Friday, September 23, 2011

Aint no love in the heart of the city...

It’s official, this week, according to some study somewhere,  Raleigh, the state capital of North Carolina is the best city in the USA. I found this very hard to believe. A neighbour recently described  Raleigh as boring - and he is Canadian!!! Surely, if it was going to win an accolade it would be for the most boring City on earth. I guess I could conduct my own poll with my visitors who would confirm my opinion. Mind you – they have Birmingham, UK (not Alabama) to compare it to so of course Raleigh is going to be boring, (with the exception of an hilarious segway tour I took with my sister and neice). Raleigh can’t boast Ozzy Ozbourne or riots on a regular basis.
Named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who never visited there, I wondered by what criteria Raleigh had been judged the best city by They ‘counted up restaurants (867 apparently), evaluated school scores, and considered the number of colleges and pro sports teams’. I wondered if they had counted up restaurants that were actually open… Or if they had considered the distance between restaurants. This is an important point. A place great for restaurants must have them in close proximity to each other. Of the 867 restaurants they counted I think around 6 are in the city ‘centre’ (the centre of an American city is referred to as ‘downtown’. When I was younger in Birmingham, I used to go 'up town' if I went to the city. Funny with a Brummie accent!). One of the strangest things about Raleigh is; it seems to have no centre as I would define one in a city – somewhere where people congregate to work, eat, drink and shop. A great city is one where you can WALK to a VARIETY of bars and restaurants and find them OPEN at such obscure times as lunch! We took recent visitors to the museums (which are great and free) on Labor Day. We tried to find somewhere to eat in walking distance from the museums. We couldn’t. We drove around. Most places were shut in ‘downtown’ Raleigh. Sure, it was a national day off – but that should mean the nation goes out and eats and drinks!
As for school scores – people who want good school scores have kids. People with kids live in suburbs. People without kids want to live in cities with bars and restaurants. Am I labouring a point?
Great cities have a number of colleges. This could make Raleigh a great city but it doesn’t. The last time I was 'new' to a place, 'a stranger' away from home was when I lived in a city with one of the highest student populations in Europe: Manchester, UK. What made it great, as a student, was that you could walk from any number of college campuses to the city centre and its bars….It was lively and vibrant. Raleigh’s 3 main campuses are miles apart. Two of them are 30+ miles from the city centre in different directions. Great universities -but they don’t contribute any ‘life’ to downtown Raleigh.
I realize that my perception is different to that of the study. I consider a city the middle of somewhere. When they collated data they considered Raleigh as a 144 square mile span. That’s 864 restaurants spread over a very large space. They said Raleigh had ‘a thriving social scene’. They didn’t give me any hints as to where I might find it in a 144 mile expanse. It isn't anywhere obvious.
Amazing cities like San Francisco, Boston, and New York couldn’t compete with Raleigh’s wonder because of negative factors like higher unemployment and worse public education. The one thing that you have to have for unemployment is people and in Raleigh, the population of 400,000 is rather spread out. This seems to have helped Raleigh’s ranking. The criteria included stuff like park acres per 1000 residents. Raleigh won with its vast number of empty parks! It also won on air quality. No hideous carbon monoxide output because there is no traffic. There is no traffic because there are no people heading in the same direction each day. Great Cities, to me, are packed bustling places full of people, too many people: rich; poor; unemployed; high flying; rich and famous; down and out, all rubbing shoulders. Sorry, cities that don’t compete with the number one city in the states are like that. Alive! With a tangible heart – a beating pulse that any stranger in a strange land, if left at the edge of the city for the first time, without a map or compass, would be able to navigate easily to find its heart. I have tried to navigate Raleigh too many times without success. I aint feeling the love! Cities are often considered to be unfriendly places but I don't think they are. Those student bars in Manchester? As the new kid in town you might go in one alone but it was never long before you had friends to drink with. In the cities I would consider great - they are so eclectic that everyone is a stranger which serves to make people much more open.
If a new study were conducted to find the most boring or unfriendly city or the one lacking any substance, I think it would not be too hard to locate a winner.
There is one son of Raleigh worth a mention - Doug Aldrich, guitatist with Whitesnake. You can see why he was drawn to join them with songs like this! After all, who would understand better than Doug? There aint no love in the heart of the city!


  1. It sounds as dull as dishwater. your right it should be vibrant, a few pubs brighten it up. It sounds as if it also reflects on the people who live there.

  2. what is your point about Canadians exactly?
    Vancouver\Calgary great cities - and I try not to include the French half but Montreal is pretty impressive!

    ps my dad was a mountie!

  3. lol! I think I was suggesting, via some Southpark type stereotyping, that if a Canadian thought something was boring it must be REALLY REALLY boring!
    All my best friends are Canadian :) (but not French!)

  4. Nice footage, must have been a pro who shot that!!!!. Doug Aldrich is from Raleigh, is that in the the tourist blurb? That must have been the secret attraction that swung the vote. :-D

  5. Superb footage!
    how could I have forgotton Doug when I chose a Whitesnake song?! Blog amended to give doug a rightful mention at the end!