Toronto has never ceased to amaze me with its diversity not just in ethnic composition, but in the neighbourhoods that make up the 416 area. In the past, I have blogged about all the amazing touristy things to do in Toronto. But as any resident in Toronto can tell you, the actual experience of living in the city can be likened to a tour – a whirlwind tour of a spectrum of neighbourhoods in Toronto from the posh Financial District to the academic Discovery District situated in the heart of University of Toronto. The above 4 images represent the modern Toronto. The majestic Fairmont Royal York directly facing our Union Station, also known as the Grand Central Station of Toronto, where buses and trains meet to pick up or drop off their passengers. Walking on Front Street, one can breathe in the refreshing air of Lake Ontario to the south while checking out the dozens of restaurants and shops that adorn the strip outside of St. Lawrence Market. But this shopper friendly area is not to be confused for a giant congregation of restaurants and shops. The Front/Yonge area is also home to dozens of small businesses, medium corporations, theatres and oh yes, Hockey Hall of Fame. Not too far north is Bay and Dundas (top left) which takes you to Toronto Eaton Centre and Dundas square. But of course if you keep moving on Dundas, Dundas West turns into Dundas East, which marks the entry to a not so welcoming area. Another topic for another blog entry!
On a beautiful May afternoon, I had the opportunity to stroll through the streets of Toronto. These above images were taken in Kensington Market, which is just within walking distance of the Union Station and all that represents the money and financial power of Toronto. Kensington Market is a whole different world. I remember showing these photos to my parents who unanimously dismiss Kensington Market as a third-world city embedded within a modern city like Toronto. But Kensington is a special relic of Toronto’s past when it embraced immigrants from all over the place. Without Kensington Market, there would have been no Mel Lastman, a very effective former mayor of Toronto who is a proud product of this little strip in Toronto. The place may look run down but it is rich in history. The cultural diversity of Kensington Market also reflects Toronto in so many ways. This is the only place where you can find Mexican Churros next to a gelato place, both being only a stone’s throw from the best cheese in the city. In between the food vendors are gift shops (ie Blue Banana) displaying every quirky gift you can imagine. Kensington Market is just charming. I don’t know if Toronto would be what it is without this gem of a district.
Is every major city supposed to only display glistening office towers like Tokyo or Shanghai or Hong Kong? A city looking forward to a future but without holding on to its past? While most people including many a condo developer have written off Kensington Market for its aloofness amidst all the condo construction in Toronto, I think it is an important piece of our heritage to embrace. This is where the story of Toronto began. To my mind, Toronto is perfect the way it is. Toronto is really a mix of the old and the new.