A favoured visiting site for many in Toronto is Roncesvalles Village or "Roncy" as it's locally known, with its historic charm and character. An old neighbourhood of tree lined streets with crowded red bricked homes and shophouses, this village has comfortably preserved the feel of a local community atmosphere.
It was known as Little Poland for the scores of Polish migrants who initially settled in the area, and still runs a yearly Polish festival every year. Now somewhat more of a hipster and expensive locale with some newer shops around, Roncy nevertheless maintains its sleepy, bohemian air.
Roncy living- A typical home
Roncesvalles Avenue runs the length of Roncy with the distinctive red Toronto streetcars (that's trams to you and me) going past in the middle of the street.
Graffiti or wall art (your call) is on display as you make your way up or down the avenue. The shops are mostly to be found on one side of the street, with the other being the domain of mainly two-storeyed residential homes.
Graffiti or street art
Walking down the approximately 1.5 km length of Roncy, one encounters a range of mom-and-pop stores, family run businesses and eclectic shops. The vast majority of the stores are independent small businesses which enhances the sense of community.
These include fruit and vegetable shops that entice with seasonal produce and bunches of flowers. Also, independent clothes designers, drug stores (the legal kind), a herbal clinic and dispensary, and the odd one-of-a-kind gift shops among many others.
Jewellery shop and studio
Everything and the kitchen sink
It is here that you can peer into a dimly lit secondhand bookshop to discover books from a bygone era, yellow with age. But also, containing treasures such as this shelf of old leather bound classics, some first editions, and decades old.
A few Polish shops and cafes have kept a presence here. Walk in to find shelves teeming with unfamiliar brands from Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe. Bottles, jars and tins of pickled vegetables and herring, condiments, juices, jams and varieties of smoked fish crowd the shelves. The deli sections offer cold smoked meats and cabbage stuffed with meat and rice. Pastry sections offer up Polish doughnuts and the famous pierogis with a range of fillings including meat, cheese, potato and even seasonal fruits like berries during the summer.
There are a variety of other restaurants and cafes along the avenue from which to slake your thirst and sate your taste buds. Pizza and Italian restaurants, coffee shops, Thai, Indian, barbeque and "voted the best chicken wings" joints, and on and on.
Pretty as a picture
Roncy is also home to The Revue, touted by its owners as Toronto's Not-For-Profit Community Cinema. The Revue has occupied its location in Roncesvalles Avenue since 1912. It runs mainstream and indie movies including showcasing silent movies, anime, foreign films, documentaries and classic films. On some days, tickets for some folks start at $6.
One of the best things about Roncy is that it is located between Lake Shore on one end, with the majestic 400 acre High Park prevailing on another boundary. Coming to the King St West end of Roncesvalles Avenue and crossing over an enormous flyover brings you to the Lake Shore waterfront.
The view from this rather ordinary flyover is tremendous, with sprawling Lake Ontario in the forefront and the city skyline at the rear.
Lake shore vista
City views from the overpass
This stretch of Lake Shore has open green spaces and recreational areas including children's playgrounds, a public swimming pool, sports and rowing clubs and yes, even a bit of a beach to stretch out in during the summer.
Cloud and wave gazing
If you're ever in Toronto, set aside time to visit Roncesvalles and Lake Shore, and even parts of High Park if you can manage it.
Roncy can be reached from downtown Toronto on public transport either by the subway or streetcar. Take the Bloor subway to Dundas Street West and walk south onto Roncesvalles Avenue. This is the fastest way. Streetcars 504 (King), 505 (Dundas), and 506 (College) all go to, or through Roncesvalles Avenue.