Mar 2, 2014
When I tell my friends in Toronto how much I love their city, they often say, “Really?” I always assume they imagine I’m just trying to be gracious, or perhaps — with characteristic Canadian modesty — they’re reluctant to acknowledge how easy their city is to love. But they also have a great deal of justifiable civic pride, and a clear sense of why Toronto is such a special and unusual place to live and visit. There’s more to this understated city than many people might realize.
It’s a great walking town, and part of what makes it so much fun to explore is the range and variety of the neighborhoods in which the city takes pride, and which have resisted the homogenization that has occurred throughout so much of New York City — from Yorkville, with its fashionable shops and department stores, to Old Town, where you can find the St. Lawrence Market, an immense covered structure offering a huge selection of foods and crafts, and where, on Saturdays, local farmers sell their produce. Some of the neighborhoods are known for their architectural beauty: the charming Victorian houses along the tree-lined streets of Cabbagetown, originally a working-class Irish enclave; the equally attractive brick mansions and neo-Gothic cottages of the Annex, a district of artists, professors and students who attend the nearby University of Toronto; the brick rowhouses and manicured lawns of Roncesvalles and the mansions of Forest Hill.
But when Toronto natives talk about their neighborhoods, or when I rave on about the areas in which I most like to spend time, we’re more often referring to those places populated by a particular immigrant group, or districts in which very different populations live side by side.