Toronto Retrospective

I heard that the “east” has been having a hard time of it since the economic downturn of 2008. I don’t see any sign of hard times in Toronto. The city looks like it is booming. There are dozens of new high-rises being built, the streets are crowded and in Eaton’s Centre, there are few people that are not carrying shopping bags.

The attendance at the numerous festival happenings about town is impressive.  The concert we attend is sold out at a cost of around $100/ticket. The buskerfest is elbow to elbow as we walk down Front Street. There are also numerous free events whose attendance did not necessarily indicate an economic boom, but most surely showed the local lust for life.

As I prepared to travel to Canada’s second largest city, I had read and heard several generalizations about it and its people. For some reason, there is a perception that Torontonians believe their town is the centre of the universe. After our stay, I do not think that perception holds true. The citizens we encounter are truly proud of their city and willing to help us get to where we are headed, but they seem to have their feet firmly on the ground.

Toronto is also portrayed as a world class city. I guess it is by size and amenities, but the general populace has remained extremely polite and low-key. Typically Canadian, I suppose. In the long run, I found Toronto to be very similar to my home city of Edmonton, only with 200% more people. The drivers stop and wait for pedestrians and the pedestrians stop and wait for walk lights. There aren’t many cities in the world where this happens.

Other personality traits of Torontonians that hold them different and probably more Canadian than other big metro areas of the world are the casual dress of most of the people on the street. The only “suits” visible to us were near the court house. The slow pace of the city is also noticeable. Debbie and I walk at a reasonable pace but in megacities around the world there are always folks that rush by us.  Not here. People moved along the sidewalk with intent but did not carry a head of steam. Riding the escalators in most of the world’s big cities you stand on the right and walk on the left, yet in Toronto, the folks stand on both sides as they do in Edmonton.

The big city of TO shines when it comes to the harmony in the life of all the different cultures that make up the mosiac of Canada.

The lack of auto use at least in Toronto proper is truly impressive. People walk, they don’t seem to think anything of walking blocks to their destination. Not so in Edmonton where the auto is supreme and people jump into the car to go 2 blocks for a litre of milk.

And bikes. There are 1000’s of bikes on the road every day. The riders are not particularly talented riders but the bikes and cars ebb and flow along the road in a co existence, it is not  that way at home where there are a good number of drivers that would just as soon steer riders and their bikes into the ditch. The car traffic is not fast so the bike riders seem to move somewhat seamlessly in the traffic.

Commuting to work on a bike is a normal situation. The ample number of bike stalls located outside each office building are maxed out with workers’ bikes during the day and eerily empty at night.

Bike rack made of a large bike chain spelling Kengsington

Bike rack made of a large bike chain spelling Kensington

A not so nice big city trait that Toronto has acquired is high bicycle theft. A bike store owner told us that of 6 bikes he sold on Wednesday, 2 of them were to folks that had their bikes unceremoniously removed from their possession.

I really enjoyed our short foray to one of Canada’s outstanding cities. I am forever learning that the generalized impressions of places and their people are not remotely close to reality. The most prominent characteristic of Toronto is that it is Canadian. The people are casual, easy going, friendly and polite. All of which combine to make Toronto one of Canada’s world class metropolises.

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