By Norma Meneguzzi Spall,

The Beaches, as it is known, is a neighbourhood located along Queen Street east of Woodbine Avenue. It provides a small California-style vignette for discriminating residents, shoppers, jazz afficionados and mothers with kids and dogs.

This well-kept secret is casually trendy, with the one of the hottest international jazz festivals in the country. It’s also the perfect place to spend a lazy day of shopping, eating out and gazing over Lake Ontario.

You can start your day with a wonderful café latté; but it’s breakfast my out-of-town friend and I want so we head for Whitlock’s (1961 Queen St. E. – 416-691-8784), just east of Woodbine. Voted “Best Brunch in the Beach”, Whitlock’s is housed in a designated historical building — the perfect place to begin a tour of the Beach and to people-watch. Roller-bladers, skate-boarders, runners, dog-walkers, and moms with kids in jogging strollers are a steady feast for the eyes.

We cross the street and backtrack our steps westward to visit The Tea Leaf (1918A Queen Street E. – 416-698-0040), an elegant, Japanese-style tea shop with a global collection of exotic teas and paraphernalia. One wall is lined with containers filled with more than 50 loose teas such as Japanese Sencha, Lung Ching Dragon Well from China and Organic Rooibois Chai from South Africa. Catherine Lashko, proprietor of “The Tea Leaf,” is a well-known Sommelier and former Food and Beverage director of the Windsor Arms Hotel. Green teas, black teas and herbal tea — it’s all here. Plus you can choose your teapot from traditional English Sadlers, to exotic Samovars, historic Chinese Yixing clay pots, to exquisite Japanese cast iron tetsubins. Beautifully packaged, our tea purchases come with the perfect brewing instructions.

Mourguet Jewellery is right next door and a peek in the window shows a stylish collection of handcrafted silver jewellery with a modern touch. Further east we come across Jewel’s (1936 Queen St. E.), a favourite with the young set, with its cornucopia of great fashion at impossible-to-pass-up prices. Back on the south side, we visit Hanson House (1967 Queen S. E. – 416-699-5125) and fall in love with their luxurious monogrammed antique cream coloured towels. There are pillows and bathrobes to match along with elegant designer home accessories and gifts, all with must-buy appeal.

A relatively new addition to the Beach Isidingo (1965 Queen St. E.) has one-of-a-kind, boldly-designed South African art and artifacts. The limited edition Limpopo Ceramics are highly coloured, contemporary and go beyond the confines of traditional African pottery. Couldn’t resist one of the decorative bowls and made special note of fine artist Sandy Diogo, whose mixed media work is intricately mesmerizing.

A quick lunch at Karas Restaurant (2024 Queen St. E. – 416-699-6314) gives us more people-watching time and then it’s off to one of the most charming gardening stores in the city. Family-owned Gardenscape (2012 Queen St. E. – 416-698-5339) has a wide-assortment of fine quality gardening tools and accessories for the discriminating gardener of any age.

It’s time for a mid-afternoon treat and we head for Ed’s Real Scoop (2224 Queen St. E. – 416-699-6100) where the creamy, made-on-the-premises ice cream is absolutely sinful. Walking eastward again and enjoying our crème-brulé cones (definitely the best), we stop to admire the one-of-a-kind, whimsical and witty arts and crafts at Arts-On-Queen (2198 Queen St. E. – 416-699-6127) which also has an excellent selection of hand-made jewellery. Then it’s down to the Boardwalk for a stroll and to take in the glorious view of sailboats dotting the lake.

We wrap up a glorious afternoon at the @2066 Lounge (2066 Queen St. E.- 416-698-2006) for a glass of wine and to hear Beach blues singer Johnny Wright, a long-time favourite among locals. Tough way to spend a day, eh?