“Summers are great in Toronto” is a sentence I’ve heard from most people I have met here, since making the move from London in March.
There’s a quiet euphoria to the long, hot summer days here – a savour-every-moment kind of attitude that appears to take over the whole city. The deep freeze of winter may be months away, but it looms in the back of Toronto’s collective mind, even at the height of summer; thus every sunny second must be savoured.
So far the assurance that summer is indeed great here has proved to be largely true, and here are some of the reasons why.
Toronto is a fairly friendly place at the gloomiest of times, but it only takes the sun to come out, it seems, for everyone’s spirits to lift. Dog walkers chat to passers-by about their pets, store owners take a moment from their tasks to talk to their customers and Torontonians lie in the parks at lunchtime, soaking up the sun’s rays. It’s an atmosphere that any city wishing to make the most of its summer should be envious of.
I am no karaoke king, by any stretch, although I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had my moments. On Friday evening I was introduced to a rather high-end take on the genre – orchestra karaoke. At the grand opening of this year’s Luminato festival, a 10-day feast of music, art and theatre that is billed as one of the jewels in the crown of Toronto’s summer festival calendar, the Scarborough Symphony Orchestra accompanied would-be songsters to some pop classics. Even the mayor of Toronto, John Tory, got involved, singing the 1980s classic ‘I’ve had the Time of my Life’.
June is the month of festivals here and this year’s calendar is as full as it has ever been. There are music festivals every weekend (North by Northeasy closed this weekend, hot on the heels of Bestival and Field Trip), theatre, jazz, gallery openings, Pride week, which is one of the world’s largest. Toronto is full of reasons to get out and about, peek into the nooks and crannies of the city and revel in what make it great.
The humble chalkboard, set up on the pavement outside a pub, bar or restaurant, is usually the place where special offers are peddled or enticements are scrawled to lure the would-be drinker across the threshold. Not so in Toronto where being funny is more important that advertising your offerings. “Buy one beer”, one such billboard screamed, “Get the second for the same price!” Or another, which had a chalk rendering of a pizza slice, with a pizza cutter next to it saying, “Hand over the dough or I’ll cut you!” Not roll-in-the-aisle kind of stuff but the summer chalkboards of Toronto bring a smile to my face every time.
And there, then, is a whistle-stop tour of why summer in Toronto – in my view –is great indeed.
Tomos Lewis is Monocle’s Toronto bureau chief.