Sister Cities

Did you know that New York City and Toronto have more in common than almost any other two major cities in the world? We could start by comparing our beloved Blue Jays and the Yankees. But Peter and I had a chance to observe first-hand some of the more interesting similarities when we spent 5 days last week with our son and his family.

First there is the geography. Both cities are situated on large bodies of water fed by rivers, so they are ports at their core. Expansive waterfronts dotted with skyscrapers, mostly glass and very tall, greet visitors as they sail in from elsewhere. Islands make up part of the landscape too. Partly due to this limitation on spread, the cost of real estate is very high in both places. New York, being older, is more densely populated than Toronto, but the ethnic make-up is similar. While Toronto’s downtown population is just under 3 million, New York is over 8 million. How does one navigate around such a large metropolis? Peter and I donned our most comfortable running shoes and went to find out.

The subway beckoned from only a block away. We discovered that the underground opened in 1904. The current system, with not 3 lines like the TTC, or even 6 lines, but with 36, yes Thirty Six lines, is open 24 hours a day. The stations we visited are old and a bit tired, but the trains we rode were new and squeaky clean. If you don’t want to take the subway to your destination, there are buses, ferries, and bikes available. New York is considered the least auto-dependent city in the entire USA. Toronto would do well to follow this model of less dependence on cars.

One day Peter and I visited Prospect Park. It reminded us of our own High Park; an idyllic place of forest and greenery in the middle of a city. We found walking and bike trails, flower gardens and benches, fountains and a large pond, home to ducks and swans. We felt right at home as we strolled along, until we asked someone the name of some swimming birds in the pond and she replied: “Geese.” “Not Canada Geese?” we asked. Definitely not!

Another day we walked along the East Hudson River towards the Brooklyn Bridge. The similarities to our neighbourhood Humber River walk were striking. There was no CN Tower in sight; instead we saw the Statue Of Liberty in the distance. A third day we walked along the High Line, very much like our downtown Toronto Beltline, but higher up. And then there was the “Ghosts and Gangsters Tour,” a fascinating look at the history of the New York Mafia and some haunted sites too. Fortunately Toronto doesn’t have the locations or the material for this tour – not yet anyway.

One evening our hosts suggested we might like to see a Broadway show. We were game for anything until we looked at the options: Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away, Hamilton, and Chicago. We had seen them all, through our Mirvish subscription. We ended up going to an immersive art show, but not Van Gogh or Klimt. It was a mix of art and science: neurons swimming around in the brain as they age. The first ones were cute little colourful things; as they got older they grew into big green blobs. But then the poor guys went downhill – shrinking and losing colour until they were nothing but a big grey mass; kind of like a neuron nursing home. Even our grandson was sad!

In retrospect the most fun we had was with the kids: Dan, Jenny and Ben. We explored their neighbourhood together and saw Ben’s school. We went to several of their favourite local restaurants. And on our way to the airport on the last day we stopped at a park to watch Ben play soccer. A future Michael Bradley for sure!

It was a great adventure in our sister city.


PS So sorry there are no photos! I had great ones to share but encountered technical difficulties. Hope to fix them this week.

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