Keeping Busy In the City

One thing that is easy for us, now that we live in the city, is finding things to do. And I don’t mean cleaning out dresser drawers.

On a recent Sunday with a perfect Spring day to fill, we headed downtown on the subway, (armed with our gloves for protection against germs). We were on a mission to see a selection of heritage buildings and architectural gems that I had learned about during an architecture course I had taken during the winter.

Our first stop was on Spadina Crescent where we visited the U of T Borden Buildings. These two structures were built in 1909 by City Dairy as dairy factory stables. The Borden family bought them in 1929, manufactured milk products there and, more important for my Italian husband Peter, employed over 250 Italian immigrant workers. Peter began to reminisce – although his relatives never worked there, he does recall that his older brother delivered milk in Italy, from farmer to factory, before the family immigrated to Canada.

Next, we walked along Bloor St., stopping to inspect the Bata Shoe Museum, built in 1995 by architect Raymond Moriyama. The walls extend upward and outward from the footprint in order to provide extra room on a small property. The building, shaped like a shoebox, is clad in French limestone which has a leather-like sheen. Owner Sonia Bata has over 12,000 pairs of historic shoes displayed there. The current exhibit is titled “The Gold Standard” with shoes of every configuration – all gold. Now That is my kind of exhibit!

Nearby is the very old and very new Royal Conservatory of Music. The original 1887 building was owned by Senator William McMaster, who annexed Woodsworth College in 1910 and, in 1930, relocated the campus to Hamilton, as McMaster University. Eventually the properties were bought by the Royal Conservatory and in 2005 an L-shaped glass addition was built to improve the acoustics. The new performance space, Koerner Hall, sits on rubber pucks and has an interior of wood and bamboo, creating state-of-the-art acoustics. So far my only visit inside was to take my grand daughter Sophie there for a piano exam. Sophie is now a student at McMaster – an interesting co-incidence.

Further along on our walk we came to Varsity Stadium and more reminiscing for Peter. As a young boy, he was taken there by his brother the dairyman to watch soccer games. At one particular game the great star Pelé was playing. The crowds waiting patiently outside soon gave up on that idea and climbed over the wall, flooding the running track around the field with cheering bodies. The police very wisely allowed them to stay. Peter himself later played and coached high school football, and refereed soccer, on that field.

As we continued walking along Bloor St. we began to hear loud chanting and clapping. It was a March! There seemed to be all varieties of protesters: anti-gun, anti-poverty, anti-Trump, pro-climate change, pro-abortion, pro-women’s rights. We walked along beside them, admiring their energy, their determination, and their wisdom in joining forces to create a more conspicuous event. But what was the occasion?

We got to our final destination, the trendy new Eataly. What could be more perfect on a Sunday afternoon than “a quick trip to Italy” as the advertising promises? (Later we discovered that, right now, this is the Only way to go to Italy). After winding our way through the store, we came to the restaurant section. We filled our plates with Italian goodies and looked for a place to sit down. We ended up sharing a table with two university professors who had been in The March. They reminded us of the occasion: National Women’s Day. The groups had joined forces because Every One of those other causes affects women. How right they are!

While waiting in line for our dessert, (what’s a trip to Italy without gelato?), I checked my fitbit – 13,000 steps. Time to go home for our afternoon naps.


Re-purposed Borden Building, now occupied by U of T

6 thoughts on “Keeping Busy In the City

  1. Good Morning Susie…. we have lived here 14 years and you guys are doing more than we ever had. Congratulations! Ruth


  2. Sue I always look forward to reading your weekly post. There are so many hidden gems in Toronto. Thanks for writing about a few of them.


  3. Ahem – it’s actually International Women’s Day. Love your posts Sue, although we miss seeing you around King Township.


  4. Great afternoon of sharing with Peter some of Toronto’s gems, that you learned about in your course. We do live in a great city. You also picked a beautiful day to do your tour.


  5. Hi Sue, Thank you for this very informative blog. I will look at these buildings differently from now on. Have a great day! Christine

    Sent from my iPhone



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