A friend asked me yesterday what she should do when an old friend of hers arrives for a visit from Europe soon. She didn’t want to overschedule, leaving them some time to just hang out near the barbecue. She also wasn’t terribly interested in doing the AGO, the ROM or any of the other well worthy but touristy attractions Toronto offers.
Instead, we started talking about neighbourhoods, and how enjoyable it is just to enter one, park and hit the sidewalk. Food and drink purveyors, shopping, various attractions and markets, all within a few blocks with a distinct personality, depending where you go. I immediately thought of the Beach, maybe Harbourfront. She thought immediately of the Distillery District and the St. Lawrence Market. Perfect.
As she lives in Durham, they also plan to scoot up to the pretty Lake Scugog town of Port Perry for an afternoon, and over the long weekend will head east to Cobourg, where their annual arts and crafts festival will be underway and the beach is lovely.
There are dozens of great little towns dotted across Ontario and within a couple of hours’ drive of the GTA, of course. Its Steinbeck-esque tobacco-country setting makes Tillsonburg a good destination for painters and photographers. Bobcaygeon springs to mind for its waterside lunch spot, great main-drag shoe store, lift locks and Tragically Hip nostalgia.
Remember when we were kids and just “going outside” was an activity in itself? That’s how such outings still feel to me. Just head for an urban destination or an alluring small town and get out of the car (or take a train!). This weekend is supposed to be a scorcher, so you’re going to want to be near the water, and near ice cream.
If you’re more urban-minded, there are lots of equally Canadian pursuits to enjoy, like Gordon Lightfoot’s Massey Hall gig June 29-31 — what could be a more fitting way to celebrate Canada Day than that? Harbourfront has lakeside concerts, Etobicoke’s got Ribfest, and on Sunday, there are celebrations all over town including Mel Lastman Square, Riverdale Park, the Aga Khan Museum and Downsview Park.
Whatever you end up doing with it, be proud of our Canada and find at least a couple of hours to celebrate our good fortune to live here.
But living in Canada ain’t always cheap
Canadian cities are starting to fall in the rankings of “most expensive” lists, instead of making their steady climb towards us all living in boxes. Out of more than 375 worldwide cities ranked, Mercer puts Toronto in the 109th spot, a dead tie with Vancouver, which went down two since their last survey; Toronto went up 10, but Montreal was down 18 to 147 and Calgary down 11 to 154, thanks to stable market conditions according to the organization.
Mercer uses the cost of housing, transportation, food, clothing and other expenses and compares them to New York City as its baseline. Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Singapore and Seoul were the top five.
It’s a fine line to dance, between world-class amenities and infrastructure, great location, sustainable economy and all the other factors that make a city viable and landing yourself on one (or a few) of these lists. It’s certainly not a bad thing to see us fall off a bit. I always get a vicarious thrill when Toronto or Canada is noted on an international scale, but the thrill is definitely wearing off on these “can barely afford to live there” ones.