North Kildonan. Affluent, staid … maybe even a bit boring? Not at all.
I started at Edison and Roch, in the heart of North Kildonan, mainly because I needed a few things at Bake Oven (more about this wonderful little place later). I even had a rough idea where I was going, as it is part of the bike route I use frequently. But to prove that the speed of feet changes your experience, I saw a whole new neighbourhood today.
Bake Oven is a small bakery and store, tucked into a residential area, two blocks east of busy Henderson Highway. They carry the most amazing food products from Holland, Germany/Switzerland and to a lesser extent Poland. A slow tour of the shelves will turn up interesting products from other places as well. I’m a fan of their authentic Dutch salted licorice, and am fascinated by the wall of candies that are almost familiar to these North American eyes, but not quite. Graham and Ashley (shown here) help with baking the products for the store, and I can attest to their high level of customer service. Add the charming cafe with great fresh food, and this is definitely a place to seek out.
I headed north on Roch, attracted by what looked like a bike path. It was really a street ending into a lane, but there was a short section blocked to traffic. When I came out the other side, I was really surprised to see that I was on Springfield, a busy street I have always thought of as much further north. Not only did I miss the proximity, I had the wrong idea completely.
This area changes as fast as you can walk. At times, within my view, I could see brand-new condos, small, neat-as-a-pin houses on large, mature lots, apartment buildings, older condo complexes and public housing. Around the corner were still-modest sized houses, but looking no more than 20 years old. I really did not know what each block was going to bring.
I ran into a young couple, Shara Lee and Graham, and their baby. We talked for a while about the area, and they liked that there was a real mix of people, some crime, but also a solid sense of community. In short, they confirmed what I was feeling as I walked. This is my favourite type of neighborhood.
There is no shortage of amenities. I passed three schools, a community centre with an arena (I took skating lessons there), tennis courts, two established playgrounds, one with a huge splash pad, and a brand new one under construction. I had to smile at Graduate Path, the street leading right to River East Collegiate.
Nearby Henderson Highway is obviously a major shopping area for residents, especially with the shiny new Safeway development at Chief Peguis Trail, just a few blocks from where I was. But there is also a surprising number of convenience stores and even a small mall right in the residential area. The mall even has a used book store.
I have biked through these same areas many times, but I did not really see the neighborhood. I would have said the houses were bigger, the buildings much less diverse, and probably even thought it was a bit on the boring side. As usual, a quick trip through any area does not pick up the details, the quirks or the personality.