Thursday, February 4, 2010

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 4

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. The Location
3. The size (population)

4. The scale

Four years ago this April, Jarod and I went to Florence for our honeymoon.

And here's why. We knew it was the only real vacation we'd afford for years. And we didn't just want to lie on a beach all week. On the other hand, we didn't want to expend a lot of energy on walking tours, train rides, or running from site to site. We wanted a lot of things to see, a bit of history, and just a bit of movement. We'd saved enough money to go to B.C. or somewhere in Europe.

So we picked Florence. The old city is small, and we stayed at a hotel just south of the river (100 euros a night, 120 with a view of the river). Every day, we'd finish our breakfast and walk across the river to one or two of the local sights - maybe more if we felt like it. We had a 3 Euro pocket map that was more useful than anything else on that trip.

And it was perfect. It was relaxing, it was beautiful. History was everywhere - and close by. Any destination was just a few minutes away. Whether that was the Duomo or the Medici Chapel or even going to see Botticelli's Venus in the Uffizi, it was all within a compact area that we walked through at our leisure. (And found things like the grocery store and even an English-speaking pharmacy within a few minutes of seeking them out).

And when the tour groups hurried by, guide hoisting aloft a one neon yellow umbrella, we smiled. And when day-trip tourists went past clutching a water that cost 8 euros, we smiled and cracked open another 1.5 litre bottle of sparkling water from the grocery store that cost a tenth of that (insert our ridiculous, smug silly Canadian tourist grins here).

Okay, so Hamilton isn't Florence, and good luck buying sparkling water here for that price ;).

But I can relive one part of that trip all the time here. I don't have to expend a lot of energy getting around. Everything is compact. The scale of this city is great. Anything I need is within a fairly small footprint. And many of our streets are scaled well for pedestrians, as well as the overall layout.

For the things that are further out, I don't need to go far out of my way. If I have a meeting on the edge of the Mountain, it's an 11-minute bus ride from Gore Park. (I timed it). 11 minutes to get to the edge of town. If I need to get to Dundas or Stoney Creek, it's 20 minutes on a good day or 40 on a bad. Even the topography of the city, with the Escarpment, allows for neighbourhoods like Concession that are very friendly and well-scaled within different areas.

Were we to add truly decent transit (not a bus system) the potential is enormous. We have the scale.

And the 2.8 km walk from my house on the east edge of downtown to my work on the west edge of downtown takes about 25 minutes. Enough for exercise, enough to lower my stress levels... but not so much that it adds a lot of time to my day, especially when the bank and the market and most other errands I need to run can be done on the way there or back.

I know a large group of people find driving relaxing. It's their favorite time of the day. And I understand that - having your own space to control, perhaps the only time you get to be alone, can be enjoyable.

However, I am not part of that group! My depth perception sucks and my reflexes are terrible and well, I just generally hate paying that much attention to my surroundings. There's more to that story (and no, it doesn't involve accidents or tickets anything of that sort, lol) , but I personally don't miss driving at all.

Compared to St. Catharines, which didn't have much of a "core" i like the scale of Hamilton's centre. (And that our streets are parallel/perpendicular for the most part, if you've ever driven in St. Catharines, you know what I mean!)

Compared to Toronto, where a meeting "in town" could take me to places an hour apart by driving, I like the scale of the entire city of Hamilton..

And compared to Florence, well, they're apples and oranges, but I think I'll go back there someday too.

(picture 1: jarod broughton. picture 2. flar from Skyscraper forum, who has given graciously permission to use photos on my blog and a few other nonprofit projects. please contact them before using any of their photographs).

1 comment:

Patti said...

St. Catharine's - no parallel / perpendicular streets - EXACTLY!

I get lost there.