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26 de junio de 2016

Judging cities


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner......

LONDON is likely to be the world's most-visited city this year, according to a forecast by Mastercard, a credit card company. It reckons that 18.7m foreign visitors will come to Britain's capital in 2014, not including those that use the city as a brief stop-over on the way to somewhere else. The firm thinks Bangkok, with 18.4m visitors, will be the second most popular, followed by Paris (15.6m), Singapore (12.5m) and Dubai (12m).

Gulliver was born in London and, bar three years at university, has always lived here. That, in a strange way, makes me less than ideally placed to judge the city's merits for foreign visitors. Tourists and locals sometimes walk down the same streets, but they inhabit different worlds with different expectations. To give just one example, I have never spent the night in a central London hotel, so cannot judge how it stacks up against other big cities in terms of service, style and comfort.

Indeed, many of the things that draw moans from Londoners, such as its crowded tube, can draw effusive praise from those who only have to put up with it over a weekend. Conversely, things I regularly see slated by visitors to the city, like its cuisine, can seem a bit weird to me. London is now a bona fide gastronomic centre, but no doubt I would feel differently if I judged it on West End tourist pubs, which are not banking on repeat custom.

Nonetheless, I think I would like London if I were to visit for the first time. I would probably find it had an interesting mix of history and modern culture. It also has some nice buildings and an edgy underbelly that is never too far from the surface. Having said that, I suspect I would also find the people unfriendly and the price of a beer flabbergasting. Very much, in fact, like visiting New York, another city I love, for the first time.
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