Guelph is an inconspicuous little city of 120,000 just to the west of bustling Toronto. Boasting a large University and being a logistics hub for southern Ontario, it has attracted steady growth. Guelph is also my hometown, where I was born and grew up, and it is where Katya and I call home today.
I left Guelph more than 20 years ago when my family moved to even-sleepier Owen Sound. We then migrated east to Ottawa, and then I went to college in Hamilton, then moved to Alberta, then South Korea, then British Columbia, then Russia and back to British Columbia again. In all that time Guelph rarely registered on my radar, except to visit my grandfather and my uncle, aunt and cousin who all still reside there.
As fate would have it, I now live in Guelph. Katya landed a great job with Linamar Transportation, working in their logistics office in the city's west-end. She is making more money than she ever had in her life, with good benefits and at a company that treats her incredibly well. This career windfall for her has allowed me to start my own business, start writing professionally and to sell Ebooks. I'm making enough money through these ventures to pay my share of the bills, but I have nothing left over so I recently started delivering pizzas part time, a job I absolutely love (with tips I average about $18-$20 an hour).
This delivery job has allowed me to explore Guelph even more, and I have to say that I absolutely love being back where it all started for me.
Guelph was founded in 1827 by a Scottish explorer, John Galt (who went around Ontario planting British flags) and is called the "Royal City". Anytime a member of the Royal Family visits Canada, they are obligated by tradition to stop in Guelph. My sister once drew royal blood when Princess Margaret visited Guelph and all the little girls lined up downtown in their best dresses and bows to hand the princess roses. Unfortunately, the rose my sister was clutching in her 4-year-old hands still had a thorn on it, and when then princess took it...ouch! Royal blood! It's a source of family pride.
Guelph gets made fun of by its bigger siblings, Kitchener-Waterloo to the west and the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) to the east. Guelph is a farming town, or at least was, but the ridiculous housing prices of Toronto and the crack-head infestation of Kitchener has brought commuters flocking to Guelph in search of safety and property. Guelph's south end has exploded into cookie-cutter subdivisions, complete with soulless box-store plazas, while the historic downtown core continues to suffer from a lack of business.
The University of Guelph is one of the world's best agricultural and veterinary centers of study. The University is situated on a sprawling campus and is the city's largest employer. More than 15,000 students flock to the University every year to become arborists, veterinarians, agrichemists and whatever other life science you can think of. U of G gets a bad rap for a significant number of left-wing radical idiot students who shout and abuse any passerby who may look like they have a differing opinion (to zealots of any stripe, it is unfathomable that anyone can have a differing opinion, thus they consider opposition a crime rather than an opposing viewpoint).
|The University of Guelph is a center of agricultural and veterinary sciences|
|In the 2013 CFL season, the Hamilton Tiger Cats used the U of G football stadium as their home, while theirs in Hamilton was being reconstructed. The TiCats went to the Grey Cup where they lost to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.|
Left-wing liberalism is alive and well in Guelph, particularly downtown and around the University. American draft-dodgers settled in Guelph during the Vietnam era, and hippyism has stuck around ever since. Guelph is considered an artsy-fartsy mecca and a haven for lesbians looking to find their inner soul. The dozens of boutique cafes and bakeries found in 200-year old buildings is quaint, if a little pretentious, but the old businesses that have been around for a century or so add a touch of genuine heritage to this unique city. It's actually funny how left-wing lesbian-hippy liberals live alongside conservative-voting redneck farming folk in seeming harmony.
|I love Guelph's old train station, built at the turn of the last century.|
To the north of Guelph is still rich farmland, and there is nothing but tiny farming towns between Guelph and Georgian Bay, 90-minutes away. Because of these farms, Guelph has a decent farmers market which is open year-round, and is surrounded by other towns with equally-interesting farmers markets and flea markets. Guelph proximity to farms means that Beamers share the road with Ford F-150s, and it is not uncommon for a farming tractor to tie up traffic on the highways leading out of the city.
To the south of Guelph is Highway 401 and the bustling corridor to Toronto, Niagara, Kitchener and Windsor/Detroit.
|Guelph suburbia, particularly in the south end|
Katya loves Guelph because of its many gardens and parks. Two major rivers converge in Guelph, the Speed River and the Eramosa River, and these rivers attract water foul like Canadian Geese, ducks and loons. The city skyline in the summer is a canopy of green with a huge Catholic church rising above. The Church of Our Lady is the second largest church in Canada after some giant cathedral in Quebec. There is a strange bylaw in Guelph that no building can be constructed higher than the Church of Our Lady.
|The Speed River runs through the center of Guelph, where it joins the Eramosa near the University.|
|These two rivers create a haven for migrating geese.|
|To the north of Guelph are rich farmlands for hundreds of miles.|
|This bridge over the Eramosa River was built in 1849!|
|Katya at the Guelph Arboretum. This is a huge tract of forest for research by the U of G, and is open to the public. They grow trees from all over the world here, and perform diabolical experiments on maples.|
|Guelph's "Naked People" statue drew derision when it was first build downtown, but is now a source of boredom. Every fall University students add laundry soap to the fountain, creating a hilarious "Naked Bathing People" statue.|
|Old Guelph is filled with Victorian homes that fetch a million or more.|
|Downtown Guelph is filled with old buildings.|
When I was a teenager they used to have spotlights shining on the church, and at night a group of us would climb the hill where the church sits, stare into the spotlights for a minute or so, and then look out over the city's downtown. After staring into the spotlights, every light in the city looked purple. We called it "Purple CIty". Someone caught on, or some kid did permanent eye damage, and they've since removed those spotlights.
|The Church of Our Lady is Guelph's only landmark.|
Guelph is a city of historic 19th-Century buildings surrounded by cloned anthill suburbia. Guelph is a weird mix of artsy liberal types and hard-working conservative farmers. Guelph has equal portions snotty cafe-galleries and crony-capitalist WalMart box stores. Guelph is surrounded by farmland and metropolises alike. A city with a split personality, tonnes of parks and flocks of geese, Katya and I love living in Guelph and have made it our permanent home in Canada!