I absolutely love the whole city experience, and my most treasured and memorable travel moments are inevitably linked to urban spaces; standing at the top of Mount Namsan and watching glimmering Seoul below me, dining at a Hungarian restaurant in London with my partner and getting tipsy on a single glass of red wine, walking along Christmas-decorated Grafton street in Dublin with my best friend, falling in love with Zurich, my new ‘home town’, on a warm and clear summer’s night, hanging around by the sea in Istanbul with the Ortaköy Mosque on one side and the Bosphorus bridge, lit up for the night, on the other.
In the 13th BlogSherpa carnival, my fellow Lonely Planet bloggers and I are celebrating cities around the world and sharing with you some unforgettable urban moments.
Opening today’s carnival is Georgia of Ginger Beirut who shares with us her memorable experience of visiting the hippodrome, a good budget option in a city that is becoming expensive:
“…sometimes it’s time to get out of the bling and return to the real Beirut, the gritty, earthy one. When you feel like this, cancel your laser hair removal, guys, and your lip pumping, girls, and postpone your subhiye at Ladurée. Instead take a service to the hippodrome, entering to the right of the Mathaf Watani (National Museum).”
From Beirut we take a giant leap to Guanajuato, Mexico, the city which Barbara from Cultural Travel with Hole in the Donut considers to be the most beautiful in the world;
“My first impression of Guanajuato was, “Wow, this city reminds me of Rome!” After two days of wandering around its pristine cobblestone streets, discovering one jaw-droppingly beautiful plaza and church after another, I was proclaiming it the most beautiful city in the world. By day five, I was looking at apartments.”
Geoff from Itinerant Londoner, gives us more insight into this city by describing the traditional processions held during its Semana Santa;
“I’ve really never seen anything like it. Back home, Easter is largely marked by the consumption of huge amounts of chocolate, and my memory of Easter mass are pretty tame. It’s amazing the amount of effort they go to – and the procession continues for hours into the night, as they struggle round the narrow hilly streets of town going from church to church, stopping at each to perform prayers, and all done barefoot.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, Shanna from Grand Cycle Tour shares with us the thrills and rewards of exploring a city by bike, even when the obstacles seem to outnumber the pleasures, and relates her experience on two wheels in Paris;
“…some of our most incredible and memorable experiences have been cycling the world’s great cities- where bikes are gaining popularity and they’re trying to build bike lane networks to keep up with demand.
Paris is one of those cities. In just a couple of days we were able to explore not only the major tourist sites, but also the side streets and outer suburbs, with the city’s free bike hire scheme.”
While we’re in Europe let’s head to Italy’s stunning Venice which caught the attention of two contributing bloggers. Jason of Alpaca Suitcase comments on the delights of getting lost in this city full of surprises and the benefits of leaving your map at home, even at the risk of getting lost;
“I guess the question is: does it matter if you get lost? With one of the most beautiful cities in the world in front of you, would you rather spend your time looking up at the gothic architecture or looking down at a map? Everything you see in Venice is old, unique, beautiful and worthy of inclusion in a walking tour, anyway. We didn’t mind getting lost because around every corner was something interesting to see. A wrong turn meant seeing a beautiful Gothic church, a gondolier poling down a canal or a tower leaning slightly to one side.”
Liz from Travelogged.com continues to describe the delights this city has to offer after sundown;
“Piazza San Marco (aka St. Mark’s Square) is the place to be at night. Music fills the square as quartets perform at the upscale bars around the perimeter. Adding to the romance is that the square floods at night. As the tide comes in, it laps up the shore and oozes up through the drains.”
Cities become even more beautiful come Christmas time, when they are lavishly decorated with sparkling lights and special Christmas markets. While for me, Christmas in the city brings to mind Zurich’s giant Christmas tree covered in hundreds of magically-twinkling zvarowsky crystals, Sophie at Sophie’s World decides to take us to Vienna for its markets and lights;
“I adore the Christkindlmarkt at Rathausplatz. It’s so colourful, vibrant and lively. It’s also full of children. During Advent, City Hall hosts the Christkindl Werkstatt, a workshop for children aged 3 – 18. About 80 000 children stop by here in the weeks before Christmas and entire school classes reserve time. With rosy cheeks, all flush with excitement and anticipation, they queue outside.”
Only a month ago, I was busy exploring the wonders of Istanbul, and I was particularly struck by the noise and confusion of Taksim Square. On the 31st of October, this very same spot became the sight of a suicide blast which injured 32 people. I got the news from Joe of Hello Pineapple? whose memorable Istanbul experience happened a mere 36 hours before this terrorist act;