Around the start of August 2009, I had my girlfriend from England over at my home. We had planned on making a trip to Toronto in order to take a tour of Nelvana Studio, a well-known Canadian animation company. Before we could do that, we had to get into Canada first.
Customs wasn’t too bad on the way through – just a checking of the passports – but we had a bit of trouble afterwards: We were in downtown Windsor for the first time ever, at 4 AM, driving around in the dark and trying to find the VIA Rail station for our 5 AM train. While the night scenery was very beautiful to see, as it usually is from across the lake, it’s usually never a good idea to stay still. Thankfully, we managed to get directions from a couple of kind passers-by, and soon arrived at the station. We waited until 5, at which point we boarded the train and got to relax.
It was during this ride that I noticed how very interesting the scenery was from stop to stop. Then again, when you’re on a 5-hour train ride, you don’t have much else to do. It was interesting to see so much nice countryside, which is a very rare sight near my lower-Michigan neighborhood. What was particularly amazing was how nature seemed to coexist peacefully with the settlements of civilization, from rows of quaint houses nearby beautiful fields, to the vegetation that the tracks and bridges seemed to be built around, not over or through. It was almost as if the structures were made to accommodate nature without letting it overwhelm. Alas, the train ride couldn’t last forever, so we got off and proceeded into downtown Toronto.
Toronto was as busy as a major city could be – loads of people going to and from places, the occasional construction project, and so on – so in that minimum sense it wouldn’t have been that different from cities like Detroit. What made it stand out was the culture all along the streets. Many people who know about Toronto are somewhat familiar with its reputation as one of, if not the biggest center of activity for homosexuals, but with that openness comes a refreshingly welcome atmosphere. Everyone you come across is friendly, and as the attached pictures show, the architecture is quite impressive. There’s also a greater expression of art all around the city than most places you could find in the U.S. alone, inside and out.
Speaking of artistic talent, the hotel we stayed at after our studio tour was called the Gladstone Hotel. This was a beautiful 4-story hotel, with each of its rooms designed and decorated by professional artists. Our room had a peculiar design – a single-wall murial that depicted the typical classic “nudes by a spring”, completely done using various fabrics. Additionally, we had arrived for our one-night stay on the exact day they were holding one of their special events – their Harvest Wednesdays Tasting, where me and my girlfriend got to sample many different wines and foods from all across Toronto and the surrounding areas. We got to partake in many different things, from learning about volunteer fruit-harvesting organizations, to sampling different kinds of all-natural cheeses, to even purchasing unaltered honey bee pollen. All in all, the event was quite the learning experience, it was a wonderful way to end the night before we had to return home the next day, and I would highly recommend a stay there for anyone with week-long travel plans.
Returning home the next day, my girlfriend and I couldn’t help but think about what we had seen in our visit to the country next door. We were both amazed and pleased with the trip, even though we were on a tight schedule. It was a refreshing change of pace from the natural dullness of my lower-Michigan neighborhood, and if and when I could go back with her, I most definitely would.
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