Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Welcome to April

As we're now a few days into the month, you can rest assured that I won't be pulling any April Fool jokes on you. That's not because I'm so inherently kind-hearted and genuine that I couldn't countenance misleading anyone; I just couldn't think of anything funny enough. I thought about pretending I was stopping blogging, but Challies already pulled that - and was a lot more believable!

Anyway, apart from pondering my blog, I had a great weekend. After a several week hiatus, I made it downtown twice on Saturday. Being at York gets a little tiresome after a while, and it's nice to have a break, whether that's getting out of town altogether or getting out of the vomit of suburbia that YorkU sits in.

In the afternoon I headed down into the city, got off the subway at Spadina, hopped on a streetcar heading south down Spadina (that stops underground - very bizarre to see an underground tram!) and then started walking. My Lonely Planet: Toronto got some use as I wandered down to Chinatown at around Spadina/Dundas. Chinatowns in North America are an odd beast: the city structure is still Canadian (wide streets, blocks, traffic etc.) but all of the street signs, shopfronts, and people change to being Chinese (and Vietnamese in this case). The type of shop also changes to one of three things:

  • barber shop offering ludicrously cheap haircuts: $4 for a men's haircut? I don't think so;
  • music shop with speakers out on the street playing Chinese pop music, and offering 17 DVDs for $20 - the only caveat being that they're not really DVDs and you've never heard of them before;
  • fruit and vegetable market - where you've also never heard of any of the products on offer before

Hey, I don't mind. The very different shops that are there are presumably why there's a demand for a Chinatown in all these cities. When I eventually go to China, I'll have to see if there's a Canadian district in Nanjing or Tianjin with a Timmy's on the corner, a Second Cup halfway along the block, and a Presbytarian church at the other end.

From Chinatown, it's a seamless transition into Kensington Market, which is more bohemian and has lots of random second-hand shops. It's also all on narrow streets, which are crammed with traffic. I'm not sure why people feel the need to drive to this area, and then try and parallel park their Chevy Escalade, Dodge Ram or Ford Tsumani (OK, I made that one up) on the street. It's pretty obvious that most drivers don't park on narrow streets too often... Nonetheless, a fun district.

I kept walking from Kensington west along College St. and got to Little Italy eventually. Apart from street signs saying "Little Italy" on them, you'd be hard pressed to know that it was actually an Italian district. OK, there was a Vespa showroom, and a few pizza restaurants, but that was about it. I was in a walking mood and kept on walking. Northwest from Little Italy I found a nice old suburban neighbourhood where every house had a few bikes parked outside, and children happily frolicked on the lawns. This, I thought, is a place in Toronto I could envisage living in! So watch this space in a few year's time. After that area the streets got a bit more ghetto. I popped into Coffee Time and shared the place with one guy who was drunk off his face and another so high on drugs that he practically collapsed, unable to move. Fun! This was near the Bloor/Dufferin subway station, so I came home from there. All in all, a fun afternoon, and something a little different from York Lanes.

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