My heart must be replenish-able because I seem to leave them in too many cities and somehow I still feel one beating inside. Toronto is my latest city crush. It’s one of the more eclectic, bustling, diverse and chic metropolises I’ve been to. It’s got a New York veneer to it but scratch the surface a tad and you know it instantly; it’s far more welcoming, laidback and cheery. And it knows how to play that elongated seduction dance with its old world charm.
What is it that makes a city vibrant and memorable, I often wonder. Toronto boasts of French, British, Irish, Portuguese and other influences given its war heavy history so diversity is deeply rooted around here. Its little surprising then that you see these cultures interspersed and manifest through architecture, food and languages. At the end I remember it as a melee of voices and opinions, angles of face, twists of mouth, vagaries of accent, of a single behemoth with a myriad tongues. A blur, still distinct in its own right.
The downtown is resplendent, filled with beautiful buildings, both colonial from the yesteryears and the modern ones. There’s no pattern there. The old and the new sort of just get along. No surprises then that when Toronto Star, a paper known for hard-hitting journalism per a local fellow, did a survey on the ugliest building in Toronto downtown, it turned out to be the building of Toronto Star. That’s a valuable lesson; be careful what you set out to discover.
Not many can claim of being unaffected by aesthetics. And boy this town knows how to make a grand first impression. Going bold rarely fails and bold it does with color. It’s a bit of a challenge to find two adjacent shops/homes/buildings painted in the same hue. Believe me; I looked before I gave up.
You know the city has a colonial hangover when busy, prominent streets have names like King St. and Queen St. Queen Street by the way is flanked by flamboyant boutiques and people in trendy attire strutting through it ceaselessly. Vogue magazine called it the second most fashionable street in the world I was told. I am yet to look up which street aced that noteworthy contest.
If there’s anything that can top diversity and aesthetics it’s attitude. For if everyone looked at the world with the same lens, it’d make for one dreary realm. Summer ain’t called summer here; they call it The Patio Season. That’s one way to romanticize it I’d say. And patios are aplenty, decked up with cheerful blooms everywhere you look. So sought after are these settings that the city has even set up colorful wooden lounge chairs on certain streets, little happy places if you will, where you can chill and feel blessed with a book or a drink or whatever rocks your boat.
I gathered the city is on the brink of an organic (and raw pressed juice) revolution, something that’s very reminiscent of San Francisco. And when that happens, can hippies be behind? When you have all that organic goodness running through your bloodstream, your veins need a hint of melody to jam to. In a day and a half, I caught bits of 3 concerts and a jazz fest. The concerts were all around office buildings or in parks or at public squares, playing tracks from Imagine Dragon to folk songs of Native American tribes, covering all sides of the spectrum.
If you’re anything like me you probably get startled when the duplicate is just as good or better than the original. Toronto is so versatile that Wall Street, the movie about Wall Street, was filmed in Toronto downtown and so was Chicago, that movie about Chicago. For that matter my favorite show Suits gets filmed here as well. They say if they’ve stolen your essence they’ll robbed you off everything. Oh well.
Anywhere you turn in downtown be prepared to run into an art installation. You’ll also run into hot dog stalls that sell everything from halal to veggie dogs, ice cream trucks and a super chic bicycle with a pink-striped box with pretty girls who ride it and sell confectionary goodness. Speaking of food, Toronto mirrors NYC in food options. Countless options, everything just as good. I had to end my last meal on a local note—poutine. Poutine is French fries topped with brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. It definitely set off a few happy hormones running amok through my body.
It’s a pity then that I had all of two days here, large parts of which were spent working. But it’s helped me define what I’m partial to and savor the flavor. They say traveling is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown; it’s pretty much the only reason I do it.