Toronto Real Estate, WTF?!

The Grange Park, photo by wyliepoon

Last Sunday night, before the sun went down, my boyfriend and I decided to stroll through my favourite Toronto neighbourhood and casually look for a new place to live. Right now, we rent a 1950s, 800-square-foot, ground-floor apartment near Sherbourne and Bloor. It’s a nice spot (we have our own garden and the building is quiet), in a nice area (we’re caught in a sweet spot between subway access and a lush, peaceful ravine). But I’ve always loved the neighbourhood around the Art Gallery of Ontario, at Beverley and Dundas West. The streets — leafy with lots of Victorian semis — are incredibly charming, and it’s near the Grange Park, OCAD, U of T, Kensington Market and Chinatown. Plus, my boyfriend and I are getting to that stage in life where renting is starting to feel too student-y (he just turned 30 and everyday I feel my 20s slipping away).

The first For Sale sign we noticed was for a tumble-down brick bungalow the size of Timbit. It looked a bit sad, with a yard of concrete pavers enclosed by a wobbly chain link fence. But before I could utter the phrase fixer upper, I was choked by the price. Over half a million dollars. The revelation made me feel both insulted and poor. I briefly tried to rationalize the price — good location, cute shape (with a little peaked roof) — then my brain started to hurt, so we moved on.

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Restaurant Wars: Guu vs. DonDon Izakaya

image from guu-izakaya.com/toronto/

When Guu opened it’s first Toronto location in December 2009, people (many of whom were familiar with the original Vancouver chain) went crazy for it’s Japanese sharing plates, communal tables and exuberant service. The first time I went, I spent an hour and a half waiting outside in the snow for a table, freezing my toes off. I was an unpaid intern at the time so I had no money for dinners out, but I was lured by the incessant buzz. It didn’t disappoint. The food was salty, rich and satisfying (a perfect fit for a pint of Sapporo), and the room felt raucous and fun (especially for a city as reserved as Toronto). The second time I went, I liked it just the same (even though the wait was still close to an hour).

Now, seemingly cashing in on the Japanese pub craze that Guu started, a new izakaya has opened: DonDon. I went to check it out the past weekend. Here’s my point-by-point comparison.

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An openly gay jock? Yes, it’s possible.

Today, I read about a young gay athlete from Ottawa named Scott Heggart, and have just watched some of his many YouTube videos detailing how he came out to his friends and family. I am really impressed by how articulate he is, especially at such a young age. He started making his video journal when he was 15, and he’s now 19.

I’m also impressed by how brave he is. As an athlete who plays aggressive team sports like hockey, he must have felt immense social pressure (whether explicit or implicit) to suppress his feelings and try to be straight. He seems like a regular, quite masculine teenager (the kind that no one would ever suspect of being gay), so he could have probably coasted for years and years without ever needing to tell anyone. No one would have blamed him if he had chosen to wait until after college, or after he moved out of his parent’s house, or until after he relocated to a bigger, more gay-friendly city. But in choosing to be open about his sexuality at such a young, vulnerable age, he’s done something extraordinary, and will no doubt inspire others.

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Beijing To-Do List

I have to admit that booking a trip to Beijing was somewhat compulsive. I’ve just started a new job and the airfare is quite expensive. But a friend of mine is going to be living there for the summer, and casually mentioned over lunch a few weeks ago that if I wanted to come for a visit, I could stay with her for free. Who could say no to a free room? Although I know very little about Beijing, I’m really excited to be going, and I’ve started putting together my to-do list. Of course, The Great Wall of China, Beihai Park and the Forbidden City are high priorities, as is a walk through one of the surviving hutongs and trips to the 2008 Olympic venues (The Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube). Here’s a few of the other things I’m thinking:

Sanlitun Soho by Kengo Kuma

When I was finishing architecture school, I basically stole the design for my final year project from Japanese master Kengo Kuma. But I’ve never seen one of his projects in person (I’ve just been a fan from books and magazines). I’m not sure if his Sanlitun Soho is one of his best works, but I’m curious if his spaces are as graceful in person as they are in architecture magazines.

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