Down, down, prices are down


Toronto, Canada

11-15 January 2013

Sunny Toronto

Sunny Toronto

I got a brilliant deal on a down jacket shortly after arriving in Toronto. Down from the list price of $380ish, I got it for $130, and it is fantastic. Best of all, when I lean against a wall, it is always a soft landing as the air is slowly pushed out as the down compresses.

But I needn’t have bothered so soon. I arrived in a heatwave, with two of the warmest January days ever recorded in the city, with the mercury topping 14°C. My host, friend and Toronto native Daniela, didn’t hesitate to inform me how lucky I was.

You can add Toronto to the fast growing list of I-could-live-here cities. Diverse and cosmopolitan, active but homely, Toronto (pronounced Tron-no in the local dialect) felt like it had everything you need to live a comfortable existence, without it every really feeling like it really houses the six million inhabitants that call the metropolitan area their home. Or maybe on this visit, I just lived in a tranquil suburban bubble.

The days when the temperature finally did drop to it’s usual winter levels, swinging a few degrees south of zero, didn’t really phase me, which was entirely unexpected. With the help of my host, I have finally cracked the code, and have successfully learned how to dress appropriately for weather below 10°C and feel toasty warm – something I have always dreaded facing due to unpreparedness, and an issue we simply do not have in my part of Australia, where the coldest winter day of the year will linger around 6°C for a few brief moments before sunrise.

Here is an insight into my interior monologue, “-2°C? Not a problem! What’s this, wind chill down to -11°C? Is that all you have weather? BRING IT ON!”

Quintessential basketball cuisine

Quintessential basketball cuisine

On the topic of cold, I was mildly disappointed that the ice hockey season was still on ice, as the players were still arguing with their wranglers over revenue sharing. So I wasn’t able to visit my first match, starring the Toronto Maple Leafs, which I believe to be the Chelsea of the National Hockey League – the team everybody loves to hate. The feuding factions had come close to a decision, but the league for the year had not yet started, several months late. My first exposure to the sport I always imagined was simply glorified violence masquerading as Disney on Ice, will have to wait, and the perception lives on.

But Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Company, which owns just about every sporting franchise in Toronto (four in total), and either owns or manages their stadia too, still earned money out of me, when I attended an NBA game as a substitute. It was nail bitingly close, but the Toronto Raptors ended up losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in the final few minutes. I was impressed with how organised the whole event was, where any timeout, as little as thirty seconds, saw entertainers of many persuasions blitzing the court to motivate the home crowd, or at the very least, retain their attention. Many of these things, such as competitions, and shootouts are the kinds of events we would try and draw out over a twenty minute half time break at a football or rugby match in Australia, here they were happening in about two minutes or less, and very frequently.

Best sports bar ever

Best sports bar ever

Daniela and her sister took me on a day trip to the Canadian view of Niagara Falls, what I am assured is the good side. And though the flow is not as voluminous, I dare say that it is prettier than Iguazu Falls that I wrote about previously, and is therefore better. The horseshoe shaped waterfall, in particular, featured a beautifully uniform stream of water in what appeared to be a perfect arc, gushing vigorously into the unsuspecting river below. The force of the impact on the water caused some droplets to bounce back in the air, forming a cloud of mist that focussed in the centre of the vista. If you haven’t noticed, there was an enchanting symmetry about these falls which really appealed to the engineer in me. It is this element that was greatly missing at Iguazu, which by comparison, was quite haphazard and inelegant.

Imaginative coffins on display at the ROM

Imaginative coffins on display at the ROM

I also got to witness the captivating sport of curling, one that us Australian’s are enamoured with once every four years when the Winter Olympics are held. Straight from the things-that-surprised-me-but-really-shouldn’t-have-if-I-had-thought-about-it list, curling is quite a popular sport in Canada, and I was taken to a curling club to watch elite curling athletes ply their trade. Don’t be mistaken, it is not the winter equivalent of lawn bowls, it is much more active (and youthful) than that.

While in Toronto, Daniela’s family made me feel extremely welcome, and I got to enjoy their tradition of guessing the winners of the Golden Globes and then watching to see who got the most correct. I came last, with 5 out of 25. The most disappointing part, was that statistically speaking, I got the same score as the average expected outcome if I were to simply randomly select winners for everything. I should have just gone with the age old multiple choice trick and just selected ‘C’ for everything, I probably would have done better.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

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