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6 min

Sexational intersections

Funky destinations for the urban explorer

DON'T CUT CORNERS. From window-shopping to people watching, Toronto has so much to offer. Credit: (Steve Yeates)

Nothing cancompare to the glitzy silliness and throbbing sexiness of Church and Wellesley – especially on a sunny day or warm evening in June. But if the crowds over Pride get to be too much for you or if you have time to explore beyond the village, here are a few key intersections where you’ll find cool places to quaff a beverage and great shopping, both real and imagined.

College & Clinton
The heart of trendy Little Italy features a half-dozen wonderful restaurants, spanning the full price range, from cheap and satisfying fried bread and cheese at the Café Diplomatico (594 College St; 534-4637) to pricey pasta done to perfection at Giancarlo Trattoria (41 Clinton Ave; 533-9619). Each restaurant here has a great patio, all looking on to each other; superlative people watching.

Steps away are unusual shopping treats. Dragon Lady Comics (609 College St; 536-7460) has thousands of back issues of old mags – you never know when you might need an old copy of Canadian Homes And Gardens or a Life magazine with Sammy Davis Jr on the cover. Soundscapes (572 College St; 537-1620) is one of the best indie CD stores going. The clerks exhibit that rare combination: They’re too-cool-for school yet easy to approach for help. The Royal repertory cinema (608 College St; 516-4845) shows great films that often draw a sexy clientele. Something a little different? For you lovers of Italian, Master Video (604 College St; 534-6121) always has someone behind the counter worth staring at. The gay Latin dance club El Convento Rico is just a few blocks west; queer hangouts like Ciao Edie and Andy Poolhall are a few blocks east.

Yonge & Summerhill
Antiques and gorgeous window displays are yours to enjoy with a leisurely stroll – all downhill. Nearly all the side streets along the way offer huge old homes to gawk at. Get out of the subway at Summerhill, head north for a half a block and cross over to the west side of the street. This is important – stay on that side. Begin your saunter at the perfectly perfect furniture store l’Atelier (1224 Yonge St; 966-0200), head south under the train tracks to gaze upon the only church worth worshipping at – the temple of booze. You’re not going to find a more impressive liquor store than the one housed in the old 1916 CPR station. You can stop here, at the Rosedale Diner (1164 Yonge St; 923-3122) because the walk does get a bit spottier further on. If you keep going to the Rosedale subway stop you get a nice high-end window flourish with Bel Epoch (1066 Yonge St; 925-0066), Paul Hahn And Co (1058 Yonge St; 922-3122) and Farrow And Ball (1054 Yonge St; 920-0200) – antiques, pianos, wallpaper. For you intrepid walkers, continue on to be rewarded with Ridpath’s antiques (906 Yonge St; 920-4441) and the cruisiest Canadian Tire in the country (839 Yonge St; 925-9595). And you’re back downtown.

Avenue Rd & Bloor St W
Catch Daniel Liebeskind’s wild addition to the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park; 586-5549) while under construction – if they can’t find or afford superior cladding, this might be the structure’s best look.

Those of you with titanium credit cards don’t need us to tell you about the shopping joys to be had in Yorkville, the rabbit warren of high-end fashion and precious cafés running between Avenue Rd and Bay St along Bloor, Cumberland and Yorkville. For the rest of you, put on your best shoes and bored expression and walk like you own the world into Tiffany (85 Bloor St W; 921-3900) or Prada (131 Bloor St W; 513-0400). Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor St W; 922-2333) is less intimidating to enter but still brimming with price tags so big your face will be pulled back into a permanent smile – perfect camouflage to check out the tony department store’s stylish little café on the second floor.

Clear your head in Cumberland Park (Cumberland and Bellair). The park’s lump of Canadian Shield is a great perch from which to watch the endless parade of the rich and wannabes. Or head over to the Park Hyatt Roof Lounge (4 Avenue Rd; 925-1234) for a fancy cocktail in the sky. Cheap options: Flo’s Diner (70 Yorkville Ave, upper level; 961-4333) and the Pilot Lounge and its great rooftop patio (22 Cumberland St; 923-5716).

Queen St E & Pape
Lots of cool hangouts, funky secondhand furniture, quirky antiques and cute windows line the high street of this up-and-coming and increasingly homofied neighbourhood. So many dykes have moved into Leslieville, that some people are calling the area Betty Town (we have no idea why). Barrio Lounge (896 Queen St E; 572-0600) is cool but unprententious, with great tapas. Kubo Radio (894 Queen St E; 406-5826) is full of cute hipsters. Tiny Verveine (1097 Queen St E; 405-9906) is great; patio in back.

It’s all mid-20th-century modern down here and exquisite, eclectic tastes: Zig Zag Collectibles (1142 Queen St E; 778-6495) and Ethel’s (1091 Queen St E; 778-6608) are highlights. For vintage clothing, a little further east is Gadabout (1300 Queen St E; 463-1254).

Front & Jarvis
St Lawrence Market (92 Front St W; 392-7219) is cherished by locals. The huge food market is housed in an 1803 warehouse and runs from 8am to 6pm Tuesday to Thursday, 8am to 7pm on Friday and 5am to 5pm on Saturday – the busiest day. What is it with food-sellers, here? Every time I go, I feel like Alec d’Urberville lusting after some smooth-skinned milkmaid-boy. Across the street is the weekly Sunday antique market. Bijoux, paper, clothing, housewares… you name it, some queen is either selling it or buying it. On Saturdays, the place is a bustling farmers market.

Go north along the pedestrian walkway on west side of the antique market and you’ll hit Biagio (155 King St E; 366-4040), a swank patio tucked away behind the historic St Lawrence Hall. Or keep going across pretty St James Cathedral Park to Laide (138 Adelaide St E; 850-2726) for smart cocktails, nibbles and porno-graphy on the walls.

Two short blocks away to the east, at King and Frederick, is where gay founding father Alexander Wood’s home and dry goods store used to stand. Now that strip is all high-end furniture and design shops. If you are looking for a modern-day scandal, just west of St James Cathedral Park, at 10 Toronto St, is the city’s seventh post office, now corporate head office of Hollinger and former haunt of Lord Black Of Sticky Fingers.

Bay & King
Nestled among the ivory towers of Bay St, specifically the sleek blackness of Mies van der Rohe’s modernist TD Centre, is a stockbroker and banker corral otherwise known as Bymark (66 Wellington Ave W; 777-1144). Stuffed shirts can’t despoil this most glamorous patio location. Lots of public art and great buildings to check out down here. Nearby is the Design Exchange (234 Bay St; 363-6121), currently hosting a free Digifest exhibition on digital design; the DX Annual Spring Design Sale is Sat, Jun 18.

Queen St W & Clinton
Sex shops, sweet confections and art toys make for a lovely afternoon. Come As Your Are (701 Queen St W; 504-7934) has helpful staff and a great selection and MissBehav’N (650 Queen St W; 866-7979) has ever-cheerful panty dancers in the window. Wave! For those of you who want to fatten up before Pride (we know you’re out there) there’s handmade chocolates at JS Bon Bons (811 Queen St W; 703-7731) or tarts, croissants and more at Clafouti Patisserie (915 Queen St W; 603-1935). You can eat in, or head into Trinity Bellwoods Park for an impromptu picnic. There’s lots of great shopping on this strip but a quirky choice is Magic Pony (785 Queen St W, second floor; 861-1684) with all things plastic and silk-screened from a crazy selection of international artists.

Queen St W & Dovercourt
This little strip of indie art galleries is host to a slew of exhibitions for Pride: Edward Day (952 Queen St W; 921-6540), Zsa Zsa (962 Queen St W; 537-3814), Paul Petro (980 Queen St W; 979-7874), MOCCA (952 Queen St W; 395-0067), Katharine Mulherin (1080 and 1086 Queen St W; 537-8827), SPIN (1100 Queen St W, second floor; 530-7656) and the newbie Akau Inc (1185 Queen St W; 504-5999). Darling new eateries are opening up all the time, so you can take the gallery going nice and easy. Check out the delightful little gift shop Studio Brilliantine (1082 Queen St W; 536-6251) and a few blocks west are the two duelling boutique hotels. The Gladstone (1214 Queen St W; 531-4635) has lots of queer events, like a regular gay night every Wednesday, and down-home easy karaoke on Friday nights. Artist designed rooms start previewing on Fri, Jun 17. The Drake (1150 Queen St W; 531-5042) can get all cell-phone blowhard some nights, but check out the second floor Sky Yard on a lazy afternoon.