Long Winding Road

Soul Cities

I’ve been lucky to get to travel quite a bit in my life. Not as much as some, but more than many. The summer after my sophomore year of college, I tagged along on a trip to New Orleans with my best friend from high school and her college buddies. The summer after my junior year, that same friend and I went on a 45-day budget tour of the continental U.S. Spring break my senior year, I went to New Orleans again with a different friend, and after I graduated, my best pal and I went on another adventure – this time, a cruise to the Bahamas. For our honeymoon, Dave and I sent ourselves to St. Lucia for a week, and we’ve found the money to go on a few other trips since then. I’ve worked at my job for over seven years now, and my work requires that I travel a few times a year; for work, I’ve been to a lot of cities in the U.S. and a few internationally. I’ve been to seven countries and I’ve lost count of the cities – near to 100, I’d say.

I like to travel and see new places, experience new things, but I’m almost always glad to come home again too – almost. There are a few cities I’ve been to that were hard to leave. Cities that felt like they owned a piece of me when I left; cities that left me wishing I came from there originally. There aren’t many, because at heart, I’m a Virginia mountain girl and I doubt I’ll ever live anywhere else. But if I did ever move? I can guarantee it would be to one of these fine locales.

  • London. My first international conference was held here. It almost killed me, planning and running this thing. But it did send me across the Atlantic for the first time, and damned if I wasn’t going to enjoy it a little bit. Dave came out the day after my conference ended, and we spent five blessed days in old London town. Everyone we met was so nice. The food was delicious. They have useable public transportation that actually makes sense. The theater was fantastic. It’s so OLD. We loved it. We definitely did not want to leave, and I would go back any time somebody wants to buy my plane ticket.
  • Portland (OR, not ME). We deliberated last year over where we wanted to go for our five-year wedding anniversary. We had just enough for a long weekend in a decent hotel in a second-tier city. At first we were looking for a music festival, and then we realized we hate crowds of people, especially drunk people, we hate camping, and we’re not overly fond of being outdoors in general. We got it down to Austin – which I’d been to once before and really liked and wanted to show Dave, it being such a fun, weird, musical city and all – and Portland – which we’d heard was neat and where Dave had a few internet friends we could entice to show us a little city. Ultimately, the temperature in June decided us in favor of Oregon over Texas…and we could not have had a better time. Amazing food, great weird little diversions, a naked bike ride that we accidentally just encountered, a little hole-in-the-wall bar with awesome local beers, time with great people…and POWELL’S BOOKS, Y’ALL!
  • New Orleans. This city…oh, this city is my first love after Virginia. And I don’t mean Bourbon Street – that has its place, I suppose, but that’s not what would ever have drawn me in. What gets me is the heartbeat of that city. It’s a living being; you can just feel the city watching you while you’re there. It’s creepy and mysterious and crazy and beautiful. There’s the music and the food and the tradition. I’ll never be from there – I wish, but that obviously can’t ever happen. We’re watching Treme right now, and it’s all coming back to me. I haven’t been since Katrina. We’ve given pretty regularly – as recently as this year – to the Katrina relief funds, but it’s not enough. It can never be enough. I want to go back, and I’m afraid to go back all at the same time. But Dave hasn’t ever been. He never had an interest before, but I think maybe he’s getting more interested. Here’s hoping we can get down there together sometime – sooner rather than later.

How about you? Ever been to a city that stole your heart?


8 thoughts on “Soul Cities

  1. I’d have to say that for me Sydney is probably the city I love the most. In all my travels, it is the one place that I would move to in a heartbeat. The people are so friendly, the city is quite walkable (or accessible via public transportation), and there is a great diversity in food.

    After that, my hometown of Buffalo, NY really is a wonderful city. And if you like music – it has a great music scene. (Think: Goo Goo Dolls, Ani DiFranco, 10,000 Maniacs) And, it is a great city for friendly folks and good food.

    Finally, I would say that Hanga Roa on Easter Island has my heart. Besides being in a super-special part of the world, I just love the laid-back attitude of the people. And the empanadas. Oh what I wouldn’t give to get those empanadas!

  2. I definitely feel that way about London. I’d move there in a heartbeat, even though the weather there can be pretty yucky.

    Quebec City is also wonderful, but I don’t love it in the same way that I love London.

      1. While the Falls are beautiful (that’s where I had my wedding reception), the cities on both sides of the border are less so. And I grew up having to visit NF every time an out of town family member came to visit. I do miss having easy access to Toronto though. It’s a great city!

  3. It’s not a city necessarily, but a town in the Tuscany area of Italy called Montepulciano. I had some of the best wine, olive oil, and food of my life there. And the scenery was straight out of a Renaissance painting.

    As for cities, San Francisco is awesome and I have some very happy memories from my honeymoon there: fish and chips and Anchor Steams on a pier right next to the Bay Bridge, sushi sushi sushi, fabulous sushi in abundance, and paddle boating on a lake in the park after walking for hours through the Mission district and Haight Ashbury. I think you’d dig it too Jen!

    1. I’ve been to San Fran before, and I do like it – but it did not make me want to move there. I will gladly visit again someday, but no soul-matedness. 🙂 Possibly on the Italy towns though – having never been there, I can’t say!

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