Natalie’s Toronto

This week’s I Heart My City comes to us from Natalie Taylor, who writes the blog NearAfar. And what perfect timing! Our Digital Nomad, Andrew Evans, is exploring Toronto this week, and will be appearing at a @WheresAndrew Tweetup on tonight (Thursday, June 23), at Ciao Wine Bar, 133 Yorkville Avenue, from 5:30 to 7 pm.  Click here for more info and to RSVP.

Now here’s Natalie:

Toronto is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the vibrant little neighborhood of Kensington Market. Quintessential Toronto.

When I crave
roti I always go to Gandhi. Their butter chicken roti is delectable.

To escape downtown but still be downtown, I go to the Quad at Trinity College on the grounds of University of Toronto.  It’s a great place to curl up with a good book and be surrounded by a beautiful historic building.  The college connects to Philosophers’ Walk, perfect for a stroll to the Royal Conservatory of Music and the Royal Ontario Museum.

If I want to shop for vintage I go to Thrill of The FindThrill of The FindThrill of The Find, Vintage Mix 1, I Miss You and 69 Vintage.

For complete quiet, I head to the rocks at Ashbridge’s Bay Park and watch the sailboats on the water at sunset in the summer.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with the CTV truck hanging outside the CTV Building at Queen and John.  It’s a Toronto icon.  If you’re brave, you can try to track down Zanta who has been ostracized by city officials in our CBD.  He wears nothing more than a Santa hat and pair of jean shorts and construction boots in single-digit weather.

If you have to order one thing off the menu from
The Black Hoof it has to be the tongue sandwich. It really is that good.

Monkey’s Paw is my one-stop shop for great unusual books.

Locals know to skip Starbucks and check out Tequila Bookworm instead.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to Snakes and Lattes. $5 gets you access to over 1,500 board games. It’s the best way to bond with friends, as they have a no Wi-Fi policy here.  For a cheap bite, you can get a banh mi for $3 and spring rolls for $1 from the chain restaurant, Ginger (Queen & McCaul or Yonge and Charles).

For a huge splurge I go for high tea at any one of our top hotels. Annona at the Park Hyatt, the Windsor Arms, and the Four Seasons are all good options.

Photo ops in my city include the city skyline (including the CN Tower) and the best vantage points are the rocks at Ashbridge’s Bay, Front and Bathurst, the patio at Ultra restaurant/nightclub, and the corner of McCaul and Dundas at the AGO. Brookfield Place at Front and Bay has some wonderful architecture as well.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be
Mike Myers. He’s funny, weird, and so fiercely proud of Toronto and the Maple Leafs.

The most random thing about my city is
how eclectic it is.  You can be in chi-chi Yorkville one minute filled with celebs and salons; walk down the street, and you’re on gritty Yonge Street filled with convenience stores, strip bars, and pan-Asian restaurants.  Many neighborhoods in the city have this sort of dichotomy.

My city has the most ineligible men.

My city has the most beautiful, diverse set of women.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves bike riding along the lake shore, and maybe stopping off at the Harbourfront or riding up to Trinity Bellwoods Park for some people watching.

My city’s best museum is the Royal Ontario Museum. They have an amazing dinosaur exhibit, a bat cave, and one of the quietest libraries I have ever been to.

My favorite jogging/walking route is the Boardwalk on the Beach.

For a night of dancing, go to Shake Your Tail Feather Nights at Clinton’s or for electronica, the Promise parties at Cherry Beach. For live music, check out  Horseshoe Tavern, The Garrison, Dakota Tavern, or Mod Club. That said, Massey Hall is a gorgeous, historic venue if you can afford the ticket.

7 West is the spot for late-night eats. Places like Fran’s and The Counter are more hip, but there’s an ambience, intimacy and history to 7 West.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read NOW Magazine, Eye Magazine, The GridTO, BlogTO and TorontoLife

You can tell a lot about my city from its neighborhoods.

You can tell if someone is from my city if
they’re not looking at you. Many Torontonians are on the go, rushing to get from one spot to the next.

In the spring you should linger under the cherry blossom trees in High Park.

In the summer you should bike on a BIXI or stroll along the new Sugar Beach over to H2O Park (near Spadina) along the Harbourfront.

In the fall you should go to the fairs  – the free Word on the Street Festival at Queen’s Park, the Royal Agricultural Fair at the Exhibition, and of course, TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival. The TIFF Bell Lightbox is the new festival headquarters, and you can see films/exhibits there year-round.

In the winter you should go skating at Nathan Phillips Square or toboggan at Riverdale Park and warm up with coffee and cocoa at the Rooster Coffeehouse. Bonus: amazing views of the city skyline from across the city.

A hidden gem in my city is
the Junction, a neighborhood in the west end. It is quickly gentrifying but not the first place someone from out of town would visit. The area is chock-full of salvage shops like Smash and button-cute cafes like the Good Neighbor.

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For a great breakfast joint try Aunties and Uncles, Edward Levesque’s, Lady Marmalade, OK OK diner,  Easy, or the Drake Hotel. I can’t pick just one!

Don’t miss Kensington’s Market Pedestrian Sundays. They happen on the last Sunday of every month from May to October.  Locals come together to eat street food, dance and wander the Latin American food stalls.

Just outside my city, you can visit Algonquin Park for a camping weekend or the Stratford Festival to get your Shakespeare fix.

The best way to see my city is by taking the streetcar all the way along Queen Street. It takes you from The Beach, Leslieville, across the West Don Lands, to Queen West and Parkdale.

If my city were a pet it would be a
dog – energetic, curious, friendly and impatient.

If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live (where?)  Honestly, I don’t see myself living elsewhere than a city.  I’d get bored quickly!

The best book about my city is
the Hogtown Project, a photo book about the secrets and characters in this city.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is
“Superstar” by K-os.   If you listen to his songs, there is a lot of name-dropping of local spots.

If you have kids, you won’t want to miss Riverdale Farm.  There are animals, it’s a great spot to picnic and it’s free! It’s also a great way to see Cabbagetown, filled with historic Victorian homes and across the street from the Toronto Necropolis

A Sri Lankan protest closing off our highway, the Gardiner Expressway, could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because I feel that Toronto is an underrated city. We are coming into our own with unparalleled restaurants, shops, and nightlife.  People need to know we are more than the CN Tower, with neighborhoods you can get lost in and a friendly, diverse population to help you find your way.

Photo: Toronto Skyline by Dariusz Szuminski/My Shot; CTV truck by Marc Lostracco.

[Toronto City Guide]

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