Mon beau pays

It’s been a great many years since I was last in Canada in the midst of the fall colours. Autumn has always been one of my favourite times of year, at least before the days get too short and the weather too miserable.

I enjoyed this past week’s solo trip visiting friends and family in Toronto, my old stomping ground. This time I could not help but notice that while the city still feels a little like home, I increasingly see it through the eyes of someone who lives in France.

I’ve posted before about how much the French love Canada. C’est un beau pays, they will say. Mon pays de rêve… I used to think they had an idealized view of my country but now I find myself experiencing it differently.

Here are some of things that struck me about my beautiful hometown of Toronto this time around.

Tree canopySo many trees, so little time… the fall colours were not quite at their peak, and they may never get there before winter comes calling.  But even so, a walk through Sunnybrook Park was stunning. There is so much nature to be enjoyed in the city.

The squirrels. These little urban rodents are as common as pigeons in Europe. They are everywhere at the moment, scurrying to gather nuts and squirrel them away for winter. We see a few squirrels in France but they are generally reddish brown, where their Toronto cousins are more often black.

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Toronto is booming. This was already the case when we left 25 years ago. Now, every neighbourhood has come into its own and has its image to maintain. In well-heeled North Toronto, even the sidewalks are branded.

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Halloween is everywhere. As sure as the leaves will fall, the craze of candy and macabre carryings-on will hit the great white north at the end of October. Yes it’s commercial and perhaps a little over the top, but it’s fun. Canadians are rather good at having fun. Halloween is our way of warding off the evil spirits as the days grow short. I eyeballed these cupcakes:

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Le shopping! Toronto is truly a shopper’s paradise. Aside from the sheer number of stores, open all hours, there are so many beautiful arcades. They are the visible part of the many underground passages that link the downtown core, enabling people to move from subway to subway station, restaurant to department store without setting foot outside in the winter.

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Alongside so many emporiums to wealth, the neighbourhood convenience store is a fixture of downtown Toronto neighbourhoods.

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You may wonder: so if you love it so much, why did you leave it? One of the reasons was the high price of Toronto real estate, which made it hard to buy a first house in a nice area. The housing boom is still on and despite all the new builds, bidding wars often erupt for homes in the best and most upcoming neighbourhoods.

The city has changed so much as to be almost unrecognizable to anyone who has been away for a few years. I frequently found myself getting lost and wondering how it was that what used to be so familiar now feels foreign.

I don’t regret choosing France but I do love to go back for a visit.

Have you been to Toronto? Do you have a favourite city, home or away?

 

 

21 thoughts on “Mon beau pays

  1. I crossed Toronto in 79 in a 15th hand car I bought in NYC . A long time ago and for a very short time on my way to Quebec, sorry . I remember the very tall skyscraper they had, the tallest in the world by then maybe . I very much loved Canada, but the cold is too much for a hot desert creature like me . I remember in mid-August being obliged to wear my jacket in day time . The worst came later, in a Hippies “communauté” : they were collecting wood for the very near winter (!) because they told us they would be blocked by the snow for months ! I fainted when I heard this horror .
    (That remembers me the classic very good joke about the Red Indian, the white new settler and the next winter ) .

    1. Oh, yes, the CN Tower was always the pride of Toronto when I was a teen – ‘ The world’s tallest free-standing structure.’ As for having to wear a coat in August, this is highly unusual. Temperatures are usually sweltering, with the humidex (heat plus humidity) making the city (and much of Québec) unlivable without the ubiquitous A/C. Glad you shared the memory!

  2. Lovely post. Yes, we have great memories of Toronto. We organised a conference there about 10 years ago and it was a wonderful location for a diverse group of people. We stayed at the Fairmont, which was wonderful, and we thoroughly enjoyed being tourists. I would go back at the drop of a hat. As for favourites, I have SO many! I’ve never been anywhere that I didn’t enjoy x

    1. Interesting. The Fairmont, formerly the Royal York, was where my then-future French husband was working when we first met. From the sounds of it, Posh, you are a born voyageur!

  3. Indeed, one of the better things about spending a lot of time outside of your own country is that in some ways, I think it helps you to see your own country more clearly.

  4. What a lovely home-age to a lovely place to hail from. I hope to make it to Canada some day and I did wave at it when we were in Northern Vermont last month. As for me, I dont hanker for England and I feel quite foreign there but it is fair to say that Oxford has a piece of my heart and I would be sad to never see it again. Beyond that it is really family that tie me to Britain. I enjoy visiting but I could never live there again. France, of course has the bigger part of my heart but it has been interesting being Stateside for this year and wondering how it will feel when I am back en France for a chunk of time. Like Posh above, though I do tend to love the one I’m with so there are few places I haven’t loved in some way ….

    1. I have never been to Oxford but can only imagine it as a fascinating place steeped in learning. Love England as a destination in general and in some ways it feels closer to our culture here in France as fellow Europeans — something that I very much doubt will change if Brexit ever happens. Your American adventure has surely been exciting, Osyth, but I can only imagine that your are delighted to return to France for awhile. When exactly are you coming to Grenoble?

      1. Oxford is well worth the visit …. it is very beautiful as well as having an ambience born of the confidence of a population of high thinkers. Of course it has its underbelly too and some of it is dark but the City itself is lovely. Très touristique in summer of course. Being here has been an amazing experience though as you know I hanker for France mostly which hampers me a little. I leave at the end of the month for England then collecting Brains and Bean at Roissy mid-December and speeding to Grenoble to sort a flat, back to England for Christmas with ALL my girls for the first time since 2012 (and the matriarch which is not me!) and then starting the 6 months in Grenoble o/a 1st January. Consider yourself forewarned!!!

  5. Toronto is indeed now a very dynamic city. It was almost dormant and boring when we moved there in 1987, it is now more dynamic than Montreal and things are happening there constantly though traffic is horrendous. We sold our house in Toronto Leslieville when we moved to Paris and that was probably a mistake. Now, we could never afford to buy real estate in that area or in any areas of the centre…it is totally crazy. You made a nice list of the differences between France & Canada. As for French immigrants, you should come to Montreal as in some area of the city you would think you are back in France as all you hear is French accent. They are moving here in drove! (Suzanne)

    1. Glad you found my comparisons interesting, Suzanne! Leslieville is a pretty happening area, so I can only imagine that you might have been glad to have hung on to it. Property values are a crazy game in Canada! Before we moved to France we considered relocating to the much cheaper housing market in Montreal but for some reason it never felt like the right move for us. I can only imagine that for many young French expats, the job opportunities in Canada are a big part of the draw, especially in French-speaking parts, but I also have French friends whose kids have relocated to Toronto. Our son lived in Montreal for two years (working for EA Games) and enjoyed the city before deciding finally to return to France and make a career change – to teaching (but on the Swiss side, where the jobs are…)

    2. @”They are moving here in drove!” – c’est vrai, Suzanne, j’en connais pleins qui ont quitté la France ces dernières années pour vivre dans la Belle Province, mais certains ont du mal avec le climat… 🙂

      1. C’est vrai Mélanie que le climat est un choc pour ces émigrants français. De plus, malgré les similarités, les Québécois ne sont pas des Français donc il y a aussi un choc culturel à leur arrivée et certains n’arrivent pas à s’intégrer dans ce nouveau monde. Mais, il reste que certains quartiers de Montréal comptent de plus en plus de Français.

  6. Love Toronto, so cosmopolitan and bustling! Got quite a surprise when I ordered coffee the first time and was asked if I wanted it “regular.” Being American, I thought that would mean “black,” but no: it meant cream and sugar. I never made that mistake again😄

  7. What a lovely post – I did a whirlwind trip through Canada to Northern New York State and really loved Canada – so clean and friendly with fun urban spots and beautiful surrounding scenery…but traveling from New Mexico to Denver to Toronto to Ottawa and back in 3 days including travel was beyond crazy….would love to do it but not on that schedule. 🙂

  8. I have always remembered my Dad returning from a business trip to Toronto and him talking about the passages that linked the shopping areas, helping to avoid the cold. I always found that idea fascinating and will certainly visit there one day.,

  9. très beau même… long story, short: I love Canada!!! ❤
    * * *
    @"Have you been to Toronto? Do you have a favourite city, home or away?" – been twice, to visit with friends, but… I love Ottawa and Vancouver!!! 🙂 I do have a favourite city: Kyoto, Japan… but if I were 30 years younger, I'd move to Iceland! 😉
    * * *
    have a splendid week, bisous & c u asap! 🙂

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