Updated: Jan 24
WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? A bit of urban exploration in the "wild" + hidden sculptures + decadent mini donuts!
I was walking north in the early morning on the trail along the west side of the Don River, something I hadn't done in a long time. I like to watch the buildings looming between the branches on the other side of the Don Valley Highway.
In January, around 7 am, the sun is not up yet and the lights are still shining. That is why a strip of lights caught my eye a little before the Dundas Avenue overpass.
I recognized the luxury car dealership Grand Touring Automobiles. Underneath its large windows with gleaming Lamborghinis, Jaguars, Land Rovers, etc., I could make out a long mural running the length of the building, a nice splash of colour under the spot lights. I had to see it up close!
Around Grand Touring Automobiles
On Google Map, I saw that the dealership included a large parking lot accessible from Carroll Street. So I dragged my husband there around 10 pm. (Note that the sun sets early at this time of the year, and we could have enjoyed our "night" walk as early as 6 pm.)
A long strip of vacant land, accessible at the end of the parking lot, separates the dealership from Don Valley Highway. The tall grass was levelled off around the wrought iron fence that delineated the dealership's property. We walked on the small, improvised path along the fence. Camouflaged in the wilderness... but in the middle of the city, with the feeling of being a bit of an outlaw.
It's fun to see the city from this angle and at this time. Around 10 pm, there are often 30 seconds between two cars. The lamp posts lit the area but we used our phones to better circulate among the grass and bushes. I laughed to myself as I watched us go. All this to find a mural... My passion, not my husband's. He is really a good sport.
Some 50 metres further, we saw the yellow, blue and turquoise of a giant fish swimming in stylized waters. This was promising!
The mural stretched for 50 metres, but soon we discovered that it was covered with graffiti, big bubble-like letters. The edges of highways and railroads apparently belong to graffiti artists.
You can see the work by artist Bill Wrigley in its original state on a Facebook post dated August 9, 2018. I've noticed other beautiful, elegant and poetic murals by this artist around the city, including under the Kingston Road overpass, east of Rosetta McClean Gardens, and near the Leslie subway station on Sheppard Avenue East.
When you have lemons, make lemonade
This little corner of Toronto won't end up in one of my walking guides, but I identified a nice 3.3 km walk including this little jaunt in the bushes, as well as Bill Lishman's beautiful sculptures, especially nice at night, and a decadent place that sells delicious little doughnuts until 11 pm!
I prefer to do this tour in the evening but it is also nice during the day. I start it at the water's edge, joining the Lower Don River Trail from the staircase that descends from the Queen Street Viaduct over the river. (Note that the trail is lit only by streetlights along Bayview Avenue, which runs parallel to the trail. I always felt safe there but the more cautious will prefer to go with a friend).
Walking for 15 minutes further north, you'll cross the pedestrian bridge over the Don Valley Expressway. It takes you to the foot of Riverdale East Park. As you exit the bridge, you'll see a winding path on your right. Follow it, then climb the stairs near Bridgepoint Health complex. This is where all of Bill Lishman's sculptures are hidden, with the cityscape as a backdrop.
Go on to Gerrard Street. Cross the traffic lights and continue on Blackburn Street (right next to a Tim Hortons). Here, the small, old-fashioned houses contrast greatly with the industrial setting of Hydro One across the street.
At the end, turn left on Mountstephen Street, then right on Munro Street. Cross Dundas East at the light, then turn right on Dundas, and left on Carroll, the dealer's street. Go around their building to the parking lot to admire the clean part of the mural. Further south, you will reach the lovely Joel Weeks Park.
At this point, if you turn right onto Matilda (the street which borders the park), you can grab a coffee and small doughnuts from COPS Coffee and Doughnuts (4 Matilda St., open daily 9 am to 11 pm), to enjoy in the park.
Look for the fox, beaver and squirrels idolizing a giant hazelnut that grace this park. Then, head east to the first alley south of the park, to see the open-air art gallery created in the summer of 2020 as part of East End Arts' GMC (Girls Mural Camp) to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Riverside BIA.
From Hamilton Street, another series of murals can be seen gracing the construction site on Queen Street East. The Queen Street Viaduct is on your right.
This post is a complement to local author Nathalie Prézeau's latest walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls available in Toronto’s major bookstores, on torontourbangems.com/shop and amazon.ca or indigo.ca. We also deliver or contact the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a pick up with a discount at 299 Booth Avenue, in Leslieville.