Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Top Ten Day: My favorite cities

I was already thinking about this post prior to this morning, but then Colin Cowherd, the blowhard on ESPN radio, opened his mouth. He was talking about people who hate Los Angeles, and how the only people who hate Los Angeles are the people who can't "make it" there because they're losers. He took a swipe at Altoona while he did this (which is pretty funny, but still, Altoona's a perfectly nice town). Cowherd is a fun guy to listen to because he's so very, very wrong so very, very often, but when he's right, it's interesting. I'm not going to say he's "wrong" in this instance, because I've been in Los Angeles for the grand total of one afternoon in my life, but Cowherd strikes me as a guy who is going to have a heart attack at 50 because he's all about making coin and climbing the ladder. Did he ever think that maybe people don't like Los Angeles for perfectly legitimate reasons? Lots of movie stars, who presumably have "made it," move away from Los Angeles because they don't like it. I love Cowherd, because he's a tool. An entertaining tool, but a tool nonetheless.

Anyway, let's run down my favorite cities! These are cities I have spent a some time in, even if it's only a few hours. There are plenty of cities in the world that I would love to visit, and there are plenty of cities I went to in my wayward youth, but I don't remember them, so they won't be on the list (sorry, London). As for the definition of "city" ... well, it's like irony - I know it when I see it!

1. Portland, Oregon, United States. I have never made it much of a secret how much I love Portland. It's a decent-sized city, but it's not overwhelmingly huge. It has plenty of nice neighborhoods, it's pedestrian-friendly, it has a beautiful downtown, it's in a picturesque valley, and it has a lot to do in terms of theater, movies, events, and other interesting things. I have heard that since we left, the downtown area has gone downhill, which is a shame, because Portland's downtown was a wonderful place to just wander around and watch people or examine the architecture. It's close to nature, it's close to the mountains, it's close to the ocean, and the weather is relatively decent. Yes, it rains a lot, but not as much as you might think, and the winters are usually mild, while the summers are spectacular. I would love to move back there. Perhaps we will someday.

Web sites: The official site, the Visitors' Association, a guide to the city, the Wikipedia entry.

2. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Long-time readers (all eight of you) could have guessed that these two cities would be at the top of the list. I spent five months in Melbourne in 1992 and loved it. I would move the family there in an instant. It has a wonderful climate, it's on a big bay that leads into the ocean, so it's on a big body of water but doesn't get buffeted by the waves, and it's a beautiful place. The city is ridiculously clean, and the tram system is excellent - you could live your whole life there without driving a car. The people are very friendly (Australians tend to be), there's a pub on every corner, there's a lot to do, and it's close to some wonderful places around Australia, including Tasmania, which is a spectacular place. It's a thoroughly modern city that retains its Victorian charm. I highly recommend it if you're in the area.

Web sites: The official site, the tourist site, things to do around town, and the Wikipedia entry.

3. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. I grew up in the suburbs of Philly, and although it has gone through some hard times in the past thirty years, I still love the town. It's actually a lot more interesting than it gets credit for, not only for the wonderful historical sites, but just for the things to do around town. The history, of course, is the main draw, but it also has those fantastic old neighborhoods that you get in older cities, and the waterfront area has become much nicer in recent years. The tonier areas are also very nice, and the sports teams, although losers for most of their existence, have that quality about them that makes them lovable even when they stink. I hope that Philly continues to revive as it has done recently (not much, but a little) because despite some absolutely horrible areas and some sketchy history (Wilson Goode, the mayor, remember, bombed his own city in 1985), it is a proud and beautiful place.

Web sites: The official site, the Visitors' Guide, a historical guide, and the Wikipedia entry.

4. Seattle, Washington, United States. I have never lived in Seattle, but I have visited plenty of times, and we wish we had the money to live there. It's bigger and more cosmopolitan than Portland, and its setting is, amazingly, more spectacular than Portland's, as its downtown is situated on a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water - Puget Sound (well, Elliott Bay, really) and Lake Washington. It's also built on a hill, so it's tough to walk around downtown. The neighborhoods around the central core retain their own charm, and there are always many interesting things to do. The weather is worse than in Portland, and it doesn't quite have as friendly an atmosphere, but it's a gorgeous place that everyone should visit at least once in their lives, if only to take the Underground Tour!

Web sites: The official site, tourist guide, entertainment guide, and the Wikipedia entry.

5. Paris, France. I haven't been to Paris in over 20 years, but I spent a week there in 1985 and fell in love with it. It's a great city not only for the art and history, but for the sense of community you get as you walk through the neighborhoods and through alleys and along the river and into tiny little cafés. It's amazing that, for the most part, Paris has resisted the modernization of the rest of the world yet still feels like a modern city, despite the sense of history all around. It's a pedestrian-friendly city, and there is far more to do than I could ever tell here. Of course, for a 14-year-old, the highlight might have been the naked hookers. Just standing on the street. Yowza! I would love to go back and spend some time, because we saw far less than it has to offer, I'm sure. Some day we'll get there!

Web sites: The official site, the tourists' site, and the Wikipedia entry.

6. New York City, New York, United States. I have often thought there would be only two ways I could live in New York: if I had been born there, or if I was filthy rich. If I was a native, the various things you need to know to survive in New York would be ingrained, and if I was filthy rich, I could live in Manhattan and have things done for me. I love visiting New York, even if I probably wouldn't be able to live there. It's unlike any city I've ever been in, and I doubt if there are many cities like it. It's not that it's big, it's that it's overwhelmingly big, with something to see on every street corner. It assaults your senses and attacks your emotions. Manhattan, obviously, is the center of the world in some sense, but it's amazing how organic the other boroughs are and how distinct they are. It's a wonderful city, and everyone should visit it once. Even if you don't like it, you have to experience it.

Web sites: The official site, a tourism site, another tourism site, and the Wikipedia entry.

7. New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. This is pre-Katrina, obviously, as I have only been there once, and it was in 1995. However, despite my feelings about reconstructing New Orleans under sea level in a flood plain, plus their unwillingness to admit culpability in owning slaves, I love the city. It has a wonderful old-world charm that is lacking in many American cities, and both the French Quarter and the Garden District are absolutely beautiful. Obviously, I love cities steeped in history, and New Orleans is one of those. It's very sad what happened to it, but that still doesn't mean they should rebuild it in the exact same condition, because it will happen again.

Web sites: The official site, a tourism site, Everything New Orleans, and the Wikipedia entry.

8. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. When I visited my aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh in 1984, there was no way I would have thought it might be a favorite city. It was dirty, depressed, and disgusting. However, when I returned in 1992 to see a friend of mine who went to school there, I was amazed by the reclamation project that Pittsburgh had become. It was clean, glistening, and the government had attracted lots of new development and had done a wonderful job making Pittsburgh a livable place. It's always been picturesque - downtown is on a spit of land at the confluence of three rivers and is surrounded by mountains (which gives it a weird, Gondolin-type feel), and the area to the north, where the university is, has a nice college town feel in the middle of a good-sized city. It's a city that doesn't get a lot of recognition on the national stage, but it has become a very nice place.

Web sites: The official site, a visitors' guide, and the Wikipedia entry.

9. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We spent a weekend here in 2001, and even though our car was broken into and a bunch of CDs stolen, it's still a very cool city. Downtown is on a peninsula that sticks like a thumb into Burrard Inlet, and it's a very nice area, with some fine buildings and plenty of things to do. It is connected to the north shore by Lions Gate Bridge and to the south by a narrow isthmus of land, and is surrounded by the Old Town area and an artists' colony. There is skiing almost within city limits, and lots of water (which is a plus). The weather is horrible, I'm sure (it was Memorial Day weekend and it was cold and rainy), but the setting is spectacular. You can see Vancouver in a bunch of movies, if you've never been there. Rumble in the Bronx was filmed there (ironically, given the title), as was The 6th Day. Those are two examples where you can see the city well.

Web sites: The official site, a tourism site, another entertainment site, and the Wikipedia entry.

10. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. This is kind of a cheat, as I only spent one day in Sydney, but I really liked the city. It's a typical Australian city, in that it's very clean and very friendly. It's more modern than Melbourne, but not quite as charming. Its setting is very beautiful, and it has a lot of very nice neighborhoods surrounding the central business district. Sydney does retain a bit of old-school charm, as it's one of the oldest settlements in Australia, and the Rocks, its old core, is a tony place with nice houses where all the rich folk live. I wandered around town all day and saw the big sights, but didn't get to see as much as I would have liked. Maybe someday we'll get back there.

Web sites: The official site, a tourism site, things to do in town, and the Wikipedia entry.

Wow, that post took a while. I started it on Thursday afternoon and now it's Sunday afternoon. I was going to post some pictures, but that will make it even later. I'm lazy. So what are some of your favorite cities, all eight of my readers?

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Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

Nah, I ain't gonna tell you, I'm just gonna steal your idea like I always do, and share it with my seven readers.

29/10/06 1:25 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

What, no love for Phoenix?

Hmmm... In no particular order and keeping to "big cities" even though I'm really a small town dude:

Portland OR (I'm a copycat!) - I love the NW too and if/when we go back to the states I'd love to live there again.

Auckland NZ (duh!) Beautiful city, yet accessible

San Francisco - I absolutely love visiting there even if some parts are pretty sketchy. Always wanted to live there but like New York, ya gotta be rich.

Seattle - A bigger version of Portland.

29/10/06 3:04 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I probably would have mentioned Auckland, Nik, if I had spent more time there. I was only there a few hours, but enjoyed myself a lot.

30/10/06 8:49 PM  
Blogger Serene Careaga said...

Yay Seattle! Everyone should come and keep me company against the "Seattle Freeze" (we can be a bit anti-social).

As someone who did live in Portland I can completely support your parallel's of the two towns. I was in Portland last weekend for Stumptown and I was startled how small it felt to me. I think downtown is still nice, but the Pearl is getting ridiculously snooty.

1/11/06 4:56 PM  
Blogger Chris Black said...

Of your favourite cities, I've only spent about an hour in one of them ... Paris, and that was mostly on the metro.

There aren't that many sizeable cities that I've been to that I actually like.

But my Top 10 would probably be (in no particular order) London, Edinburgh, York, Norwich, Inverness, Cambridge, Durham ,Sankt Petersburg, Reykjavik, Bergen.

Some of these are quite small cities...(over here, a place can be a city if it has a cathedral)

And on a ranking system (marks out 4 for each of sight-seeing, cafe culture, beauty, safety and prices I get:

Cambridge 3,4,3,3,3 = 16
Inverness 3,2,4,4,3 = 16
St Peters 4,3,4,1,4 = 16
York 4,3,3,3,3 = 16
Edinburgh 3,3,3,3,3 = 15
Durham 3,2,3,3,3 = 14
London 4,4,2,2,2 = 14
Reykjavik 3,2,4,4,1 = 14
Bergen 2,2,3,4,2 = 13
Norwich 2,2,2,3,3 = 12


4/11/06 4:07 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

That's a fine ranking system, Chris! I would love to go all of those places (for various reasons - I'd love to see the cathedrals in York and Durham, for instance), but the ones I want to see the most are Edinburgh (I have an unhealthy fascination with Scotland - but it is where the Maxwell castle is!), London (which I have been to, but 30 years ago doesn't count), and Reykjavik. Iceland sounds very neat.

4/11/06 7:44 AM  
Blogger Chris Black said...

York is a very good place to visit - possibly even better than London if you only have a few days. Lots to see, and it's all more or less within walking distance. And there's a lot of attractive countryside around- the Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Moors.

4/11/06 7:56 AM  

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