And while I by no means have a concrete grasp on the varying climes of St. Catharines, where I now live -- it's not too difficult to point out the immediate differences
- Homes are affordable. Yes, there are still those $700k+ ones that illicit double-takes, but a nice home by the lake, with great walking trails and a cozy neighborhood pub can be found. And for a far better price than you'd imagine.
- A great recycling program out here that reduces weekly garbage to roughly one small bag per week. Everything gets recycled, including food waste.
- Vinyl stores are abundant. You heard me. Vinyl in downtown St. Catharines (almost an oxymoron). Dusty, cramped stores with meager furnishings. Brilliant.
- Pay parking does not require third-party financing. I dropped a Loonie into a meter and it almost gave me an hour. Unheard of in downtown Vancouver.
- Farmers' Markets and Local Natural Meats. Because of the surrounding farm areas, the downtown farmers' market boasts some great grocery. Not to mention local chefs who make outstanding food, and probably the best cup of organic coffee I've ever had.
- Wineries are abundant, and there are some cool little greasy-spoon diners.
- Older towns mean older buildings. Some amazing churches and abandoned factories, old city architecture.
- Everyone smokes. Nurses, doctors, magicians, bishops -- you name it. I've seen fathers strapping their kids into baby seats with lit cigarettes pooched on their bottom lips. Crazy. Unlike B.C.'s adamant move towards making smokers social pariah, St. Catharines appears to be their haven.
- A good cup of coffee is hard to find. Seriously. Everything is Tim Horton's out here, and even the "urban coffee shops" are a bit lacking. I did find a few Starbucks, but that's only a modest improvement. One exception (aside from the aforementioned farmers' market coffee purveyor) is an old bank that has been converted into Coffee Culture. It's no JJ Bean or Small Ritual, but it's about as close as I'll get out here. Better luck in Toronto, I bet.
- Transit is awful. This isn't Ontario in general, mind you. But the buses in St. Kitts are lousy, with limited routes and access. Even if you find yourself in close proximity to a bus stop, don't expect yourself to catch a B-line straight to your work. Say what you will about Trans-link, but their buses seemed to be reasonably accessible.
- Property Taxes! Good Lord. Let's say at least double what we pay in B.C., and with no residence discount.
- Eco-conscious people are few and far between. It's a city of big trucks and disregard. The "how dare you tell me what to do" mentality. When we finally found a Montessori school for our daughter that exhibited the holistic principles we find important, the relief was palpable. Aside from that, it's been a series of disappointments.
- No good, objective news radio. Zilch. It's enough to make you shake your head. So glad I can get Bill Good's shows on the Internet. CKNW, you are missed.
- No microbreweries. The madness of this phrase requires no further elaboration.
Who knows how much this list will change in a few months -- especially if I become more familiar with the municipal politics. But we're here now, for good or ill. Now lets get back to more frivolous topics.