(Note: This post was written by Laurel Regan (pen name Dawn Storey) and originally published in Windsor Square on January 25, 2012.)
One of the disadvantages of living in a city for an extended period of time is that things can very easily become routine, predictable, and (dare I say) boring. You see the same faces on your daily commute, you eat at the same restaurants, you shop in the same stores. When you drive, your brain switches into autopilot and you find yourself at your destination without having really paid any attention to the journey. You rarely (if ever) get lost, and even if you do find yourself on an unfamiliar street, you can easily “feel your way” to a place you know because the layout of the city is a part of your DNA.
It’s easy and it’s comfortable. It’s also rather dull.
But then, one day, you might finally decide you need a change, so you move to another city, a place you’ve only visited twice in a province in which you’ve never lived. Suddenly when you get in the car, you only have the vaguest of ideas where you’re going until you consult a map or switch on your GPS. The drivers around you are quick and impatient and tend to run yellow lights. You don’t know, because you haven’t driven it a million times, when a lane on a particular street is suddenly going to end, so you don’t plan accordingly and end up forced to turn right when you hadn’t wanted to do so. When street signs are missing, as they often seem to be, you feel it acutely. If you do decide to be brave enough to tackle getting home without outside assistance, you realize as you’re driving through acres of farmland in exactly the wrong direction that you may have left your bearings behind in your old home.
In some ways it’s like learning to walk again. It’s certainly never dull!
As a newcomer to the city, here are a handful of my observations and first impressions (that may or may not evolve over time) about getting around in Windsor:
- As I covered in a previous column, many of the roads in the city are sorely in need of an upgrade, both for aesthetic and safety reasons. So far that first impression has definitely NOT been reversed; in fact, now that I’ve had a chance to explore further, my opinion of their poor quality has only been strengthened.
- Parking, particularly downtown and in the surrounding areas, can be difficult to find and also quite expensive. I doubt this is different from any other city, though – it’s certainly what I grew to expect back in Victoria (perhaps to an even greater degree, as downtown Victoria was tourist central with unsurprisingly elevated price levels).
- Oddly, we did find a small lot in City Hall Square that’s (wait for it) FREE… so when we went to register our vehicle and sign up for OHIP, at least we didn’t have to pay for parking while we did so. That was definitely a bonus!
- It’s surprising just how many street signs simply don’t exist. You probably wouldn’t even notice it if you’re a long-time Windsorite, but when you’re new to the city and depending on them to find your way around, lack of proper signage can be very frustrating indeed.
- I’ve learned that when all else fails, look for the Detroit skyline – when you find it you’ll know whether or not you’re heading in the right direction!
All that being said, I find Windsor to be, for the most part, fairly straightforward to navigate. Despite my one unexpected foray into the county and a couple of missed turns that forced some backtracking, with a little preplanning I’ve generally had an easy time getting from place to place. While it’ll be probably be quite some time before I’ll be able to find my way around completely instinctively, at least I’m starting to get to know the main streets and cross-streets, and am developing a better feel for the city’s layout.
Pretty soon I won’t even notice the missing street signs!