ES­CAP­ING COL­UMN In­trepid ad­ven­turer Sian still loves a city break.

Ex­plor­ing a brand new metropo­lis can bring ad­ven­ture and an im­mer­sive cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence

In the Moment - - Contents - Words: Sian Lewis / Il­lus­tra­tion: Rachael Dean

So of­ten in this col­umn I wax lyri­cal about the joys of re­mote ad­ven­ture travel. Of wan­der­ing far from the madding crowd, es­cap­ing to empty land­scapes, an­swer­ing the call of the wild. But there’s also a lot to be said for the lure of the big city. For the ex­cite­ment of trav­el­ling to a brand new metropo­lis stu ed with ex­otic food to taste, wind­ing streets to get lost in and lo­cals liv­ing what my friend Nick once nicely summed up as ‘other peo­ple’s nor­mal’, a nor­mal that is so fas­ci­nat­ing to watch and to ex­pe­ri­ence when it’s vastly di er­ent to your own way of life at home.

My ab­so­lute favourite city in the world is New York, New York. It’s a place where you can be any­one, do any­thing you want, where lib­erty has been the buzz­word since the statue her­self was erected in 1875. When I’m in the city I al­ways think of jour­nal­ist Tom Wolfe’s words: “One be­longs to New York in­stantly. One be­longs to it as much in ve min­utes as in ve years”.

The great thing about a city is that you can cre­ate your own per­son­alised ver­sion of it. In New York there’s the won­der­ful High­line gar­den to walk in if you’re a na­ture lover, ea mar­kets for vin­tage fa­nat­ics and even a ying trapeze school set against a back­drop of sky­scrapers, if you fancy an adren­a­line rush. Plan a city break around what you love and you’re guar­an­teed a good time – you could spend a week nd­ing the per­fect bento in Tokyo, los­ing your­self in the jazz clubs of New Or­leans, seek­ing out Berlin’s quirki­est bars and se­cret un­der­ground night­clubs. You can live like a lo­cal, too, es­pe­cially if you rent a lo­cal’s apart­ment in­stead of stay­ing in a ho­tel.

An­other rea­son I love city ex­plor­ing is how much you can quickly im­merse your­self in the art and cul­ture of the coun­try you’ve touched down in. Even if I’m o on a wild ad­ven­ture, I love to be­gin my trip with a few days in the cap­i­tal. When I was headed to Mex­ico’s beau­ti­ful cloud forests for a moun­tain bik­ing trip I was warned o tar­ry­ing for more than ve min­utes in Mex­ico City, but the cap­i­tal turned out to be fab­u­lous – a bright, busy city, a mish­mash of the old and new, full of mu­se­ums stu ed with in­cred­i­ble indige­nous arte­facts and home to the best tamales I’ve ever eaten. And like all cities, when the bus­tle gets too much you can al­ways es­cape to qui­eter places. My high­light was tak­ing the metro out to the quiet, leafy neigh­bour­hood of Colo­nia del Car­men, where Frida Kahlo’s home, La Casa Azul (the Blue House) is now a mu­seum to her life and work. A day spent amongst its rain­bow of trea­sures was enough to make me fall in love with both Kahlo and her home­town.

City hop­ping in Europe is one of my favourite dropev­ery­thing-and-go ad­ven­tures. Flights are of­ten cheap (es­pe­cially if you’re ex­i­ble and keep an eye out for deals) and you barely need to plan any­thing – just pack a bag and go, and grab a map and rent a bike when you get there. Paris, Copen­hagen, Seville; they’re all per­fectly sized for a long week­end of ex­plor­ing.

You don’t need to cross bor­ders to be an ur­ban ex­plorer, either. When were you last a trav­eller in your own city? I feel the same about Lon­don as I do New York – you can make it ex­actly what you want. Foodie? Plan a gourmet sa­fari around its mar­kets and street food stalls. Wild at heart? How about a swim at Hamp­stead Ladies’ Ponds, one of my ab­so­lute favourite places on earth? Look­ing at where you live with new eyes can re­ally change how you feel. I’ve lived in Bris­tol for ve years and I’m still nd­ing new ways to ex­plore my very own city – I’ve stand-up pad­dled on its har­bour, rock climbed up its cli s and rid­den a tan­dem bike on its streets. There’s al­ways hot air bal­loon­ing to try next...

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