I was very fortunate to be invited to Toronto recently to do some work at the EF office there. Never having been before I was excited to go yet typically reluctant to do much preparation on where I was going prior to my visit. This is a general state for me, I am not too keen on guide books and don’t get too involved in social networking sites which have other people’s views and suggestions. I just prefer to roll up and see what I find. I am never sure if this approach means I am missing out on a great deal but it does prevent me from being disappointed as often I have only my own perceptions to go on. I did know that it was the week of the Toronto Film Festival starting and that the Red Sox were in town to play the Blue Jays, but not much else.
On the flight over I watched a movie or two. Not owning a TV means I am often excited at the chance to see moving images and all that. I am aware that I am beginning to sound like a tremendous Luddite; I assure you I am typing this and not using a quill. Anyway, I chose to watch Morgan Spurlock’s Greatest Movie Ever Sold. In itself an ok documentary but there was one section I found intriguing. In the movie he visits Sao Paolo in Brazil as they have taken a city-wide decision to remove advertising from billboards and buildings. Locals seemed to suggest that the reduced visual clutter meant that they have a different perspective on their city and, possibly, more time to think as they moved around. I was landing in a North American city so I was ready for it to be a little different in terms of the use of billboards and the like. I do find it interesting how, on a cab ride in from the airport, one’s eye can be drawn from sign to sign, often missing what is in-between. In itself, this is not a bad thing, I generally enjoy the way in which signposts and associated displays define a place. I was also interested by how much more spread out Toronto appeared from what I had anticipated. I am not sure why this was relevant, but the thought definitely occurred to me.
The following morning I was able to stroll around the city centre and it was a most pleasant experience. I love the way North American cities go up in a seemingly uniform fashion yet with great variety within. It is hard not to spend so much time gaping upwards and the sheer scale is always fascinating. I headed up to the site of the new city hall and enjoyed the chance to compare it with the old one which is certainly a more traditional design. For more ‘new and old’ contrast then a short walk from the EF office is the wonderful Royal Ontario Museum which is an incredible piece of architecture, like a piece of crumpled paper when I first saw it, and just along the block is the Royal Conservatory of Music, with its nineteenth century redbrick and classic form. It takes a thoughtful city to put these sorts of building side by side and I really appreciated it.
Overall it was a great visit, the Red Sox were their current hospitable selves and let Toronto win most games and the film festival created a great buzz around the place. I felt at home very quickly and very comfortable with the city. The staff at EF Toronto was great, really welcoming and keen to make sure my visit was both relaxed and fun. Hopefully next time I can take the family, so much more to see.
Readers, what is your favorite site to see in Toronto?