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Traveling In Style : CITY DELIGHTS : Is a Paris Cafe More Fun Than a Rock in the Outback?

March 01, 1992|Colman Andrews

NATURE IS GOOD. ANYTHING that human beings do to interrupt or alter nature is bad. A forest is better than a park. A raging river is more beautiful than a congested city street.

That's one way of looking at it, anyway. But cities are part of nature--because we, as natural beings (every bit as much so as the snail darter or the rambling rose), have created them. When cities work, they virtually define the art of being human. They are the ultimate species-wide collaboration, and their colors, smells and rhythms are signposts to our personality as a race. Oh, and their pleasures are encyclopedic: Cities are fun.

Cities aren't the enemies of nature; they are its complement. Betting on a photo-finish Hong Kong horse race offers a very different sort of satisfaction than focusing a zoom lens on a dik-dik in East Africa, but the two aren't mutually exclusive--and anyway, both actions depend on chance, both link machine and animal, both thrill the heart. Sitting in a cafe in Paris may not seem as romantic to some of us as perching on a rock in the Australian outback watching the sun go down, but it is in the Parisian cafe (or the Dublin pub or the chic Manhattan hotel bar) that we can contemplate the sunset in a home-safe glow--or share it with a friend (or stranger) or plot new treks to see new sunsets.

There's nothing wrong with traveling to strange wildernesses or solitary hideaways--but when we visit a new city we might just be surprised to see how much beauty and variety and sheer delight there is in nature of the human sort.

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