The Bata Shoe Museum is one of Toronto's newer museums and close to St
George Subway Station.
The museum, designed by Raymond Moriyama won a City of Toronto Urban
Design Award in 1995.
If you stand on the opposite side of the road you can see that
Moriyama's futuristic five-story structure resembles a lidded shoebox
and looks more like a large sculpture than a building.
If you're interested in shoes and fashion history then this is the place
to visit. The museum is reputed to house one of the largest collections
of shoes and shoe-related objects spanning some 4,500 years of history,
including the personal collection of the Bata family, numbering some
Several interactive displays explore the history of shoe and boot
making, including a comprehensive feature on the role of shoes in
weddings, funerals and religious ceremonies, from virtually every
culture in the world. In addition you can see a plaster cast of the
first human footprints discovered in Africa, believed to date back to 4
million BC. You can also see Chinese silk shoes for binding feet, moon
boots, 14th century medieval footwear retrieved from Britain and
Holland, as well as an in depth examination of 19th century women's
Exhibits are enhanced by prints, paintings, sculptures and lithographs,
and pottery items such as leg-shaped perfume containers from Greece, and
bronze lamps resembling sandal-clad feet from the Roman era.
Shoes belonging to the rich and famous enjoy a very special pride of
place. On display are Queen
Victoria's satin shoes with matching gloves and silk stockings, John
Lennon's Beatle boot, Elvis Presley's blue and white patent leather
loafers, to name but a few.
Native American footwear is particularly well represented with examples
gathered from Lapland, the Northwest Territories, Siberia, Greenland,
Alaska and Labrador.
Once you have fully explored the museum take some time out to explore
Chinatown is one of many districts of Toronto that make it such a
vibrant city. This fascinating area, where the street signs are printed
in a Chinese dialect, stretches westwards along Dundas Street from Bay
Street to Spadina Avenue, as well as north and south along Spadina
Stores sell exotic Chinese preserves like lemon ginger, cuttlefish,
ginseng, and whole mango. Every other shop seems to be either a
restaurant or a shop selling fruits and vegetables. There are also shops
specializing in Asian tapes, records, and books, fashion shops selling
oriental clothing, and plenty of unusual ethnic gift shops.
A colorful area of Chinatown to visit is Kensington Market. The market
is hidden away in a maze of little streets just west of Chinatown with
College Street to the north and Dundas Street to the south. Looking at
the various stalls made me feel very hungry.
The original market dates back to the 1790s when the British settled in
Toronto, or York, as it was called then. Some of the street names, Wales
Avenue, Oxford Street, are reminders of the early British occupancy in
the area. Since then the area has been the focal point for many
different cultures. In the early 1900s 80 percent of Toronto's Jewish
community lived here and there may have been as many as 25 or 30
synagogues in the area.
By the 1950s the area had become increasingly ethnically diverse mainly
due to immigration following World War II. This small and crowded
open-air bazaar now reflects over 30 different cultural backgrounds.
The streets in this neighborhood are lined with small but brightly
painted brick and timber houses that have survived since the beginning
of the twentieth century. Perhaps it was the abundance of affordable
housing that attracted immigrants to the area.
The market splits into two halves. The lower half sells mainly adults'
and children's clothing. Stalls and shops sell some new but mostly
second-hand, or should I say, "vintage" clothing. In addition,
factory outlets offer leather goods and at least one furniture shop
sells, mostly, second-hand furniture.
In the upper half of the market shops and stalls have colorful displays
of fresh produce, exotic fruits and vegetables, spices, nuts and pulses.
One shop sells nothing but cheese of every kind from all over the world.
With all this food on display it was not long before I went in search of
a restaurant. Chinatown
offers such a culturally diverse selection of food outlets that it would
be impossible for any visitor to go hungry.
Bata Shoe Museum
Bloor Street West
Subway: St. George
Hours: 10am – 5pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday.
10am – 8pm, Thursday, noon – 5pm, Sunday Closed Mondays and
Admission: (as at December 2000)
$6 for adults, $4 for students and senior citizens, $2 for
children, $12 for families (2 adults, 2 children)
The first Tuesday of every month is free.