island report

For those who don't know, "the islands" - officially Toronto Island Park - are a group of islands in Lake Ontario, a very short ferry ride from downtown Toronto.

Toronto's other airport is there, a children's amusement park, some beautiful piers and parkland, Hanlan's Point (a baseball landmark), and a nude beach. There are lots of picnic tables, bike paths (and bike rentals) and even day lockers, a nice touch.

Allan knew about Hanlan's Point from his own work, but had always imagined it to be in Toronto proper, not a boat ride away. It's the site of Babe Ruth's first professional home run.

We walked around Centre Island, which is a beautifully landscaped park - huge shade trees, thick lawns, gorgeous flowers. I can see it as a quick country getaway, a breath of fresh air and space, a perfect spot for a picnic and a relaxing day out, if you live in a dense, urban area.

After wandering around Centre Island, we walked towards Ward's Island, because I wanted to see the residential area. Entering Ward's Island, we found the Rectory Cafe, which Genet had mentioned, and plunked ourselves down for lunch and drinks. We sat in their backyard patio, surrounded by lush green - very nice. (Genet, you're two for two!) It reminded me very much of the restaurant we used to frequent in Ft. Tryon Park, near where we lived in New York. That was the scene of all my goodbye dinners, and the Rectory Cafe made me a little nostalgic.

We would have explored more, but it began to rain, and we were on foot, so we hopped on the ferry and headed back. If you want to go directly to the restaurant, take the ferry to Ward's Island, and it's a short walk from there. Once you're out there, you can take the ferry back from any of the docks.

The houses on the island look like lovely, simple country homes. Someone in the cafe was explaining (to someone else - I was eavesdropping) that because the island is city-owned land (and possibly because it's a park? I'm not sure), there can't be speculation and development. People's homes are worth a set amount assessed by the City, and no more. So people who live there don't tend to sell their homes, and the area stays stable and quiet. If not for that, I'm sure there would be huge, ostentatious homes there, since it's such an attractive and out-of-the way location.

Living in Mississauga where there are so many great Lake-side parks - and our own backyard practically a park in itself - I doubt I'd go to the islands often. But I was impressed by their beauty and accessibility, and at how nicely they are maintained. Good work, Toronto.

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Search string of the day: why do people want to move from one country to another for greener pastures

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