Back from the West
As a tourist destination North Bay has one tremendous asset: it lies on the shore of Lake Nipissing, part of which we could see still to be ice-covered as we flew in. We stayed in an hotel in the town centre (“downtown” as they say) and walked the prepared lakeshore looking dreamingly out over the lake.
The problems North Bay seems to face are two-fold. Firstly the town is largely separated from the lake by a railway line that can only be crossed in a few places. This reminds me of Toronto, another town built on a lake. Again the city centre is separated from the lake, this time by a large motorway up on stilts. Designed as far as I can see solely to ruin the walk from the town to the lake and to ruin the view of the town from the lake, it would be interesting to know what, if anything, was going on in the heads of the planners who decided to build that motorway. I assume that the railway came to North Bay well before anyone saw the lake as anything other than a means of transport so there is an excuse there.
North Bay’s second problem is one of a decayed town centre. This seems to be common to many North American cities and again it is difficult to imagine the motives of the planners. No, actually, it is all to easy to imagine the motives of the planners. Here we were, in the centre of the town on a Saturday night looking for at least a restaurant and perhaps a concert. We eventually found a Chinese Restaurant where we were the only customers and where they were looking to close at 20:00. To be fair, the following morning we fled the hotel’s “continental breakfast” (“which continent?” you may ask) and found a very nice organic coffee shop just around the corner.
On our taxi ride back to the airport, once outside the town centre, we passed a number of restaurants situated in strip malls along the main road. Restaurants that we couldn’t have reached without a car and which we couldn’t have walked past to assess the most appealing—we would have had to know the restaurant to which we wanted to go.
What a shame. North Bay has a tremendous tourist attraction in its lake. It has done a lot to make the lake shore attractive. And nothing to make the town itself anything other than a slum with boarded up shops. My suggestion to the North Bay town authorities is to give every owner of a business situated more than, say, 2 km from the lake shore a 5 year grace period to move into the town to create a bustling town centre before bombing the existing businesses.
On the way back we flew somewhat further south across the Algonquin Park and saw the radio telescope there. We’ve visited this on the ground, it being effectively a replica of the Parkes Telescope in Australia where our son works (as seen in “The Dish”). The Algonquin Park telescope has been pensioned off and is not looking at anything these days. What a waste!
In spite of North Bay’s town centre we had a wonderfully relaxing time.