A few days after I finished up guiding for the year, I started thinking about how I was to reflect on it in this blog.
Often I would be asked what my favourite ‘x’ is. Country, food, stadium, the list goes on, and it can be incredibly hard. Another guide, Abigail, gets around this by compiling lists of ‘top 5s’. That seems easier. Australians love lists (why else would we be obsessed with 20 to 1?) and I decided to compile a few of my own.
Getting a bit carried away, I decided not to limit my reflections to this year, but rather since I first stepped off Aussie soil solo on 6 February 2007, when I started this blog. I made a few rules – anything that made these lists had to have happened since that fateful date, so nothing from our family jaunts around North America. Same goes for anything at home – although I will always say the MCG is the best stadium in the world, it couldn’t make this list.
I also couldn’t limit myself to a top five, especially when it came to food. Ten sounded better.
So, here it goes, the first in a fifteen part series (unless I think of more categories). I’ve even broken another blogging rule of mine – enjoy the photos.
Starting off with something general, here are my favourite cities. Some are not surprising at all, some are more surprising due to their absence. No mention of Paris, Rome or even Amsterdam. Gotta be tough!
Next: Favourite art galleries
10. Seville, Spain
Seville will always have a special place in my heart as the city that blew me away by its tapas. Just as I was recovering from eating some of the best food in the world, it hit me over the head again by deciding to have a little fiesta in the centre of town at the very Spanish hour of midnight.
9. Shanghai, China
It’s hard to believe that the biggest city in the world didn’t even have a skyline twenty years ago. Even though I’m a history nut and this city doesn’t quite strike you as a historical one, I love this place. There’s plenty of neighbourhoods, the lovely French Concession, and the gorgeous promenade along the Bund.
8. Bangkok, Thailand
I love the Thai capital. It introduced me to Southeast Asia – oppressive heat, fiery food, insane traffic and beautiful temples and palaces. It was here I took a tuk tuk for the first time, narrowly avoided being conned, and made way for a monk on a ferry.
7. Florence, Italy
When I visited Florence in 2007, I didn’t really feel it. I was a bit over Italy by then, a bit over art and on antibiotics after my little hospital visit in Bari. Four years later, however, I’ve grown to love the place. Getting a better understanding of its history has helped a treat, and it’s also helped seeing a heap of churches and then coming back to Florence’s Duomo – it’s made me appreciate it even more.
6. London, United Kingdom
I know, it doesn’t sound very exotic, but I really do love London. There’s always plenty to do, different things to eat and myriad odds and ends to buy. It also helps that so many of its sights are free – museums, galleries, parks and even non-traditional tourist attractions such as Harrod’s. It would help if it was a bit cheaper, though!
5. Budapest, Hungary
I’ve said this recently, but this is the little city that could. I would say that it is more beautiful than Paris in many parts, and gets a lot less credit.
4. Hong Kong, China SAR
Amy and I escaped to Hong Kong three years ago and I’ve loved it so much I’ve headed back twice. It’s not the sites that make me love it – although the Peak and Happy Valley are highlights – but rather the shopping and the food. It’s the perfect minibreak city.
3. Tokyo, Japan
This was the first city I travelled to solo –almost five years ago now – and what a city to start with. Unlike most cities, Tokyo doesn’t have a centre. Instead, it has a whole lot of neighbourhoods that capture your attention for hours or days on end – places like Asakusa with its amazing Senso-ji, Ginza with its high-end shopping, Harajuku with its quirky subculture and my favourite, Shibuya, with its ability to just scream ‘Japan’. Also helps when your food is amazing…
2. Barcelona, Spain
I love the Catalonian capital – I fell in love with it about three minutes after arriving, with the Beast still in tow. I love cities where people are on the streets all the time – and no street seems busier than La Ramblas. I also love cities which make you fall in love with something or someone you previously didn’t give a toss about – here it’s architecture and Antoni Gaudi. What a legend.
1. Berlin, Germany
No surprises here. There are so many reasons why I love this city – namely its history, which spans the entire era I’m most interested in, but also its affordability, its wealth of attractions, and its simple vibrancy. Vibrancy, you say, what’s that? Well, it’s having people on the streets all the time, posters all over the place advertising art shows and sporting matches, and restaurants on each and every corner. But the thing they do best out of all cities in the world is embrace its own history – for all its faults – and encourage visitors to be enticed into loving it too.