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Cities

November 16, 2011 6 comments

My third entry for 30 Days of Indie Travel

Prompt # 15 – Cities

When traveling, I tend to be attracted to big cities.  Given the option of a beach or a city, I will almost always choose the city.  Perhaps this is because cities are usually a bit easier to get to, but I think the bigger reason is that cities are exciting for me.  I love that there is always something to do, always something to see.  The best of a country tends to be drawn to the cities.  That is not to say that there is not good to be found outside of cities, but it is a bit harder to find.

Throughout my travels I have been to many cities that I have loved.  There are the few that I find awful, but this almost always has something to do with something out of the cities control, like weather or my mood at the time.  While each great city has something to offer, these ten rise above the others I have been to.  I am not sure that I can really choose a favorite hence the two number 1’s, so instead I will give a few reasons why each of these have provided some of the best experiences I have had while traveling.

  1. Cape Town, South Africa – Perhaps the most beautiful city I have been to.  Cape Town also features great weather, a great dining scene and so many options of things to do that it was impossible to be bored.                                                                                               
  1. Barcelona, Spain – I wrote about my visit to Barcelona here.  The food, culture and architecture set this apart from most others I have been to.  This is a quintessential city that is so easy to get lost in, enthralled in the sights, sounds and history of the place.
  2. Istanbul, Turkey – Sitting at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, Istanbul has reminders of history around every corner.  Add in some fantastic food and good weather and you have a winning combination.
  3. Amsterdam, the Netherlands – I am not sure if I have ever visited a more comfortable city.  It’s charm is simply in being there, experiencing everything it has to offer.  It’s food does not stand out, the weather is chilly and rainy, it is expensive, but I am not sure if there is any other city in the world that I would like to spend an afternoon wandering around.                   
  4. Buenos Aires, Argentina – Great food, a very vibrant culture, good weather and a feel that you are in Europe instead of South America but still with South American passion make for a great place to travel to.
  5. Kyoto, Japan- Of my top 10, this is the one that caught me by surprise.  On my first trip to Japan I was looking forward to the food of Osaka, the modernity of Tokyo and the reminder of past mistakes in Hiroshima but Kyoto won my heart.  The culture and history, combined with good food and beautiful mountains make Kyoto my favorite city in Japan.
  6. Hong Kong, China – This city that feels simultaneously Asian and Western.  If visiting from China (as I have) the western aspects stand out.  If coming from the west, the combination of Asian cultures make for a fantastic Asian experience.  The pace of life, the busyness of a city are all on showcase here along with great food, good shopping and good transportation.                  
  7. Stockholm, Sweden – Set amidst the Stockholm Archipelago, Stockholm takes all of what Scandinavia is well known for and somehow improves on it.  The architecture, design, shopping, and wide range of activities make this a must visit in Summer.  Winter might be a bit cold.
  8. Chicago, U.S.A. – Close to one of my homes, Chicago is a great city with impressive and important architecture, fantastic food, great shopping, amazing museums and a cultural scene that rivals any other city on my list.
  9. Shanghai, China – A 21st century city with a long history.  This is one of the most modern cities on my top 10, but just around the corner from modern skyscrapers you are able to find older neighborhoods.  The food is great, the architecture impressive and the history fascinating.

Honorable Mention – London, Beijing, Moscow, Portland OR, Tokyo, Singapore, Frankfurt, Lhasa

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The charm of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of the most famous cities in the world. It is a stop on almost every “grand tour” of Western Europe and has a lot to offer tourists. I found, however, that upon spending a few days in Amsterdam the real joy of the city is to simply be. There are so many hidden scenes waiting around the next corner that eventually, walking around (or biking) takes precedence over seeing the tourist sites. The Anne Frank House, markets, canals and museums are world class, but the daily life is what really sets this city apart as a destination where I could really spend a lot of time.

While the Dutch are not known internationally for their cuisine, the onset of a more globalized world has meant that more diverse flavors are creeping into restaurants in Amsterdam. The six days I had in Amsterdam were filled with great restaurants, highlighted by a delicious three course meal shared with my good friends Megan and Alfred who made the trip from Frankfurt, Germany to spend a few days with me in Amsterdam.  Accompanied by a great bottle of Austrian wine, the meal started off by a delicious starter of a whole roasted artichoke, was followed up by perfectly cooked duck and was finished off with a delicious vanilla ice cream sundae with raspberries, peaches and chocolate.  The food was refreshing, modern, pleasing to eat, stylishly presented and consumed with friends, in short, a perfect encapsulation of Amsterdam.

The other highlights of Amsterdam presented themselves in unexpected places.  The unique shop tucked in a stretch of residential buildings, the cafe with fantastic views of the canals, the quiet neighborhood and the delicious snacks found in a convenience store.  This was the most time I have spent in the land of my ancestors.  The more time I spent there the more I wanted to stay, finding the hidden charms, enjoying just being in this great place.

Images of Amsterdam

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