Bad food in London? Boring Zurich? TripAdvisor Euro ratings miss the mark...
Some reputations are simply impossible to shake. Like the suddenly departed George Steinbrenner as a meddling, troublesome baseball team owner. Or Mel Gibson as a loud-mouth. Oh, wait...
Anyway, I see Trip Advisor - a site I quite like and use regularly to scope out hotels and attractions around the world - has come up with its annual ratings for European cities. And I gotta say the folks that use this service need to get out a little more. Make that a lot more.I'll get to the worst cuisine bit in a minute. But one absurd stereotype rears its ugly noggin in the category of most boring, where Birmingham copped the top honour, followed by Zurich and Gdansk, Poland. I've gotten to know Zurich reasonably well over the years and did a story there last summer in which I was blown away by the trendy bars and nightclubs and restaurants. It's an expensive city, but it's not the least bit boring. There are lovely walks and cool, funky shops. I took a photo of the back of a truck in the downtown one day, which you can see. Yes, there are banks and offices and overpriced restaurants in the old town. But it's like many big cities; you get what you put into it.
I was in Zurich during Pride Week, which featured a lot of guys dressed in flamboyant white costumes strutting about town and one guy I saw on the streetcar wearing nothing but bright green panties and a bra. He didn't look so good, to tell you the truth, but it hardly drew a raised eyebrow among the good burghers of Zurich. The West Zurich area is especially lively, with great concerts and trendy bars and really, really good food served on outdoor patios in summer. Not to mention one of a certain type of dance club frequented by sex-crazed men (and, no, there's really no other type). So drop the Zurich is boring stuff, would ya?
As for the worst cuisine, the 2,963 poll respondents (in fairness, almost 600 were Brits), the finish was London number one, followed by Liverpool and Birmingham. That makes it 1-2-3 for British cities in the worst cuisine category, and that's one podium you don't want to own.
Again, I have to think this results is ridiculous. I've never been to Liverpool (damn!) or Birmingham, but I've spent a decent amount of time in London the past couple years and have been pretty impressed by the food. I wasn't gobsmacked by it, but the cuisine was very, very good in London. In Wales it was excellent. Ditto for Ireland, which I know is not part of England or Great Britain or the UK.
I used to make fun of British Isles/UK food all the time, but I think the joke has lost its lustre and it's time to move on, folks. I mean, EVERYONE KNOWS Prague has the worst food in Europe. (That's a joke; no nasty letters from the Czech tourism board, please).
Here are a few more tripadvisor highlights, with some thoughts tossed in.
Best cuisine: 1. Rome, 2. Paris, 3. Barcelona. I love Barcelona but it's been probably 12 or 15 years. Rome speaks for itself, and Paris, of course, has awesome cuisine. But it can be badly overpriced.
Most expensive: London, Paris, Venice.Most exciting: London, Paris, Barcelona. Well, maybe tripadvisor folks hate the food but they love London. So that's a case for the tourism folks to accentuate the positive. Maybe a new motto: "Come to thrilling London. You can make your way around easily! But pack a lunch 'cuz we're seriously overpriced and our restaurants suck." Nah, probably not.
Most attractive: Rome, Barcelona, Milan. Milan??? And Paris not making the cut? I-yay-yay, that's insane.
Least attractive: Krakow, Birmingham, Gdansk. Poor Birmingham: third worst cuisine, second least attractive and top spot in most boring. Those tourism folks have some work to do.
Best value: Lisbon, Prague, Istanbul. My daughter was in Lisbon the other day and said it was insanely, wonderfully cheap, with a great vibe, lots to do and plenty of great stuff for university students. I was in Prague seven years ago and thought it was beautiful and pretty reasonably priced, if not cheap.
Cleanest city: Zurich, Geneva, Stockholm. New motto for Zurich: "We'll put you to sleep, but at least your head won't get dirty when you crash on the sidewalk at 8 p.m. when the lousy bars close."
Istanbul gets rave reviews from travel writers, but tripadvisor folks named it the most dangerous (followed by Barcelona and Rome) and the second dirtiest (sandwiched between Rome in third spot and Athens, which won the not-so-coveted "this city desperately needs a can of Pledge and a very wet mop" award, not to mention more German money for a bailout and an end to public sector strikes).