A little more than a year ago I wrote a post about five cities around the world that I needed to give a second chance. For a variety of reasons, my first visits to these places were not positive experiences and a few of them I would even go so far as to say that I hated. I didn’t (and still don’t) think that’s fair; I really believe that they deserved a second chance to experience them in a better way and I even managed to do that with two of them: Toronto and Ghent. My second visit to Toronto was just as disastrous as my first and I’d really rather not go back again. Ghent however turned out to be a wonderful do over. I spent several days in this Flemish town in Belgium and fell under its spell. It was great validation to my theory that perhaps one visit is not enough to accurately form an opinion about a new destination. So with all of this in mind, I decided to pick five more cities that I feel I need to give a second chance, to see what I missed the first time and figure out what exactly makes them loved by millions of others around the world.
1. Los Angeles – I think my problem with Los Angeles was that I first visited it thinking that I would hate it. I even think that part of me wanted to hate it. That’s how intensely I personally don’t want to be identified with Southern California. I have no basis for this judgement and indeed everyone I know who lives in Southern California (well almost all) are wonderful, fun and pleasant people. So it must be movies and TV that prejudged the city for me, and I’m sorry to say that I let them get away with it. In my own defense, LA is a tough town to get to know and it takes a lot longer than a three-day weekend to discover the fun and quirky spots that make it fun to visit. Now that I have friends in the area though I’d love to return and try to learn this massive and confounding city.
2. Florence – This is an odd city not to like, I acknowledge. On a list a dream destinations, Italy figures high and Florence even higher. It’s the city of the Renaissance, of art and beauty, in many ways it IS Italy. And yet, I had a lackluster time. Part of it has to do with my mood, I was in a bad one. My partner and I had a huge argument on the train ride down and were barely speaking during our day there. We luckily had a guide, otherwise I may have just given up and returned to our rented apartment in Milan. The walking tour helped and it was thanks our guide that we saw anything really. Florence confused me, I couldn’t get my bearings and barely found the tour guide in the first place. But the famous sights, the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, David, they were all fine, but they didn’t make me gush. They didn’t make me stand there in awe, desperate not to leave. No, I was quite ready to leave by the end of the day and I feel bad about that. I’d love to go back, in a better mood, and try to see if I can learn to like Florence like every normal person I know.
3. Barcelona – When I think of Barcelona the first word that comes to mind is, “ugh.” I’ve been through Barcelona a couple of times and aside from meeting a famous chef, I really didn’t care for the experience. It was hot, crowded and just an unpleasant place to be. The touristy areas were super-touristy, the likes of which seen only in a few places around the world. Part of that is due to the fact that Barcelona is a major cruise port, attracting millions of people every year (many from the US) to spend a couple of days before they set sail on the Mediterranean. I like cruises, but that many cruisers in one place was almost too much to take. I prefer lower key cities, with some but not too many tourists. Barcelona about did me in. Still, I think I missed something, I must have. So many people love it and I wonder what’s wrong with me? How can I not love what is purported to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world? Well, I’d like to go back and see if that might change.
4. Chicago – I’m biased, mostly because my partner and many of my friends hail from the New York/New Jersey region. If you thought the ‘friendly’ animosity between the two cities is made up, it’s not and it’s almost entirely centered on food. Chicago pizza isn’t pizza, it’s a casserole of some sort and don’t even get me started on what they put on hot dogs. In spite of this prejudice, I have traveled to Chicago many times for my former job, even going so far as to take extra time to play tourist. I never understood what there was to do exactly. It reminds me of Toronto in that way. It’s a perfectly ok city, there just wasn’t a whole lot to see and do. Yes they have skyscrapers and yes they have museums. But what is there in Chicago that would draw me in, want to visit on a vacation? Nothing that I know of, which is why I’m open to the idea of going back to see if there is indeed some hidden attraction or endearing quality I have missed.
5. London – Ok, this is a holdover from my first list for a couple of reasons. One, I haven’t had the chance to return and give it what ultimately would be its third chance and second, my partner and I have a trip planned to London in May. I really want to like London, honestly I do. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t go starry-eyed whenever the name comes up and I would love to have those same feelings for the city. I think that this next time will be the best, at least I hope so. We are staying at a fabulous hotel, we have tickets to a show and plans to do a lot in and around the city. It’s going to be a packed but fun few days and I do believe that this may be the time I actually come to not loathe London.
What are some cities you would like to revisit, to give a second chance?