I used to love visiting the Han river when I lived in Seoul. It had to be one of the best parts of living in the city... and the closest I'd come to nature in the confines of the concrete jungle. Even some of the best "natural spaces" in Seoul were man-made. But man couldn't take full credit for the majestic Hangang, as it flowed from one end of the city to the other.
In springtime, we would plan picnics along the riverbanks. We'd spend entire days parked on the grass, laughing, enjoying the good weather, and people watching. Friends would ride by on tandem bikes, older couples would stroll leisurely through the grounds, under the shelter of a single sun umbrella, and every so often, an adventurer on a jet-ski would zoom by, alerting everyone out of their relaxed spell. Those were good days.
But yesterday was the first time I felt absolutely happy to be back in Toronto. And it was the first time I realized how much I'd missed living in this city. It was evening, and I was downtown having dinner with a friend. Since we were close to the area, I suggested a walk along the harbourfront -- one of my favourite locations in this city. (I'm not quite sure what it is about lakes, rivers, seas and oceans, but for some reason, I'm always happier by the water).
Toronto's harbourfront overlooks Lake Ontario. On any given day, you'll find a plethora of boats docked at the harbour, while visitors and locals indulge in the activities along the quay. Summers are especially amazing, because of all the multicultural festivals and art shows that take place on the boardwalk.
So naturally I couldn't wait to visit the harbour after having been away for such a long time. We grabbed some coffee and strolled along the boardwalk just after sunset. Even though it was slightly chilly and there were clouds in the sky, it was a beautiful night. I liked the silence. After living in one of the loudest cities in the world, I've learned never to take silence for granted anymore. I also liked the soft lighting along the boardwalk, rather than the glare of neon lights. I think Seoul could learn a thing or two about outdoor ambiance from Toronto. Sometimes, less is more.
Now that I really think about it, I prefer the lakeside to the banks of the Han because when you look out into the distance, you don't see more lights -- just the dark horizon kissing the water. With the Han, the distance provided a view of the city-line (on both sides), and sometimes, all those neon lights could be quite overwhelming (and the furthest thing from calming).
I'm glad I left Toronto for a little while. Being away (and back) has made me appreciate all the things I took for granted about this city. I'm definitely lucky to call this place my home.
Images courtesy of Google Images