Toronto just works. That’s the best way I know to describe it. It’s unlike any city of its size in the US. To begin with, there don’t seem to be any really dicey, scary neighborhoods. Some are better than others, to be sure, but I didn’t feel nervous anyplace we went, and we pretty much went everywhere. That wouldn’t be the case in an American city of two million people.
While Toronto is a very dense place focused on transit and pedestrians, it also manages to be very car-friendly. Driving was generally not all that unpleasant, except in a few specific neighborhoods. There are mile after mile of tightly-packed commercial districts of the sort I’d call “1920s streetcar strips” just like in Chicago, but they all seem more healthy and in tune with the neighborhood, with stores that residents would actually shop in.
Granted, it sometimes lacked the little “surprises” you see in Chicago, where the streetscape is interrupted by some infill from the 1950s or later. I always like these areas because they break up the monotony, but lots of people disagree on that.
There also seemed to be none, or very little, of the classic American suburbanization patterns of the 1950s. Apparently, while we were focused on individual ranch houses in sprawling suburbs, Canada was building dense suburban highrises that probably did much more to fix the postwar housing crisis than Levittown did. Unfortunately, these peripheral highrises apparently haven’t aged well, and many now house only those residents who are too poor to move someplace more appealing.
After being fortified with breakfast from a diner on Bloor Street, and after stopping at Wal-Mart for videotapes, we pretty much did the length of Yonge Street, and more. Mark got a Tim Horton’s fix. After covering large portions of the city, we made our way to the massive Loblaws at Queens Quay (because that’s what I do) and to dinner at a really cool old-style Chinese place with a moat and a bridge. Alas, I noticed that my tooth was getting more and more sensitive when I had my very hot soup.