When asked to write a piece on my native city my first instinct directed me to consider the Psalmist and how he sang of his immortal city (“Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God”), but, realising that Toronto has its own perennial poet, I turned to the lyrics of Drake, that is, Drizzy, the 6 God. For in Drake we observe Toronto, as it were, in its finest microcosm, an ethnically variegated, young and hip, gentle and apologetic soul with two added pinches of “I swear I’m not American.”
“I was runnin’ through the 6 with my woes,” so sings our Virgil, thereby baptising Toronto in a new name which has quickly acquired a vast, if somewhat ironic, currency in our dulcet dialect. Indeed, the 6 (often stylised ‘the 6ix’) is a city boasting vast promenades suitable for all of Drake’s, and any visitor’s, running and jogging needs, whether melancholic or not. With its fair share of large and famous parks and greens like High Park, the fourth-largest city in North America circumscribes the largest lake on the continent and commands a lovely beachside view. From there you can look out onto the verdant Toronto island through a fleet of sailboats and yachts, enjoying their privileged view of the city and sometimes the air shows or fireworks that dance above it. Encompassed by Toronto, they too will rejoice: “I got my eyes on you / You’re everything that I see.”
“Started from the bottom now we’re here” would be, perhaps, a fitting exclamation after reaching the top of Toronto’s CN Tower, the tallest free-standing building in the western hemisphere. Unlike most skyscraper attractions, the CN Tower is outfitted with a restaurant. Unapologetically named ‘The 360’, it is located on a revolving floor, allowing its diners to catch a gracefully moving panorama of the skyline while sampling one of over nine thousand wines stored in the highest cellar in the world.
As a major commercial centre and with a conversion rate far too favourable for European visitors, it is really no wonder that Drake finds himself an inveterate shopaholic (“I buy Gucci, I buy Prada, I spend dollar after dollar”). Even if your consumer impulse is not sated by touring the vast underground and above ground Eaton Centre mall, the sheer quantity and range of stores running along Queen Street can more than impress a central Londoner. If, however (perhaps on account of a trendy protest against late-stage capitalism or stylistic idiosyncrasy) you find yourself drifting outside the mainstream, the famous Kensington Market is almost its own village within the city, with scores of indie cafés, thrift shops, and bookstores, and a frequent hang for Drake (who owns over 1000 sweaters, allegedly) when his dozens of cardigans need refreshing.
Now everybody knows that Drake is an avid sports fan (“Just swerving with Balotelli, the f*** are you trying to tell me?”) and no wonder, with all of our world-class teams alternating throughout the year from the Raptors to the Maple Leafs. I can promise my English audience that our “American” games are certainly more entertaining than hours of cricket.
“A Lot Of People Don’t Realize How Cold It Gets During The Winter” up here in Toronto, nor how long it is, so prepare for snow between late November and March. Far from being shut down under the harsh conditions, the city is transfigured into a winter playground with outdoor ice rinks and toboggan-bedecked hills. The 6 is not too far off from a number of great skiing destinations, and though they might not be as grand as the French Alps, sufficiently wintry conditions are a guarantee.