Taking the 506 streetcar to little India
Toronto’s 506 Carlton streetcar is one of the best sightseeing bargains in the city, rambling past many of Toronto’s most colourful neighborhoods – Cabbagetown, Kensington Market, the original Little Italy and two separate ‘Chinatowns’ – on its way to and from its western terminus at High Park.
A few days ago I hopped on the 506 at Main Street subway station and sat back to enjoy the ride through the Upper Beaches. Gliding through this leafy old neighborhood, I catch glimpses of the lake and admire banks of tiger lilies flanking stone steps in nearly every front garden.
The streetcar’s bell dings as we approach Woodbine and Gerrard, heart of Toronto’s India Bazaar. Here the air is fragrant with spice. While the shops of Little India do their briskest business in the late afternoon and evening (and most don’t open until after 12 noon), the aromas of tandoori, tikka masala and fresh naan already waft from the area’s many restaurants. I’m meeting a friend for her birthday lunch at Gautama, sister restaurant to our usual favorite, Siddhartha.
After a delicious buffet, we cross the street to spend nearly an hour rifling through piles of brilliant cushion covers, bedspreads and other home decor items at RANG. Rang means colour in Hindi, and owner Trish Mahtani designs many of her own textiles, adding a modern touch to ancient themes.
As Trish bags our purchases, she invites us to return to the neighborhood on July 7th and 8th, 2012, for Toronto’s Festival of South Asia. Bhangra, Bengali, Bollywood and Belly/Bolly Fusion dance and music will be on the menu, along with some of Toronto’s best eats. As Gerrard Street E. will be closed to traffic between Greenwood and Coxwell between noon Saturday and midnight Sunday, the Festival website recommends getting there by bus fom Coxwell or Greenwood stations (not the streetcar); shops and restaurants will be open.