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I am back in Toronto for the first time in three years. It's comfortable, an old friend who has barely changed. There are more condos here and there, but it's still a comfortable, sprawling metropolis with a fairly compact downtown core, highly walkable, with public transit which seems decadently uncrowded at rush hour compared to London. It has a bit of scruffiness, a whole different sense of style, more pragmatic, and a more accessible art scene infused into the landscape. The skies are so much bluer here, especially in these last few days of autumn chill. They cool down the city rapidly once the sun has set to sub-freezing temperatures.

But little things do change. My favorite chocolate shop, J.S. Bonbons closed down two years ago. They had the best hot chocolate I have ever had - it was made with their truffle ganache. It was so good, I would take visitors there on hot summer days for it. Victoria College now has ramps and outdoor shelters; I knew my department's common room had been renovated, decades of dust and detritus cleared away with new carpeting.

I have forgotten how to cope with so much ambient friendliness. The streetcar drive who meant her 'thank you' when I showed her my transit pass; she complained about the kids who had thrown maple syrup on her car, wryly, without swearing. The waiter who paused for a real answer to his initially 'how are you?' greeting. The cheery smiles on the faces of the hotel staff; it's part of the culture of human interaction, unforced. I used to take this gentle, non-aggressive friendliness for granted. (I never took the obnoxious forced, in-your-face friendliness of some American restaurants for granted because it's wearing. I don't want to be that excited about ordering generic-brand condiments at a chain store, and I don't need anyone else to be either. This isn't that kind of friendliness.)

It's good to be back.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC)
Vandalism by maple syrup? hee hee...how Canadian.
Glad you are enjoying your time back there.
Nov. 9th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
If you can get out to the Distillery district, try Soma Chocolate! Excellent hot chocolate. Mmm :)

And yay for genuine friendliness. It makes everything so much happier and less stressful when you're in that kind of environment.
Nov. 9th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
I like Soma, but I liked JS Bonbons better, especially for hot chocolate. Soma does have the lovely distinction of being the only place in the city (last I knew) which conched its own chocolate.
Nov. 9th, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
Ah! I should have realized that you'd know about Soma already. I wasn't sure how long they'd been there - I got the impression that they were fairly new, but I didn't know for sure. Now I'm disappointed that I never got to go to JS Bonbons!

Being able to watch the machinery in Soma is amazing, though. They're also working on figuring out how to make things with feral cacao, which I'm very interested in trying!

Anyway, enjoy your time in Toronto! :)
Nov. 9th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
They've been there pretty much since the Distillery opened.
Nov. 9th, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
She went to Toronto for the first time in the last month, but should have lots of chances to come back in the near future to try out other restaurants/chocolate shops/things.
Nov. 9th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
(I was a fairly thorough chocolatier-sampler when I was living here!)
Nov. 9th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
I'm not surprised it's got blue skies, it's about the latitude of Madrid or Rome.

My favourite Ontario factoid is that parts of it are south of parts of California.
Nov. 9th, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
Blue skies, but colder than London was when I was there last week.
Nov. 10th, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
I have forgotten how to cope with so much ambient friendliness.

Fascinating. Since I moved out West, Toronto has begun to feel insufferably unfriendly to me; the last two times I was there, everybody felt rude and rushed and nasty. Kind of like the stereotype of New York, though I don't remember ever feeling that way in the real New York.

There's nothing for it; you'll have to come visit me out here, and compare!
Nov. 10th, 2010 12:09 pm (UTC)
The thing that threw me most when I first went to Canada was the way the store staff greeting you with a 'How are you today?' expected a response and were actually interested in how you were doing.
Nov. 11th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
I am so pleased to hear (read, I suppose) someone writing like this about Toronto. I feel as if I've heard largely negative things lately, but I miss not only the lovely people I got to know there, but also the city itself. I lament the fact that I no longer live in a place where I could walk to most destinations, or else take reliable and relatively convenient transit.

I hope you are having a lovely visit!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )