The Positive Effects of Peninsula Living On A Tightly Wound Toronto Guy
Because of the Sunday memorial service for my brother Bob, the Digital Sunday Paper will be appearing a day early. If this screws up your weekend, I apologize. But there will simply be no time to post it tomorrow.,
My wife Heather and I have been living here in St Catharines Ontario since just before Christmas.
This new house is actually the 8th place we have lived. Seven of them were in Toronto.
As cities go, St Catharines with its population of 135,000 is relatively small compared to the 4.5 million who inhabit the Greater Toronto area.
When you live in a large city, your rhythms end up matching those of the city’s. And so my main concern with moving here is that it would bring about a substantial drop in energy output and throw me into a state of anxiety at best, depression at worst.
Much to my delight, neither of those conditions have manifested. In fact it would very much appear that a less frenetic rhythm is just what I needed.
One of the most positive contributing factors to my delight is traffic. There is very little to speak of here. Rush hour consists of maybe 10 cars at a stop light. As a result there is very little horn honking other than the polite taps you see at 4 way stop signs where people are democratically determining who goes first.
Another positive factor is the people themselves. This is a town filled to the brim with nice people. They nod and say hi to you. If they see you locking up your bike in a parking lot they will stop and chat with you like they have known you forever. No really, they do that here all the time.
When I am riding my bike and I want to make a right turn and signal that, the person who is waiting at the intersection will invariably think I am waving and wave right back.
For the first couple of weeks I was here this really took me aback. I thought OMG, I’m living in Stepford or something. I kept mentioning this to my sister who has lived on the Peninsula most all her life and her advice was simple. “Jimmy…you have to stop being so amazed that people are nice here. They just are.” That helped me understand that I am now living in a big town as opposed to a small and quickly growing city.
The other positive factor is that since leaving Toronto, I appear to have no desire to want to go back there.
Every time I think about it, I see myself stuck on the Gardiner Expressway or the Don Valley Parking Lot, as it is unaffectionately called, getting steamed and agitated by all the traffic going nowhere fast. I think about long lines at grocery stores. I think about the death defying act of riding my bike downtown. And I think of the ever growing number of stabbings, shootings, and automobile related deaths that happen there consistently.
Don’t Get Me Wrong
There’s nothing wrong with Toronto. Almost everybody who lives there loves it and for many years I did too. But after a while, everything starts to get old and you want out.
My new house here is St Catharines is in what a lot of people would consider to be the suburbs. The city is divided north and south by the Queen Elizabeth Highway. We live in the northern hemisphere, about two blocks from the end of the city AKA Lake Ontario.
The downtown part of the city is in the area just below the highway, due south from where I am sitting.
The South part of the city is divided east and west by a large valley is which is situated Highway 406. This road will take you north to the QEW, or south to Pen Centre (the city’s biggest mall), Brock University and connect you to a number of smaller towns like, Merrittville, Font Hill and eventually Welland.
Going east from my house on the Lakeshore Road is the scenic route through wine country which, as soon as you cross the Welland Canal, you are in. This leads to towns like Virgil, Niagara On The Lake and eventually Niagara Falls.
The best part of all is that everything I have just mentioned is no more than a 20 minute drive.
In the summer, this is easily one of the most beautiful places you will find anywhere in Canada. There are literally hundreds of vineyards, and I am making it a point to develop my wine copywriting skills.
The Food & The Shopping
With the exception of one pub we went to for dinner over in our neighbouring area of Port Dalhousie, every eatery we have tried has been amazing.
There is an incredible Chinese restaurant downtown called Ma. A great sports bar/restaurant called the Upper Deck on Martindale Road, with a great view of the city on top of the food. Even the Swiss Chalet is solid. There is Fat Louie’s, which is just around the corner up here, which has the best pizza I have ever experienced. And of course there is Beechwood Donuts, another downtown temptation.
Having done a lot of retail advertising over the years, I have developed a kind of sixth sense for well-managed retail establishments. And what I have noticed here is that every single store (with the exception of one) we have been to, is extremely well managed on every level. The sales people are all well informed and customer-centric, and even willing to send you somewhere else if they don’t have what you are looking for.
The tradespeople we have met are all good folks and for the most part really dedicated to getting the job done in the best and most efficient way possible.
We are doing a lot of work on this house to make it our own and the people who are helping us would all be millionaires in Toronto…they are that good.
The Philosophical Question
I’m not exactly sure what has made our arrival and settling in here such a positive experience. I suspect it’s mostly the people, and their friendly open attitude
The bottom line is that since I have arrived here, I have not had any desire to go back to Toronto for any reason other than to see my kids and their kids. And my nerves are much less frayed.
When I first arrived I thought, I’d be heading back to Toronto on a regular basis. But besides family stuff, I have only had to go to one meeting there.
I’m much more interested in developing business here than there. Mainly because of the fact that I can reach just about anywhere in this area relatively easily and quickly.
Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again?
Just call me Peninsula Boy. I’m happy with that designation. I was born and grew up about 25 miles from here. And this, is hopefully the last house for us, which is why we’re putting so much into it right now.
This is a great town, filled with good people, and as my friend Herb Bond, who spent many years in Grimsby (about 30 miles west), said to me on a Skype call this week… “St Catharines has everything Toronto has except a lot of the bullshit.”
That works for me.
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