So I spent the past 4 days in Lisbon, Portugal - which I've blogged nothing about if only because I wanted to enjoy every moment of my time there. A local said to me upon arrival: "You either love Lisbon... or you really like it." Count me in the former.
One of the warmest cities in Europe - both in terms of the weather and the people - Lisbon felt to me a kindred spirit to my two other favourite cities: Berlin and Montreal. All three have scores of clever, artistic people everywhere that have a very easygoing approach to life and this organic sense of fun. Perhaps even more so than the others, Lisbon is such an easy city to feel comfortable in because its people are so approachable and non-judgemental. The hipsterdom of Berlin and Montreal has a much more relaxed, unpretentious sibling in Lisbon.
The downside is that even more so than Berlin or Montreal, Lisbon is clearly very poor. But it doesn't seem to bother anyone. Unlike London, where all I heard on the news or in cafes was "recession this or that" with a serious, fearful tone.. Lisbon folk laugh it off: "Well, we've always been poor."
And being poor isn't the end of the world when everything is super cheap: The immensely efficient subway cost one euro, a cab to the airport costs only 10, an espresso is 50 cents, university is 1,000 euros tuition, and a bottle of totally drinkable wine is 85 cents.
As a result of all this there's this relative freeness from materialism. People just buy what they need and they're fine with that. And that's so fucking refreshing to be around, and washes off on you a bit. I spent under 20 euros a day... And I was doing everything I wanted to be doing.
As a result of this little experience I will expose a severely geeky pastime of mine: Whenever I leave a city - usually in the airport - I update an excel spreadsheet that judges said city in 13 different categories based on my personal wants and needs from an urban area. "Overall energy" gets a score out of 20 points, and then 12 other categories are worth 10 points: Beauty, cost, transportation, sexiness, people, culture, professional opportunity, nightlife, weather, queer positivity, safety, and finally, health consciousness (which includes the general health consciousness of the population as well as my own lifestyle tendencies while there, access to health foods, bicycle paths, yoga and gyms).
Out of a score of 140, here's the top 10 of 24 cities ranked thus far. In brackets are the categories the city had perfect scores in. Lisbon, my dear friend, is now tied with Berlin for #1:
1. Berlin, Germany: 120 (cost, transportation, culture, sexiness, nightlife, queer positivity)
1. Lisbon, Portugal: 120 (beauty, cost, people, queer positivity, nightlife, weather)
3. Montreal, Quebec: 115 (cost, queer positivity, people)
4. Copenhagen, Denmark: 114 (beauty, transportation, queer positivity, safety)
5. San Francisco, California: 110 (beauty, queer positivity, health)
6. New York, New York: 109 (culture, professional opportunity, nightlife)
7. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: 108 (beauty, transportation, queer positivity)
8. Reykjavik, Iceland: 105 (beauty, people)
9. London, England: 100 (beauty, culture)
9. Toronto, Ontario: 100 (people, health)
9. Austin, Texas: 100 (people, weather)