NEW YORK STORIES : : : AD LUMEN + CODA + FOREVER NOW + CHEF’S TABLE by SCENT STORIES MiN NEW YORK (2017)

 

 

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It’s outrageous that I have never been to New York. Both D and I adore exploring the cities of the world, and I sometimes just start involuntarily daydreaming about all the places we have been together over the years, from Paris to San Francisco, Jakarta to Mexico City, Hanoi and Bangkok through Kuala Lumpur and Copenhagen, Miami and Rome, Seoul and Barcelona. Kyoto and New Orleans. All over the place. Berlin (where we have an apartment). Amsterdam. Hong Kong. But never New York (he once stayed there for a whole summer, but that was before we met). How can it be that I have never been to the city of cities, the one we know better than any other, from all the countless movies that are set there, that make the city itself the main protagonist so many times, that bask in their very New Yorkness: all the Woody Allens and Cassavetes and the Scorceses; all those eighties, Bloomingdale romances from Splash to Moonstruck to Desperately Seeking Susan to the street sprinklers and hot summer tensions of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever through to the tragic upscale beauty of the New York Ballet in my beloved Black Swan: I have lapped up it all, for decades, stashing the sensations thoroughly in my New York File; a lifelong mental treasure chest of aesthetics, clichés and imaginings that makes me certain that the city, when I finally get there one day, will never live up to the dream. Can the Brooklyn Bridge and the grand vistas of Manhattan, like Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever, ever reach their formidable promise?

 

Somehow, despite what I have just said, I know they will. Yes, I might find people pushy and materialistic, colder than I expect as they just keep their heads in the game and try to ‘make it’. Maybe it is more dangerous than I imagine. It might be far less glamorous, more banal, than I fantasise it will be. After all, it is just a city. But somehow, I feel that the monuments and streets’ deep visual familiarity will probably only make them more fantastic and strange.I think I will love it. The architecture. The energy. I can just imagine myself wandering around the brownstone streets just gawping at it all;  thinking of my friend Georgia and how her dream was to go to NYC and come across Woody Allen making a film there and how that actually happened; the sounds of early Madonna and the Kids From Fame (god I love that era!), but the current culture too – the brilliant house music of Hercules and Love Affair, the electro hip hop of Princess Nokia. I would go to the clubs, Lady Gaga’s dad’s Italian restaurant, Central Park. I would not go to the Natural History Museum, site of the ugliest film ever made, Night At The Museum, but I would go to Met and all the others, walk around, lost and anonymous, and I would excuse myself for days on end from my friends that live there and would hopefully let me stay in their apartments,  in order to sneak out by subway – again, scene to a million film scenes – to all the marvellous perfumeries.

 

 

When actually in New York City (it still seems unimaginable, somehow) I am quite sure I would find myself wincing and trying to suppress murderous thoughts at times (my idea of hell on earth is a self-important, bearded Brookyln hipster), and would certainly feel that slight intestinal tension of gun terror that always underlies everything in America  – sorry, it does – as well as all the sights that I would have to see – I have a strange desire to go to Coney Island for some reason, but I would still be inexorably drawn to spend entire afternoons just exploring the temples of perfume luxury like Aedes De Venustas, with all its expensive, cushy niche, and the CB I Hate Perfume shop, whose full line I would like to know much better; the department stores on Fifth Avenue, just, because, and also, naturally,  MiN, a perfumery that is filled to bursting with stockpiles of unfamiliar niche that I would like to become more acquainted with (are we all not unfamiliar with at least 90% of what is out there now? And despite our malaise and fatigue, are we not even now still slightly intrigued that somehow, somewhere, we might find a new scent that really does it?)

 

 

One of my friends in New York sometimes sends me samples from MiN store out of the blue (this review of tuberose perfumes, for instance, was based on one such package), but yesterday, in the thick rainy blue of my self-possessed doldrums there arrived a parcel from my perfume friend Bethan back in England who is my ultimate supplier of new samples, many of which I think I should write about on here, just because they are new and hip, but then often forget to (because the perfumes are just so very uninspiring and forgettable). We have quite similar taste though in most areas – regarding quality, in particular – so if she says that this or that line seems to be more intelligent and interesting than usual, then my ears usually prick up. And yesterday’s package really gave me a boost.

 

 

Like the aforementioned Aedes, who a while back started releasing perfumes under their own aegis and now offer eight titles, all pricey, all good quality – heavy, spicy, fresh, contemporary – MiN New York has now come out with its own line of perfumes called Scent Stories  – ‘hand-crafted visceral moments of limited production’  covering a wide variety of themes, in two volumes so far; sixteen scents in all, $240 per 75ml, that strike me as well made and thought out ( I only have Vol 2 to review, a series of five scents, four of which I will discuss here ).

 

 

Firstly, Chef’s Table. Right now, as you know, I am not exactly able to go out shopping for groceries with the state of my legs (bags that unbalance me are a big no-no), so the D is responsible for bringing back food each night even if he has been working all day and is knackered. Frazzled, actually. Last night it was pizza and salad (which suits me just fine – after eight weeks in the Japanese hospital I could just live on Italian and Indian for the rest of the entire year, or even my life,  quite happily); lots of fresh basil and tomatoes, and as that was exactly the smell of the first perfume I tried out of the bag, I suggested a scented synchronicity. He tried some on, liked it immediately, and will wear it, the kind of spiky, aromatic green that is nice after a shower when you are hot and sticky in July and August and want to wear something grounding but stimulating to the nostrils.  Basil and tomato leaf has of course been done before, in Eau De Campagne by Sisley (1974), a green and grassy vetiver scent I sometimes like to spray on in the summer time, as well as the salad-like Baime by Maitre Parfumeur; Feuilles De Tomates Poivrees by Lostmarch, and the basilique of basiliques, Virgilio by Diptqyue, from back when they still had some genuinely weird perfumes on their roster such as L’Autre and Vinaigre. Virgilio is a dastardly basil scent that is really quite hard to wear, but Chef’s Table is easier; effective as a green, herbal, minty basil concoction that keeps its leafiness throughout but remains abstract enough not to let the culinary angles become too much of a distraction. Mint, basil, a pungent clary sage and a subtle tomato leaf note form the main basis of the perfume but in very nice balance with an invisible underthrow of rose, iris, and tonka that broadens the herbaceousness and makes the scent appealing and wearable. I like it. With more stamina and wherewithall than say, Guerlain’s Herba Fresca, head-clearing and androgynous, I would definitely recommend this one for those who like a basil note in their perfume – this is like eating pesto on a picnic in the grass on a cool, summer’s evening.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ad Lumen, a soft, clear skin scent,  is an entirely different kind of fragrance: a simple, but rather haunting, aldehyde rose musk that I find to be like a more futuristic take on Brosseau’s classic Ombre Rose, just without all the powder. Bergamot, Egyptian jasmine, rose, and musks are the listed notes, and while this is certainly not complex,  it is extremely long lasting and somewhat memorable, while envincing an alluring – gentle, but obsessional – emotion. Last night, as I turned over in my bed and turned over my sheets and duvet, I could smell Ad Lumen, but not on my hand itself, almost as though it were somewhere beside me but not quite on me. Like Tom Ford’s excellent Jasmine Musk, this is one of those perfumes that while not fascinating or exacting from an artistic point of view, could, on a live person, elicit quite an adhesive reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

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Next. The go-to smell for current niche urban perfumery is, of course, the woody, the earthy, and the incensed, and it seems that about half of the Scent Stories collection comes into this category in one way or another. Whether I like it or not, this is what the people want now. As you know, I am about as likely to wear one of these harsh, bracing, Nasomatto or Byredo oudh guaiac perfumes as I am to run for office, but the two woody scents from Volume Two of this collection are quite nice, not as searing and acrid as some of these perfumes can be and are slightly more attenuated. Forever Now, a scent I quite enjoyed last night, for instance, at least in its opening and end stages – the middle I found a bit busy –  is basically a well crafted frankincense perfume that has a lovely, ethereal, aldehydic opening, and a fresh and ghostly olibanum note at heart that is pleasingly spooky and affecting. Where real frankincense oil dissipates quite quickly, the perfumer has found a way here to clad the ghost with cedarwood, ciste absolute and santalum album in a way that makes the incense more hefty but which is just a smidgen too sweet for me personally perhaps (in a similar manner to  Annick Goutal’s fine Encens Flamboyant), but which still retains the footprint of beautiful frankincense throughout, pedestalled on a gentle, animalic, base. Quite lovable.

 

 

Coda (‘rock star chic’) is a pepper/woody scent with more than a passing resemblance to Guerlain Heritage (and thus Tom Ford Noir, which was an unabashed copy of that perfume). Spicy (‘ceylan’, cinnamon bar oil and nutmeg), with a warm, ambery base and fresh top notes (cypress, eucalpytus and mint), this is one of those perfumes that quietly scream big business; a jawline for days; shoulders; dark suit. It’s actually really quite sexy, if a touch insistent and stubborn, like an ego at the bar. That does seem quite New Yorkish though to me, I must say, and thus in keeping with the brand.

 

 

 

So. New York Scent Stories. Nothing astonishing here, and at that price, not scents that I am rushing to order online. But these are perfumes that are certainly rather handsome and approachable; well made and subtly salient scents that I might go back to, which for me is saying quite a lot, as I get choosier and choosier, more olfactively pedantic, all the time. In any case, the brand strikes me as being interesting enough for me to want to at least try the rest of the line as well as the rest of the MiN store if and when I finally make it to New York one day.  With things the way that they are at the moment, I don’t think the time is especially opportune – there are other places we are planning to go to next, at Christmas and New Year, somewhere in Asia, somewhere hot and exotic, to continue our journey of human metropolises and hopefully celebrate my being able to walk about properly. New York, though, still remains at the top of the places that I know I must go to one day. I still don’t know exactly why I have never made it there yet. Timing. Other plans. Or perhaps it’s because I have been so immersed in the place, in my film and music memory and imagination for an entire lifetime, that I almost feel as though I have been there already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On a side note:   What’s your favourite city? I’d love to know.

 

I think mine is probably Tokyo. I so MISS IT.

52 Comments

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52 responses to “NEW YORK STORIES : : : AD LUMEN + CODA + FOREVER NOW + CHEF’S TABLE by SCENT STORIES MiN NEW YORK (2017)

  1. anne

    New York at Christmas…why miss?

  2. Lilybelle

    If you go to New York you should definitely see the natural history museum. It’s wonderful, old, geeky New York. I hate New York but I miss it sometimes, too. It’s a very love/hate place for me. I haven’t been in years, though I lIved there for years in a sort of dream, or series of dreams, and I just have no desire to return. All my best perfume memories and stories are there, though. You will have a ball!!

    • Please do tell me more if you have time. I think we discussed some of this when I wrote my piece on how much I dislike London, but I would love to hear more. I would never live in London again, EVER, but I do like to visit once every two years or so, and perfume is a big part of it. Can you understand my NYC fetish though? Do your dreams of the city ever resurface in your brain even where you are now? What did you like about the place the most? And why wouldn’t you want to go back?

      • Lilybelle

        I can totally understand your NYC fetish. 🙂 What I loved most about NYC was the freedom, the mobility – walking and wandering everywhere – a feeling of free spiritedness and that anything could happen (and did), the amazing energy (which turned monstrous), just…so much to fascinate. In my most frequent unpleasant dreams I’m always there, but lost somehow, too, and missing my shoes, my bag, my keys, my phone, my clothes or something essential, and trying to get back to a place that seems familiar but I can’t for some reason. NYC is quite literally a living organism. It pulses, breathes, and has a deep, subterranean sound. It takes possession of you. The last couple of years I was there I was very, very unhappy and overwhelmed and sort of existentially challenged, which the city intensified, though didn’t necessarily cause. I felt trapped, claustrophic, like I was living in a bizarre concentration camp or prison. For a long time the mere thought of going back would send me into a panic – the body’s cells remember and react. It became hellish. I remember when I was very young, six or so, and my mother brought me to NYC from the rural deep south and I had never seen anything like it in my life. It was like the Emerald City – except that it was grey. And back then (a long time ago) NYC still had a very Gotham Art Deco Metropolis strangeness. I was most struck by the crazy advertising. And all sorts of things. The sidewalks glittered at night under the street lights and I thought they must have diamonds in them. The man at the news kiosk had only one ear. Bums slept on the street in the Bowery. The automat, a place where there was a long wall of little glass doors behind which were servings of food that you could get by putting coins in. The constant roar of sound. The extroversion and the way people expressed themselves, the accents. It was all indelibly impressed upon my mind and memory. I didn’t live there continuously, just at various periods in my life. The last time, I think I just had enough. It wasn’t the place for me and I had stayed too long. Just running sentences together here, hoping I can convey a little bit of what I felt.

    • As for the Natural History Museum, I might consider it, but not if it is anything like that film with Ben Stiller, which I honestly nominate for most aesthetically ugly film ever made. I watched it with the kids in one of my classes, and my eyes were offended for a lifetime. That reaction might be enough to prevent me from going (not that I am pretentious or anything).

      • Lilybelle

        I didn’t see that movie but I know the one you mean. I don’t know what was offensive about it, wasn’t it just stupid? Anyway, they might have spiffed the place up beyond recognition. I don’t know. I liked it once. I liked the Frick. And the Morgan Library. Those were my favorites.

      • In my eyes it was just extremely ugly and visually unbearable = the cardinal sin in cinema for me.

      • In response to your description of New York above – an AMAZINGLY vivid description!

  3. I love New York (not to be tacky with the ages old slogan). I have been to Europe (Paris, Zurich, but mostly cities and small towns in Italy and Sicily). I love Paris, Italy and Sicily but I haven’t been to Europe since 2008. However, living on the East Coast, I go to New York at least twice a year (even if mostly it’s only for one day). I must say one day in New York is like a week in other places. It is a city that energizes me, and makes me feel like I can conquer the world. I have found New Yorkers to be friendly and helpful and direct and truthful…no bullish..t with them. They tell it like it is and you know where you stand. Great restaurants, street food, museums, bars, stores (a great place to explore perfumes) and lots of unexpected surprises every time I go there. I believe that you and Duncan would really enjoy yourselves.

  4. MrsDalloway

    Love this. Black Narcissus readers demand a visit to New York soon!

    I’m not much of a traveller but I stayed in Amsterdam for three months researching my PhD and I love it. It was a warm summer and I remember being fascinated by the trail of people’s perfume in the streets and the smell of box by the Rijksmuseum. I don’t know why it took me so long to explore perfume for myself.

    • But nice to have found it that way. Amsterdam is SO beautiful, especially in winter ( a friend who had been staying with us for a while bought us plane tickets as a 25th birthday present ). I almost died of cold though.

      And New York?

      • MrsDalloway

        Never been to the States, though NY would be my top choice if I did. What I’d like is to be rich and stay in expensive historic hotels all over Europe, with lots of concerts, galleries, restaurants and perfume shopping. Travel on my current budget appeals less.

        I interrailed as a student, had a great honeymoon in Florence and the odd city break since. But have been abroad twice since son #1 was born 10 years ago – if you don’t count Brussels for work, which doesn’t count. The boys don’t even have passports.

      • Yet there is something strangely appealing about that..

      • What’a Brussels like?

      • MrsDalloway

        Not keen on Brussels actually – there’s something a bit off and even grotesque about it. Nothing to do with the Euro parts – find the Grand Place quite ugly and there’s something wrong in the details of the city, even street furniture like railings and manhole covers. The Metro was shabby and felt threatening long before the terrorist attack. But it’s a couple of years since I was there last and many people do like it!

      • I didn’t say anything but it has never really appealed to me either for some reason. I wonder if I’ll ever go. I find it fascinating the way cities have their own interior logic, smell, energy, beauty. For me, Seoul has nothing on Tokyo, for example, even though it does have the most exquisite cafes imaginable

  5. David

    When I was a teenager, I lived in Connecticut, not too far from NYC. This was the early and mid 80s when there was Limelight and Danceteria and Fiorucci and a down and dirty Times Square with 24-hour porn theaters that could serve as hotels when the last bus to the Connecticut suburbs was missed. Yes, I am one of those boring people who moan about the Disneyfication of the city. It’s still a great place to visit– and nowadays it’s certainly cleaner and safer– but it has lost its gloriously dirty edge. Now it’s a city that belongs to the rich. It’s heartbreaking to see the diners and independent book shops– not to mention the people–forced out because of rising rent prices. (I know this is happening in London and Vancouver and San Francisco, too). I visit once a year, but I always feel so sad and nostalgic. I walk and walk all over the city–it’s still the best walking city in the world. All the money has brought more public spaces, parks, and gardens. And there’s still unparalleled ethnic and cultural diversity (especially in Queens). Before you go, research pocket parks, public spaces, community gardens. I love that these places exist in such a frenetic city. I just love finding a bench to watch the world go by.
    It’s fun to visit perfume shops in NYC. I like the sales staff at Oswald in Soho. I was really impressed with the knowledge of the perfume manager at Barneys in Chelsea. Great niche selection for a department store. Bergdorf Goodman on 5th Ave is very comprehensive– I keep trying to get the courage to enter the JAR boutique that’s almost hidden away there. Next trip, I’ll make it to Twisted Lily in Brooklyn (hipsters annoy me, but Brooklyn is so much more than that).
    Despite my sadness, NYC is still my favorite city in the world. Bangkok is next. Then Chicago. Then Tokyo. I’m going to put São Paulo on the list even though I’m struggling here. I both love and hate how my vices are so easily satisfied here.
    I’m praying you get your strength back to continue exploring the world.

    • And you too. This was fascinating to read, thankyou.

      Why Chicago? I fear the crime and worse, the cold. No desire to go there.

      • empliau

        Don’t give up on Chicago too lightly. It’s in a bad time with respect to crime, but I have to believe it will get better. A dear friend who was a distinguished French professor (not a professor of French, a Française who was professor of classics) said it was the only city in the U.S. that reminded her of a European city. I hasten to add that in her eyes it was a good thing. The Art Institute can give the Met a run for its money – it hasn’t the sheer number of treasures, but what there is, as Spencer Tracy’s character said of Katharine Hepburn’s, is cherce. Its location on the lake is stunningly beautiful. Its size is human-scale – I love Manhattan, but it is giant, vertiginously so. A lifetime could never be enough to know it. Chicago is doable, and even lovable.

        Sadly, the climate is extreme. No one can help that. Don’t go in the dead of winter, (a phrase all too frequently apposite) or July/August. But I think you would be pleasantly surprised.

      • It has re-entered the chart at number 27.
        I thank you.

      • David

        I agree with what empliau wrote about Chicago. The gun violence is mainly concentrated in one part of the city (the south side). It’s sad and tragic and they don’t seem to know how to control it, but it really doesn’t spill over into other parts of the city.
        The city is on Lake Michigan, so there are actually beaches in the city. Yes, you can swim in the water. It’s so refreshing on a scorching summer day. The entire city burned down in the 1870s, so the best European and American architects arrived and used the city as a place to experiment–hence, the birth of the skyscraper was in Chicago. The skyline is breathtaking. I think the idea of rebirth and reinvention remains in Chicago– immigrants from all over the world come to Chicago for a new life. There are many ethnic neighborhoods to explore. But at the same time, it’s so American. It’s in the Midwest, so you are going to meet super friendly and chatty and open people. It’s so unpretentious. When I lived there, some Italian friends stayed with me for a few weeks. They said they never felt so relaxed and so unjudged and so at home (That song “Sweet Home Chicago” applies to everyone) Other things that are wonderful: a 24-hour bus and metro. The birthplace of the blues. The birthplace of house music. Not as expensive as LA or NYC…. You should go!
        São Paulo is very underrated. There is actually a short video you can watch on YouTube called “São Paulo– the Most Underrated City in the World.” The friends who have stayed with me comment on the nightlife. It’s intense because you WILL find what you are looking for. Brazilians are open about what they want and they don’t play games. I don’t partake anymore, but it’s pretty wonderful to be among people who are out to have the best night of their life. The city has a gritty side, but that’s tempered by very friendly people who genuinely like tourists. Reminds me of Chicago. No pretension….When you get better, come and visit!

    • And Bangkok is a total sensorama, isn’t it?

  6. emmawoolf

    Hmmm favourite city – not sure that I have one but Vienna I have not yet visited, but very much want to. (If only to eat Sachertorte in some gorgeous cafe, and pretend I’m Julie Delpy?). Re: New York, I liked it, but didn’t love it…February is not the best month for a visit undoubtedly, it was bitterly cold (you don’t say). Hugh hated the place. Funny, eh? xx

    • I just don’t think of you two as being AT ALL New York material, for some reason, but what specifically did Hugh hate about it so much?

      Vienna…..It has never appealed to me for some reason as I for some probably mistaken reason imagine it to be a rather conservative place, although the idea of coffee and cake in some dreamy nineteenth century cafe does sound extremely appealing I will confess. I loved that in Prague, the whole Austro-Bohemian Alphonse Mucha thing, so cosy.

      • emmawoolf

        And what, pray tell, is New York material, and why do we not cut the mustard in this respect Herr Ginza? I wrote an essay on this earlier, but my reply was lost…so, Hugh found it all too impersonal, he expected the familiar. We were tired, I was ill (food poisoning from an oyster at Grand Central Station – how’s that for a first-world problem), we were bitterly cold on the Staten Island Ferry…we fell asleep in our hotel room watching ER (it was the 90s) and woke up 13 hours later – oops – we were only there for 3 days! We schlepped our weary bodies to drink Manhattans in some bar full of beautiful people, recommended by Ally – and we couldn’t get in – it was full, and we weren’t beautiful enough. We took too many taxis (Hugh was a city boy, we had money to burn, I know, how embarrassing – blame it on the 90s again), and didn’t like the rude taxi drivers, etc etc. Re: Vienna, basically I’d like a repeat of Before Sunrise with Ethan Hawke, but I have never had the whole interrailing romance thing. We’re visiting Bilbao in the summer, staying nearby. Have never been to Barcelona but I love Madrid, my sister lives there. Wonderful food! Ditto Lisbon. Hoping to go to Naples in October. Sicily, yes you must….our honeymoon destination you know, it’s divine. xx

      • I had the obligatory Sachertorte in a dreamy nineteenth century Viennese cafe and it was as lovely as you can imagine. Their opera house is wonderfully over-the-top, the epitome of Opera House. And the food was excellent. But I much prefer Prague and the Austro-Bohemian Alphonse Mucha thing. It’s also a much better-looking city.

  7. Zubeyde Erdem

    I haven’t been in too many cities. But I can easily say that ISTANBUL is one of that cities you will fall in love with it’s amazing beauty ,texture,hospitality ,history,geographical position and delicious foods.

    • I have actually long quite wanted to go there, though not desperately. It strikes me as less safe recently (like London) with the terrorist attacks. I love the idea of the Turkish baths though (and the men!)

  8. Great reading as always, Neil, and thanks.

    I went to New York in 1967 in May as a 10-year-old Vancouverite with my family. Maybe it was to be the Summer of Love in San Francisco, but it was pre-Mean-Streets in NYC. Still, I was enthralled. Central Park in a horse and carriage, a taxi ride through Harlem at night — there were open fire hydrants with wet kids shrieking in the blasts, a dozen people sitting on the steps of every thick-bannistered row house, overlapping music everywhere, ALIVE, and it impressed the hell out of me — a short bobbed haircut with a fringe at Vidal Sassoon where there was leopard print everywhere and I had my first cappuccino, a trip to Bloomingdales where I chose one outfit: orange ribbed mock-turtleneck, yellow cotton hiphuggers with a wide orange canvas belt and a metal buckle that clicked closed, white penny loafers; the Brooklyn Zoo, What’s Up Tiger Lily, a Shirley Temple and a ribeye at a steak house downtown, the Barnum and Bailey circus, spaghetti and meatballs in Little Italy, corned beef and rye at Katz’s, the UN Visitors Center, i.e., the whole sixties’ obligatory Canadian tourist schmear.

    My favourite city in the world might be Lisbon. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered the manifestation of the word ‘atmosphere’ so acutely.

    • Lisbon, yes! It seems to be very in vogue at the moment (Madonna is moving there, for instance to be with her latest toyboy), and several friends absolutely loved it. What’s so special about it? Please tell me more.

      I LOVE LOVE your descriptions of your first trip to New York City……gorgeous! They make me want to go even more. I am starting to think Lisbon maybe at some point too as well.

      • I think of the magical things about Lisbon is that it’s the antithesis of cosmopolitan. Like the rest of Portugal, it’s in a shadowy time warp. The setting, on the larger hills and smaller dips above the Tagus, is gorgeous, and everything is low-key without being quaint. The Alfama is a great district to get pleasantly lost in. It’s all wonderfully compact and walkable. The feeling is of a place the rest of Europe has forgotten about, left behind, a slightly crumbling, salt-air old world elegance. (Not far away is Sintra for a day trip, too: almost laughably picturesque, full of gardens and old summer palaces, magical.) Lisbon feels small, friendly, and above all, especially now, SAFE.

        I was thinking that I really like Granada, too. I could spend days hanging around the Alhambra and Generalife gardens. The Moorish culture sure knew how to make things look good.

  9. Oh, and I love Kraków to pieces!

    • MrsDalloway

      Seconded, Krakow is gorgeous.

      • I just think of the concentration camps, I couldn’t.

      • MrsDalloway

        I did find it disturbing that you can sign up to day trips to Auschwitz from the hotel as though it was any other tourist attraction; we didn’t. But the history goes back centuries before that – they make a big deal of Chopin though it’s not clear he was actually there much – and the city’s beautiful. There’s a museum with Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine. We did go to the medieval salt mine – incredibly interesting and apparently working conditions were ok….

        No different to going to Berlin, though obviously a very different city? I’ve never been there and would love to.

      • Berlin is definitely really really loaded with ghosts and after being in the (for me relatively boring, if quite beautiful) Copehagen – we did both cities as one trip, it felt quite heavy in some ways, if very heavy.

        Nagasaki I couldn’t take – I felt oppressed by the sadness and cried my eyes out at the Atomic Museum (which is the idea, I know). Whatever else the city had to offer I didn’t know or care because it overshadowed everything else. I wouldn’t go Hiroshima either now, no way. And I think for me personally, just the proximity of Auschwitz (my parents went there but I just can’t understand how anybody can – it would be unbearable for me) means that Krakow is probably not on my agenda any time soon. On the other hand, if we ever do retire or do a sabbatical in Berlin, then I would definitely like to travel to cities not too far away and Poland is right next door…..it could definitely happen. The idea of the Lady with and ermine in such an old city is I must say quite appealing.

      • MrsDalloway

        And God, what the Japanese did in the war…

      • …which NO ONE ACKNOWLEDGES HERE. But that is an entire other post, Mein Gott.

  10. georgemarrows

    E and I lived in NY for most of 2015. Your filmic history only starts in the 60s, but – European! – history there goes back to 1660 and a smidge beyond. You can still find traces of all those periods if you poke about, and not just in the Met’s picture collection. I agree with David about Disneyfication, but there’s still plenty of tang even on Manhattan: Labour Day marches, open-house jazz in Harlem, the little parks he mentions, open-air gyms and basketball courts. Favourite places/times: the walk from Inwood along the Hudson to below the George Washington bridge, the Roosevelt Island tram, fireflies near Gracie Mansion on 4th July, winter sun on West End Avenue buildings, the Frick, top of the Rockefeller Center.

    From a brief visit a few years ago, Sao Paulo seemed like a tropical Blade Runner, with helicopters buzzing between the skyscrapers. I was slightly terrified every time I went out.

    Current favourite cities: Damascus, Antwerp, Seville. I completely agree with Zubeyde about Istanbul too.

    Most recently disappointing: Amsterdam. Expensive and cramped, should have stayed further out.

    • He lives!

      Damascus. Wow (sigh). I don’t think any of us will be experiencing that place anytime soon. I wonder what is left?

      Antwerp – it has never crossed my mind for some reason.

      Seville – would LOVE to. I know I would love it (I was a little disappointed by Barcelona).

      I love your descriptions of New York. Didn’t you go to Ethiopia as well? And how was Nairobi?

      I think D and I have become a bit timid. Having got sick in Laos and Indonesia we can’t face stomach horror. That limits you a bit I think.

      • Seville leaves Barcelona in the dust.

      • georgemarrows

        He does live, and still in Nairobi! Been here just over a year, and looking to stay for a few more for E’s (and hopefully my) work. Elissa lived in Addis Ababa 2012-14 and I’ve visited 3 times, I think. It’s not a beautiful city, except for a few places, but Ethiopian culture is really interesting.

        Damascus – my understanding it’s largely still there because it’s the seat of Assad’s government. It’s a beautiful city with amazing history – visited by both St Paul and Muhammed. The Ummayad mosque is stunning. We went in autumn 2010 and also visited Aleppo and Hama, and passed through Homs. They and their people haven’t fared so well, to say the least.

        Antwerp is studenty + historical + a bit grimy/rough + something of a shopping centre. I’ve only stayed a couple of days but will go back.

      • georgemarrows

        Robin, I’m with you on Barcelona vs Seville.

  11. I hate flying but I steeled myself to visit NYC a few years ago; I’m a rubbish traveller and it’s the only place I’ve visited outside Europe. It had tugged at my imagination for as long as I could remember and I wandered across the city for days drinking it all in – the brownstones, the rooftop water towers, the East Village, the sunset seen from the High Line. Just go!

    • I will! I know you love ‘Manhattan’. You just had to.

      And how wonderful to have you and George on here at the same time. We just need Jo and it’s practically a reunion.

  12. Oh Neil, you must go to New York City. I have been to so many lovely places; Paris, Barcelona, Vancouver, Hong Kong, etc… but New York is such an amazing place. I never tire of the energy there. It is almost electric, that energy, it just gets under your skin. The museums, especially the Frick Collection, are amazing, the shopping is amazing, the restaurants are amazing, it just is a fabulous place.

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