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...a sweatshop of moxie

Friday, December 30, 2005

Tale Of Two Cities

It was Renato who came up with the title of this latest addition to my travellogue series, the first two of which were:

  • Wish You Could Be Here

  • On The Town

  • (He's off white water-rafting today, playing hooky from work, and I hope his boss reads this, and cans his Canadian buttinksy)

    Toronto and Miami don't seem to have a lot in common, at first blush.

    One, is a paradise on earth -- full of swaying palms, scented breezes, and the light hand of the sun caressing cheeks of all types.

    The other is Toronto.

    I lived in Toronto as a child, when my father had a research grant from U of T. I spent many formative years there; okay only 2, but I have many happy memories.

  • Playing shinnyhockey on the frozen tundra with kids of all ages. Ouch

  • Attending pre-K, where I learned my ABCs -- now you know why I spell so badlee

  • Having my tonsils out at a freezing cold hospital, sleeping in a ward with boys and girls both, a cloyingly democratic atmosphere which offended my delicate aristocratic sensibilities

  • Good times.

    So it seems that maybe Toronto and Miami only have one thing in common: me.

    One of my earliest memories, in fact, is of the Eaton Centre, a most revered mall in North America, located smack-dab in downtown TO (tee-oh is how the cool people refer to Toronto. No word if Terrell Owens is aware of this blatant copyright infringement).

    It was there that I saw my first Food Court!

    Now you have to understand. I am from England, the land of a million High Streets.

    We are not used to malls, but rather dear old shops manned by querellous old men in grocer's overalls who have allergies to children, and thieving Indian women who overcharge for last year's PG Tips.

    The most daring food stuffs we have congregated together are the dread chip shops, with stale Rock fish and soggy "french fries" as your delicacies of choice (yum!).

    We certainly do not have a maelstorm of international cuisine offered, in a continental explosion of eating choices.

    My five year-old self was well impressed.

    So when Renato asked me what photos of Toronto he should take, I screeched, "EATON CENTRE!".

    (His eardrum has healed nicely)

    So without further ado, here are our combined compare/contrast vistas of Toronto and Miami, at their veritable high-season shopping peaks.


    Snow Day!

    Depending where you are, this shot will either have you ho-humming, or wowing. I absolutely adore it, probably because it's been 2 years since I felt snow on my curly tongue.

    That gingerbread house you see in the background, is Toronto's Old City Hall. The bigwigs have snazzier quarters now, but surely on these days, they'd love to see the happy families voters skating joyously outside their windows.

    Ahh, the heady days leading up to Christmas at my favourite mall in the world -- Eaton Centre. Not too many people congregating around that Festivus Tree, or whatever those Commies in Canada call it now, but wait a minute...

    ...look at the unwashed masses the day AFTER Christmas!

    This shot is astounding. I asked Renato, "Do you live in Toronto or China?", which he promptly laughed off as he ate his bowl of rice.

    Sears?? Where's Simpsons, that venerable old Canadian department store? I still have my dad's green credit card from them somewhere. I'm hoping to max it out soon.

    Wall-to-wall humanity, wherever you look.

    Of course, Boxing Day (as the day after Christmas is called in Britain and in most Commonwealth countries) is the day when the merchants try to suck the consumer dry by offering 25 to 75%-off deals, so it's not surprising to see these poor overtaxed creatures enthusiastically supporting the free-market system. For a change.

    After all is bought, you sling your skates over your shoulder, and head on home via the train station. This old beauty is so atmospheric, it reaches out at you, daring you to run through those doric columns.

    All aboard! We're moving to...

    Miami Beach!

    This is the chintzy sign the City of Miami Beach decided should greet visitors just before arriving at Washington or Collins Avenues.

    A rare miscue of fun-in-the-sun elegance from our commissioners. Maybe I should move to Toronto?

    You want shopping? I'll give you shopping!

    This is the long stretch of street shopping known as Lincoln Road Mall.

    In the morning, you have the rollerbladers of all sexual orientations showing off their fab abs.

    At night, the beautiful people come out. Did you know Paris Hilton is opening up a new club on New Year's Eve called, "Paris"? That's hot.

    I looove Christmas trees, and none better than this festive colossus at the Merrick Plaza set, you might remember, in the Spanish colonial neighbourhood called Coral Gables.

    Although its anchor stores are a loose conglomeration of Nordstroms and Neiman-Marcus, pricey outlets far removed from the Sears and JC Penny's of old, this place was PACKED on Boxing Day.

    You may not see it here, but that's because I waited forever to get an uncrowded shot. All for you, Sundries readers!

    Until I started this travellogue, I hadn't realised just how many palm trees our area has. A LOT. They're not cheap either -- at least U$3,000 per palm. Don't ask me how I know that.

    A respite from your overdose of palm trees, is this lovely fountain at full blast.

    There's a father holding up his little boy just behind one spout of water, telling him they're at the Fontana di Trevi in Rome. He bought it.

    I love how the Merrick Plaza shopping mall goes from yen to zen in a trice. It's a vague connotation of a Swiss chateau meets Japanese pleasure garden...

    ...and I could stare at the peaceful calm of these zen-like little pools forever.

    But alas, it's time to leave, and we depart via the overhang tunnel leading to Nordstroms.

    We may be sunny and palmy, but South Florida is as flat as East Anglia -- therefore tunnels are at a premium here. I wonder who the Mayor had to bribe to get it.

    And so ends our 3rd travellogue together.

    Toronto and Miami may not look very much alike, but it's the people who make a place.

    And I reckon any place which has Renato is A-OK.

    Here's hoping I don't let the side down, in Miami.


    • Vibrancy vs. Sterility (in pastel) might be a better name for this comparison.
      As for Simpson's, they went tits up in the '80's, and the most venerable of Canada's department stores is "The Bay" [aka The Hudson Bay Trading Compny] which thanks to a favorable lease from the King of England, essentially "founded" the country of Canada. Also, a close second is of course "Eaton's" of The Eaton Center.

      By Blogger vergelimbo, at Fri Dec 30, 10:57:00 pm GMT-5  

    • Vibrancy vs. Sterility (in pastel) might be a better name for this comparison.

      What a silly, facile thing to say.

      Imagine a city like Miami cloaked in the dark hues of Toronto, which needs to offset the whiteness of its winter weather, in a city which today, 30 December, was 84F, under a beating sun.

      It would look as off-kilter, as a snow-tapped city like Toronto, bedecked in tender pistachios and beiges.

      As for Simpson's, they went tits up in the '80's, and the most venerable of Canada's department stores is "The Bay" [aka The Hudson Bay Trading Compny]

      I know. Renato told me a while back.

      For the purposes of your blog topic, it's important not to write every little fact, else it's off-putting.

      which thanks to a favorable lease from the King of England, essentially "founded" the country of Canada. Also, a close second is of course "Eaton's" of The Eaton Center.

      I never did like that extra-A in Eaton.


      By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat Dec 31, 02:52:00 am GMT-5  

    • Great post! We could have been in the same hospital room when I was at sick kids with a concussion. I was the one eating jello.;)

      Eaton Centre is a nice mall but an unfortunate mistake as it sucked pedestrian shoppers off of Yonge Street. That led to a lot of strip clubs, tattoo parlours, and cheap t-shirt places. Things have only started looking up recently with Yonge-Dundas Square.

      Nice shots of Miami, it has those palms that make it look warm and tranquil. Plus that sun, it just makes everything seem more inviting. You win this round but I will get back to you in the summer or with a better camera and locations;)

      Psst...It was snow tubing on a float day.;)

      By Blogger Renato, at Sat Dec 31, 01:56:00 pm GMT-5  

    • VB you've been away for far too long - the UK is riddled with "malls" and food courts, you're struggle to find a city without one.

      And being a southerner it's no wonder your chips were soggy ;)

      By Blogger block108er, at Sun Jan 01, 02:17:00 pm GMT-5  

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