By Diana Condolo
In honour of the Jane’s walks running May 2-4, 2014, I thought I’d tell you a little about my city wanderings.
First of all, what are Jane’s Walks?
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. According to the Jane’s Walks website, the walks are “free, locally organized walking tours, in which people get together to explore, talk about and celebrate their neighbourhoods. Where more traditional tours are a bit like walking lectures, a Jane’s Walk is more of a walking conversation. Leaders share their knowledge, but also encourage discussion and participation among the walkers.” Read more about Jane’s walks and find a stimulating walk for this weekend. With over 130 walks in Toronto, it is hard to stop at just one. Go ahead and take a jaunt through several neighbourhoods this weekend! If you want to find out more about walking in Toronto, read my walking diaries.
What kind of Jane’s walks are there?
Everything imaginable. Visit the search page and find walks based on activism, animals, architecture, art, commerce, community, food, film, gardening, water, and so on. Search by ward for something close to you or find something near your mother and take her out for a stroll too.
Still having trouble deciding what to go to? Check out their staff picks.
Did you find anything surprising on a Jane’s Walk?
Yes, a couple of years ago there was a Jane’s walk close to my home. Not only did I not think anyone would organize an interesting walk in this dormant area but I also thought no one could find anything interesting to say to keep us engaged for one-and-a-half hours. I was happily surprised.
Is there one walk everyone must go to?
If you’ve never explored the laneways with graffiti of Toronto, you really should. Check out the Graffiti in Toronto this weekend. It is one of the things that makes Toronto so cool.
Jane’s Walk just lasts one weekend. What do we do the rest of the year?
I am sorry that it lasts only one weekend. It is just not enough time. I wish I could take these walks at other times, but still, there is so much to do and other walking options. Keep reading and then take a walk.
What is the best discovery one can make while taking a walking tour of the city?
There are so many beautiful and interesting discoveries that I find it hard to list just one. Some years ago, while taking a a Heritage Toronto walk in Cabbagetown north, I was introduced to the quaint workers’ cottages on Wellesley Cottage Lane, just east of Parliament Street. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The lane looked like it belonged in England, not Toronto. It doesn’t look anything like any other streets in Toronto. Taking a stroll down this lane it’s almost possible to imagine what the city must have looked like a century ago. I love to show my friends my amazing finds.
Aside from Jane’s Walks, what other walks are available in Toronto?
I love walking and even have a string of feet bracelet to attest to this!
Whether it is simply an after dinner stroll (“fare una passiaggata” in Italian), incorporating some walking in my commute, or going for an exploratory walk off the well-beaten path, I am an avid walker.
Here are some of my favourite pastimes which involve walking. Solitary or in groups – there are so many ways to do it.
Urban Hikes: All you need is a good pair of shoes, some water and maybe a map if the area is new.
Photography walk: Many of my friends love taking photographs and will organize a walk so that we can get together to practice our skills. It is great to walk with fellow photographers who understand the need to take the time to get the shot just right.
Sketching walk: This involves much more sketching than walking. Walking from place to place, you sit down and sketch an interesting view. Set up a time frame for sketching and let everyone pick their favourite view. I was surprised to hear there are groups that do this together. This year I joined SketchCrawl, a drawing marathon taking place around the world on Saturday April 19, 2014.
Environmental walk: We can even help the environment while we walk. When I join the Great Canadian Shoreline cleanup, I get to explore new areas, stroll and take care of our parks so they remain beautiful.
Are there other ways to keep it interesting?
Grab a friend, join a group or walk sideways. Changing how you walk alters how you see your surroundings. Practice.
Be fully mindful of the places you walk and try to observe things you’ve never observed before. While strolling along on a Cabbagetown walk last weekend, I was so focused on the architecture, I almost missed the first flowering tree in Toronto! This is something to be very excited about.
Every good walk deserves a drink break. Every year, I get the Indie Coffee Passport. My coffee passport takes me to cafes I would never have tried. One passport is only $22 and you get one coffee (including cappuccino and some specialty beverages) or tea at one of Toronto’s new independent coffee culture cafe. 20 cafes. 22 dollars. 7 months. 1 passport.
Sometimes I incorporate a yoga session with a walk. The Passport to Prana card is an excellent deal. It entitles the card holder to one class at each of the participating studios.
There is a rumour that one day I went for a walk followed by a yoga session with the Passport to Prana and topped it all off with a coffee via Indie Coffee Passport. I take it all in stride 🙂
I like to walk, but I’m interested in knowing more about various neighbourhoods. How could I learn more?
I’ve attended and highly recommend these Toronto walking tours:
- Heritage Toronto
- ROM walks(Royal Ontario Museum)
- Muddy York Walking Tours
- Genova Tours
- Jane’s Walks
- Various outdoor walks including Graeme Parry’s really interesting walk exploring the street mural in the Queen West laneways.
My writings have rambled on enough for now. They say walking fosters creativity. I really do need to get my blood circulating and my joints moving. As I head out for my afternoon saunter, I wish you all happy wanderings!