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View from above: Toronto’s The Grid sheds light on Buffalo - INTERVIEW

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Toronto’s The Grid has an affinity for road trip series, which are useful guides for exploring neighboring cities that may appear intimidating and foreign for urban Canadians.

Dedicated to “capturing the vibe and energy of a city in ascendance,” The Grid has wisely explored neighboring cities—not only to find out what’s accessible nearby, but also to appreciate the special attributes of Toronto. While Southern Ontario towns were the emphasis of last year’s road trip series, the 2013 version examined Buffalo, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

We’re obviously most interested in The Grid freelancer Denise Balkissoon’s reflections on her brief foray to Buffalo—you can learn the most about your own city from an visitor’s insights—which led her to highlight the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Gabriel’s Gate, Elmwood Village, Blue Monk, Betty’s, Allentown, the Hotel at the Lafayette (pictured, right), Amy’s Place and more Buffalo staples in the near vicinity.

A full-time freelancer who contributes twice monthly to the Globe and Mail and also posts to The Grid’s real estate section, Balkissoon had traveled to Detroit a few times prior as an adult, but she hadn’t rolled into Buffalo since her teenage years—a rather foggy memory, she admitted.

Taking a few tips from friends who’d more frequently made the relatively short trip south, supplementing those anecdotes with Google-based research and recalling the recent New York Times piece on the AKAG’s new exhibit, Balkissoon crossed the Peace Bridge armed with an itinerary and an open mind.

It’s little shock, then, that Balkissoon concluded that Buffalo was a city on the rise—especially creatively and architecturally—and she determined that the Queen City’s future vision was a little wiser than her home city’s.

“There are a lot of young people [in Buffalo] doing art and design,” Balkissoon reflected. “I knew what to expect in terms of the historic architecture, but you can tell that the buildings were built to last, too.”

“Toronto having a bit of an economic peak right now,” the author added. “But you’re starting to see some of their future decisions made sloppily—like [the construction of] cheap condos.”

All told, Balkissoon’s commute from Toronto to Buffalo took fewer than 100 minutes one-way and cost her just over $400 total for the trip. That’s pretty modest, considering she didn’t short-shrift herself on the journey.

The author’s journey wasn’t without its frustrations, however, as Balkissoon found Canalside to be a little elusive—noting that, while she’d heard a lot of positives about Buffalo’s waterfront, it was difficult to find. And, when you think about it, navigating to Canalside is a little easier said than done if you’re a visitor—or a little overwhelmed by construction.

As a whole, Balkissoon was pleasantly surprised with her trip to Buffalo—especially in relation to Detroit and Pittsburgh—and she found some solace in the 4 a.m. last call, as Toronto bars close at a rather feeble 2 a.m.

Even though she’s past the time of her life where she’d embrace such freedom, the knowledge of the Queen City’s prolonged nightlife escapades sent a twinge of jealousy to The Grid’s Rust Belt road trips author.

Thrilled to learn Balkissoon’s takeaways, criticisms and overall thoroughness in the Rust Belt road trip, we’d also suggest her breakdowns of Detroit and Pittsburgh as possible road trips for Buffalonians, too.

(Photos of Albright-Knox Art Gallery courtesy of Cody Osborne; Hotel at the Lafayette photo by Robin David Brown.)

TAGGED: albright-knox art gallery, denise balkissoon, hotel at the lafayette, rust belt road trips, the grid, toronto

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