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Favourite Cities

Here are 10 favourite cities with key memories, in no particular order, and not including the cities where I have lived (London, Bordeaux):
1. Barcelona - Barri Gòtic, magic shops and xocolata
2. Berlin - Ice cream on Unter den Linden at midnight
3. Paris - Out with the crowds looking for dinner in the 5ieme
4. Leeds - Walking through the markets on a crisp Northern morning
5. Edinburgh - Looking for ghosts in the haunted kirkyard
6. Reykjavik - Soup in bread with snow outside
7. Louisville - AAA baseball with Jake the Diamond Dog
8. Lisbon - Sporting v Juventus, a cheering sea of green and white
9. Athens - Mrs Mop cleaning round the soldiers' feet outside the presedential palace
10. Vienna - Dr Strangelove in an art house cinema on the Ring

American cities seem somehow rather souless to me. I've not been to New York, Chicago or LA yet but they seem to be more like large monuments than places to live in. So whilst I've enjoyed DC, Boston and SF, even Indy, they seem as real to me as, say Stonehenge or Machu Picchu. I'm surprised that there are people in them at all. On the other hand, small places like Roaring Camp, CA, Truth or Consequences, NM or Bardstown, KY seem to me to be teem with a sense of community and represent much of what is good about America (from a very casual visit).

When I've been to European cities, the sense of community, or at least what the community values, is much more immediately apparent to me. It might be that the US is less foreign and so I expect it to be more immediate than say Lisbon where I can hardly understand a word that anyone says.

As you can see from my list, I've not been outside Europe and the US and I'm sure my perspective would be different had I visited Kinshasa, Chongqing or Mumbai.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised that there are people in them at all.
If you get out to where people actually live you'll see more community. From what I could tell nobody actually lives in Downtown Indy, just like nobody lives in Boston's business district (as far as I know).

But you'll also see more community in the "flyover" states than you will in big east coast or west coast cities.
Mar. 26th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm surprised that there are people in them at all.
To be fair to Boston, the North End, the Italian bit did seem to have more community but it was very Italian.

Does the UK seem similarly devoid of community to a foreigner (lack of good beer notwithstanding).
Mar. 26th, 2007 06:12 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm surprised that there are people in them at all.
I've spend much of my time in London, but you could tell people lived around and about. I only got a taste of American sterility when visiting a friend's family north of London (it was like an hour long train ride, IIRC) and we went to a mall that wouldn't have been out of place anywhere in New England.

Boston has neighborhoods, sure, but with a few exceptions tourists don't visit them. I live in Somerville (Paris of the 90s) which is neighborhoody, but there are large stretches of Boston with no indigenous human life. The business district is a ghost town on weekends, frex, as is Government Center and a few other areas. I worked at a sandwich shop there and we weren't even open on weekends.
Mar. 26th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
I have to confess that I too am struck with this same vibe of the major US cities I've visited. I have been to LA, Chicago, Seattle, NY & Detroit, and can report that the same peculiar 'facelessness' exists there.

Having said that, what little I've seen of US small-town life (such as it has been) has been amongst the friendliest I've ever had the good fortune to encounter.

Mar. 26th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
Is it the Mallification of America, where everything looks the same, or that large stretches serve no residential functions?
Mar. 26th, 2007 04:37 pm (UTC)
Great scott! I wonder if Graham Norton knows there's a place called Roaring Camp?
Mar. 27th, 2007 08:32 am (UTC)
Roaring Camp even has a book about it called The Luck of Roaring Camp, written two centuries ago. It's just outside Santa Cruz. We had gone to take a train ride up into the redwoods and when we returned to the station we found that the whole town had turned out for a Victorian fashion parade. Only the children were small enough to wear their great-grandmothers' clothes, showing the power of nutrition on subsequent generations. And talking of which, I had the best damn hamburger on the planet that day too.
Mar. 26th, 2007 05:12 pm (UTC)
Leeds? How could you list Leeds after you've been to Newcastle?
Mar. 27th, 2007 08:40 am (UTC)
Most of my time in Newcastle was at the Ministry so I've not really had time to appreciate the sub-zero temperatures and inappropriate dress of the native women as they parade up Gallowgate.
Mar. 26th, 2007 05:54 pm (UTC)
Yaaay, Jake!
Big respect to Jake the Diamond Dog. My one and only visit to a US ball game was one of the weirdest evenings of my life, possibly only topped for sheer strangeness by Care Bears - the RPG.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )