although i am not sure what's worse. the aforementioned effort or what i am about to do: type the pen-to-paper scribble which i created on a sun-drenched hostel balcony about five weeks ago. you decide.
with each new drink, the once-fleeting consideration to bail on my san sebastian trip became more serious. i was drunk. i was still at the pub. and my pre-ordered cab was picking me up ahead of my stupid o'clock flight in six...five...four...three...two hours.
two hours of itchy sleep and i had wearily collapsed into the passenger seat of my eight pound cab. at liverpool street station i forked out the almost 30-pound return train ticket to stansted airport. the return flight cost me about the same. and at bilbao, i relinquished another 15 euro for the bus to san sebby. one way.
this day had already cost me a fortune and i hadn't even done anything.
but when i was presented with san sebastian, still feeling the pain of a night spent replacing sleep with pimms, it was clear the earlier cash hemorrhage was going to be worth it.
my first impressions of cities have rarely changed throughout the course of a stay. as on this occasion, every destination i have loved has captured my heart immediately.
last week, while discussing my recent trip to NY with a friend, i questioned whether i would even put the big apple - so many people's number one city - in my top five. now i know i wouldn't.
my top five do not meet a strict criteria. i know some destinations would have been influenced by external factors like the company, the weather, the expectations. all i can go on is which cities most brought a smile to my face - both at the time and with each nostalgic moment.
for ease, i have discounted australian cities. if i didn't, sydney, melbourne, byron bay and, of course, wagga wagga* would all be strong contenders.
so, without further ado...
it's such a cliche, which is why i didn't expect to fall in love with the french capital - which, in turn, is probably one of the key reasons why i did.
i'm not big on travelling by the book, on ticking boxes the lonely planet tells me to tick. i bought europe on a shoestring when i first got here and haven't taken it on one holiday. so, i thought a city with so many iconic, box-tick worthy sights would prove tedious. oh, i loved it. stunning, romantic, glorious. the world-famous attractions were simply the backdrop to a city i could wander forever.
plucked from a fairytale, relocated to austria. a picture perfect city. jaw-dropping beauty. the one full day i spent there (of course, not nearly enough) was as close to perfect as i can imagine a day being. the fact it started with a heart-warming coffee and mouth-watering (read sugar-laden) breakfast: incidental.
it may seem biased, since i live(d) there and have the benefit of great friends and local knowledge, but i did do london as a tourist in 2006 and it's absolutely world class. there are so many reasons why. here are a few.
i am travelling solo, i am exhausted and i am dying to get back to oz but san sebastian has still managed to claim a little piece of my travel heart. i thought i was going to sit on the beach all weekend - god knows my body needs to be horizontal right now - but there is too much exploring, too much atmosphere, too much fullstop.
i spent two days here in 2006. again, not enough, but ain't hindsight grand. i was instantly smitten by sorrento and its postcard beauty. not one of those shitty, 10-for-a-euro postcards but the ones which force you to inhale, as if trying somehow to breathe it in. on the amalfi coast, sorrento was simply charming. there are grand plans to be there again in july 2010. it will happen. and it will be loved.
and there you have it. my top five. i have tried to put these in order but it's hardly set in concrete.
i wonder how my list compares to yours. agree? probably not. tell me, what's your favourite city in this amazing world?