I love the apartments we saw in Meadowvale. I mean I really love them. They are huge, comfortable, beautiful. They are much larger and much nicer than anything we could afford in the city, at least anything we could find right now. Space has always been important to us, and since we'll be working full-time (at least for a time), comfort will be more important than ever.
These suburbs are as diverse as any city I've ever been in, and goodness knows I am ready to trade in the car-less life for one of greater convenience and big-box stores. (My favorite thing about traveling outside of NYC are the supermarkets!)
But in these suburbs, there is nothing. I mean nothing. It is the epitome of sprawl: just places to live and places to shop, and nothing else. There is no main street, no urban village. No cafes, no street life, no community. Just malls. And they are far out from Toronto. In order to get this kind of space at a rent we can afford, we have to be far from the city.
So we think it comes down to a terrific, spacious apartment in the middle of sprawl, or a smaller, unrenovated apartment in a more urban neighborhood.
This seemed, at first, a really tough dilemma, at least for me. If I was in my 20s and single, there'd be no question, I'd never live in the suburbs. But now... I don't know. It's easier for Allan: if he has the internet and the Red Sox on cable, and enough room for his stuff, he'll be happy. But will I feel isolated? Will I hate the suburbs?
I felt very torn, until, on our way back to the airport - stuck in traffic from an accident, we almost missed our flight, so we had plenty of time to talk! - I realized I was making the decision harder than it had to be. We've lived in our current apartment for more than 10 years, and in our neighborhood for almost 15. I was imagining I had to make a decision for the next 15 or 20 years!
As soon as I realized this, everything fell into place. We don't have to find a neighborhood that will suit us for a decade; that puts too much pressure on the decision. What's more, we probably can't do that long-distance. It's a whole lot easier to find a good neighborhood once you live in a city - you hear of things, a neighborhood is changing, rents are good, you can move quickly. Long-distance, it's enough to find a good apartment that you can afford, and just get established.
We'll be adjusting to so many new things that what neighborhood we're in might not make much of a difference. The idea is to find a place where we can be comfortable for a couple of years, then go from there.
As a friend of ours said, You don't know where the good neighborhoods are up there. But you know how to tell a good apartment when you see it, so just find that.
This seemingly obvious bit of wisdom was a great relief to me. On our next trip up there, we'll concentrate on Mississauga neighborhoods, and even farther out in Brampton and Markham.
One thing there is no shortage of in the Toronto area is housing. In the city itself, the skyline is filled with cranes: condos going up everywhere. In the suburbs, giant tracts of land are filled with mazes of what are euphemistically called townhouses (but there ain't no town), garden apartments and high-rises. It seems in every space that's not filled there's a sign announcing that more are being built.