October 14, 2011

New post on Velvet Escape

Filed under: Uncategorized — podtourz @ 12:56 pm

I regularly write for London Hotels Insight and a number of other blogs, and I’m pleased to have contributed a couple of guest articles to Velvet Escape;



As  a former Londoner I’ve always particularly loved the countryside around London – the Chilterns, the North Downs, the great forests of Essex (Epping, Hatfield). True, it’s no longer the green city it was in the nineteenth century, but London still contains great tracts of greenery – Hampstead Heath, Blackheath, Greenwich, Richmond Park… and of course the Royal Parks. Apart from Paris, with the Bois de Boulogne, the Luxembourg Gardens, the park at Versailles, I can’t think of many capitals that have so much parkland within the city and around it.

Cities have different relationships with nature. Norwich was described in the seventeenth century as “a city in a garden”, and it’s still a city punctuated by plains and open spaces, mature trees giving it much of its character. Some German cities and towns included huge spaces of farmland and orchard within the walls; in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, as soon as you turn your back on the much touristed main drag, away from the town hall and impressive gate tower, the walls overlook farmyards and gardens, a vision of bucolic Germany from a Grimm fairytale.

Italian cities, on the other hand, are urban and urbane, setting their face determinedly against the suburbs and the country; there may be gardens, but they’re enclosed behind high walls. Florence is a city of narrow alleys bounded by cliff-like palace faces, or grid-like squares surrounded by arcades; Alberti’s vision of architecture excludes medieval pragmatism and spontaneity as well as dirt and squalor, but it also excludes nature – it is a triumph of art.

In India, there’s no city; the boundaries of dwelling and desert seem random, permeable. You may find a bunch of houses along a road, then nothing till the next batch of houses in a few hundred yards; city gates may once have been an attempt to demarcate the city, but they’re now swallowed up in the general chaos. Only in New Delhi is there a nicely marked distinction of lawn and yard, garden and building, and that’s somehow very, very English. Mumbai seems not a city so much as a collection of villages, which haven’t completely stopped being villages; I wonder if London was such an agglomeration in Dickens’s or Mayhew’s day?




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