On the Beat

Stepping into the shadow of the castle

“Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire,” sung by James Hetfield, hits my eardrums like displaced air from a train shooting over Spadina Rd.

My MP3 player is on shuffle as I saunter to my starting point for my first neighbourhood exploration.

As I walk, college kids pass me by, talking a steady stream of schoolwork and leisure, and I wonder if they’re oblivious to the fact they’re walking on the original shoreline of Lake Iroquois.

No matter. I put aside the geeky facts when I realize I have a cliff to conquer. Baldwin Steps, to be exact. And beyond them, the stone sentinel that has always fascinated me: Casa Loma.

Two plaques commemorate the history of the iconic area. Over 10,000 years ago, Davenport Rd. was beach. And much like a beach, there are fitness buffs here, too.

A personal trainer talks about dietary needs with her client while a cyclist makes like a pack mule carrying his wheels up the incline.

And what a trek. My heart seems to be keeping time with George Michael’s “Faith” by the time I reach the top. It makes me think I need to get my own personal trainer.

What awaits me at the top is a small pathway running between Sir Henry Pellatt’s castle and the Victorian-style Spadina Museum. My fiancée and I have picnicked here in the past.

Today though, robins hop through the grass, forsythias blaze a brilliant yellow and kids play soccer.

It seems everyone and their dog is here. No, really.

As I make my way to Castle View Ave., I see a lady and her Yorkie, a gent with his golden retriever, a woman walking two poodles and a jock-type with pug in tow.

Much like the canines, I continue to sniff out the neighbourhood. Flowering almonds and yew shrubs decorate most of the Tudor-in-style, behemoth-in-size duplexes, tiny in the shadow of Loma.

These older homes exaggerate the European flare of the neighbourhood which is intensified by Loma’s stables on Walmer Rd.

As I continue to pad north, thinking flora, I come to a pathway that runs like a gangway to the ravine. “Blue Orchid” by the White Stripes plays, and I find myself along Lyndhurst Ave.

Large lots are being groomed by landscaping firms that help keep the flower beds tucked in and the driveways inline. Renovators keep the Edwardian, Georgian themes consistent right down to the windows, with one adorned in art nouveau stained glass.

As I turn back onto Austin Ter., I discover a more modest mansion to Loma. Still, I’m gobsmacked by its sheer size. It’s so immense that the owners posted a warning to wanderers that it is indeed a private residence and not part of the castle.

Toronto’s own medieval landmark, Casa Loma seems to be undergoing a Joan Rivers special — decorated in scaffolding and green mesh, and accompanied by the drone of air compressors. Two workers walk across planks like macaques in trees over a busy highway.

I complete my walk around the neighbourhood with Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty singing a serendipitous number into my ears. “I don’t have to walk around in circles” plays as I am back atop Baldwin Steps.

It has one doozy of a view. You can even see Lake Ontario.

An elderly woman looks south and snorts, “All this development is an eyesore.”

Everybody’s a critic.

She walks away, and I can’t help but notice the bleeding hearts growing in the garden along the steps.

“The Clincher” by Chevelle hits me as I smile to myself and start to amble back down the stairs.

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