Saturday, August 9, 2008

Shopping, Eating and Visiting in the big T.O.

Despite the heat, humidity, thunderstorms, and torrential downpours, I had a great time in Toronto. I'd only ever spent a day there, and that was over thirty years ago, so all was new for exploration. My first impression of the city is of size and solidity, an imposing gridwork filled by muscular buildings. My home city is widely known for its geographic landmarks and features; it's a city where you glimpse either sea or mountains, often both, from almost any spot, and it would take me some time to adjust to an urban landscape where the only natural feature you see at most points is the sky. (Mind you, it can be a very dramatic sky; it provided a stunning light(ning) show as backdrop to my meal at C5 atop the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.) I knew there was a huge lake only blocks away, but the city seems to turn its back away from it, at least from my brief experience.
On my first evening in town, my daughter, Megan, and her boyfriend Rob took me to Terroni on Queen Street West. While I didn't get to slow down and check out any of the tantalizing shops I saw walking there, I was rewarded with a yummy pizza and a glass of wine shared with two favourite people.
The next day, the girlcook and I went exploring. She always did have a fondness for back alleys, but we're in this one for a reason.

She had a rendez-vous arranged with this young fellow, who works at Colborne Lane, our lunchtime destination. We had a most delectable and amazing meal there which I'll tell you about in a separate post, pictures and all. Believe me, there was alchemy involved.
Besides enjoying a wonderful meal, Megan and I also walked blocks and blocks and blocks through heat and increasing humidity -- which eventually turned into a thunderstorm and a very impressive rainstorm. We'd run a block or two when it lightened, then find a doorway to huddle in with other pedestrians for a few minutes, then try another run, then another doorway, and so on, and so on. . . Finally, we decided a movie would be a good idea and escaped to Greece with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth among others, singing along (quietly, almost under my breath, really -- I'm a well-behaved moviegoer) -- a perfect mom-and-daughter moment.
The next day, I'd arranged to meet Duchesse of Passagedesperles in the hotel lobby at two. I was a bit nervous about having committed to spend an afternoon and evening with someone I hadn't met before, but I was sure I'd like this lively blogger and that we'd be compatible -- and as soon as she poked her head around a pillar and tentatively said my name, I knew I was right. Plus we have the instant bond of being two curly-heads. And does this woman know how to shop! Her very thoughtful, also instantly likeable husband dropped us off at our first stop, Any Direct Flight, a shop I'd never have known about on my own with a fabulous collection of affordable clothes by a variety of independent designers, featuring some lovely fabrics, especially fresh prints used very effectively. I'm still lamenting a fitted a-line skirt in Chinese red, embroidered silk with fuschia borders at waist and hem -- it was just a bit too snug in one size (as in, I could only just breathe) and too loose in the next.
No time to sulk, though, as Duchesse whisked me along to Thrill of the Find where we ooh-ed and ah-ed over the mint condition designer clothing, ever-so-slightly used. I'm still wondering whether I shouldn't have taken the navy Oscar de la Renta jacket with the fabulous striped collar trim detail, and there's a purse on the shelf there that's haunting me. I did pick up a gorgeous silk navy Hermès-like scarf with a luscious print featuring rich gold, a colour I can't wear on its own but will enjoy as an accent. And at the last minute, I spotted an unusual, striking cuff/bracelet of textured copper, very thin and thus lightweight, a dramatic three inches wide, and I bought it -- at $35, who wouldn't!
I also dropped some cash on a great bargain a few streetcar stops later, in another spot I'd never be able to find without a knowledgable Toronto fashionista like Duchesse. I'd commented on her post that I'd love to visit The Little Black Dress Shop, and she obliged. I must have tried on eight different dresses, so you can imagine how tickled I was that the one I liked best was the one on sale for an unbelievable fifty dollars. -- it's hard to describe adequately, but it's essentially several layers of black cotton lawn in a v-neck sheath, with long fitted sleeves of black net. Simple enough so far, except that it then gets a funky Victorian effect from triangular lace-edged pieces attached at each side below the waist, which can either be left to drape or can be buttoned where they meet in the front forming a v-shape below the waist (and a corresponding, wider, inverted v-shape above the hem). Very cute, very original, and a steal of a price. (You might be interested to see Duchesse's account of our shopping day here)
We also stopped in and resisted some end-of-season bargains at Comrags (have you seen Duchesse's post tempting you with their fall line?), but then we had to get moving to make our reservations on the rooftop of The Drake hotel. What a fabulous place to recover after a gruelling afternoon of shopping, such hard work after all. Very relaxed yet hip decor with colourful cushions on daybeds all 'round the edge, and high tables with barstools in the centre that we were able to perch ourselves on for people watching. Up above the city, enjoying the Mojitos and the breeze -- wonderful! My daughter joined us for dinner and took photos of the two curly-heads.
The photo above doesn't have me crowding Duchesse out of the way, but neither does it let you appreciate her fabulous jewelry. Megan was immediately envious of the gold spoon-shaped earrings, but I really covet that fabulous gold disc-shaped ring which has several inset gems sparkling away -- and of course, the gorgeous Hermès bracelet in rich orange. Classy adornments for a classy, witty, and warm Toronto fashionista with whom I'm so pleased to have spent the day -- thanks, Duchesse!
More Toronto to come: I've got more photos and a few more tourist notes, and especially, some dinner descriptions. Hope you're all enjoying this August weekend.


  1. I don't know if its just the similiar curly hair, but that top photo of the two of you - you could be related. Perhaps it is matching smiles of shopping, eating, drinking, contentment. You obviously had a wonderful time, - I love that Duchesse called you hardy on her blog, due to your shopping stamina. I'm looking forward to more posts on this trip.

  2. Arrggh! Any Direct Flight! I'm so jealous! I bought a gorgeous polka dotted skirt there about 5 years ago that's been a total wardrobe staple. I'd love to go back there.

    I couldn't agree with you more about the waterfront in TO. It's such a great feature and so poorly utilized. Seattle strikes me as having the same problem. Vancouver's seawall really spoils a person!

    Have you checked out the A.D.D. Knitter's blog? She is also a knitting academic and has recently posted a series about her trip to Paris. Here's a link:

  3. Ah, such gorgeous smiles! You both look well-shopped and content.

  4. Cybill: Funny, I thought the same thing when I saw that photo -- we could be sisters. And yes, I'm quite pleased with the accolade -- materfamilias, the hardy shopper!
    Miss R: You're obviously a talented traveler/shopper -- I'd never have found Any Direct Flight if it hadn't been for Duchesse. Thanks for the blog ref -- I'll be sure to check it out.
    Pseu: Yes, we were happy and well-shopped (love that expression), but we wished you were there too.

  5. I too agree about the water front, I found the city very strange in it's Layout. Sadly spent far too little time sightseeing, but I do remember the Distillery District was wonderful especially for jewellery.
    To have someone to shop with who knows the best shops must have been amazing, I was with my grouchy uncle who hates shopping so never saw the gems you found.

  6. As one of the persons involved here I have to clarify that the glasses of rouge came AFTER the mojitos.

    You know I will ship to you, materfamilias.

    Yes, we sealed off the lake from the city, unlike Chicago, who got it right. We are in the first stages of reclaiming it.

  7. All the jewelry I was wearing (except Hermes bracelet) is from Artwork by Collins and Chandler, 181 Davenport Road, Toronto. World class- fantastic place.

  8. duchesse: thanks for the info re jewelry -- next visit for sure!
    alison: as you can see from duchesse's remarks, sounds as if the downtown will eventually be more integrated with the waterfront, or at least more aware of it. If you're ever in Toronto again, I highly recommend Duchesse as a guide -- much better than a grouchy uncle!

  9. "Just you know why - why you and I
    will by and by - know true love ways

    Sometimes we’ll sigh - sometimes we’ll cry
    and we’ll know why just you and I know true love ways"

    For some reason this post, and especially the picture of your daughter, made me think of this Buddy Holly song.

  10. Thomas: Awwwww! If Meg reads this, she's sure to get all teary-eyed. As for me, I'm off to find a copy of the song to listen to.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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