Tag Archives: night life

The Beautiful Ones

24 Oct

I have been privileged in my life time to have known almost all of them, but what makes them unique? Why are some cities so darn awful, qu’on veut juste les oublier, and others so inviting that we can’t stop going back for more.

Apart from being far away from everything, Cape Town is a magnificent city. Capetonians enjoy stunning scenery, a largely car-free urban centre, outdoor markets, patios, beaches, and unparalleled cultural diversity. I consider myself fortunate to have it permanently stamped in my passport as “place of birth”, despite all the life implications it had for myself and my family for so many years.

Rio de Janeiro was briefly home back in the early 2000’s. It was there I fell in love with urban cycling, as even back then A Cidade Maravilhosa had an impressive cycling network, which allowed one to ride from the most southern of Rio’s suburbs all the way to the city centre. It is my understanding this network has grown significantly as the centre becomes safer, though, as in Cape Town, it remains hampered by the reality of Rio de Janeiro’s large income disparities.

I spent a year there – London is an imposingly beautiful city, which is remarkable considering it is one of the most densely populated centres in the world. Driving through London is intolerably slow, with average speeds around 10 miles per hour; everything about the place is expensive, even a sandwich at M&S will set you back 4 pounds. Yet London is teeming with parks, the city has a magnificent Thames River Walk, and its transport system is remarkably clean and efficient given its age.

Barcelona has blocks and blocks of pedestrian promenades, plazas, and street patios. The beach side features one of the greatest sea walls in the world, stretching for miles between the city of Gaudi and the shimmering beaches of the Mediterranean. At sunset one can dance to music on the beaches without the complaints of residents, while at night the city is alive with street life and live music. A gem I was fortunate enough to spend time in as a student while at grad school.

Other beautiful cities populate lists of all kinds, for all sorts of reasons. Vancouver is often on those lists, which is of no surprise. Our city is blessed with an improbable combination of sea, mountains, moderate climate, and an ethnically diverse population. Vancouver is free of the poverty of Rio de Janeiro, or the slums of Cape Town, it is far from the political instability of the Mediterranean that fronts Barcelona, it is out of the spotlight that shines without pause on London, Paris, and New York. Yet our city also has its downsides. There are no pedestrian corridors in the city centre, no plazas, no bike share programs, limited bikes lanes, a small and neglected public transit system, increased income disparities between east side and west side, and an unsolvable housing crisis.

At home on a Friday night, I am also acutely aware that in Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, or Barcelona, the last thing I would be doing is sitting in front of my computer alone. Yet this is one of the realities of a city that is terrified of noisy public places and the outdoor consumption of alcohol. I have no desire to mingle in a hockey lovers ghetto on Granville Street with rowdy 20 year olds hiding whisky in their pockets, just like I have no interest in listening to a tirade of Miley Cyrus songs pouring out of the doors of many of the establishments that are supposed to represent the night life of a city convinced it is the “Most Beautiful Place on Earth”

Vancouver has many of the elements in place to be the best of great cities, hopefully we can take an eye away from the mirror to learn a bit more about the successes of our rivals, so that we too can take our urban landscape to the next level.

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