New York: I’m almost at a loss for words. Almost, but not quite. It has got to be my favourite city. With its massive, imposing buildings, and millions of people rushing to places like they’re exceptionally busy and important. And boy are they rude. It was fabulous! If you take longer than 2.5 seconds to order your tall skinny cappuccino with wings at Starbucks, you’ll be chased through the streets by a mob of furious, caffeine-starved commuters not wealthy enough to live on Manhattan island itself.
In New York you can find anything you want at any time you want it. From a simple latte to end your day, to Imodium at the all-night pharmacy to treat your Mister’s food poisoning. Imodium that rubs shoulders with Reeces Peanut Butter Cups on one side and is jostled by lightly fragranced disposable drawer liners on the other. It’s an amazing city of incredible contrasts: the hard lines of the towering skyscrapers that loom over you like panga-wielding warlords in some far off future world are juxtaposed against the soft, green space that Central Park offers its city’s parched inhabitants. It’s a city of culture and wealth, beauty and history all embodied in its almost unrivaled museum mile. But it’s also a city that hardens you as you see people avert their eyes from the lost, homeless and poor.
And it is this element of that unforgettable city that so reminded me, when I was there, of Johannesburg. Another city that starkly contrasts the beauty of our gardens, parks and reserves and the ugliness of the dirty streets that lie buried in piles and piles of litter. But what Johannesburg has that New York doesn’t, apart from a sense of humour and the ability to laugh at itself, is that it has yet to reach its potential. In fact, this mind blowing city is so far from reaching its potential that, if Johannesburg were a politician, honesty would be its potential.
And that, in my mind, puts us right up there with the incredible cities of the world: London, Paris, New York and all the other cities that have stolen your hearts and that will stay with you forever. The only difference is, most of these cities have taken decades and sometimes hundreds of years to become as great as they are. Johannesburg has yet to reach its potential, and already we’re vying for space right up at the top with the heavies.
If you’re looking for somewhere else to visit that also has a lot of potential, take a look at the travel pages in the August issue of Essentials. And visit essentials.co.za for some really exciting events happening around your city in South Africa.