Friday, July 30, 2010

Toronto: Day 5 and the Week in Review

I took it pretty easy my last day in Toronto, mostly because I had a back spasm the day before and I didn’t want to push my luck. But before settling in to watch the Second Season of True Blood, I walked over to Chinatown and the Kensington market, which were very pleasant, and then I went to find The World’s Biggest Bookstore.

Rant 1: I was not impressed with The World's Biggest Bookstore, particularly because after I walked out of it, I immediately saw its little brother which resembled Half Price Books. And they were both owned by Indigo, Toronto’s answer to Borders.

What I will give to these bookstores is they have huge – huge – science fiction/fantasy sections. Oh, and that used book store had more Ellroy that I have ever seen in one store at one time in my entire life. I didn’t recognize half the titles.

So. I still feel like Toronto is an awful lot like Chicago. Tim Horton’s doughnuts are better than Dunkin’ – though I didn’t try the coffee. Oh, and I tried Horton's answer to the Munchkin and found them inferior.  So for the regular doughnut, Tim wins.  For a box of Munchkins, Dunkin' Donuts.  Got that? 

Starbucks is everywhere. McDonald’s can be found, but pizza didn’t look promising. Everyone has a dog, and I was in the city for four days before I spotted any mess on the sidewalks. Public transportation is good, pedestrians are generally respected.

Rant 2: Oh! Except by the evil bicycle riders that are way worse than here. By that I mean the number that ride in the street but ignore the traffic signals and imperil the pedestrians that have the green light.

I hardly heard anyone with what I could identify as a Canadian accent. Finally, my Niagara tour guide said “aboot”, which made me very happy.

Rant 3: For the first time in my life, I saw a statue of a hero of the American Revolution – that was one of the bad guys. The bad guys! I refused to take his picture and do not recall his name. But that same tour guide was full of stories of the War of 1812. Some of it was interesting alternate perspective – like:

They didn’t teach us in school that the Burning of Washington DC was in retaliation for the Americans trashing the City of York (that which is now Toronto). They just told us the story of Dolly Madison grabbing President Washington’s portrait from the White House wall and running out the back door for her very life.

Apparently, someone is also planning some big celebration/re-enactment for the Bi-Centennial of the battles on the Niagara River. Tour guide was all excited about it. At about that point, I was all: “You guys know that you lost that war, right?” I didn't actually say it.

Sorry to go all Arrogant American on you. Which leads to:

Rant 4:

The Ugly American Tourist. I am particularly self-conscious about that generalization. So when I realized that I was one of three Americans on the tour bus, I kept my mouth shut and made darn sure that I was never the one keeping people waiting. So let’s talk about those stereotypes:

You can always spot an American by the shorts and gym shoes.

B.S. The Brits, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians were all wearing shorts. And not on my tour bus, but I saw several French-speaking people at the Falls wearing shorts (of course, they could have been Canadian). There were two people wearing dresses – a lady from Poland and a lady from Spain. Whose husband was wearing shorts.

Americans are loud and demanding and inconsiderate of others.

No one was demanding in the “I am paying for this and want my money’s worth” way. But it wasn’t the Americans going back for thirds at the Buffet. The British ladies were the ones shoving to get off the bus first at every stop. And it was the Spanish couple that kept the rest of the group waiting every. Single. Time. The rest of the bus was ready to go. In fact, the Polish lady once got off the bus to go get a beer because she was so sure the Spanish people were going to keep us all waiting again. “I’ll be back in 10 minutes”, she said. She got back before they did.

Americans are cheap.

Hello. I don’t know who gave what, but it was the Brits that neglected to tip the tour guide.

Now. Perhaps the Ugly American image is more about Americans visiting Europe. It would clearly be easier for a US citizen to blend in with Canadians. And it is easily more appropriate to expect everyone to speak English when one is in Canada. But I am taking this much less to heart than I did a week ago.

In the final analysis, I say: Toronto is a great place for a summer vacation. But boy, I wouldn’t want to be there in February.

Kind of like Chicago.

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