Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A magnus fumus usque ad udo litore


The title for this instalment of Life on Two Wheels could be our moto. In some ways it represents our immediate family: four kids in Toronto, two in Vancouver.

Practically speaking, it's the theme for a getaway. We have escaped from our cardboard jungle for a week's reprieve in Vancouver. Today we are flying from the Big Smoke to the Wet Coast. The four hour flight is a welcome reprieve from schlepping boxes, slitting packing tape, rummaging through paper, and tearing at bubble wrap, as we continue to unbox our formerly organized home life.

I don't want to make it seem like making a major move is an ordeal to be avoided at all costs, because it's not. It's truly an adventure. An adventure that will pay dividends. Yet leaving the boxes behind, and changing the scenery, is a nice break.

We'll be visiting with Andrew and Anuschka, tagging along as their August wedding slowly takes shape, visiting with Anuschka's family and with friends, and just taking it easy.

As the huge jet hurtles westward at five hundred and twenty-five miles per hour over Grand Forks North Dakota (where my family and I watched the first lunar landing at the Holiday Inn), it's nice to be able to reflect on what our move means to us.

Though we lived in suburbia for many years, in spacious homes, surrounded by greenery, Susan and I have always been city folks. While many of our friends were content to stay put in the suburbs, every week we went into the city. The movies we tend to prefer only showed downtown, and the little chef-owned bring-your-own-wine restaurants we loved were mostly there.

Our new home, while not set in downtown Toronto, sits in a long stretch of high rises just north of highway 401 along Yonge street and south of Finch. We live in the heart of Willowdale. Our town house is tucked away behind the high rise portion of the complex shielding us from the heavy traffic and vibrant night life just half a block to the east. The design of our condomium is somewhat unique. To access the townhouses you enter the high rise lobby, climb a grand circular staircase to the first floor, enter an outdoor garden space, and follow a winding path to our front door. It feels protected. It's a secluded private oasis where the only pedestrians are our neighours and their guests.

I think we have found the perfect transitional space. As spring finally gets its green on, the trees in the garden are budding and flowers are appearing here and there. We definitely have a house. Our front door opens to the outdoors, and we have three spacious floors with skylights flooding the top floor and the staircase with natural light. Yet we have all the amenities you expect from life in an urban condominium. Our two underground parking spaces are steps away from an elevator that takes us to a spacious hallway leading to our back door. The hallway looks exactly like what you would expect on the 20th floor of a modern high rise. We have a twenty-four hour concierge, an indoor pool and hot tub with floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the garden, exercise facilities, the whole shebang. In terms of space, we haven't given up very much. We have more garage room now than before with convenient parking for two cars and two motorcycles, a nice kitchen, a dining room, a spacious den, an office, a spare bedroom, and a truly luxurious master suite. There is even a fireplace in the den. We have given up the basement, and one spare bedroom. It just barely qualifies as downsizing.

The last few evenings we strolled along Yonge street marveling at the far eastern beat of our new urban life: grocery stores with shelves lined with Chinese, Korean, and Japanese packaged foods that are mysteries wrapped in bright cellophane, with restaurants and beauty salons filled with young hip predominantly Asian patrons. There are mid-sized multi-level indoor malls and office high rises just a few blocks south with large grocery stores, theatres, and even an artificial skating rink in Mel Lastman Square, an outdoor plaza similar to Nathan Phillips Square in the downtown core. All told it's an exotic modern oasis that is perfect for us, appealing to our love of ecclectic city life, yet set in the midst of a typical late mid-century suburban neighborhood one block or two away on either side of Yonge street.

As a vantage point for exploring our new city, our town house could not have a more strategically perfect location. We're right on Toronto's north-south axis, and right on top of the subway line that goes downtown. We have easy access to the downtown core to the south in about thirty minutes on the subway without parking woes, as well as to all the shopping and amenities to the east and west by car. We're just north of the 401, so we can be at the sprawling Yorkdale mall in ten minutes, at our son's home in Etobicoke in fifteen, or our daughter's apartment to the east near Leslie and Eglinton in about the same time.

Our new home wouldn't be everyone's choice, that's certain. But for Susan and I, at this point in our lives, it's damn near close to perfect. If you need a more scientific metric, it's about thirty cardboard boxes, a table, two chairs, and twenty or thirty picture hooks shy of perfection.

The plane has slowed. It's the beginning of our descent. We are well west of Kelowna and the captain has just made his pre-landing announcement.

We are two very lucky people.

33 comments:

  1. Should we assume you meant "our town house could NOT have a more strategically perfect location"?

    You'll have to pop into the shop some day ... near Wickstead & Leslie. Home is near Brentcliffe

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  2. David, sounds like you've truly found "home" - Enjoy it, sounds exciting, comfortable and marvelous!

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    1. You know Doug, I really do have high hopes for this home. It may just be the best yet.

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  3. Sounds like you've made a great move. And now we can expect to see lots of posts of great restaurants in the Big Smoke.

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    1. I am looking very much forward to exploring the restaurant scene. I'll be looking for guilty pleasures and less for high-end chi chi stuff. Rest assured I will share what I find, the great, the good, and the not-so-much.

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  4. Have fun in Vancouver! After all the moving activity, it sounds like a welcome break.

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    1. The weather here is just stunning. Perfect sunshine, and a refreshing cool breeze. More Hawaii than wet coast.

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  5. They say Toronto is the most livable city in North America. And then you moved there. Oh well, they'll recover no doubt.

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    1. Michael I'm not sure who this "they" are, because in my humble opinion, Toronto is one of the less 'liveable' places in Canada. And you are right, by simply moving here, we have truly added to the congestion, making the city that much less liveable. Oh well, consequences be damned, as long as we're having fun, that's all that really matters!

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  6. Your new home sounds great given specified parameters and requirements. That's the trick isn't it, knowing what is required and then making it happen.

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    1. Dom you are right on the money. These things are not for the faint of heart. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, to borrow from the great Ben Franklin.

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  7. It all sounds great. You forgot to mention that the parking garage comes with a motorcycle lift for the tenants and an air compressor for filling your tires. Seriously, it should wonderful. I remember some of the areas you described from my days in the mid 80's when I worked for Molson. Cheers and enjoy the west coast.

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    1. Thanks Jim! Alas no MC lift, or compressor. But I do have a Moto Pumps compressor under the saddle that is the bee's knees when it comes to limp tires.

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  8. All amenities including public transit in walking distance plus underground parking. Sounds like metro paradise to me (but this is a city brat talking). Enjoy the west coast and its spring!

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    1. Sonja it's just beautiful here, as always, and counterintuitively quite dry at the moment.

      You'll be pleased to know that your gear is waiting for you in the spare bedroom. Don't rush over though because the cardboard boxes still dominate the room, and bed lies in pieces with the mattress propped against the wall in a plastic bag.

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    2. Take your time to sort things out. Not sure if Canada moto vacations are in the stars for 2016. Our Iceland adventure seems to be eating up our vacation budget...

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  9. Your new home sounds lovely. I like that you enter the high-rise before getting into your townhouse area. It seem more private but yet you are close enough to explore all kinds of things.

    Enjoy your vacation in Vancouver.

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    1. I know. I have to say it was a little strange that you need to go into the highrise to get into the town house area, but it feels more secure, particularly in an urban area. Kind of like a buffer zone or DMZ for the home.

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  10. I was born and raised in Suburbia, but have lived most of my adult life in the city - for the same reasons you enjoy city life. When my Sue and I found our home out in the country I was not sure if I would enjoy living there or not. Now I can honestly say I don't think I could change. It's nice to wake up to the bellowing of cows or chickens. While I work in the city, I can't wait to get home.

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    1. I think I could get used to that too. But for the time being, my new urban scene is just about right.

      As I write this, I am in the den, and even though The Yonge street buzz is only a block away, the only sound I hear is Jazz FM91, Canada's leading jazz radio station. If interested, you can listen to it too by clicking here.

      Definitely not hearing any chickens clucking or cows mooing though.

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    2. Been listening to 91.1 for some 35 years ... long before it was Jazz.fm :-)

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  11. According to Google Translate, the phrase is "A big smoke go up unto the shore, wet". I don't get it....

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    1. I would think it should translate something like "from the Big Smoke (Toronto) to the Wet Coast (British Columbia)" ...

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    2. Ed you nailed it!

      Richard, it's a take on Canada's motto: a mari usque ad mare, from sea to sea.

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  12. Sounds like the perfect spot for folks who like city life. Congratulations on the new space and the start of a grand new adventure!

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    1. Thanks Kathy.

      After the wonderful break in Vancouver, getting back to straightening our life out is not all giggles, but we will overcome.

      I now have a (temporary) Ontario driver's license, with the real thing in the mail. Got my M class, so life's good.

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  13. Hi David,
    Just checking in on you!
    You guys are truly at a transitional point in your lives and to be honest I really admire what you are doing, it's easy to stay put but doing so can so easily send your lives into reverse....your moving with it so to speak and that is a must!
    Great that you have found this lovely place and you have really surprised me with the allocated parking areas!!

    Keep letting us know what's happening mate.
    A move is a great time to get rid of stuff:)
    Kind regards
    Len

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    1. Thanks Len, it's always a pleasure to read your comments.

      We can't take too much credit for the big move. We did get the ball rolling many years ago when we encouraged our kids to leave our home city. Now that momentum gained enough speed and mass to suck us out along the same path.

      It's kind of like those bungee vehicle recovery things. Hitch it up to the mired jeep and drive the free tow vehicle like mad until the bungee does the trick and frees the jeep.

      We did get rid of a whole bunch of stuff. So much so that our living room is a little too sparse, with no way to welcome guests. So we soon have to hit the stores and buy more furniture.

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  14. As others have already indicated -- your new home sounds as close to perfection as one should hope for. Space for two cars and two motorcycles stood out for me. I suppose it indicates what I find important in a home...

    With the grand staircase and all I was wondering how accepting the place is of a biker in their midst? If you ride the motorcycle do you need to push it a block before donning your gear and starting the machine?

    Best wishes for your new beginnings in Toronto. Moving is always a leap of hope and faith.

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

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    1. Too funny Steve.

      The secret to parking four vehicles is that there is enough leeway in our parking spaces to park the two wheeler across the space next to the wall and in front of the car. We were careful to check the condo rules to make sure that it was an acceptable use of the parking space.

      For now it's only the demure Vespa sharing our main spot near the elevator and purring in an out of the garage. The Honda will show up in May and then we'll see how the neighbourhood reacts. I may well have to push it a few blocks before hitting the starter :)

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The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.