For all of the bitching and moaning that I do about the traffic congestion and the lack of a long-term coherent transportation plan, Toronto is actually fairly easy to navigate. The buses and the subways are relatively clean when compared to other metropolitan centres of our size, and most drivers are willing to go out of their way to help. Waiting for a bus or a train is usually not that big of a chore, unless.... IT IS WINTER! Then the slush, snow and cold makes a ten minute wait seem like ten hours. The wind cuts through the many layers of knitted protection like a hot knife through butter. The buses and cars splash pedestrians so that now they are wet AND cold, and ice litters the sidewalks so that any short walk, even from curb to establishment, is an exercise in terror. Driving is not much better. Black ice is a joy, potholes created by too much sand and salt give the axles a workout, plowed snow narrows the roadways and most drivers forget their winter driving training five minutes after they have completed it. Transportation in Toronto is great, when it isn't winter.
We have a fantastic cultural experience. We have a newly renovated museum and art gallery, both considered architecturally important and stunning. Our theatre scene is the best in the country and rivals the heavyweights of New York and London. We have a budding movie making business, a film festival that is a bellwether for awards season, and our club scene is second to none, if that is your thing. We are often one of two or three Canadian dates on major concert tours and our symphony, opera company and National Ballet are world renowned. We have more restaurants than a gourmet can ever hope to visit, and one can dine on cuisine from every country in the world. Yes, there is much to do and keep you busy in Toronto, unless....IT IS WINTER! Then an evening out is balanced by the shlep of getting there. Theatres and concert halls don't have wide enough seats to fit winter coats, so checking them is a must. Expensive tickets might be wasted if the weather is bad and it takes a ridiculous amount of time to navigate the streets through the snow and muck. It is dark and cold and hardly seems worth the effort. Nightlife in Toronto is great, when it isn't winter.
We have a marvelous zoo and in the winter you can cross country ski there. (I don't ski.) We have many ski resorts within an hour of the city that provide hours of enjoyment. (I said I don't ski!) There is outdoor skating at city hall and wonderful hiking trails throughout many city parks. (I hate skating and hiking in the winter is just plain stupid!) Our shopping is world class. (If you don't mind shlepping heavy jackets and boots for the excursions!) We have a beautiful waterfront and the Toronto Islands are well worth exploring. (Unfortunately, Lake Ontario is frozen until April and the ferries close down for the season!) Even our hockey team seems to hate the season as is evidenced by their lackluster performance over the last 40 or so years.
We are known for how clean our city appears, but in the winter it seems dark and grey and slushy. We are known for our friendliness, but in the winter we seem surly and discontented. We are socially conscious and committed to greening the city, but in winter, green seems so much the oxymoron.
And so, as I depart the southern home to trek north to the land of -25 celsius temperatures, I am comforted by the fact that I will be returning here shortly. I am excited to go home to play with family and friends, to drive a car again without fearing for my physical well-being, and to get my hair cut. I am far less excited to don my ski jacket, (I don't ski, but I own a ski jacket!) boots, sweaters and ear muffs. I loathe the idea of sitting on a hot water bottle for extra heat, gaining a few pounds because a higher carb diet, and dreading simple trips to the grocery store. I love Toronto dearly, except for in the winter.