Sunday, September 13, 2015

I SPY fairies on the Danny (Danforth)

As I was browsing along the alphabet trail left by the sidewalk artist Victor Fraser along Danforth Avenue, I noticed a flyer on the counter of Wheels & Wings Hobbies about the Danny's Urban Fairies. I thought maybe they had some cute model kit to create tiny fairies.

One of the letters of the alphabet by Victor Fraser

Opening the flyer, I found a map marking some 50 local shops, who agreed to create little fairy doors inside their premises or in their window, some simple, others quite elaborate, for the visitors to find out. Like a fun little I-SPY game!  Of course, Wheels and Wings had their own fairy door.

Cool initiative!
Danny's Urban Fairies is the initiative of a whimsical local woman Natalie Coulter who saw such doors in the city of Ann Arbor in Michigan and convinced local shops to hop on the wagon! Everyone I spoke with in the participating stores said that throughout the summer, they saw families coming in, flyer in hand, to find the little doors.

Bad news: I discovered it too late in the summer. The event was officially planned to go on from mid-July to August 30. Good news: On my visit on August 31st, every shop I entered still had their fairy doors and none knew when they would take them down. Considering the massive interest, I will not be surprised if the event becomes a tradition and catches on in other neighbourhoods.

Mini DoorsOpen Toronto
I suspect many merchants will keep their little door for a while and you could probably still see some while you do the Alphabet Walk. Participating stores could be found north and south of Danforth from Jones Avenue (east of Pape Subway Station) to Westlake Avenue (east of Woodbine Subway Station). You can print a PDF version of the map on

Some were easy to find, such as the little Doctor Who-like door at the cashier of Red Rocket Coffee. Some are much difficult to find, such as the one in the arts supplies DeSerres (where someone discreetly pointed me in the right direction). 

I really hope they haven't put down yet the cutest ones at Quack Quack Animation (1847 Danforth). It's a Hobbit-like round door on the ceiling by the entrance. And next door, in the window filled with robots made out of recycled objects, look for a little door made out of stone.

BIAs, take note!
Shops involved with the event each found their own way to benefit from the increased traffic. DeSerres, for example, created little $5 craft kits to create one's own fairy door at home. Clever.

Once again, here's a cool example of how we can improve our city's walkability. With the support of Toronto's 81 Business Improvement Areas (BIA),  every neighbourhood could enjoy the free fun of discovering fairy doors along an Alphabet Walk. 

Everybody wins with that kind of project. Not only do you discover local restaurants and businesses, but that's how you make kids walk 2 kms without even noticing! 

During my stroll, a few places caught my attention.
What's in your neighbourhood?

Friday, September 4, 2015

The ABC of walking... with kids (Take 2)

What's Victor up to?

In June 2012, I noticed a large ornate letter R painted on the sidewalk in front of Red Rocket Coffee (1364 Danforth). I asked the owner if he had hired someone to do this.

Turned out a sidewalk artist, Victor Fraser, had taken on him to paint the alphabet over 2 kms along the north side of Danforth. He called them "Love Letters", hence the little hearts on some of the letters. According to the artist, the painted letters would last at least a year.

Fast forward to February 2014, we could still see the fading outline of some of his letters. It really saddened me because I had spoken with the artist in 2012 and knew that Victor was dealing with a form of severe arthritis (A.S. or ankalosing spondalitis) which makes every effort painful and for which, much like multiple sclerosis, there's a time limit...
He does it again!
This week, I was dropping boots at my favourite shoe repair shop (FYI: Fine Shoe Sales and Repair at 845 Danforth) when I noticed a large blue letter A on the north side of the sidewalk, painted in Victor's trademark Celtic style! I followed the trail and went through the whole alphabet, up to Woodbine Subway Station. 

His letters are even prettier than before, with the addition of a 3D effect and sparkling paint shining under the sun. (The photo on the left was the letter O as he painted it in 2012 and the one you can see now.)

Social media at the service of street art
This time, the artist got more marketing savvy! He created the hashtag #WhatsVictorUpTo (which many people already put to good use on Twitter)... 

Then he created a page on, a user-friendly (and secure) donation platform which allows anyone to create a fundraising campaign. On his page, I found a cool YouTube link to Victor in action.

Let's encourage artists like Victor Fraser to enhance our urban walks! I really think all the Business Improvement Associations (BIAs) should promote this kind of fundraising to support an Alphabet Walk in their neighbourhood and create cool family walks throughout Toronto.  

That's one af the good ways to improve a city's walkability! 
Another cool way it Danny's Urban Fairies, also along Danforth.


I Spy the letter A

When standing by the letter A (just east of Eaton Street), I counted no less than 25 capital letter As! 

Here's your chance to take the kids on a fun I-Spy game which could make them walk 4 km without even realizing it as you walk your way up and down the alphabet. 

I suggest you stop at some letters (such as the first letter of their name) and ask your kids to spy all the signs bearing that specific letter. When he had the option, the artist chose to match a letter with the first letter of a business name: O by the One and Only café, R by Red Rocket café, S by the restaurant Sauce...

While you're there
Use the excuse of the Alphabet Walk to check out a few places along the Danforth!

Reaching the end of the alphabet is very rewarding! Between the letters Y and Z, you'll find: Carter's Ice Cream (a favourite among the locals at 3 Woodmount, just north of Danforth), across the street, just south of Danforth, you'll find East Lynn Park, the cutest little park nested in a pit, with original playground structure and a lovely wading pool (open until Labour Day Sunday), and the super art supplies store DeSerres (2056 Danforth, just west of Woodbine Subway Station). 

Other points of interest:
Around O: the One and Only Café (972 Danforth), so whimsical outside and so funky inside. 
Around R: the Red Rocket Coffee (1364 Danforth) usually feature fun sidewalk signs (indoor fireplace to warm up the cold days). 
Around T: the hidden little Danforth Bowling (1554 Danforth)
Around U: the Bus Terminal Diner (1606 Danforth) set in the 50s and filled with fun things to look at. 
Around W: on the south side of Danforth, check out the very cool little robots (1847 Danforth). 
Around X: Wheels & Wings Hobbies, a very well stocked reduced model shop (1880 Danforth).