The Romance Capital of the World? Get over yourself. Paris is grimy and dingy in places and unsafe in others.
Listing some of the cities I have been to – London, New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Berlin, Prague, Las Vegas, Bangkok, Dubai, Rio De Janeiro, Havana – makes me seem like a show-off. But the reality, these are all places on my “bin list” – thanks but no thanks. Never want to go any of them again.
Lest you think I don’t like cities in Europe and North America, I will say I will go to Washington again, to Copenhagen, Dresden, Frankfurt, Dublin and Vienna.
The bin list surprises some people because the cities I can do without visiting again are some of their favourites. Let me explain my peeves:
London, England. Picture: iStock
It’s too crowded, often – despite the improvements in the past 20 years – grimy … and the weather’s not very nice.
Public transport in the city is crowded and not cheap. Getting away from London is pretty costly too, because the UK has the most expensive trains in Europe. And eating out and accommodation is horrendously expensive when you’re thinking in Rand terms.
New York City, USA. Picure: iStock
Over-crowded, overprice and over-rated. If you like skyscraping blocks or reinforced concrete and monuments to capitalism, you’ll love it.
You won’t love being shoved and bumped on the sidewalks and grimy subways, and New Yorkers are the quintessential “don’t give a damn” people.
Paris, France. Picture: iStock
The Romance Capital of the World? Get over yourself. It’s grimy and dingy in places and unsafe in others.
A grey snake of a river doesn’t make it pretty at all – and the Eiffel Tower doesn’t make up for the lack of beauty. And if the French were twice as polite, they’d still be just plain rude.
Los Angeles, USA. Picture: iStock
Hollywood is more authentic than this sprawling collection of boxes and mansions, interspersed with palm trees, so-so beaches (forget the movies) and plenty of black/white tension.
Everyone’s hustling … and, as Joni Mitchell sang, all the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas. It’s Joburg with more Toyota Priuses (for virtue signalling lefties).
Berlin, Germany. Picture: iStock
Perhaps it was because I was there in the dead of winter that I could feel the Cold War harshness. But its also been turned into a tourist trap or hip bohemian hangout for the artists of this world. Cliches are us …
Prague, Czech Republic. Picture: iStock
It looks beautiful in the tourism photos – a classic central European city. But it’s like getting caught in the homeward rush after a cup final at the FNB Stadium … people, people, people.
It’s a city built on tourism and as a visitor, you sometimes feel like a sausage in an endless money-making sausage machine.
Las Vegas, USA. Picture: iStock
The capital of kitsch, or Hell’s real Kitchen. Hot doesn’t come close to describing arriving, mid-summer, to a temperature of 44°C … at 7.30 at night.
It’s all fake, fake, fake, from the neon facades on the glitzy hotels, to the cheesy copies of the Eiffel Tower, to the plaster lions and Roman columns which seem to be the emblem of the place. It’s a garish oasis in a really ugly desert.
Bangkok, Thailand. Picture: iStock
Steamy climate, steamy attractions. No thanks.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Picture: iStock
A glass and aluminium artefact from the 23rd century. No sense of history. An overpowering sense of consumerism … and a desert ugly enough to rival that around Las Vegas.
Watching Lamborghinis, Bugattis and Ferraris roar past in a herd is no compensation.
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Picture: iStock
Beautiful, but haunted by the gulf between rich and poor. The looming favelas on the hillsides speak of poverty and violence, which can often spill over into the tourist areas.
Go there to say you’ve done it. But don’t go back.
Havana, Cuba. Picture: iStock
The Cuban capital – tired, threadbare and with American cars from the 50s cruising the streets like dinosaur survivors of the meteorite strike – is a living, breathing monument to the depredations of unbridled socialist dictatorship.
All mixed in with Cuba Libre the island’s signature rum and coke (or the Cuban version of coke).
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