When Heather Buchan moved with hubbie Michael Blatchford into a compact Leaside home almost three years ago, she thought she had found a perfect little haven in the big city.

The community is close to downtown — only a 15-minute drive on the nearby Bayview Extension or Don Valley Parkway — yet provides the “breathing space” she so cherishes. “The streets here are wide and the houses sit back a bit from the street and aren’t stacked side-by-side like row houses,” she says.

The neighborhood is dotted with tree-lined streets, houses with perfectly groomed lawns, lush parks, ravines, churches, good schools, and block upon block of trendy eateries and quaint shops on the Bayview strip.

One of Heather’s favorite weekend pastimes is hiking, biking or jogging through the ravine or Serena Gundy Park, and then stopping for a brunch of eggs Benedict and a cappuccino at the “cheap and cheerful” Homeway diner.

On a stroll along Bayview, she might stop for a latté at Patisserie La Cigogne, grab a few loaves at Cob’s Bread, pick up farm-raised beef at Cumbrae’s, then browse in Write Impressions — which she discovered when shopping for wedding invitations and where she always finds the perfect card for a friend.

Dining out can be a quandary though: Should it be Amaya for Indian or Satay On The Road for Thai? Both are steps from Hollywood Gelato where Heather happily stands in line for her regular dessert order — a scoop each of raspberry, hazelnut and chocolate.

But Leaside is more than just hot hangouts and house-proud neighbours, Heather insists. “It’s got an amazing sense of community. When I moved in, I thought I was in Pleasantville. No sooner had I unpacked than a woman appeared at my door bearing a gift basket with vouchers from area businesses. I couldn’t believe people still did that.”

Heather is constantly struck by how “family friendly” the area is. Residents organize an annual block party complete with street games for the kids. New moms can meet at a local church.

“Leaside is the kind of neighbourhood that once you move in, you don’t move out; you move up,” enthuses Heather. She, too, plans to eventually upgrade. “I’ve already picked out my dream street — Bessborough Drive. It’s absolutely beautiful and so green. It’s right out of a movie.”