One of the questions I’m most often asked is “What is your favorite city so far?” As with so many questions about favorites, finding an answer is somewhere between hard and impossible. It begs a thousand questions in return: In what way? To live or to visit? For a day or a week? All are responses looking for clarification and rightfully so, since more often than not the question could better be worded “where should I go?” or “where would I have fun?” Nevertheless, excuses and wishy-washy responses make for poor reading, so I’ll attempt an answer.
My favorite place so far is Sevilla.
Sevilla, a city I hadn’t even planned on visiting (see my last post), but that kept me hostage for almost a week. What makes it my favorite? Is it the old and glorious architecture? That would be a sophisticated response, but the truth is I hardly went out while I was there and didn’t even take a single good picture. The Flamenco and the nightlife of the city are famous, but I got lost on the way to both Flamenco shows I tried to attend and barely set foot in a bar. I never went to a museum, the famous tower was closed for no apparent reason and the closest I came to a restaurant was one euro tapas night at the Andalucían equivalent of TGIFridays.
Now architecture and cuisine would be reasonable reasons for picking a favorite city, but the truth is I’ve never found a substitute for meeting interesting and good people and in this, my experience in Sevilla was second to none. From the moment I arrived in Sevilla till the last moments when I headed for the train, I met one wonderful and fascinating person after another. Some of them worked there and some were guests; some funny, some serious, but all beautiful.
When I lived in worked at New York, I ate at some of the world’s best and most expensive restaurants, but I’ll take cheap tapas with a side of love and friendship over filet mignon with a hint of cynical any day of the year. That’s extreme, but I’ll go farther, I had a better time washing other people’s dirty dishes than gazing at Van Goghs, because of who I was with.
Now I’m not against sightseeing or visiting museums, they’re essential parts of traveling and seeing a postcard of Notre Dame can never substitute for sitting in the cathedral’s pews, but it’s human hands that make cathedrals and paintings and it’s the human element that makes these things meaningful. Even the great pyramid is no more than a speck of dust when compared to a mountain, but that’s missing the point isn’t it? Cities aren’t collections of stones and buildings; they’re collections of people and their creations.
You can travel the world and never experience it. Last week I visited England, France, Austria, Scotland, Poland, Israel, Canada, the US and Finland all from a couch in Sevilla. No tour bus could have shown me more, because you can’t see the world by simply looking through a window. Sevilla reminded me of this and gave me memories I’ll carry forever. That’s why it’s my favorite.