EXPLORED: Toronto’s Distillery District (half photo gallery, half a tale of my sugar-infused afternoon)

What a wonderful afternoon.

I don’t know about you, but exploring new places makes me so terrifically happy that I want to skip, cheer and dance (simultaneously).

I spent this past holiday weekend in Toronto.  My second day in Ontario’s capital started off fairly low key.  After a blissful morning of sleep, I called my aunt and uncle to see if they, for lack of a better term, wanted to “hang out.”  One quick BIXI ride later, we met for a lunchtime reunion over Front Street pub grub.

My aunt and uncle outside of the Mill Street Brewery (best beer EVER)

Now, be it pollution or just general weather phenomena, the sky was filled with a thin, cloud-like fog.  Any evidence of skyscrapers or even the CN Tower were masked by this layer, and it looked as though someone had taken an eraser to the skyline of Canada’s largest city.

After lunch, we strolled the short 15 minutes to the Distillery District.  The rain that had poured on the city earlier in the afternoon had evaporated, leaving a crisp, clear spring day.  The weather was perfect.

I had no idea what to expect of the area.

Initially, I thought the old brick buildings looked crushed and cramped beneath the glassy facade of new condominiums.  The corner building is impressively designed, with a triangular set edge that cuts sharply through the air.

Between the two entrance buildings, a giant silver monster stands, guarding the fantastic sights beyond.

Past the beast was where the real fun began.

Walking along the bricked lane, my impression of the distillery district started off pretty slowly.  There were creative jewelry tents set up here and there, small tables with baked items, and a woman selling pot upon pot of fragrant flowers.

It wasn’t until I walked further down the stone path that you found myself in another world.

The narrow street opens into a larger courtyard area; the white tops of vendor tents speckle my vision.

Here, even more eclectic variety thrives – an artist whose pieces are created using recycled bicycle parts, shawls with delicate twisted wools, a photographer who used natural landmarks to spell out words… each booth was as curiousity-inducing as the next.

Huddled amongst the stone buildings rest playful sitting areas, where face-shaped chairs and quirky lighting give the area a unique and inherently hip vibe.

Throughout my entire adventure I had been frequently updating my Twitter status.  Seeing that I was in the Distillery District, my new friend Karen tweeted at me, saying that no trip to the area was complete without macarons from the Sweet Escape Patisserie and chocolate from SOMA.

Well I am certainly never one to turn down food recommendations.

The resulting macarons were amazing and HUGE (by macaron standards, I think).  I got six of them – three raspberry, two mocha and one red velvet.  They were divine.  I also treated myself to a campfire inspired treat – a s’mores bar complete with three layers of ooey-gooey marshmallow, graham cracker and chocolate.

A gluttonous afternoon

Before the sugar from the macarons and s’mores bar had the chance to hit my bloodstream, I made my way to the SOMA chocolate shop.  Inside, large machines are visible beyond glass windows, ready to churn out delicious sweets to draw in the chocolate-loving hordes.  A cleverly placed gelato case boasts more than a dozen different flavours and served for many as the perfect cool down for the gorgeous spring day.

Gelato and sorbet galore

Alas, what is a trip to a chocolate store without an appropriate chocolatey purchase?  I indulged in a super rich iced hot chocolate (let’s be frank, that’s just a fancy name for chocolate milk) that was blended with pure melted milk chocolate.

See the two churning machines in the background? THEY ARE FILLED WITH CHOCOLATE.

After bidding a sugary adieu to my aunt and uncle, I headed over to the Distill Gallery to continue my browsing.

Holy dream shop.

This place had everything I loved – creativity, cute dish towels, lovingly made jewelry.  I would shop here if I had the riches of my celebrity-named counterpart.

You’re technically not allowed to take pictures in the store because of the whole “gallery” classification, but I took some anyways, in a sneaky “I’m pretending to text but really taking photos of these creatively moulded beer bottles” sort of way.

But I don’t want to get in trouble, so let me just describe some of the wonders to you: bracelet charms with images of Toronto subway stops, leather bags in every colour of the rainbow, kitchen cloths with bright spin wheel and houndstooth designs, gorgeously overpriced shirts with collars emblazoned with buttons and beads…  You get the picture.  Everything was to die for.

In the end, I spent a day’s pay on a paint-speckled shirt/dress, which I absolutely love.  I took this extremely 2008-style MySpace shot in the dressing room.  At this point I thought I wasn’t buying said piece of clothing and wanted a faint memory of the most Hilary-appropriate outfit that I’ve ever seen.

Please ignore the ridiculousness of this image as well as my massive chipmunk cheeks

 My last stop of the afternoon was at the Cube Works Gallery, where I was reminded greatly of my younger brother.  About a year ago, him and his friends started playing around with Rubik’s Cubes – they would take them to badminton tournaments and watch YouTube videos on how to solve them.  Their love of this six-sided box bordered on obsessive.  I never thought that the cubes would ever be used to create new and innovative art.

I humbly eat my words – the gallery contained what could only be declared as modern day pop art.  Andy Warhol, eat your heart out.

My afternoon ended with a fantastic ride back to Matt’s house on my noble steed of a BIXI rental.

BIXI love

The day closed with dinner and drinks with Matt and two fantastic new friends, Jen and Karen (aforementioned as the Twitter adviser – she brought cookies to our dinner!).

All in all, a great day.

Torontonians, check out the Distillery District if you haven’t yet already – everyone else, put it on your travel to-do list.  You won’t regret it.

Well that’s all for me.  Until next time, Toronto.

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3 thoughts on “EXPLORED: Toronto’s Distillery District (half photo gallery, half a tale of my sugar-infused afternoon)

  1. Very thorough piece of hero driven media you have created here about your visit to the Distillery District. I live and work here and contribute to a blog about the area. Your work is compelling. I’m reading and following you now.

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