Frequent traveller: Street walkingBack to Forum
Anonymous30 Mar 2012
In which our correspondent finds her passion for exploring on two feet can lead her in the wrong direction…
Most of my life involves sitting down. I work sitting down, I travel in planes, trains, taxis and my own car sitting down, and I relax sitting down. In fact, the only time I’m not sitting down, I’m lying down. Maybe that’s why whenever half an opportunity presents itself, I go for a walk.
In a new city, it’s the best way to find your bearings, work out how everything slots together and, if you’re lucky, find a gem of a restaurant or shop to pop back to between meetings.
There are many obstacles in the way, however, and I don’t just mean doors. Whenever I ask the hotel receptionist for a map, they try to call me a cab. In Paris recently, one well-meaning staff member told me it would take a good 40 minutes to reach the Champs-Elysées, and wouldn’t a taxi be preferable? Little over a quarter of an hour later I was looking down the broad boulevard from the Arc du Triomphe, smug as you like and with one less receipt to put through expenses. And I’ve got short legs.
In New York last year, I woke early and chose to cover the 15 blocks to my first meeting on foot. When I told my associate how I’d got there, she simply saw it as another example of British eccentricity as well as understated boasting. She was right about the second bit, but walking has to be preferable to New York cabs, with their shiny, slithery seats, or the Uptown/Downtown maze that is the Big Apple’s metro system.
Some cities are just made for walking. Vancouver – an easy-to-navigate grid system with stunning water and mountain views only ever a short stroll away; Boston, with its beautiful brownstones and extensive parkland and waterside; Dublin – compact and quirky with buskers and pubs galore for a little pitstop; even London with its several villages, all with their own character. Why get around any other way when you can soak up the ambience and feel like a native?
It must be admitted, however, that other places I’ve visited are not so great for getting out on two feet. In Los Angeles, two minutes out of the hotel, a police car pulled up beside me and the officer enquired if I was alright. Clearly, I must have either broken down or become disorientated to be using the sidewalk. In Atlanta after supper, I strolled out of the hotel, was accosted by three panhandlers in as many minutes and beat a hasty retreat to the bar.
Most of the Gulf isn’t up to much when it comes to walking either – although Doha’s Corniche is a pure pleasure before the heat comes (spring or autumn). Then there’s personal safety. Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg – none of them are really places for a clear-the-mind stroll, handbag on person (mine’s a Mulberry, too, so there’s no way I’m going anywhere). In Rio once, walking home by Ipanema beach, I even found myself amidst an armed police standoff. To say I picked up my pace was an understatement.
Looking ahead to this year’s travels, I already know that the cities I am most excited about visiting are those I imagine will be good for exploring on foot. An early morning stride out before breakfast, an hour between meetings, a postprandial stroll after supper. Sunrise on Lake Léman in Geneva, the French Concession in Shanghai, Nevsky Prospekt in St Petersburg, the Tiergarten in Berlin or, a personal favourite, the English Garden in Munich.
You can even walk in Hong Kong, through the covered walkways above the traffic, in air-conditioned comfort during the height of summer. The many wrong turns make it a peculiar form of exploration but a safe one.
Still, don’t get too cocky. In Sorrento on holiday last year, I decided it would be a good idea to take the coastal road to a well-regarded restaurant just outside town – I could take in the views while the sun set over the water, I reasoned. Well, it looked like it was just outside town. The best part of an hour later, the sun was well and truly gone, and so was the pavement, but the hairpin bends were getting ever hairier, the cars ever faster, and the cliff-side drop ever steeper. Now that was one time I sprinted into the nearest hotel and begged the receptionist for a cab.30 Mar 2012
Another fine topic for this wonderful Forum:
I am known for letting hotel security know to come looking for me if I dont reappear in a couple of hours.
I love walking instead of taking public transport. Yesterday I walked from Westminster up to Regents Park, Swiss Cottage, FInchely Road, left at the “Blue Star Filling Station” through Hendon, Mill Hill and then right on the A1 and past Borehamwood. Took 4 and half hours and loved every second.
Any spare time when travelling I walk. I tend to let the hotel security know and if the area is “technically challenging”, some one from the hotel may join me.
I always try to keep my bearings by line of sight with the hotel, but often this is not possible. I will take a map and either try to walk along a straight road or around lakes and parks.
Sheraton in Hanoi, often take walks around the lake infront of the hotel at night. I am not worried, the locals find it quite amusing that Westerners venture out so late. I always find it sad to see the youngsters on their motor bikes, courting their ladies, only to fined by the local police as its not the proper thing to be seen alone with your girlfriend at night!
The local ways of life can be seen so much better from 2 feet rather than 4 wheels.
Perhaps the new gizmo mentioned for luggage cases would be a useful add on for me, at least I could be found!!
I also carry a pedometer and have mapping function on my phone.
Who needs a hotel gym to keep fit.30 Mar 2012
I also walk to my meetings in New York. I hate the taxis as they are so difficult to get in and out of and so little space inside.
In London I use public transport, especially the Tube, but I think walking to the platform, changing lines and walking out takes more time than the journey itself!30 Mar 2012
Being able to explore new cities by foot (either walking or jogging) is something i love about my job. My heart sinks when i know i have to visit a city where this is not possible, particularly Dubai.30 Mar 2012
I love to get out and walk to when I have time. It’s the best way of exploring a city no matter how well I know it. I think my love of it started when I was first a student in London and then I got in to some very strange places that with retrospect it might have been better not to go.
I’m probably fearless to the point of foolish now and I wander all over the place except of course in Dubai. I’ve never really been scared but once or twice I’ve been glad to get back to the hotel.
I’ve had some of my best wanders in Bangkok, KL, Hanoi, Saigon, Berlin and Istanbul. Invariably they have ended up finding things to eat that were superb. I still say the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten was in a soi close to the Tha Chang river express stop sitting on a plastic stool at a plastic table and a lady cooked up the most amazing feast for me, I was never able to find her a second time.30 Mar 2012
I was in Uganda
Also fancied a walk outside the 5* hotel grounds.
Hotel sent an armed security guard with me.
I thought this was too much, but if the hotel wanted to provide this service.14 Feb 2015
I missed this the first time round, and what a great topic…
In no particular order here’s my top 10 recommendations,
Vancouver —-Start at Waterfront station and head towards Stanley Park past the harbour airport. Or a wee secret, head to UBC.
Edinburgh —–Start in West Princes Street gardens, walking through the gardens till you get to the mound , head up the hill and explore the royal mile…. A must do, during August !!
Chicago —Start at the river and walk down Michigan Avenue until you get to the beach
Toronto — Head to the island
Hong Kong —-Deliberately get lost in Kowloon’s nooks and crannies or for something more vigorous head to Tung Chung and the Giant Buddha hike
Melbourne —-Head to St Kilda, stroll about and have a beer at the Espy.
Amsterdam—-It would be wrong not to get lost in some of the more interesting streets : )
Ljubanjana —-Walk along the river enjoying the cafes, the castle is well worth it too.
London —–During the summer, jump on the tube to Richmond and avail yourself of the many pubs along the Thames
Newcastle—-The quayside16 Feb 2015
Great topic and whether on holiday or business I always prefer walking.I liked the opening paragraph to the post about sitting down.
Some of my fav’s:
Toronto, The city itself is walkable, up round the university campus is lovely especially in fall time. The Toronto islands canucklad are fantastic and a great view looking back onto the city.
Boston, I love walking round here. Staying In the back bay area with easily walkable distance to a Red Sox game and equally a great walk all the way to the water front.
Washington, covered 20KM in a day here – no problem.
Japan, apart from taking the bullet train to different parts of the country walking round anywhere in Japan is what its all about.
Closer to home around Scotland there are so many good walking places..16 Feb 2015
I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of traversing a city by foot without a map – sometimes after a night out. I always prefer to walk about unless entirely impossible and it leads to fabulous little discoveries. In some cases walked several miles with by hardy rucksack (still haven’t upgraded to a suitcase after 17 years since my first inter-rail trip). Enables you to do a bit of a trek should you want.
Yes – my desire to avoid using cabs has lead to a couple of situations that I didn’t feel comfortable in, but more than made up for by the sense of freedom gained. Like Mikewebley – in Durban I wanted to go to a cash machine at night 100 metres away and one of the hotel security guards said he would come with me and show me exactly where it was. Got back and lead to a lovely 45 minute conversation about life – his family – what he hoped for in future. This was back in 2003. Magic moments like this is why I’d always try and walk.
Is there a risk – of course. But I guess there must be a risk if you step into a road to try and hail a cab?16 Feb 2015