When Lee and I travel, we spend much of our time in cities. Yet, when we think back on a trip, it seems that the most memorable places are often small villages and towns which which leave a lasting impression because of their charm and accessibility. Is there a dichotomy here, or should both venues be included in any trip?
We typically choose accomodations in cities because they are much more numerous, providing multiple options. There are also many more dining opportunities as well, and other travel resources (such as airports, rental car companies). Thus, it seems that cities provide more conveniences in general. Frequently, cities are also a treasure trove of tourist attractions and are often home to the finest museums. The major down sides are traffic, congestion, and expense (typically, hotels and restaurants are much more expensive in the cities). Many cities also have fast, efficient public transportation, so that it’s possible to avoid traffic. Driving in a city can be very difficult, especially without good maps, because of one-way streets, hard-to-locate or missing street signs, and the added stress of pedestrians, bicycles, or motor bikes. Parking is often the greatest challenge, however, we have learned to settle for parking lots, despite their expense, because riding around looking for on-street parking is both frustrating and stressful.
Even if we stay in a city because of its convenience, we almost always plan excursions into the countryside to visit small villages or towns which are within 100 – 200 miles. On one of our trips, Eastern Europe, we stayed in Vienna for seven days, using it as a base to explore a number of places within driving distance.
Another benefit of staying in cities is the fact that it is easy to justify spending several days, reducing the amount of packing and unpacking on the trip. It is unrealistic to spend a number of nights in a small town, so we tend to move on to the next destination after only a night or two.
Another issue which arises in this discussion is where to stay in a city. We have learned (the hard way) that in places like Europe, where there is much to see in the city center, it is much better to stay right where the action is. In the US, on the other hand, we don’t hesitate to stay outside the city (within 10 – 15 miles) and commute in and out daily. In this case, we save money because hotels on the perimeter are significantly cheaper and roads are well-marked and easy to negotiate.
But the bottom line is that we seem to always love the villages best of all, because of their charm and the opportunities to stroll leisurely to see the sights and soak up the ambience.