Monday, May 24, 2010

top cities

Here's a post I've been wanting to do forevah and evah.
Based entirely on those conversations that tend to happen once someone comes back from a holiday and exclaims:

'This city was so amazing, it's on my top ten of favourite cities. In fact, it's on my top five!'

It's tough choosing a Top Ten. But here are mine. One might even surprise you, Cheyvonne from Delaware, if you're reading.

Rio de Janeiro

I hadn’t given any real consideration to Rio, until a colleague said to me, ‘Go to Rio man!’ when I asked for suggestions on where a single chick could go that’s vibey, beachy, edgy, and full of sweet seduction. With plenty of caipirinhas thrown in. I stayed a week, and had such a fabulous time, I cried when I left the fucking hostel.

Rio is sexy. It oozes voluptuous women who shop in bikinis at Copacabana department stores, they snog in public everywhere, and they love themselves. And the feeling osmoses, it’s electric.
The fact that Rio is one of the most dangerous cities in the world makes it that much more razor sharp.
There’s so much to see – the favelas, the beaches, Corcovado, the Tijuca Forest, Lapa street parties, the place is steamy. I loved Rio, would go back in a second, and certainly plan to. Top three definitely.


I’ve been obsessed with the concept of Berlin since I studied Communism in history. That, and all the other weird and crazy traumatic things that have happened to it.

I can't think of one city - except maybe Baghdad and Kabul - that has gone through so much crap over a period of 100 years. And yet cannon balls, walls, bunkers, bombs and bullets aside, the place is fucking beautiful.

The history alone interested me intensely, and when I visited, I happened to be going through a particularly irrational 'amorous' German phase. I was going learning German and I was LOVING German men.

Berlin is an island on the Eastern border of Germany with its own set of rules.

And they do tend to follow ALL the rules in Germany, Berlin isn’t an exception. However there’s a crazy looseness and loss of identity in the place that’s very evident. It's a melting pot of arty types and nude sunbathers.

Everywhere you turn there is something of historical or cultural relevance – so if you like beautifully efficient first world countries (I do), and you are interested in the 20th century (I am), love clubbing and techno music (I do), love beautiful shit (I do), then it’s your God given duty to go.


I just know deep in my waters, that Tokyo will be a hot contender for favourite city in the history of favourite cities. Hence why it's here, before even visiting it.

It tickles my inner geek. I like geeky stuff. Streets pumping with 8000 million flashing billboards, a crazy tech-driven nation hooked on gadgets, and fashion crafted from a mind that is on 8000 grams of acid.

I am interested as to what it might feel like to live inside a computer.

And sleep inside a plastic capsule.

Live animation, crystal clear Mount Fuji, bullet trains that travel at 600km/h, Lost In Translation. I always said before I die, I have to:
1) Publish a book (check!)
2) Visit Japan.

My colleague went there last month, and I'm so jealous I can't even look at her at the moment.
Even after London, it's THEE most expensive place to visit for any tourist. So I'm saving. I'm hoping to do a 2011 trip.


I’ve been to London a lot. Finally, I'll be moving there in July. I’ve come to familairise myself enough with the city, mainly by going for work. But I’ve also fallen in love in London.

So admittedly, I have experienced London on a financially-sound, loved-up basis.

It has to be said though, London is world class. It’s grand, cosmopolitan, and full of choice.
It’s also crowded and it’s difficult to move around.
Let’s not go into the weather, because I think the world will unanimously agree: never before has a city got so much bad press from a climate.

And even though the climate never changes, you’ll find that populations and generations of Brits have been pontifying about it, like it's a surprise (‘Aw yeah, the wevver is bollocks today isn't it?') since the Middles Ages.

But then the Brits are arguably the funniest nation on the planet. As per example this character, as seen in Notting Hill below.

Weather and rush hour aside, there's pub culture, the greenest parks you've ever seen, museums, galleries, shopping till your tits fall clean off your chest, and most special of all, there are freaks. I could watch people all day in London. Especially when every fourth person, is, guaranteeably, a nutter.


You read that right. Not Cape Town, Durban. Here it is sitting on my best cities list, and I'm not even on crack.

My family is originally from Durban, so there’s a strong and happy familiarity I feel when I go there.
It’s tropical, the Indian curry is the best in Africa, and if you look beyond the grime that is Marine Parade, you'll find it to be rather colonial, David Livingstone.

The old houses in Durban are big and rambling, with huge, lush green gardens. You can actually SWIM in the sea – none of this sitting on Clifton but will-die-of-hypothermia if-you-touch-the-water balls. It’s chilled, and it’s colourful.

It also happens to be the ‘fashion city’ of South Africa. You heard it here. It hosts all the designer stuff that goes on.

On the colonial vibe: It’s Port Natal. My grandad used to shoot a canon on top crest of his lawn every day at noon dressed in his family kilt. No jokes.
It really is the last outpost; the last bastion of British.

They don’t speak Afrikaans down there, although they do love fush and chups. I used to talk like that. It’s faded now since I left home, but coming from Natal, I have been ripped apart for that before.

So yes. That's why I like good old Durbs. Besides, it gets half the attention Cape Town does, so I choose to support the underdog.


It’s a war zone right now, and the proprietors of Super Pussy in Patpong are feeling it. Thailand itself is exquisite; a country for people who need four star luxury for almost no cost at all.

Bangkok alone is worth a mention. It’s chaotic, it smells (mostly due to the klongs, the ‘water canals’ filled with sewrage along the roads), but if there’s ever a city that’ll make your eyes pop, your stomach ricochet in gluttonous delight, with a strange mix of Western capitalism and temple tranquility, this is it.

Other mentionables that speak for themselves:

Venice - it's sinking. So get to it while you can.

New York - I was there two months after the Twin Towers fell. I saw it's giant carcass in all it's depressing glory at Ground Zero. The dust was still settling. New York is mind blowing, even when marred in tragedy.

Istanbul - the perfect blend of East meets West. Voted European's Capital of Culture for 2010. Spanning across the European and Asian continent. Built around waterways, like Venice, it's breathtaking.

Geneva - always had a very soft spot for the city, and visited it a lot when I lived in France. Its backdrop is Mont Blanc, is superbly Swiss and therefore efficient and clean, and despite the banking backbone of Credit Suisse pinstripe suits, don't let that fool you. It has a pumping, albeit underground, nightlife.

Buenos Aires - Paris in South America. But with more tango dancers.

Athens - I'm serious. It's so Mediterranean you could brush your teeth with it. The ruins are tit too.

And then there's my retirement. Once I win the Euro lottery I plan to retire in my favourite region in the world. (Favourite cities obviously don't apply, as this baby is in a seeding of its own):

France. Is by far. My favourite place on Earth. With particular reference to Provence.
I'm still seeking the town within Provence that I'll buy a cottage in, park my red Citroen 2CV at, and throw open the blue shutters to write crime novels in the terracotta sun.

Something a little like this, in the Luberon Valley:

I want to retire there and drive around in a red Citroen 2CV, bouncing through the lavender fields, listening to gangsta music when I’m 70.

Generally you’ll find a lot of European cities on my list, because I love Europe. That’s my continent.


Kristen said...

Yay, Durban made your list. Probably wouldn't have made mine but I love living in Durbs.

Amsterdam would have been my no 1. Love the energy and the vibe.

cassey said...

Now I have more places I need to go see :) I've not travelled much, but one day I will. Good list, save for Durban. Not a city for me, I think to like it you need to either be old or have grown up here.

Peas on Toast said...

Kristen - indeedy! Most South Africans i'd imagine would balk and say 'er....Durban...why??' but I really like Durban. :)

Amsterdam was a consideration for the Top 10 too - but the drawbacks for me were that it was pretty grey and dismal most times (not that London isn't), but also it was GREAT for a weekend, but not sure i can spend entire weeks there on end.

Of course there are HUGE plusses for the city too - one, Amsterdam being such an open-minded liberal place...;)

cassey - True. I think my partiality to Durban is that i have big childhood ties there.

Kirsty said...

mine, in no particular order:
Cape Town
Sydney (something about ferry's...)
anywhere along the Spanish coast

Peas on Toast said...

Kirsty - very commendable list in my humble opinion!

Just one question....Dubai? Really?

I've only stopped through, but had in mind a fake sort of Disneyland filled with sheiks and a mad heat? No?

po said...

Peas: I've been to Dubai many times cos of family and yip, it's a fake Disneyland with Sheiks and shopping and mad heat. But the desert is awesome if you're into camping and stuff.

Peas on Toast said...

po - yeah I have to agree the desert is amazing, and am dying to do a tented desert expedition in the middle of nowhere, complete with persian rugs. Seriously :) But Dubai as a city? Perhaps I am misinformed ;)

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