So I am now in le vrai Toronto, technically, and I've been in the GTA for a couple of days. I used to have stars in my eyes about Toronto. I had and still have a lot of friends and relatives there, and for that reason alone, I will probably be visiting it regularly until Peak Oil makes it too expensive to travel there or anywhere and I will be stuck Victory Gardening in a dystopian cross between Mad Max and Anne of Green Gables.
But...as a city, now that I'm older and have lived in various places and seen various things, well: I've decided that it's surprisingly mediocre. No offense Torontonians. I have to tell the truth, however. Now that the scales have fallen from my eyes.
Take restaurants. I've harped on this before, but Toronto restaurants are on average...surprisingly mediocre. I mean, any city its size will have some truly bright spots, like Indian-style Chinese restaurants or Korean restaurants, which are pretty good in Toronto. But the signal-to-noise ratio is just so oddly...low; i.e., if you walk into any random restaurant with a "Pass" rating (one of Toronto's better ideas, by the way), you are likely to be bored by the cuisine. I've said this before, and I still have to say it: the culinary life in my own hometown of Ottawa is just less mediocre on average. I find it much harder to have a mediocre dining experience in Ottawa, no matter what the snobby Torontonians say.
Now, of course, GTA food is a welcome change from Niagara Falls, where there appears to be a 90% concentration of repetitious American chain restaurants. Which aren't necessarily bad, of course, but it's still true that I can eat at those places no matter where I go these days. Even stodgy London, Ontario has a better culinary scene than Niagara Falls, which as a tourist town, I'm afraid to say, is surprisingly devoid of anything interesting. Or maybe that's not so surprising, considering that it's a one-gimmick tourist trap. But, as usual, I digress.
Back to Toronto. Even in terms of things to do, however, well, maybe I've just visited it too often, but it's awfully easy to run out of Torontonian entertainment options, especially in the daytime. Sure, it has a nice musical scene, but what major city in North America doesn't? The museums are costly. You say: but New York City has expensive museums too. That's true, of course, but that doesn't change the fact that Toronto's museums are themselves individually surprisingly easy to exhaust.
Maybe I am being unfair to Toronto, because a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, it was probably fair to say that Toronto occupied more of a symbolic place in my mind than the reality of any city actually ever merits. It's maybe like one of those cliché stories where someone falls in love with an idealization of someone else rather than a real person, because they already know too much about the person they're supposed to love. So maybe from the vantage point of living in Ottawa, I expected too much.
But now that I have the benefit of a year or three of another city in another country (and said city has some pretty good eating too!), I can honestly say that Ottawa stands pretty tall in comparison with Toronto, given the fact that it's 4-6x smaller. Toronto will always have more, much more, because it's bigger, but quality is easier to find in Ottawa. I still love Toronto, don't get me wrong, as I love the Big City and any place that has so many people that have been part of my life. But not enough (no longer enough?) to make it as a city into any sort of personal cynosure.
Oh, and, I have found an abomination to replace Mississauga in the ranks of abominated "cities": Milton*. Milton, you are abominable. I abominate you, Milton. Somebody has to put a stop to all this cheap exurban real estate.
*For the nigletizers, it is perfectly possible to abominate a city without abominating the people who live there, thank you very much.