Overlooked and underrated, the French city of Perpignan reveals its charms to those with the patience to look.
Perpignan, best known as a transit hub for the beaches of the Languedoc-Rousillon, has the misfortune to be located amid a region of surpassing visual splendor and historic import. Were it a city in Hungary or Romania, it would surely be a major draw. But Perpignan’s quintessentially Gallic streetscapes, riverside quays and plethora of medieval architecture are hardly unique in this corner of France.
April in Little Rock, Ark., brings a myriad of Southern blossoms, warm afternoons and a flowering of Jewish culture.
The Arkansan capital makes a diverting and attraction-rich stop for cross-country drivers on Interstate 40, which cuts across the United States from Wilmington, N.C., to Barstow, Calif. Already home to a prominent civil rights-era history, Little Rock has lately attracted tourists with Bill Clinton’s presidential library and museum.
That was my conclusion as I strolled along the streets of his chef d’oeuvre, the Eixample (ay-SHOM-pla) neighborhood of Barcelona. The Catalan city planner created such a singular masterpiece of urban design that professionals the world over make pilgrimages to this elegant district, drawing inspiration from its sunlit angles and human scale.
Over the past several years, my husband, Oggi, and I have rented more cars than I can count. This is not because we are carless New Yorkers with a weekend travel habit. Rather, it’s because both of our careers keep us in a state of constant mobility, with shifting home bases across two continents.
When did Santa Monica, the laid-back hub of Los Angeles’ beach communities, turn into Bourbon Street?
I pondered this as Oggi and I spent an hour and a half inching our rented Nissan along jam-packed beachside lanes that reminded me less of California and more of Manhattan’s 14th Street at rush hour. Thousands of young people — many clad in green on St. Patrick’s Day, others draped in gaudy strings of beads — strolled in leisurely herds along Main Street and Broadway. In some spots, the sidewalks were as jammed with pedestrians as the roads were with cars.
The night clerk at my hotel in Lisbon’s port district was complaining. Too many immigrants, he groused. Brazilians, Cape Verdeans, Angolans — the breadth of Portugal’s erstwhile empire is visible on every street in downtown Lisbon. The clerk darkly suggested a link to increased prostitution.
There are a few reasons why a New Yorker will feel at home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the second-largest city in South America: he has to negotiate busy streets and assertive natives, and take the “subte” (the subway) to get around. He can always find pizza and he gets to choose from an abundant roster of cultural events. But with its decaying colonial architecture and unique blend of gentility and bellicosity, Buenos Aires is also a true mix of Europe and South America.
It may be the heart of the beleaguered Rust Belt, but don’t underestimate Cleveland. A recent visit to Ohio’s Jewish and cultural capital revealed a downtown in its second renaissance of recent decades, with enough urban energy to warrant exploration even during these freezing months.