I was recently asked to list a top ten of my favourite cities and it was a harder job than I had expected. Some are special for their beauty, some for their excitement or the ease of lifestyle. The most important have to have all of these. Of course, as an artist, their offering of art through galleries and how they lend themselves as a subject to paint are very significant, as is the number of wonderful buildings, both new and old.
- London - always feels like home, but always something to surprise you. I love the huge green spaces, especially Hyde Park and walks along the river. Sadly the skyline is starting to get a little overcrowded, in my opinion. My favourite gallery is in the park, the Serpentine, where I first saw the scale of Alex Katz’s work close up.
- New York - always exciting, but now I am older, it is comfortable too. Home to excellent galleries, but mostly the home of some of my favourite buildings ever. Plus so many diverse areas; perhaps Brooklyn, NoMad and Central Park are my favourites.
- Vancouver (pictured) - I love cities where water plays an integral part; also very open and green. Amazing food fusions, something Canada does everywhere. And skiing available within a couple of hours. Image from Tourism Vancouver
- Venice - again boats and walking are how you get about. Small alleyways, big squares, beautiful architecture and reflections everywhere. Plus excellent food, both simple and complex.
- Paris - the first foreign capital I visited and home of fabulous galleries and, along with the Italian cities, the best place to drink coffee and watch people. My first taste of Impressionism was here - especially in the Musee l’Orangerie, where I met Monet’s water lilies on an enormous scale.
- Hong Kong - ok, so not strictly a city, but it feels like one. Constantly moving, always alight, especially at night, when the reflections in the harbour dance on the waves.
- Amsterdam - flat, relaxed, reflective, full of walkers and cyclists. Again some wonderful galleries, especially the Rijksmuseum, where I saw a fantastic retrospective years ago of Van Gogh and Gauguin.
- Toronto - perhaps the most culturally diverse city in the world; small enough to be able to walk it, fusion food like nowhere else (Korean-Ukrainian, Chinese-Jewish anyone?) and a beautiful waterfront onto Lake Ontario.
- Cape Town - you do get the feeling that you are at the end of the world, or at least the continent, here. A little like looking west from Cornwall, but with nowhere but an ice world over the horizon. The views from table mountain are worth the climb and the V&A Waterfront is a tasteful reworking of the historic waterfront. Nearby Camps Bay is great for evening eating.
- Barcelona - Spanish and yet not; the Catalan capital is sharp, buzzy, smart and fun.
Just outside the top ten, I would have to include Rome, Stockholm, Istanbul, Marrakesh and Hamilton. I would return to them all, given time. Yet there are so many more I need to visit: Copenhagen, Berlin, Budapest and Mumbai are perhaps next up.