A few favorite cities

What are your favorite cities to visit? Through business and pleasure, I have had the opportunity to visit some wonderful places. There is so much more I would like to see, so I would love to hear from you. Here are my list of top ten places, with a few others noted at the bottom. By omission, you will likely guess where I have not been, as some choices would be obvious inclusions.

  • San Francisco – a city worth the travel and cost. It is so scenic and quaint, plus it offers access to wine country, Muir Woods and the Monterey coast.
  • Montreal – a city which offers a blend of French and English cultures and beautiful scenery. It is a great walking city and has wonderfully designed churches. Check it out during the Jazz Festival in the summer.
  • New Orleans – a vibrant, eclectic place with great music and food. Avoid the hot summer if you can, but do go. Also, indulge a tour to the Bayou to get a sense of the geography and fragility of the place.
  • London – a favorite city because of the cosmopolitan culture. It is a great walking city with numerous parks, pubs and historical places. Take in the theater while there, as well. Plus, it is a great launching pad for a journeys to France, Ireland, Scandinavia, etc.
  • Dublin – another great walking city, but ladies beware of heels on some of the cobblestone streets in Old Dublin. Much to see there in terms of history, pubs, etc., plus it is great place to view the rest of Ireland from.
  • New York – a must see for all, but you have to expect crowds. Also, a great walking city and there is so much to offer in theater, restaurants, shopping and sports.
  • Washington – I think this city is highly underrated as a place to visit, as there is so much to see and do. I always feel worn out from walking, but there is so much more to see and appreciate from the memorials to the museums to the zoo and restaurants.
  • Chicago – I have only been on business, but I love Chicago. It has a vibrance to it and is not as crowded as New York. Plus, the vistas of the lake are wonderful. It is a great place to fly into for a few days. Check out Lawry’s and Second City.
  • Toronto – Is a lot like Chicago with its lake venue. I wish I could have spent more time there, but it is not inexpensive. There are many things to do in close proximity be it the aquarium, Skydome, Second City, restaurants, sports, etc.
  • Cannes – I was able to go to a business conference here and what a trip. It is beautiful and has so much to offer in food (the right way over lengthy meals), shopping and casinos, if that is your cup of tea. My best memory is our group having dinner up in the hills overlooking the city and the meal lasting over three hours, leading to wonderful conversations.

Other cities I would give high marks to are Boston, Savannah, Charleston, Ottawa, Miami and Seattle. I would love to tour the northwest and check out Vancouver and set off for Paris, Florence, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Sydney, Hong Kong, etc.

Let me know some of your favorites. Or, please reinforce or share concerns of some of those above.

Sonic Highways – a terrific Foo Fighters Journey across America

For those who subscribe to HBO, there is a terrific series about American music called “Sonic Highways.” In essence, Dave Grohl and his band the Foo Fighters are traveling to various cities across America that have innovative music scenes. In essence, the Foo Fighters are tracing our musical roots. Thus far, I have seen episodes in Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Austin and each have been wonderful and unique. Each show culminates in the Foo Fighters recording a song in a memorable venue such as Preservation Hall in New Orleans, in Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago or the original television studio for Austin City Limits. I highly recommend you check the series out.

In each of the three shows, they talk with performers who made it big in these locations as well as regionally, nationally and/ or globally. They speak of key influencers early on in the music scene there. So, it is both historical and current. For example, a key reason Seattle has been a big venue for new music is bands from Los Angeles and San Francisco did not like traveling up the coast several hours for only a few gigs. As a consequence, Seattle started its own music scene which culminated with Nirvana’s success, but could trace its roots back to much earlier times.

In Chicago, they spoke at length with Buddy Guy about his career and work with his good friend Muddy Waters. They also spent a lot of time with Rick Nielson, the uniquely fabulous guitarist of Cheap Trick, who tied blues with punk rock and tremendous theater. Nielson actually joined the Foo Fighters on the recording at the end of the show, based on Guy’s quotes called “Something from Nothing.” Albini produced the Nirvana second album where he met Grohl when he was Nirvana’s drummer.

Austin is a melting pot of music from blues to country to rock to all of the above blended together. Musicians from Willie Nelson to Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Gary Clark, Jr. to Billy Gibbons to Roky Erickson have graced the city and stages there. Plus some of the more colorful band names like “Thirteenth Floor Elevators,” “Moving Sidewalks” and “The Fabulous Thunderbirds”  were spawned there.

Austin City Limits exposed the Austin music scene even further and has been going strong for 40 years. Grohl was amazed the old theater and stage where ACL was filmed and recorded was still in tact and they performed the song for the show there. Grohl was amazed the grand piano that was used for the show was still there behind the seats covered with a tarp. This piano had been played by Fats Domino and many others and there it sat unused.

Like Austin, New Orleans is an amalgamation of different types of music and is where Jazz really got its roots and took off. One of the reasons for the blending of jazz, blues, zydeco, etc. is the eclectic mix of people who were allowed to commingle before it was acceptable in other places. While the venues are many, the Foo Fighters chose to perform at Preservation Hall, which is a tiny and old venue with one of the best house bands around. If you go, you will stand (in line and while listening), but it is worth it.

I look forward to seeing more of these shows. I think they are still filming, but have already recorded versions in Washington, Nashville and New York and maybe other places. Please do yourself a favor and check it out.