Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual. -Angela Carter

I love cities. Born in the small, but accurately proportioned city of Philadelphia, my fondest memory is a recurring one – a simple walk to the park at dusk. As the light slipped across the buildings, my mother whooshed me outside our small townhouse, grabbing my hand and strolling me the three blocks to the square box of grass and statues and fountains that is known as Rittenhouse Park. 

Just stepping outside the confines of my little patch of home, I was hit with that energy so iconic to cities. An electric heat that pulsed from the pavement – a leftover charge from the thousands of feet that walked before me. In just three blocks we passed dogs and hot dog vendors and children with balloons and men with briefcases. Hundreds upon hundreds of strangers walking, working, sitting, alone, together in this container of life. City life. 

When my parents took me to London for spring break, I remember, at fifteen, that life would be perfect in London. This city, I thought, is the city for me. The white arches, the accents,  the closeness of history. London was that Teddy Bear I wanted from Harrods. It was Cute. Proper. Comfortable. As we strolled past Hyde Park I imagined myself as one of the women sitting on the green lawn, the type of green London only has (because of all the rain), thinking how I could one day be her. I could be happy in London. London is where I would learn taste. 

But then Paris happened and nothing was the same. The smell of cherry blossoms, perfume and warm croissants entered my system the way the crisp, musky after-shave on the man standing close in an elevator fills my blood. The Crillon- with it’s gold foiled ceilings, painted murals of angels and dogs on yellow leather leashes walking through the lobby felt like dream that would be snatched away in a moment. It was too much.. The beauty was too perfect, too unattainable, it hurt. It hurt because I couldn’t have it. Couldn’t get enough of it. Knew I would always have to leave it, but would now never be able to forget it. Paris is where I learned longing. 

Is it even worth telling you about Rome? It will only break your heart. Not just the golden light and the warmth that emanates from within the ancients walls, nor the smell of flour in the pasta and love from the couples on benches and in parks, nor the grandness of the ancient prophecies around you, but the people. It was in Rome I met a man who was the only man who wrote me a letter. A true love letter in an envelope. Rome is where I learned the beauty of love. 

Berlin changed me the way an acid trip might. Everything I thought I knew I wasn’t sure about anymore. The only thing I was sure about, however, was that Berlin was where I should be. Where I would make art and love and add to the vibrant dancing colors of a city that feels to always be in the middle of something- space, time, thoughts. 

I could go on. About Istanbul, Madrid, Barcelona and Prague, but for now, I just wanted to pay homage to some of the places I’ve been – the cities that cultured and changed and turned me. While each city is its own dance of energy and chaos and beauty, they are all the same in the undeniable experience that is city living.

New York 

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it.

Dorothy Parker

There is a way of walking in New York, mid evening, in the big, blocky East Fifties, that causes the heart to open up and the entire city to rush in and make a small town there. The city stops its painful tantalizing then, its elusive and tease suspended, it takes off its clothes and nestles wakefully, generously, next to you. It is there, it is yours, no longer outwitting you. And it is not scary at all, because you love it very much.  

Lorrie Moore

I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible… When I see the city from my window – no, I don’t feel how small I am – but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.

― Ayn Rand

When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough.

― Fran Lebowitz

I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month. 

― Joan Didion

No place gives you everything. I’m equally mistrustful of the energy bursts New York gives you, which fragment and exhaust you. Living there gives you a phony sense of self-importance and confidence. If you’re at all anxious, the city acts our your anxiety for you, leaving you strangely peaceful.

—Kim Gordon

Paris 

The Paris Opera Ballet School in 1976, by Guy Le Querrec.

I am going to enjoy life in Paris I know. It is so human and there is something noble in the city… It is a real city, old and fine and life plays in it for everybody to see.

—Katherine Mansfield

The first thing to do is to arrange to be born in Paris. After that, everything follows quite naturally.

—Diana Vreeland

Paris is the city in which one loves to live. Sometimes I think this is because it is the only city in the world where you can step out of a railway station—the Gare D’Orsay—and see, simultaneously, the chief enchantments: the Seine with its bridges and bookstalls, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Tuileries Gardens, the Place de la Concorde, the beginning of the Champs Elysees—nearly everything except the Luxembourg Gardens and the Palais Royal. But what other city offers as much as you leave a train?

Margaret Anderson

The culture in France is, like, you will see women going to the office with a bright red lipstick, like I have, but with no other makeup on whatsoever. With bags under their eyes, not even a hint of mascara. Like, bare face, bright red lipstick, and off they go. But I think that’s very cool.

― Laura Mercier

French girls still have the Jane Birkin culture. You can go just like that, without makeup, without managing your hair.

―Emmanuelle Alt

At night I would climb the steps to the Sacre-Coeur, and I would watch Paris, that futile oasis, scintillating in the wilderness of space. I would weep, because it was so beautiful, and because it was so useless.

Simone de Beauvoir

When good Americans die, they go to Paris.

Karen Chance

Tokyo 

Ed van der Elsken, Girl in the Subway, Tokyo, 1984.

 God was fair to the Japanese. He gave them no oil, no diamonds, no gold, nothing. But he gave them a sense of style. 

―Diana Vreeland

Living right in the heart of Tokyo itself is quite like living in the mountains – in the midst of so many people, one hardly sees anyone.

Yūko Tsushima

Tokyo was a place you could quite happily exist alone and be self-contained. It seemed to promise that it was better to be by yourself.”

― Olivia Sudjic


Here in this ocean, in the midst of all this water, with the red flags on those distant buoys flapping in the sea breeze, I find myself unable to treat our house in Tokyo as anything but a dream.

―Banana Yoshimoto

Rome

Ruth Orkin, Women Feeding Cats, Rome 1951

The Italians have their priorities right: They’re driven, they do their work, but they really enjoy the day-to-day and they don’t put off the enjoyment of the everyday for some future goal.

Frances Mayes

London? Paris? Berlin? Zurich? Maybe Brussels, center of the young union? They all strive to outdo one another culturally, architecturally, politically, fiscally. But Rome, it should be said, has not bothered to join the race for status. Rome doesn’t compete. Rome just watches all the fussing and striving, completely unfazed, exuding an air like: ‘Hey- do whatever you want, but I’m still Rome. I am inspired by the regal self-assurance of this town, so grounded and rounded, so amused and monumental, knowing that she is held securely in the palm of history. I would like to be Rome when I am an old lady.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Italian cities have long been held up as ideals, not least by New Yorkers and Londoners enthralled by the ways their architecture gives beauty and meaning to everyday acts.

Rebecca Solnit

There is the laughter that only Italians know. This is what the Italians gave the world

―Diana Vreeland

Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.

―Anna Akhmatova

I became one of those annoying people who always say Ciao! Only I was extra annoying, since I would always explain where the word ciao comes from. (If you must know, it’s an abbreviation of a phrase used by medieval Venetians as an intimate salutation: Sono il suo schiavo! Meaning: “I am your slave!”) Just speaking these words made me feel sexy and happy. My divorce lawyer told me not to worry; she said she had one client (Korean by heritage) who, after a yucky divorce, legally changed her name to something Italian, just to feel sexy and happy again.”

―Elizbaeth Gilbert 

Italian men are very appreciative, and it’s nice to be appreciated

—Jinx Allen

London

London has the trick of making its past, its long indelible past, always a part of its present. And for that reason it will always have meaning for the future, because of all it can teach about disaster, survival, and redemption. It is all there in the streets. It is all there in the books.

― Anna Quindlen

When it’s three o’clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in London.

Bette Midler

“One of the the things she most liked about the city -apart from all its obvious attractions, the theatre, the galleries, the exhilarating walks by the river- was that so few people ever asked you personal questions.

― Julia Gregson

Tea at the Ritz is the last delicious morsel of Edwardian London. The light is kind, the cakes are frivolous and the tempo is calm, confident and leisurely.

Helen Simpson

A few people paused to look at him, but Londoners were by now so accustomed to ‘weirdies’ of all kinds that his ritual aroused little interest.

Iris Murdoch

Commuting in London is basically warfare. It’s a constant campaign of claiming territory; inching forward; never relaxing for a moment. Because if you do, someone will step past you. Or step on you.

― Sophie Kinsella

London thou art a jewel of jewels, & jasper of jocunditie — music, talk, friendship, city views, books, publishing, something central & inexplicable.

― Virginia Woolf

Founder of Words of Women

One Comment

    • Yoli Collazo

    • 9 months ago

    Oh but please do speak of Istanbul! Love your writing, just discovered it.

Leave a Reply

2 WEEKS UNTIL LAUNCH

The Book of Moods
How I Turned My Worst Emotions Into My Best Life

Not in the US?
Other countries