Archive for Proust Questionnaires

Proust Questionnaire: London

By Paul Harrison, Art Director | London

London England Proust Questionnaire With Paul Harrison

What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?

Nice morning, crisp, quite cool but sunny… Get up, go for a swim in my apartment pool downstairs, go to Battersea Park, have a bit of a walk, take my book or magazine or whatever, get inspired. I will either head up to the office and do some work there, or go up into SoHo and go to The Hospital Club and meet some clients there and do work there. At nighttime I’ll meet friends in nice place. London’s fantastic because you’ve got so many options.

Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?

I wouldn’t say I had a fear of anything in London. One of the downsides of London is if you’re not particularly good at meeting people you can feel quite isolated and quite alone—which I did when I lived in London when I was younger. I didn’t really necessarily have the confidence to go out and meet people and I didn’t really have the money to go to the nice places where you meet the people you want to meet as well. Unfortunately, in big cities around the world, money plays a big part in life. It’s a shame but it does. I’m not saying money’s everything but it gives you the options.

Which historical figure would do best in your city?

I know she’s not historical but Audrey Hepburn. She’d fit into the whole culture now.

Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?

I’ve lived in numerous cities around the world and the best thing about it is the diverse cultures. Within an hour from my house I can go and sample any culture, any food, any art galleries–there’s everything you want. I think that’s the best thing about it for me.

Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?

Again, I think again it comes back to that it can be a very impersonal place where no one sort of acknowledge you unless you make the effort, whereas when you go outside of London people have a lot more time to relax and talk to you. There’s a lack of time to engage with people really.

What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?

I suppose you could say that a lot of people think London people are stuck up their own backsides. But once you actually break the barriers, everyone’s the same, we’re all human beings. You’ve just got to make an effort.

Also, London was always thought to be very expensive–not even on a global basis but in the UK London was very, very expensive. But, in the last couple of years whether you drink in Edinburgh or drink in Newcastle it’s very very similar.

What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?

A particular offer during the London Restaurant Festival. It involved meeting for champagne and canapés at The Savoy Hotel, getting chauffeured to the London Eye for a private after-hours drive followed by a three-course meal, with each course made by a different celebrity chef. And finally retiring to The Savoy to sleep off the hedonistic experience. The cost per person was £1,500.

What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?

A lot of people say London has a great nightlife, but for me there are lot’s of options but nothing great in my opinion.

What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?

It’s a shame that in certain areas where the architecture’s amazing, and it all sticks together but then they’ve just plonked a new building right in the middle of it. It just doesn’t look right. You have to appreciate this amazing architecture and leave it as it is. Then you put this horrific new thing there–which is nice in its own right–but in some old square it just doesn’t look right. You have to appreciate the old things and leave them as they are.

When was your city’s hey-day?

My dad came down here when he was 17 and used to live on the King’s Road and Top of the Pops was on. He said it was just an amazing time to be in London. But I also think this year is going to amazing. Think of the future… the Olympics, Jubilee.

If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?

The cost of transport. The transport system’s amazing but it’s so expensive. When you go and visit [Continental] Europe, it’s all subsidized by the government, like a month in Italy’s 30 Euros…The thing I don’t understand about it is that the government wants people to stop using their cars and yet they’re charging so much for transport they don’t encourage people to use it.

What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?

How difficult it is to meet people in London.

What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?

Savile Row. It’s a fascinating part of London but only a small part of the city. You realise the history behind it and how the history of fashion extended across the world from London and still does. I think that’s a fascinating part we don’t embrace enough. It’s been lost over the years but over time it will come back.

If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?

One of the best structures ever–and you realize it was created like 120 years ago–is the Underground. If people were doing an excavation they would find a network of tunnels that’s 120 years old…they couldn’t build it now–how did they build it 120 years ago? It’s fantastic. The scale of it. It amazes me to this day how they built it over 100 years ago.

What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?

I tend to go off on walks to get inspiration, especially in the early evening when it’s light and nice–I’ll walk along up to Chelsea and cross the harbour bridge and you stand there and look at the river and see all the different bridges and you see the sun coming up at the top. You see huge buildings along the riverbank there and a lot of them are embassies. You get silhouettes with the sun behind it and all the bridges. I just think that’s absolutely stunning. I love that.

More Proust Questionnaires:
Amsterdam
Beirut


Proust Questionnaire: San Francisco

By Mieke Eerkens, Writer | San Francisco

San Francisco Travel Info From Locals

What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?

Coffee at Café Trieste in North Beach and browsing through Citylights bookstore, a stroll in Golden Gate Park’s botanical garden before perusing the De Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. Hit the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building downtown for crusty bread and heirloom tomatoes.

In the evening, meet up with friends for cocktails at moody and chic Absinthe Brasserie and Bar, followed by mind-blowing sushi at the intimate Sushi Zone, or at Chez Spencer, with its warm French country ambiance and to-die-for foie gras with blackberry compote. Depending on how much Sake or wine we have drunk by that point, we may decide to camp it up at the gay and colorful piano bar Martuni’s as the perfect way to close out the evening with song and laughter.

Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?

That it will become so expensive to live here that all the wacky and colorful folks that give the city its bohemian character will be forced out and we will be left with a city full of generic bankers, lawyers, and computer whizzes. That and earthquakes ;-)

Which historical figure would do best in your city?

Amelia Earhart, Martin Luther king Jr., Susan B. Anthony…People who pushed against the establishment.

Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?

Gavin Newsom and San Francisco’s pioneering role in the fight to legalize gay marriage.

I really admire San Francisco’s commitment to engaging with things that have substance and are relevant in the broader national arena.

I’m proud that San Francisco’s local NPR station KQED is the most listened to NPR station in the nation. San Francisco’s citizens tend to be well informed about important global issues and care about things like the environment and social justice.

Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?

Driving and parking! The city has made it very difficult for commuters. With only seven square miles, finding parking is nearly impossible or will cost you your firstborn.

To combat auto traffic, the city keeps raising bridge tolls, but has not improved public transportation access. Public transportation to the North Bay and other areas is infrequent and inefficient, so driving into the city becomes a necessity for people living in these suburbs. As a result, parking is at a premium. I once spent an hour and a half trying to find parking to attend a dinner party.

What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?

Being full of unrealistic and flighty people. While San Franciscans can be whimsical and idealistic, I’ve found that most people are also pretty pragmatic when it comes to their ideals. They will put their money where their mouth is to address the issues they care about, getting to work on practical issues when they want to affect change.

What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?

A fine meal and some bubbly at Top of The Mark at the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel. Best 360° view of San Francisco you can find.

What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?

The California “sunshine.” San Francisco is actually miserably foggy and cold most of the summer, due to it being surrounded on three sides by water.

You watch poor tourists arrive from places like Ireland, emerging from their hotels in heart-wrenchingly hopeful sundresses and shorts, only to be met by a chilly grey fog. If they dare to expand outward, however, they will find that a quick skip over the Golden Gate or Bay Bridge will bring them to sunnier climes.

San Francisco tends to be the isolated “Shleprock” with a little cloud over its head, and 20 minutes up the road it will be 20 degrees warmer with all that California sunshine they came for.

What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?

This is a hard one, because I think San Francisco is one of the most visually striking and architecturally spectacular cities in the world. If I had one complaint, it would be the one-way streets downtown and “no left turn” anywhere, which often means a mind-bending puzzle to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

When was your city’s hey-day?

No doubt the ’60s! The Haight-Ashbury hippie movement, Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Poets, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Summer of Love…It all happened here!

If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?

See traffic, parking, and weather, above.

What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?

Affordability. As one of the most expensive places to live in the country, people coming from anywhere other than NYC or LA usually have a mild heart attack upon learning that they will be paying substantially more for basement studio in San Francisco than their four-bedroom house in the Midwest.

What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?

Completely rebuilding after most of the city was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and ensuing fire.

If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?

They would discover that San Franciscans are incredibly resourceful with limited space and building homes on hills. The cable cars would interest them–the ingenuity of a pulley system that makes it possible to traverse the steep inclines of the city.

They’d be intrigued by the military history– the missile silos, the bunkers and forts in the Presidio and the Marin Headlands, all built as a first line of defense against an attack from the Pacific.

What is particularly impressive is the way these military sites have been repurposed to serve the community after being decommissioned. The former barracks and officers’ quarters have become housing for students and low-income people. The land a nature preserve, and the cold war missile silos in the Marin Headlands now host a state of the art water treatment system for TheMarine Mammal Center, a nonprofit that rescues, rehabilitates, and does environmental research with sick and injured marine mammals.

What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?

The Golden Gate Bridge.

More Proust Questionnaires:
Amsterdam
Beirut

Proust Questionnaire: New York

By Jacqueline Micucci, Writer/Editor | New York (and Seattle)

New York Travel Info From Locals

What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?

New York is such a walking and eating town, and I love to do both. I love walking around my old neighborhood in the East Village—checking out the wares inSustainable NYC, grabbing a cocktail at local farm-friendly Back Forty and munching on some ridiculously delicious pork buns at Momofuku Noodle Bar. I also love walking through Union Square, perusing the farmer’s market, meeting local artists and rooting on the kids showing off on their skateboards.

Uptown, my favorite spot is the fountain at Lincoln Center. When I was younger we used to just sit there and watch the people all dressed up going to the ballet and the opera house. If I want to escape the city without ever leaving it, I visit the Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park. The views of the Hudson are just spectacular and the gardens and buildings really make you feel like you’ve been transported into medieval times. The art’s not too shabby either.

Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?

My worst fear is sort of already happening. People are moving out because it’s just too expensive to live here, especially in Manhattan proper. I’ve got more than a few friends who are living in places like Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. They might as well be in the suburbs at that point.

Which historical figure would do best in your city?

Queen Elizabeth I. A strong, single woman who would not let her power be usurped by any man sounds like the perfect Manhattanite to me.

Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?

New Yorkers are a resilient bunch. We give each other space, but when things go wrong we band together. The obvious example is September 11th, but even during the blackout in 2003 people went out of their way to help. There were vendors in Chinatown giving away food to people on the streets and ordinary citizens directing traffic until the police came so chaos wouldn’t ensue.

I’ll never forget walking into Brooklyn and there, at the end of the bridge, was Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz on a megaphone declaring, “You’re in Brooklyn now. You’re safe.”

Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?

It’s overcrowded. It’s very hard to find space to be alone for a little bit unless you’re in your apartment and even then, most people have roommates. Plus whenever anything remotely interesting is going on, whether it’s a concert in the park, a cool art exhibit or even the opening weekend of a new movie, it feels like half the city is already there by the time you show up.

What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?

That New Yorkers are rude. We are a guarded bunch, but if you ask us for directions or start up a conversation while waiting in line at the store, we are more than happy to be helpful or chat. In my experience the rudest people tend to be the tourists who think they have to be rude to navigate the city; this is especially true on the subway.

What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?

New York is a place where you can experience many extravagances. Pick your poison: Eat a meal at Masa, which has only 26 seats and no menu, and have an amazing omakese experience; go to Tiffany & Co. and buy a diamond necklace set in platinum for $1 million; or go have something called the microablation and triphasic combination facial for a mere $500 at the Cornelia Day Spa.

What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?

New York is the city that never sleeps, but its inhabitants do. Most of us are not party people who stay up until the wee hours of the morning. A lot of those alleged hip clubs and lounges are the domain of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd (suburbanites from Long Island and New Jersey).

To avoid the onslaught of drunken revelers, many of my friends spend Friday nights at home. We stay in, invite friends and family over, order delivery and have some wine.

What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?

I love the old art deco architecture of the ’20s, but around the late ’60s/early ’70s they started building those drab, glass monstrosities. Now they just put up buildings willy-nilly without any thought to the personality of the neighborhood. For example, Soho, where I used to work, is characterized by (relatively) dainty buildings with cast-iron facades, but people like Trump are putting up these tall, ugly structures so they can cram as many apartments in as possible.

When was your city’s hey-day?

New York is a place that’s had more than one hey-day. I’d definitely say the ’20s was one period. You had the Harlem jazz age in full swing. All those beautiful art deco structures were being built. The city was also the center of the literary world. It was when the New Yorker magazine was born and, of course, all those boozy lunches at the Algonquin with Dorothy Parker and her vicious circle were taking place too.

The ’90s was another one. Everyone had money. There were tons of great restaurants and nightclubs. The fashion scene was thriving. Mayor Giuliani was ruling with an iron fist (the rumor was that he would have the homeless bused over to Newark). And my beloved New York Yankees were winning the World Series almost every year. Good times.

If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?

How expensive everything is, especially rent.

What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?

It’s not a place of little niceties. New Yorkers aren’t overly polite or don’t go out of their way to be friendly. It’s more of a live and let live kind of a place.

What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?

New York takes in enormous numbers of immigrants from every nation, race and creed, and shapes them into bonafide, proud Americans. While life may not be easy for new arrivals, the sheer diversity and promise of New York does more to convince people to make a productive life here than any jingoistic slogan could ever do.

If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?

Just how tall and dense a place it was. What comes to mind immediately is that scene in the The Planet of the Apes when Charlton Heston finds the top of theStatue of Liberty on the beach. Only, for me, it would be the top of the Chrysler Building. Of course, if Charlton had been able to see his reflection in the Chrysler Building he would have realized how desperately he needed to be manscapped.

What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?

The Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building are both iconic structures that make you think “New York” in a nanosecond. If you mean a true acquisition, then the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I mean, my God, they shipped an entire Egyptian temple over. Now they rent it out for cocktail parties.

More Proust Questionnaires:
Amsterdam
Beirut

Proust Questionnaire: Munich

By Tina Tzeise, Director eCommerce | Münich

Munich Travel Info From Locals and Expats

What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?

On a sunny day, catching a boat in the English Garden, having food in one of the beer gardens in the park, watching the people and strolling around in the close student area in Schwabing with the crowded streets, small shops, cafés and ice cream parlours.

On a rainy day, discovering the interactive Museum Mensch und Natur (humans and nature museum)  in Nymphenburg Castle and afterwards visiting the green houses of the botanical garden next to it.

Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?

That something horrifying is going to happen at Oktoberfest again, like the assassination in 1980, where a bomb attack killed and injured many innocent people.

Which historical figure would do best in your city?

Louis XIV.

Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?

Besides our green oasis the English Garden in the middle of the center, the geographical location. Having beautiful lakes around, being so close to the Alps and reaching Italy within 3 hours by car gives you the opportunity to escape to total different scenes within a short time.

Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?

Traffic … and the never ending construction sites that worsen the already mad traffic constantly. Getting around in a parking lot is no fun, too.

What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?

That it is too old-fashioned. Ok, we are not Berlin…

What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?

At many places and of course in beer gardens you can dive into the real Bavarian feeling all day long with traditional food, music, clothing and of course beer. And maybe some steps away you can watch surfers and nudists in the park.

What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?

Munich is often said to be a cosmopolitan city with a heart. Actually it is not easy to become friends with local in-crowds or get into the most desirable clubs. For foreigners it could be quite exhausting to enter Munich circles.

What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?

In the ’60s and ’70s they built many unbelievably gross buildings next to historic spots and therefore ruined the bigger view. So do not move your eyes much, focus on specific sites, enjoy what you see straight away and take a close-up view.

When was your city’s hey-day?

The nightlife hey-day was definitely in the ’80s when everything was possible, regulations very liberal and Munich the place to be for stars and stories. For living, I guess it’s now. Everybody wants to move here and enjoy the clean, safe and posh environment where you can show what you have without obtaining negative attitudes.

If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?

Liberalize the opening hours. No chance to get anything after 7-8pm or on Sundays.

What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?

Bring the airport back to the city. In the ’90s they closed the old one and opened the new in the middle of nowhere and definitely too far away from the city.

What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?

The daily experience of the symbiosis of settled traditional elements and a fast-moving tech-affine environment. A perfect combination of feeling at home without feeling too backward–a notorious Bavarian attitude.

If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?

Massive amounts of steins (beer mugs) -> Must have been a very thirsty society.

What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?

Oktoberfest.

More Proust Questionnaires:
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Beirut

Proust Questionnaire: Madrid

By Genevieve McCarthy, Wine Tours Organizer | Madrid

Madrid Travel Info From Locals and Expats

What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?

I love Sundays in Madrid. My perfect Sunday would entail waking up early, getting the papers and going for chocolate and churros near the Plaza Mayor for breakfast. I´d then wander down towards the Rastro flea market for a few hours (the earlier the better as it gets packed). You´ll find everything for sale here: hippy chic clothing, vintage leather, jewelry, plants and flowers, kitchen and bathroom knicks and knacks, kids toys, lingerie, light fittings, even antique furniture. It´s fun for people watching and the streets are lined with atmospheric tapas bars and after the market.

I’d join friends for a pre-lunch aperitif in La Latina quarter. My favorite aperitif tipple is Vermut (vermouth), which they sell on tap in Madrid. Then around 2 p.m. we’d sit down to an afternoon of tapas, wine and good fin at one of my favorite foodie haunts in La Latina. The perfect day!

Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?

Madrileños loooove cars (and honking!) and the city has become a lot more clogged and congested in recent years. I have friends who drive to work when they would arrive to work in less time and less stressed if they took the (fabulous) metro or just walked.

I would be afraid that the traffic continues to get worse as the population increases. I hope the mayor follows through with a proposed bicycle plan in the works and more Madrileños give up the cars as they are really a drag downtown. If the city could adopt a ban on cars in the historic center like they have done in London, the quality of life would increase 100%.

Which historical figure would do best in your city?

Author Arturo Perez Reverte has a brilliant series of novels called “Capitan Alatriste”, set in Madrid in the 17th century. This period was full of larger- than-life swashbuckling figures and I can imagine other similar (fictional or non-fictional) characters fitting into Madrid during that turbulent time of poets, corrupt politicians and ready swordsmen.

Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?

They finally implemented the smoking ban this year! They had tried unsuccessfully to do it a few years ago, but they finally got it together. It has made going out to cafes, bars and restaurants much, much, much more pleasant for all (even smokers) and finally made it possible to bring kids out more often.

Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?

The traffic and honking are no fun. Luckily, you can always escape the madness of rush hour downtown by nipping in to the Parque del Retiro, which is Madrid´s answer to NY´s Central Park. Located right downtown, it is an oasis full of beautiful walks, manicured gardens, sports facilities,cafés, a few art galleries, a manmade lake you can row, and plenty of grass to picnic on. In high summer, it´s the best place to be besides the pool.

What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?

Weirdly, I have heard people say Madrid is dirty, but I have rarely seen a cleaner capital city (excluding those in Scandinavia of course!)

What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?

Art, world class art! For under $10 you can visit the Prado Museum, which has one of the greatest painting and sculpture collections on earth. Down the street you have the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza museums, comprising the famed art triangle of Madrid. There is no other capital city in Western Europe, in my opinion, which has so much art available at accessible prices to its inhabitants. And apart from paying museums, there are countless free cultural events throughout the year.

What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?

Some foreigners think that it is always sunny in Spain (no matter the city!) While the climate in Madrid is continental with very cold winters (often dipping below 0 Celsius) and hellishly hot summers (often going over 40 Celsius). The best time to visit Madrid is March-June and September-November. I would say the same for many of Europe´s cities, in fact.

What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?

Downtown historic Madrid is beautiful, generally very clean for a big city, and the architecture is lovely. But some of the suburbs outside the center have high density eye sore tower blocks. Really horrid. Most tourists only see them when driving to and from the airport.

When was your city’s hey-day?

Bourbon Madrid (under Carlos III) was an enlightened period during which theRoyal Botanical Gardens, the Prado Museum and many of the city´s finest buildings were erected.

If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?

Pedestrianize more streets, put in bicycle lanes and ban unnecessary vehicles in the historic center. It would be so, so much nicer for all.

What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?

If it had been last year, I would have said that most foreigners and long-term transplants would have banned smoking in restaurants and bars, but now that they have actually done it (hooray!), I suppose the biggest complaint is that of any big city: traffic. Many people would like to see cars limited in the historic center.

What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?

The public transport, especially the Metro, is incredibly efficient and an amazingly good value. Where else in Europe can you get to or from the airport to downtown for less than $5 and in under an hour?

If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?

Cigarette butts, ha ha. Seriously, they could find Moorish walls, Bourbon palaces and some Belle Epoque architectural gems. Hopefully some of the the art collections would survive (the Prado is said to have underground vaults stuffed to the gills with paintings as their collection is so huge they can´t show it all at one time).

What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?

Spain is blessed with an artistic patrimony second to none (Picasso, Dali, Velazquez, Miro, Goya, Chillida, Sorolla..) many of whose works of art can be enjoyed in Madrid.

[Editor's Note: Genevieve also happens to be an expert in other parts of Europe, most notably as a wine tour operator for Cellar Tours. They organize private tours in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and France]

More Proust Questionnaires:
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Beirut

Proust Questionnaire: Los Angeles

By Theodore (Ted) Gerard Otis, Actor, Photographer, Writer, Solar Consultant, and Musician | Los Angeles

Los Angeles Travel Info From Locals and Expats

What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?

Up early for yoga and meditation. If there’s plenty of sunshine, hikes, strolls amongst lush gardens like Descanso Gardens or Huntington Library, coastal or canyon drives (Malibu) and fine al fresco dining.

If there’s plenty of rain, then high-end movie houses like Arclight, photography excursions (rainy ‘noir-esque’ L.A. shots can’t be beat), and hot tea and deserts at places like Golden Bridge Yoga.

Book stores. Meeting with friends. Exploring the many exotic and interesting obscure excursions of which there are many.

Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?

Earthquakes. Auto mishaps.

Which historical figure would do best in your city?

Gandhi believed in the curative powers of the ocean breeze. I think he may have preferred to live elsewhere but would have thrived here because of the varied progressive ‘climates.’

Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?

The closeness of places like Big Sur, Mammoth Lakes, Death Valley, Palm Springs, Lake Arrowhead.

I once set out with my brothers from a sun-drenched poolside morning tanning session in Palm Springs and by that afternoon we were literally skiing the slopes in Big Bear.

Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?

Air pollution, traffic, cell phone reception.

What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?

That it is uncultured.

What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?

Privacy. Climate. They may not seem like extravagances until you don’t have them. Otherwise, anything that can be purchased can be purchased here, directly or by agent.

What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?

That Los Angeles is laidback.  Los Angeles is fiercely competitive and in many ways a very uptight, provincial city.

What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?

The mini mall explosion of the eighties has left countless blighted blocks in Los Angeles. And as practical as stucco is as a protectant, I wish it had never been invented.

When was your city’s hey-day?

1930-1960

If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?

Air quality.

What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?

Traffic, and not enough public gathering spots.

What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?

Los Angeles is a hotbed for progressive laws (gay marriage, etc.) and environmentalism and other socially forward thinking causes.

Also Los Angeles is a dichotomy architecturally speaking, along with it’s blight, it has fantasy film-land vernacular and some of the most pristine lush neighborhoods on earth.

If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?

That we were an economically divided and extraordinarily diverse melting pot.

What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?

Quite a few. The Getty Museum not only houses extraordinary art treasures, but is an architectural masterpiece in itself. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is up there as are many of Frank Lloyd Wright‘s residential and commercial structures.LACMA and MOCA house many art treasures.

More Proust Questionnaires:
Amsterdam
Beirut

Proust Questionnaire: Beirut

By Raafat Hamze, Marketer/Entrepreneur | Beirut

Beirut Travel Info From Locals and Expats

What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?

Friday late afternoon. People are rushing out of their offices to begin their weekends. It’s not that they don’t enjoy their jobs, but Beirut is really more a city to live in than to work in. The hangouts in Hamra and Gemmayzeh are waiting to contain their agoras.

One specific day that epitomizes the city’s happiness was the day when the first March for Secularism happened in April, 2010. That day was pregnant with the city’s diversity and aspirations. It was, well, simply happy.

Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?

Social conflict. Otherness, moving from a platform of diversity, or a spinner of change, to a platform of rejection, cocooning, and even hatred.

Which historical figure would do best in your city?

Epicure

Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?

Art Lounge, the warehouse turned into an art exhibitions space, catalyzing cultural events, and good music.

Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?

Volatility. But maybe this is one of the main reasons I love it after all.
Not enough green space. But luckily there’s sea. It will always defy urbanization.

What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?

Unsafe.

What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?

The sky’s the limit. Maybe shopping at Aishti, dining at Eau De Vie, drinking the night away at Sky Bar, and staying at Le Gray.

What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?

Weather. Global warming killed most of it.

What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?

There’s no real urban planning, so quarters jam in and out of each other. I don’t necessarily dislike this though. Seen from elevated floors, the city looks like an urban jungle (but nevertheless charming in its own twisted aesthetics). I definitely dislike the massive blocks replacing heritage buildings.

When was your city’s hey-day?

(I think) the 60’s and early 70’s. Too bad I wasn’t born then. It’s been booming again in the past decades. I’m happy I’m living here and now.

If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?

Better conservation of heritage.

What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?

Traffic.

What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?

Being a home to all those who do not belong elsewhere. Being a home to whoever wishes it to be. Its quirky way of being inclusive and hospitable.

If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?

It’s already been destroyed eight times. Besides finding those ruins from eight eras that keep resurfacing like Samsaric beings or non-resting ghosts, they will find the vestiges of today. Regular vestiges that exist in every thriving city, and that testify to a city that proudly and defiantly went through it all.

What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?

B018, the Egg, and Centrale are all the products of local architects inspired by their own city. Both B018 and Centrale are built by the Lebanon’s foremostarchitect Bernard Khoury. Centrale is very powerful because it borrows a lot from the ceremonies of union in debauchery (at brothels?) in a place that sits on the ex-demarcation lines between warring fractions.

More Proust Questionnaires:
Amsterdam
Istanbul


Proust Questionnaire: Istanbul

By Seda Arat, Director, Business Development | Istanbul

Istanbul City Travel Information From Locals and Expats

What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?

Starting the day early on Saturday morning and going to the organic market
in Ferikoy. Then heading to Rumelihisari along the Bosphorus for a
traditional Turkish breakfast at Kale Cafe. A stroll along the waterline to burn the calories and sometimes hopping on a ferry for a quick trip to the Asian side.

In the evenings, dining in one of the restaurants in Asmalimescit or a café
in Nisantasi and finishing off with drinks at Leb-i Deryaor 360 for breathtaking views of Bosphorous.

Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?

Earthquakes. Sadly, there isn’t enough awareness to get better prepared for
such a disaster.

Which historical figure would do best in your city?

Alexander the Great. Being an advocate of cultural infusion, he can’t find a
better place than Istanbul. It’s literally where the East meets the West and
where for centuries people have formed a unique cultural mix.

Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?

Since mid 2009, Istanbul (and Turkey) is smoke- free! This is a huge step
given Turkey has one of the highest smoking rates in the world.

Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?

Traffic. You need to always factor it into your daily plans. Unfortunately, Istanbul’s infrastructure isn’t designed to accommodate 3 million registered vehicles plus all those transiting.

What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?

Not being respectful of the environment. Though this might have had some truth in the past, more and more Istanbulites are becoming environment conscious in recent years.

What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?

Depends what you fancy- stay at Ciragan Palace Kempinski to feel like a royal, have a Bosphorus tour by a private motor yacht, view Istanbul from a different angle by taking a helicopter tour, dine in Reina or Al Jamal, have a spa treatment Turkish way inCagaloglu Hamami.

What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?

That Istanbul is a bargain.

What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?

People from rural areas continue to migrate to Istanbul every year with the
hopes of finding jobs and living a better life. Not getting what they hoped
for and with not much to afford, they end up building “gecekondus” (built
overnight) squats all over Istanbul. Unfortunately, they aren’t visually
aesthetic.

When was your city’s hey-day?

15th and 16th centuries when it was the hey-day of the Ottomon Empire and
being the capital, Istanbul enjoyed a unique status.

If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?

Over the years, most of the old buildings were knocked down to be replaced
by soulless modern ones. A big portion of the cultural heritage is lost
forever. I wish it was possible to bring back time and restore these
buildings.

What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?

Better and more extensive public transportation network (especially
underground) to escape the traffic.

What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?

Istanbul has provided refuge to people of all ethnic backgrounds, social
upbringings and religious beliefs for centuries.

If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?

That it was a city of contradictions – old vs. new, rich vs. poor, East vs. West. And that it was overcrowded (currently 13 million)!

What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?

Istanbul has a history of more than 2500 years and this is reflected in its
architecture. Saint SophiaBasilica CisternBlue MosqueRumelihisari,
Grand BazaarGalata TowerTopkapi PalaceMaiden’s Tower, Haydarpasa Train Station (though a recent fire destroyed its roof) to namejust a few.

More Proust Questionnaires:
Amsterdam
Beirut


 

Proust Questionnaire: Amsterdam

By Manu van Poppel, Urban Monk | Amsterdam

Amsterdam Netherlands City Info From Locals

What is your idea of a perfectly happy day in your city?

I love my Sundays in Amsterdam. If I haven’t gone too wild on Saturday eve I try to get up early because Sunday morning is the only time in the week when it’s quiet on the streets here in the city center and I can just wander around without bumping into too many tourists wanting to know the way to the Anne Frank House or needing advice on which coffee shop to go to.

I’ll have breakfast somewhere in the small streets of the Jordaan. Usually I hang out with friends in the afternoon, evaluating the night before or projecting into the coming week. We’ll go for a cocktail at Prik, catch a movie or throw water balloons at innocent bypassers….nothing too crazy….

Knowing your city and its citizens, what is your greatest fear?

The Dutch are all about controlling the element of water, which is relating to our second chakra or emotional energy center. When the water breaks through the dams, you better grab a bottle, hunker down and pray for daylight because the sober Dutchman can then turn into the biggest orange party beast on the loose.

Which historical figure would do best in your city?

Amsterdam is not the place for great historical figures. It’s probably the reason why so many Hollywood actors like to hang out here. The locals will only get annoyed if they stumble over Brad Pitt’s ego or find Maddie smoking in an alley.

Which do you admire most about your city (something from recent years)?

I’m Dutch…. we don’t admire anything…..doe maar normaal dan doe je al gek genoeg! [translation of a famous Dutch proverb: 'being normal is crazy enough']

Which is the trait you deplore most about your city?

Bad service (ask STL for details….)

What is the negative trait that others falsely accuse your city of having?

That it’s not safe… Never understand where that comes from. I don’t think I have ever been to a place where it’s safer than in Amsterdam (as long as you don’t venture out into the ghetto).

What is the greatest extravagance one can experience in your city?

The extravaganza of doing almost whatever you like in public without getting in trouble for it.

What is a positive trait your city is known for that is actually false?

That it’s a Bohemian Valhalla. Over the last few decades the city gravitated away from the ‘live and let live’ attitude toward a more materialistic and individualistic character.

What do you dislike most about the architecture, city layout and general appearance of your city?

Not much. I can appreciate the beauty of this historical city every day. Just stay in the center and your eyes will be happy!

When was your city’s hey-day?

17th century – the golden century. That’s when it all happened….

If you could change one thing about your city what would it be?

Better client service in shops and restaurants and free underground parking everywhere (I keep on dreaming).

What do outsiders (or transplants and long-time visitors) to your city generally answer to the last question?

The same and a better climate (less rain, more sun and higher temperatures).

What do you consider your city’s greatest achievement?

Minding it’s own business.

If your city was destroyed and one day its ruins discovered, what do you think they would find and/or learn about it?

Bongs everywhere! ;-)

What is your city’s greatest artistic or architectural acquisition?

The city itself!