This is my third new city in the space of a about a month — though this isn’t a work trip, this is a real holiday. The first “real” holiday in a while, since I don’t count the Arctic Adventure as a holiday — adventure, yes, and an experience I’d gladly have more of in my life, but it was a year of hard work, training, fundraising and — at times — worry.
But back to Toronto.
Toronto stirs up those familiar feelings of wanderlust, that feeling you get when you visit a new city and you think “Yes. I could live here. I could love this city”.
Munich was fine, but I didn’t feel like I could make it a home. Dublin was grand, Barcelona definitely makes the list, and there are many more places, too — places that remind me that life is too short and the world too small to stay in London forever. Toronto joins the list.
We’ve only been here two full days (and sadly leave the city already tomorrow) and yesterday was spent dodging torrential rain showers, but as I say, it feels familiar.
My first impressions of Melbourne when I visited a few years ago were that it reminded me of a mix of New York and Manchester (among other places) and Toronto reminds me of Australian cities like Perth and Melbourne, as well as some US cities, but always with its own unique charm. Toronto feels like being introduced to a mutual friend, and seeing immediately why you have friends in common.
After Munich, it feels funny to be in a city where I speak the language — and I could probably even understand most of the French, if it came to that — although I am self conscious about my accent, just like I used to be when I lived in Utah. In a restaurant yesterday I had a dilemma ordering: I thought about ordering my second-choice, because my first would have involved having to tell the waitress “no tomato” and I didn’t want to have to say the word “to-mah-to”.
The city feels like it is proud to be Canadian — maybe I am just noticing these things because I’m seeing the city with fresh eyes, but I see the Maple Leaf flying almost everywhere I look. Is it the same in London with the Union flag or the St George Cross? I don’t think it is. At the Royal Ontario Museum yesterday, I read about the war of 1812, and learned how the US war hawks at the time thought invading Canada would be a pushover — and were very wrong. I get the feeling here that the Canadian identity is all the stronger for having such an influential neighbour to the south.
Toronto seems to be a city of dog-lovers (never have I seen a city with so many dogs, I swear), of skateboards (insert here, if I had one, a picture of all the people I saw yesterday skatebording while wearing white shirts and ties), and a city of coffee-drinkers. Maybe that’s just the North American continent, but I’m sure that you don’t see so many people with coffees in London.
Unlike London, Toronto just doesn’t feel so crowded — crowded with buildings or with people. Although London only ranks #21 on the list of most populous cities in the world, it is way above any other European city, and Toronto by comparison comes in at #101.
Our next stop is the Niagara Falls area, let’s see how the adventure continues.
(more pictures from Toronto can be seen here)