the first day cut short by the need to return to attend a virtual event, and the second day cut short by snow. (I didn't want to get the book wet.) The University of Toronto is located in Downtown Toronto, next to several museums and art galleries, the legislature of Ontario, and a hospital district. To say it's where much of the innovation, just in general, in Canada happens would be an understatement. It's a short bike ride away from where I live, and It's about a 25-minute walk, which I found out today because I wanted to drink a coffee en route.

University College

There's much I learned about the university on this tour. Their varsity basketball team arena is below ground, and features of the university that I hadn't noticed before, like Perly Rae Gate, were brought to light for me. As large a campus I imagined it to be, it was even larger, requiring at least 2 hours, like 3, to complete the walking tour outlined by McHugh and Bozikovic.

I couldn't visit any interiors due to restricted access during the COVID-19 pandemic. My access would have been limited as a non-student/non-staff member anyway. One day I hope to see some of the grandeur that McHugh and Bozikovic describe in the pages of their book.

I logged my walks with Strava. There was GPS garbage in the last one. I was prepared to fix the GPX data and re-upload it, but that would have required deleting the activity.

Part 1, on December 13th, 2020, cut short by having to go back for a Christmas event:

Part 2, on December 19th, 2020, the one cut short by weather:

Part 3, on New Year's Day 2021:

For more photos, see the full set on Flickr.

Nine Months of Sheltering in Place

Toronto is in lockdown, the most restrictive since the pandemic began. It means no dining out, no gyms, and curbside pickup for retail. No barbers or hair salons. I had decided not to get a haircut after March anyway. I would have been comfortable with getting a haircut, but I'm using the pandemic as an excuse to grow my hair. It's still not an Italy- or Spain-style lockdown, since there's no penalty to going father than 100 metres from one's abode. In my mind, it's still more of a shutdown.

As feared in November, I was inactive the whole month. Earlier this month, trying to list things I enjoyed that had a positive effect on me, I recalled that I hadn't run much, so I've kickstarted that again, starting over with Couch-to-5k, the program that got me into it in the first place. So far so good, as I've completed the first week of the program.

I have been using a mini fridge for about a month now, which keeps beer cold (I would buy individual bottles for that night only, not wanting to store them in a common fridge) and means fewer trips to the amenities room. A full-size fridge still has a mid-January delivery date, but this is a big improvement.

With the Christmas holidays approaching in late November, I decided, for the first time ever, not to travel home to Vancouver Island to see my family. I'm less concerned about what I'll contract and more concerned about what I'll spread. I don't love the idea of spending a whole day travelling and wondering whether I've done everything that's asked of me plus the time spent isolating plus the time spent wondering if that was enough, to see my family for a few hours, and then going through the whole thing again on the way back.

I've always sensed that we were a family where we weren't heartbroken if we couldn't get together, and that's going to be the case here, too. There's parts of B.C. I miss like crazy (the people, the mountains), but I always remember the parts I don't miss as well (the rain, how every conversation inevitably turns to the topic of real estate). I hope there's something to see over the holidays in Downtown Toronto that doesn't require a car, and if not, my bookshelf is 2/3 unread books. And FaceTime is a thing. So I think I'll be OK.

University Heritage

Faced with the need to get some sunshine and exercise the day before it was expected to rain in Toronto, I flipped through Toronto Architecture: A City Guide by Patricia McHugh and Alex Bozikovic, looking for the closest tour I haven't done yet. University Avenue was the logical choice, as The Globe and Mail had just featured Bozikovic's article on a proposed redevelopment of the boulevard that runs north-south between Front St. and College, with the intersection of College and University marking the confluence of the University of Toronto, the Legislature of Ontario, and a major hospital district.

I started mid-afternoon, on a mid-fall day, so the sun was not cooperative in lighting my shots. Almost every photo in my set on Flickr has a shadow in it, and trees that shed their leaves have lost all of them by this point. Nevertheless, it was a worthwhile jaunt on a very wide street. It is 4 lanes for vehicle traffic. with a recent edition of bike lanes, bisected by trees and places to sit.

University Ave. landscape

University Avenue is rich with architecture, old and new, big and very big. (Not much about University Ave. is small.) I had to laugh at how big the U.S. consulate building it, but how small it is compared to pretty much everything else on the street.

U.S. Consulate General in Toronto

The most interesting building (other than the building with a weather forecast on top of it) is what was originally the Shell Oil Building: “The ornamented, windowless mechanical floor midway up used to be the topmost: the upper seven levels were added In 1966.”

The Ornamented, Windowless Mechanical Floor

University Avenue gave its name to the subway line underneath it (it is now officially called Line 1 Yonge-University), though due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I haven't taken the subway since the end of May. Normally I would take it down to either Osgoode or St. Patrick station, but thanks to the pleasant weather, I biked south, using Toronto Bike Share.

To see the route the tour took me on, see the activity on Strava.

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