Friday, September 9, 2005
Reflections after my brother's visit:
Toronto - Viewed through the eyes of European
From August 27 to September 6 I had four visitors
from Europe in town: my brother Ewald, his wife Anneliese and their
two friends - my neighbours from my home town in Austria, Luis and
Isabella. You may wonder why this is such a big deal that I need
to write about it.
For me this was a huge deal since it was the first
time that my brother came to visit me since I immigrated to Canada
in 1986. Because of our 9 year age difference we didn't have a chance
to spend that much time together when I was young, and my brother
wasn't big on flying in the first place. But we hatched the idea
of a joint vacation last year, during my
first visit back to my home town in 8 years.
Our visitors at the Beaches, in front of Toronto's skyline
So to me this was a very big deal. For our four
visitors it was a pretty big affair as well since they had never
travelled to North America. After all these 9 days in Toronto were
their first exposure to the New World. We managed to cram a lot
of things into these nine days: a visit to Niagara's
Wine Country, a country driving tour of the Kawartha
Lakes, various bicycle tours of Toronto, checking out Toronto's
waterfront, Toronto Island, the Eastern and Western Beaches,
the Humber River, downtown Toronto with the CN
Tower and many of Toronto's neighbourhoods,
including Greektown, Chinatown (East and West), Kensington Market,
Little India, Rosedale, Forest Hill, Bloor West Village and so many
other special spots that Toronto has to offer.
They enjoyed the Toronto's architectural preservation efforts visible
in the historic Distillery District or the renovated CN roundhouse
that now features the Steam Whistle Brewery. Along the way they
managed to photograph many vintage cars and trucks, even a 1950s
style hearse in the town of Bobcaygeon. They also fell in love with
the Kawartha Lake Region, and ideas of coming back to Canada to
rent a houseboat and explore the Trent-Severn Canal System started
The gang at Niagara Falls
Of course our European visitors commented on the
different dimensions of things, such as the size of cars, of super-markets,
even of squirrels in the park, everything seemed just a little larger.
Our visitors commented on the sophisticated display rooms and restaurants
at Ontario's wineries, the surprisingly excellent quality of the
wines (Ontario's wines are not very well known in Europe), as well
as the friendliness of service personnel at the wineries, and in
various other stores and restaurants around town. We even had a
variety of friendly interchanges with dog-walkers, people on the
street and lawn bowlers. Toronto definitely showed its best side
during these 9 days, and the perfect weather just added to the experience.
Our European visitors are all active people who
enjoy exploring and Luis and Isabella in particular are athletes
who enjoy biking, hiking, tennis, skiing etc. I took them around
on mountain bikes and they loved exploring the city in this way.
My husband Nigel, an avid golfer, gave them some golfing lessons
at the driving range, and added some putting lessons on the carpet
in our house. We all went on a fun outing to a par-3 golf course
on the outskirts of Toronto. It was their first initiation to golf
and they had a ball, and decided to explore this activity further
once they get back to Europe.
Playing golf for the first time
With our bicycles we explored the Don River Valley
and many of the ravines that criss-cross the Toronto landscape and
the comments that came back from my European gang were time and
time again about how green Toronto is, and how it doesn't feel like
a large urban metropolis, full of concrete and devoid of green spaces
and recreational areas. They talked about the liveability of this
city, that you don't even need to leave Toronto to enjoy the water
and the green spaces, or even off-road mountain biking.
My brother in particular, was amazingly enthusiastic
about his time in Toronto. He loved the ethnic neighbourhoods and
said he could spend days just exploring Chinatown. He also mentioned
that he never felt an uncomfortable feeling of racial tension in
any of the neighbourhoods, the way he had experienced it in some
areas in various European cities. And they all felt safe, even though
we took the subway and explored some of the less affluent areas
of the city.
Our four visitors were the most considerate guests you can ever
imagine. They took over the kitchen, with my brother, a consummate
chef, whipping up gourmet meals every day, using fresh Ontario ingredients.
Since I still had to work on different occasions during their stay,
they cleaned the house, watered the flowers, even mowed the lawn.
You couldn't imagine a better group of guests that would be more
considerate and helpful. This 9-day sleepover was one of the most
positive intense experiences I have ever had.
A little party in our backyard
Yesterday, I rode down to the Beaches for the first time again
since my four special visitors had left. I cycled around all the
places that I had taken them, where they had posed for photos and
commented on their experiences. And it was amazing how much I missed
them, how empty the house felt without them, how deep an impression
these 9 days left. I have already touched base on the phone with
them a couple of times to make sure they arrived safely and to tell
them how much I missed them.
Now I am looking forward to planning another get-together, for
some more joint activities, whether it be in Canada, Austria, or
somewhere in between.
Looking forward to my brother's
Toronto (1) - A driving tour through the city
Hello from Toronto (2) - Exploring the waterfront by bicycle and the
Hello from Toronto
(3) - Exploring Niagara Wine Country and Niagara Falls
Hello from Toronto
(4) - Exploring Toronto's west end neighbourhoods
Hello from Toronto
(5) - Novice golf, exploring the Kawarthas, and a final bike ride