27 May 2010

Best Cities in the World

This week Mercer published its annual survey which ranks the world's cities in terms of quality of life.

Vienna tops the list again this year, with Zurich and Geneva taking second and third place.  16 of the world's top 25 cities happen to be in...you guessed it...Europe.

Lyon ranks 38, just behind Boston (37) and in front of London in the UK (39).  Paris edged in ahead of all three at number 34.

Here's what Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, says about the 2010 survey:



When my wife and I first came to live in Lyon just over 10 years ago, we thought we'd be off again within a year, two at the most.  You might say we had a bad case of itchy feet before we even landed.

But the years just rolled on by.  It wasn't that I fell in love with the city, at least not at first. It took time to warm up to the rhythm of life, the language, the culture and its people. But slowly, almost insidiously, its many charms, even those dwelling in the more subtle realms, ensared me. I don't know exactly when it happened, but there came a moment when I realized, "Yeah, Lyon is not such a bad place to live. I actually kind of...like it."

I like that there are two rivers running through it, and that we are only two hours by fast train to Paris. We can go from our doorstep to hiking in the Alps (or the Jura) faster than it takes many Parisians to drive from one edge of their city to another during rush hour.

I like that I can walk five minutes down my street, six days out of seven, and buy some of the freshest, locally-grown produce on the planet. I like the restaurants; Lyon is renowned for it's gastronomy. Think of Paul Bocuse and Georges Blanc.

I like that my kids can go to school around the corner and come home for lunch. I like its museums, parks, theaters, national orchestra, fairs and expositions. I like that I can ride public transportation to just about anywhere in the city, including my climbing gym, one of my favorite spots.

To be fair, winters can be cold, and summers stifling hot. Sometimes it seems that every other person smokes, and people often let their dogs crap on the sidewalk, leaving the mess for the unaware pedestrian to slip through. And I can just hear my uncle joking, "France is ok, except for the fact that everyone there speaks French."

I love how women dress to the nines, and even when they don't they are still gorgeous. I like that I can look strangers in the eyes, connect with them on some unspoken level, then keep on walking. I like that I can walk into a crowded street and just blend in.

I don't  have to think too hard to understand why Lyon ranks 38 out of 221 cities worldwide. Life outside my doorstep tells me. Life happens here. It's honest and it's good. And things work.

Ok, people do go on strike, sometimes frequently, and it is annoying; like today, for example, when workers demonstrated in the streets to show their contempt for the government's proposal to bump the legal retirement age up from 60 to 62. But on a very basic level, that's all integral, essential even, to how "things work".

Oh, did I forget to mention that most full-time workers have a minimum of five weeks of paid holiday per year? Not just in Lyon, everywhere in France.

I may not be moving from Lyon anytime soon, but when I do, I know the experiences and people will have left an indelible mark, like a colorful tattoo whose ink runs to the deepest part of me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Alex, I loved living in Spain when i lived there many years ago; there is something(many things)so different from here in America. I love your description-keep writing, you are good at it. And from your photo, my dearest, you look the same as you did in GSP. I always remember those siesta hours when i would turn the corner around Mukteshwar and there you and Namami would be sitting being together. love to you. bee