A Cross-city Cycling Tour, Salsa on St. Clair and Multiple Free Concerts
Although inline-skating is prohibited it is possible to ride a bicycle in the cemetery and many people also use this beautiful environment to go walking or jogging. The gravestones in the western, older section of the cemetery are particularly beautiful, and its large tree collection makes it one of North America’s finest arboretums. Many large flower gardens, sculptures and memorials add to the beauty of this location. While I reloaded my camera with a new memory card, an elderly gentleman with a walker stopped and educated me about the fact that this cemetery features countless different species of trees and pointed out a rare Gingko tree, a species that I did not even realize grew in Canada.
Mount Pleasant Cemetery
I then crossed Yonge Street and rode west along Heath Street in order to avoid the busy traffic along St. Clair Avenue. The surrounding Forest Hill neighbourhood is one of Toronto’s most affluent areas. Today many huge mansions grace the neighbourhood and two elite private schools, Upper Canada College for boys, and the Bishop Strachan School, a prestigious day and boarding school for girls, are also located here.
The belltower of Upper Canada College
Underneath the canopy of leafy trees I turned onto a street called Lower Village Gate and unexpectedly found myself in Toronto’s Ravine system. One of the most distinctive features of Toronto’s topography is a multitude of deep ravines that criss-cross the city, have remained largely untouched by development and provide a natural oasis in this densely populated metropolis. These ravines were formed when rivers and creeks cut deep gouges into the glacial deposits that were left over after the last ice age about 12,000 years ago. Due to the danger of flooding these ravines are largely uninhabitable and have remained virtually completely in their natural state. Today, Toronto’s ravine lands are protected by municipal bylaws.
A game of cricket in Cedarvale Park
Cedarvale Park is located in one of those ravines and riding westwards I looked up to admire the structure of the Bathurst Street Bridge. I arrived at the western end of Cedarvale Park where a cricket match was in full swing. Back on city streets I cycled south into a St. Clair West neighbourhood called Hillcrest Village which was just celebrating Latin culture with its big annual festival: Salsa on St. Clair.
Salsa lesson, anyone?
First launched in 2005 Salsa on St. Clair has become a popular street festival that features all sorts of Latin music performances, street vendors, Latin American delicacies and special events. Salsa lessons, jumping castles, children’s soccer competitions and all sorts of free samples and giveaways enchanted the crowds.
Hot rhythms at the Salsa on St. Clair festival
From here I cycled south on Christie Street and then headed over to Ossington and south to Queen Street. In a small neighbourhood park I ran across a large group of teenagers dressed up as medieval knights who were practicing their jousting skills. Sometimes Toronto is truly like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get…Once on Queen Street I cycled past recently renovated landmarks like the Drake Hotel and the Gladstone Hotel into the Parkdale neighbourhood, one of the most colourful areas in Toronto.
Medieval knights practice their skills
In the late 1800 Parkdale was an upscale residential suburb of Toronto that featured great Victorian mansions and superb views of Lake Ontario. The neighbourhood underwent a serious decline and today features a large amount of low-income housing. The Parkdale Village area close to Lake Ontario became one of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhoods and in the mid 1980s many mental patients that were discharged from the Queen Street Psychiatric Hospital ended up in the low rental housing in this neighbourhood.
An orthodox church east of Ossington Avenue
Today the neighbourhood is being revitalized due to its beautiful architecture, established trees and favourable location close to downtown and Lake Ontario. Signs of gentrification are noticeable everywhere.
Victorian mansions on Cowan Avenue
The Victorian mansions on Cowan Avenue impressed me and as I got closer to the Lake I can only imagine what a beautiful residential district this must have been in its heyday. I crossed the railway tracks and the Gardener Expressway near Jameson Avenue and arrived at the multi-purpose trail in Marilyn Bell Park on Toronto’s lakefront. From here I joined the substantial crowd of bicyclists and inline skaters and headed west to Sunnyside Beach.
A view of Lake Ontario at Marilyn Bell Park