The Centres

Shoppers Drug Mart sells sweet ass - Hudson's Bay Centre

handbag boutique - Hudson's Bay Centre

Alex Farm Products Delicatessen - Manulife Centre

Converse display - Holt Renfrew - Holt Renfrew Centre

Zara display - Holt Renfrew Centre

(I wouldn't be caught dead in this)


Manulife Centre - LCBO (left) & Indigo (right)

LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) - Manulife Centre

Indigo Books & Music - Manulife Centre - Bay St. entrance

Indigo - Canada's largest book retail chain


teuscher - located in William Ashley China

William Ashley China - Manulife Centre - Bloor St. entrance

William Ashley China - North America's largest tableware & gift specialty shop

view from Panorama - Manulife Centre, 51st floor

From Wikipedia:
Hudson's Bay Centre is an international style office skyscraper in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Completed in 1974, it stands at 35 floors at 135 m in height. The former Bay flagship store still anchors the site.
Along with The Bay department store, the complex includes the Marriott Hotel, RBC Royal Bank, apartments, condominiums, and an extensive retail concourse with over 45 specialty shops, boutiques, services and eateries. The building is connected to the Bloor-Yonge subway station, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission)'s major east-west transfer point.
The centre has 1,200 spots for cars in its underground and aboveground parking. The building has multiple entrances located on Yonge, Bloor Streets, Park Road and Asquith Avenue. It is surrounded by several parks and the Bloor-Yorkville neighborhood, known for its shopping.

I'd like to add to that description by saying be careful as you make your way through the Hudson's Bay Centre's concourse during rush hours: zone out for a second & you'll get crushed by a mob of commuters. You learn quickly that no one cares about you when trying to get from points A to Z. Numerous times I've bumped into people with a hearty "Sorry!", so by now I've become more adept at traversing the busy thoroughfare: the key is to be quick, serious & confident while circumventing dawdlers & toddlers. And take note: with its narrow, windowless hallways, this place isn't for the claustrophobic.

The food court in HB Centre leaves much to be desired in both meal selection & decor. Some sketchy types like to hang out there so I always bypass the place on my way upstairs to my condo. I've overheard one guy say to his friend "This place smells like ass!" Yes, ventilation is not a strong point around the court, so hold your breath. Booster Juice was supposed to set up shop here & all summer long I eagerly awaited fresh smoothies but to no avail. I think they're weighing their options - not the best location for a quality establishment, imo.

I love the bag boutique (see pic above) which will remain nameless until I can bother looking for its sign. Their selection rotates frequently & prices can be reasonable on select items. The other day I bought a bright red fake-patent leather-looking handbag for $35 & I can't wait to wear it: it's just the thing to brighten up a sombre winter outfit.

MAC Cosmetics has a counter in HB Centre & another one upstairs in The Bay department store. I get my concealer & brushes from them & I like the company's sleek, black packaging. Their service is usually helpful although if they're busy, you can sometimes stand around waiting awhile feeling rather foolish.

Rafters gift & decor store (mentioned in my previous post) is across the hall from the bag store. Very nice people work there & I always feel welcome.

Ardene is down the hall & good for cheap, funky jewelry, hairbands, socks etc.

The Source by Circuit City sold me my obnoxiously loud alarm clock & my phone's memory card so I can upload these award-winning pics. The guys are nice enough considering I'm usually the only female in the store & I keep pestering them with questions.

Laura Secord tempts me with their ice cream counter everytime I walk by. I used to get a single scoop Maple Nut in a sugar cone (delish!) but I've cut sugar from my diet - hardest thing ever! I miss ice cream a lot as I wait in vain for a quality brand made with stevia & no dairy (sigh).
(Updated Oct.3-2008: I've since found out that I'm gluten intolerant so I can probably have the ice cream but not the cone. Still sighing.)

Steps away form Laura Secord is Tea Market which, the proprieter tells me, migrated from another retail complex upstairs (I've been to this complex once & it's sunny but a little off my beaten path). He's a nice man who's introduced me to lovely Le Marche (rooibos + cinnamon) & Provence (rooibos + lavender) teas. Next, I want to try the lemon flavour for a pick-me-up in the morning.

Now on to The Holt Renfrew Centre. American Apparel has a store here. And here's my note to AA staff : it's a job, not a club. A pleasant smile & a "Hi, may I help you with anything?" is not asking for too much & yet you fail at it time & again. Do you want repeat business? Well then, get it right. Remember, you get what you give, which means if you're nice to me, I'll be nice to you & keep coming back for leggings (they got a hole the 2nd time I wore them), leotards (the only tops that give me a smooth fit under a tight, highwaisted skirt but also vpl from hell), & house clothes (comfortable stuff I wouldn't be caught dead in on the streets).

HMV (=His Master's Voice - I didn't know that!) is across from AA. They just renovated & while it looks ok (not that much different from the original design, imo), I don't know if it's going to increase sales. Does anyone under 30 buy CDs? I haven't bought one in God knows how long & these days, I only stop in for the latest Will & Grace DVDs. (Note to self: get seasons 7 & 8 stat!)

I've been to Zara a few times & never found anything I like so I've no idea what they're selling for fall, although judging from the white shearling on the mannequin, I'd say Halloween sheep costumes? I'm sure the designer had a 6 foot tall, thin-as-a-rail model type in mind when he or she concocted it. Even still, it'd look truly ridiculous on anyone walking down our city streets.

Costa Blanca opened up not too long ago. Their clothes are cheap price-wise & cheaply-made, as in threads still unknotted & they don't fit well to the body, but occasionally I find something I need that's got a little style to it. Hey, when you're on a budget you can't afford to be picky.

Holt Renfrew is Toronto's equivalent to New York City's Saks Fifth Avenue. They're expensive. The only time I've been in there was to buy foundation makeup that I never use because it doesn't match my skintone. FYI: makeup counter lighting is flattering but in no way does it give you an accurate reading of your complexion, especially if it gradates from dark to light & back again like mine does.
If you're ever in the neighborhood during Boxing Week sales, you'll see people milling around toting hot pink shopping bags with a large white H on them, a telltale sign they got some goodies from Holt's.

Personal Edge in the Holt Renfrew Centre sells electric shavers, irons & other small appliances. I bought a rechargeable Philips Ladyshave 2 weeks ago & it's dead already! They'll repair it for free but I think I'll exchange it because there's no excuse for that.

Further down the hall is The Gap Body for my cotton panty & sleepwear needs; upstairs is The Gap at 60 Bloor West. I don't shop for clothes there because I find their selection a bit too conservative for my taste. None of this section of the concourse is part of The Holt Renfrew Centre so let's backtrack & make our way to the Manulife Centre.

As you round the corner into the Manulife Centre, brace yourself: you'll be knocked back 10 feet by an odour so pungent it can only be described as "liquid fart". Here, you'll find the pretty but offensively aromatic Alex Farm Delicatessen. Let's see, you want to open a business in a poorly-ventilated underground concourse & sell stinky cheese? Brilliant! "Who cut the cheese?" will be your motto!

Jacob sells conservative - but not frumpy - women's business & casualwear. The prices are great & the quality of the clothes I've bought here? Superlative. The stitching on 2 raincoats (one trench, the other A-line) was what it should be: intact & discreetly knotted. No hanging threads, holes in the armpits or stuck zippers. H&M, American Apparel, Costa Blanca & the ilk: please take your cue from Jacob - they do it right & they're affordable! I've since given away the coats because I'm into jackets now but the point is their businesswear line is usually of a higher standard than is to be expected for the price & what they lack in pizzazz they make up for in quality. Use accessories to dress 'em up & you're good to go from day to evening.

My pics above show one of two underground LCBO stores - the other one is in the Hudson's Bay Centre. I don't drink alcohol because I'm allergic to it, so the only time I stop by the LCBO is to pick up beer to stock my fridge for any guests who happen to stop by, as any good host should.
Here are some fun facts courtesy of Wikipedia:
LCBO stores are generally the only stores allowed to sell hard liquor in Ontario. Currently, the LCBO is one of the world's largest single purchasers of beverage alcohol products. Beer is also sold by Brewers Retail Inc., which goes by the name The Beer Store. Wine can also be found in a number of stores operated by wineries and licensed to sell their own brands, however the LCBO is by far the largest wine retailer in the province.
Licensed bars and restaurants may resell alcoholic beverages, but they must be consumed on the establishment's premises. The bars and restaurants themselves must buy their products from the LCBO, The Beer Store, or directly from Ontario wineries and breweries.

Indigo Books & Music is housed in a large, airy space that could become your second home if you hung around long enough. I, personally, would camp out in the decor & art book section if I could afford all those big, beautiful coffeetable books. Otherwise, what's the point perusing selections you can't have? That'd be like smelling coffee you can't drink or bacon you can't eat - torture!

Next stop on the missdelite tour of the Bloor St. centres that lie between Yonge St. & Bay St., is William Ashley China. Not much I can say about it at this point as I've never had reason to go inside (they're out of my price range & if I break something I'll have to sell a kidney) but from the outside it's bright, colourful & sparkles like a Christmas ornament. Their large street windows always attract my attention & just last week, people gathered around to watch Olympic events broadcasted on a big screen TV they had on display, & when I say people, I mean mostly men who looked like they'd rather roll around in hot tar than enter William Ashley for anything. I talk in stereotypes, of course. Who knows, maybe one of those construction worker-looking type of guys hit up WA for an Alessi knife rack? Mr. Stabby makes one helluva conversation piece!

Finally, I'll mention Panorama, a resto-lounge on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre. It has "the city's highest licensed patio", which in warm weather, is quite pleasant for a romantic dinner. After 10pm, the indoor lounge area gets busy & loud with young people, some of whom are from the chic 44 Charles St. condos occupying the floors below.
I like the decor: it's clean, simple & modern in black, white, grey & chrome. The service is attentive without being overbearing & the roasted chicken I had (few months back when I still ate animal products) was divine.
(Updated Oct.3-2008: I can eat chicken again - yay!)

So there you have it. My take on the "underground scene" (get it?) in my neighbourhood. It's warm & convenient in the winter, a mad dash during rush hours, & stinky at various junctures.
Only thing I've left to say is that I'm grateful I don't have to work underground all day because goshdarnit, you need the sun!