Temporary Living

A little while ago I talked about how I used to dream about living in various cities around the world, and realized that I wouldn’t do it even if I could, because freedom and guns and stuff.

But then I saw this photo essay about Amsterdam, and I have to admit I felt a tug.

You see, I’ve actually stayed in a hotel on this very canal — I have several pics similar (in subject matter, not in quality) to this one — and so maybe, just maybe, I could live here:  not forever, but for just a few months.  Long enough to submerge myself in the city’s ethos, not that long where I start to get twitchy about not being in America anymore.

Which got me to thinking.  In my dreams of what I’d do after winning the lottery, travel would of course be a definite;  and with sufficient funds, “travel” would mean an extended stay rather than just my normal five days.  (I’ve always thought that you can figure out a city, any city, in about three days.  Add another couple-three days, and you can pretty much say you’ve seen it all.)

But a longer stay — say, for three or four months — would enable you to really dive into the city, beyond visiting museums (a must-do in Amsterdam, by the way) and the usual “places of interest”.  Renting a decent apartment for that long a time, as opposed to just staying in a hotel, would mean having to get to know the city properly:  where to shop for food, which foods to buy, finding restaurants whose menus you love and are therefor worth multiple visits, the best places to buy clothes and shoes, and so on.  (Best would be to arrive with empty suitcases, to be filled during your stay.)  Finally (and this is important), a longer stay would require you to learn more of the home language than just which foods to order off a menu.

Having spent so much time over the years in London, I already know all these things about the place.  I have favorite restaurants, shopping destinations, places simply to walk around, and of course pubs.  That doesn’t mean I couldn’t find more of the same — London is amazing in that regard — but my deeper knowledge of London, I think, needs replicating in other cities around the world.

So a list of major cities to be visited in such a manner would include, in order:  Amsterdam, Vienna, Paris, Prague, Budapest, Milan, Barcelona and Lisbon.

Smaller cities (with a stay of only a month or so) would be, once again in order:  Porto, Dubrovnic, Graz, Bruges, Bratislava, Nuremberg, Brest, Bristol and Valetta.

Alternative suggestions (from experience) in Comments.


  1. Hong Kong (at least 50 years ago -I can’t speak for it now). Overcrowded and expensive even in those far off days , but a fascinating blend of English and Asian cultures. There was still a legacy of the old China Fleet days and the place was just foreign enough to let this young sailor on his first and only Asian tour that he “wasn’t in Kansas (or in my case New Jersey) any more.

    1. Japan, but it’s just the scenery for most tourists. I taught some English classes when I was stationed there, and my students took me everywhere. Getting a true feel for the place takes time.

  2. Mrs D and I took a two-week tour of Italy in 2010 to celebrate her (mumble)th birthday, and there were a few place I’d have liked to spend more time in:

    Milan (we only spent an afternoon there)
    Capri (we sat on a bench overlooking the sea, eating lunch of Caprese sandwiches).

    One thing I noticed in Italy is that the Italian’s laid-back attitude is nice, until something breaks. We woke up in the morning in Venice to a lack of hot water. I called the front desk and they said the water heater had died the previous evening and they were “waiting for the plumber”. Here in the States a nice hotel (and we were staying in a nice place) would be dragging plumbers out of bed and throwing money at them to get it fixed by morning.

    Other places I’ve visited and would like to spend longer in:
    Bermuda (one of the prettiest of the islands)
    Seattle (yeah, Lib-central, but still a real interesting place)

    1. Oh, dear. As one who has lived in or near Seattle more most of the time since starting university in 1987, it’s not what it once was. It’s always been left leaning, heck, the state was referred to as the Soviet of Washington back between the wars, but, damn, it’s been flushing itself.

      If you’re on Fecesbook, take a look at the page “Seattle Looks Like Shit”. Homeless, needles, trash, etc.

      It’s a real shame as this is, in my opinion, one of the loveliest places on earth for scenery and climate. The addled people in charge, though.

  3. There are some fantastic smaller cities well worth a longer stay. Merida, Spain caused my wife and I to radically alter a car tour itinerary for Portugal and Spain and spend a week there.

    Plus, I’d bump Lisbon higher up your list and add Porto. The links between the Brits and the Portugese forged when the Brits came to Portugal to fight Napoleon seem still to be very strong, especially in Porto. The waterfront hotels, bars and restaurants have lots of Brits, from high school kids to doddering red faced old folks, like me, and many seem to be (semi) permanent residents.

  4. Borderlands — Singapore, Cebu City, Bolzano. Guessing, Montevideo, Breslau, Tiflis, Alexandria, Margao.
    Still some places left in the States, too, that have not yet been homogenized.

  5. You might consider adding Dublin to the list, although I haven’t been there in 30 years, and based on a bit of Google maps street view, it’s changed pretty drastically.

      1. Well, yeah..

        When I was there it seemed like most of them a) hated Americans, us Yanks being loud and obnoxious and all, and b) wanted to move to the US. All I could do is think “do you not realize that America is full of .. Americans? The very people you claim to loathe?”

        Either that or “Oh, your dad is from New Jersey? My cousin lives there, do you know him?”

    1. I was there last April and it was OK, but very touristy and homogenized to be like anywhere else. It was very expensive for what you got and nowhere near as good as London, my favourite city.

  6. Split, Croatia. Every woman a princess, every meal a banquet, every home a castle. Wine, meat, bread, beer, cheese are cheap and plentiful. You’ll never learn the language, but a smile and a bottle of wine to share are all you will ever need.

    I spent a long weekend there whilst on RnR from the shitbox 18 years ago, and it was magnificent.

    Tallinn, Estonia comes a close second. I couldn’t handle the winters, but the spring, summer and fall are spectacular.

  7. Hmm…I’ll confess to being taken by Adelaide, Australia, when I was there. The rest of this list…well, I’m just happy to say that I’ve BEEN to most of them. Though I might order them differently. Vienna probably at the top.

  8. They all speak English in Amsterdam and there are too many pickpockets in Barcelona. Have you considered a road trip the length of Japan?

    Or a cruise up the Norwegian coast on the Hurtigruten?

  9. Rome is expensive, but oh my lord it is so beautiful. You’ll never run out of museums, monuments, or hole in the wall restaurants that are freaking amazing. Far enough south to get fresh mozzarella without refrigeration. And where else can you get a jogging map that includes the phrase “Turn left at the Coliseum”???

  10. If you think the mayors of Baltimore and New York are idiot far left crooks, you’ve not seen Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam, in action.

    Green party leader before she got the job, former communist party member of parliament, need I say more?

    Parts of the city are indeed quite pretty, if you can live with the ever present graffiti and the overpowering smell of marihuana in many of the streets near the city center.
    Says a lot about a city when there are large lit up signs near the central station warning about making sure your drugs purchases are clean before you use them because of the amount of contaminated cocaine and heroin on offer…

    One good thing of this pandemic period is that the streets are far less crowded, you can actually walk them now without getting constantly pushed and shoved by the rude locals and ditto tourists.

    A better, much nicer, city to live in in the Netherlands is Enschede in the far east. Not much old architecture, not after a squadron of USAAF B-17s mistook the city for Muenster, Germany, and bombed the heck out if it during WW2, but the people are friendly, the food is good, and life is overall quite a bit cheaper too.

    1. I’ll put Kshama Sawant in Seattle up against the Amsterdam mayor any day. Sigh. Only city council, but, damn, that woman is out there.

    2. “Says a lot about a city when there are large lit up signs near the central station warning about making sure your drugs purchases are clean before you use them because of the amount of contaminated cocaine and heroin on offer. . .”
      Indeed it does. I thought the drugs were legal there, and with legality comes certain guarantees of quality for the consumer. Silly me, I always thought that was one of the responsibilities of government. In America, during prohibition there was trouble with adulterated alcohol, a trouble gone once the beverages were repealed. In California the only trouble I’ve read about the marijuana dispensaries has been the problem with them having bank accounts at federally chartered banks.

  11. Jerusalem! Great food, lotsa museums and archeological sites. Everyone should go once in a lifetime. I know you like to look at pretty young women. There are many of them, and many are openly carrying their military weapons.

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