Last night James and Lori introduced us to another of Toronto's many sushi restaurants. This one had a unique touch: a floating sushi bar. While we were eating, little sushi-bearing Japanese boats bobbed past us, to the pleasant trickling sounds of a nearby waterfall. Nice! The sushi was excellent, and reminded me that I haven't been eating it often enough.
Continuing our "weekend", tonight is the first play in our Soulpepper subscription, which I bought half on a whim shortly after moving here. The season opened last month with Our Town, which we chose to skip (the subscription is 7 out of 8 plays). Tonight we're seeing The Government Inspector, which can be really funny.
Soulpepper has a new home in Toronto's Distillery District, which we haven't seen yet, and are looking forward to. As the name implies, this area was the site of a huge distillery, now remade into an cultural district. (Some info and history here.)
I'm very interested in this, as it sounds like Toronto has managed to avoid a staple of many US cities, the historic district turned glorified shopping mall.
When Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia remade their unsafe, decaying waterfronts into thriving tourist and entertainment districts, it was hailed as a creative new start for American cities. And it was, to an extent - development is better than decay. Now any US city that can manage it has a "historic district". Without good manufacturing jobs, tourism and retail is all there is. But with few exceptions, those so-called historic districts are purely retail. They attract a lot of tourist dollars, but they don't do much for the city at large.
In many of these areas, commercial rents are well beyond the reach of local merchants, and the scene is dominated by big national chains. In Baltimore, for example, the Inner Harbor is a huge attraction, with the beautiful retro ballpark that Baltimore taxpayers involuntarily bought (and continue to pay for). Just a few blocks away, the sad, shabby reality of Baltimore carries on, no different than it was before the harbour was re-invented. Most people who take in an Orioles game - who go to a restaurant, buy some useless crap, and maybe visit the famous aquarium and the Babe Ruth Museum - will never see it. (But while they're at the Babe Ruth Museum, will they please buy a copy of Allan's book?)
So I have more than a passing interest in the Distillery District, as it sounds like a bona fide arts and cultural center: galleries, studios, workshops, live music and theatre, mixed in with the restaurants, bars and shops. And who knows, I might even find some great funky earrings.