My Favourite Cities In The World ~ Part 2

If you are just joining us: here is a link to Part 1 of ‘My Favourite Cities In The World’. Now on to my favourite cities #6 through #10.

6. Venice, Italy 

Italy has so many great cities and towns and historical sites to visit; Sienna, Naples, Amalfi, Cinque Terra and Pompeii all come to mind. But I do love Venice. It is such a unique city with its labyrinth of canals, bridges, piazzas and walkways. We have never had great weather in Venice, but for me, that has never hurt the charm and mystique of this ancient city. If it starts to rain we usually duck into a local cafe and weather the deluge by having an espresso and watching the locals.

Venice

I love to walk the pathways to the Rialto Bridge or go the bell tower in Piazza San Marco and getting a bird’s eye view of the city. Gondola rides are pricey but well worth the experience. It seems like there is something unusual and scenic around every corner.

We have never stayed in Venice because of the cost but we have always enjoyed our day trips into this exotic city.

7. New York, NY, U.S.A.

I have been in and through New York numerous times. My first time was with a Christian band I was travelling with, just before a trip overseas. I remember going to Manny’s Music on 48th St. and drooling over all the great instruments there. I also remember seeing one of the greatest live Christmas shows at Radio City Music Hall. There was a 40 piece orchestra, live animals, and spectacular costumes and sets.

The second time that I was there with my wife, Anna, and our 6 month old son, Josh. We had flown to Montreal with the intent of driving through the New England states to New York so I could finish off my ‘Bucket List’ of seeing all 50 US states.

We had booked three Broadway musicals to attend while we were in New York. But, we didn’t think through the problem of bringing a baby with us. The first musical that we booked was ‘Dream Girls’ and when we arrived to see the show, we were told that babies were not allowed. We were very disappointed, but our tickets were refunded and we wandered down through Time Square looking for a way to spend our evening.

Times_Square_

The movie, Ghost Busters, had just been released, so we bought movie tickets and sat at the back of the theatre. Unfortunately, we discovered that there was a huge group of ‘pot smokers’ also attending that movie. I remember covering our young son’s face in a vain attempt to minimize the his smoke inhalation. It was definitely a weird experience. 🙂

One of the last times that I was in New York was with my now gown-up son, Josh. I remember us taking a great walk through Central Park, checking out the 9-11 Memorial, taking the subway to Grand Central Station, visiting the Rockefeller Centre, going to the top of the Empire State Building, checking out great jazz clubs and a host of other great New York experiences. New York really is a great place to visit.

8. Verona, Italy

Verona is a medium size city in northern Italy. We originally stayed there because Anna had friends there. And, it was a good spot to take the train to Venice from. But we discovered that Verona has a charm all it’s own.

One gorgeous summer evening, we were walking through the centre of the city, when we kept seeing scores of people, dressed in formal evening attire, heading downtown. We soon discovered that Verona had a world-class opera that played all summer in an ancient amphitheatre that was built by the early Romans.

Verona arena

We soon bought tickets and that night we were treated to the most amazing performance of ‘Madam Butterfly’ by Puccini. There was a huge Japanese village set constructed at one end of the coliseum with a 65 piece orchestra in front of it. When the sun went down, the audience of around 7,000 people lit handheld candles and I got to enjoy one of the most amazing opera experiences that I have ever had. If you are ever in Verona, it is one of those ‘must do’ experiences.

Verona is also famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’. There is a beautiful small square with a balcony that purports to be the famous place where Juliet stood while Romeo declared his love. Inside the house is a small museum and in the courtyard is a bronze sculpture of Juliet. It is quite a charming setting.

9. Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

A few years ago, my wife, Anna and I, attended a great church arts conference at the third largest church in North America, Willow Creek Community Church. It was a killer conference and on our days off, Anna and I headed into Chicago to do some sightseeing.

I have got to say that Chicago was amazing. One of the highlights from our sightseeing trip included discovering ‘Chicago Mix’ popcorn. We were driving downtown when we saw people lining up beside the ‘Garrett Popcorn Shop’. We decided we had to check it out. Their mix of cheese popcorn with caramel popcorn is heavenly. We became instant converts.

We were also fortunate to be in Chicago that June to see their famous outdoor, ‘Blues Festival’. We were treated to outdoor stage after outdoor stage of great Blues’ acts. It was awesome to see great bands playing all over the downtown parks.

Another one of our other pleasant surprises was seeing a symphony play in Grant Park on a spectacular summer evening. The locals brought picnic dinners with them and spread out on the lawns surrounding that great venue and enjoyed fantastic music. What a treat!

Grant Park Orchestra & Chorus

Chicago surprised us in so many ways, great downtown parks, riverfront walkways, the Sear’s Tower (now Willis Tower), the amusement park at Navy Pier, the Golden Mile, great deep dish Chicago Pizza and the list goes on. Our only regret is that we didn’t have more time to take it all in.

10. Vancouver, B.C. Canada

I was blessed to be born and raised in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. On a sunny day, it doesn’t get much better. Vancouver has spectacular mountains as a backdrop to their wonderful parks and harbours.

If you ever get to visit Vancouver, here is my list of favourite things to do there. First, take the gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain to get a spectacular overview of this great city. Or, if you are in good shape, take the Grouse Grind, a vertical hike up a rugged trail to the top. It is known as ‘Mother Nature’s Stair-master’. See if you can beat my top time of 54 minutes. Most people take around 90-120 minutes to make it to the top.

Next, rent a bicycle and ride around Stanley Park. Then keep going and follow the Seawall all the way around English Bay and False Creek until you get to ‘Granville Island Market’. There you can enjoy some sumptuous food and live music while you are watching the sailboats come under the Burrard Bridge.

If you are looking for a good place for dinner, try ‘Bridges’. Anna and I love sitting on the outdoor deck there and watching all the boats come in and out of the marina.

There are so many fun things to do there. In the winter you can ski on the local mountains, (Grouse Mountain is my favourite) or drive up the coast to one of the premier ski resorts in the world, Blackcombe. You can check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge or the Bloedel Floral Conservatory at Queen Elizabeth Park.

Some of my other favourite things are walking through Canada Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre. Or enjoying a some beach time at ‘Kits’ (Kitsilano) Beach. The Vancouver Aquarium is also amazing.

Vancouver Fireworks

I could go on and on. Vancouver is a world-class city. If you want the best summer weather, go between July 15 and August 15 and you are almost guaranteed great weather. If you are fortunate, you might be able to take in the Honda Celebration of Light  (‘Symphony of Fire’). It is a multi-day event on Vancouver’s waterfront which includes spectacular fireworks and music and is usually attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

Question: What is your favourite city? Have you ever been to the cities on my list? Can you share a story from your travels?

Check out my new book: “Leading Worship ~ Notes from a Grand Adventure’. It is now available in Kindle or Soft Cover Editions.  This is a great gift for the musician or worshipper in your life.

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