For this week's talking point the topic is the best city in the world. Forget the city where you live or your home town and think about a city which made an impression on you when you visited. Decide which city you are going to talk about and then look at the questions below, most of which are taken from the Anecdote section of the Macmillan textbook series Inside Out. Think about the answers to the questions before you get together with the members of your conversation group. That way, you will also be able to overcome vocabulary problems beforehand.
• When did you first visit the city?
• Have you visited it more than once? If so, when was the last time you were there?
• What was your overall impression of the place?
• Is there any one particular image that sticks in your mind?
• How would you describe the general atmosphere of the city?
• Why did you go there? On holiday? For work? To study?
• Was it your decision or did you go on a trip with friends or your family?
• How long did you stay? Where did you stay?
• What were the people like? What was the weather like?
• What did you do? The usual touristy things?
• Have you made any plans to go back? Would you recommend it to a friend?
• Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
To illustrate the point, here are two Lonely Planet videos which feature two well-known capitals: Madrid and Paris. Which one is your favourite? Why?.
The City of Light is the capital of France and the epitome of romance, culture and beauty. Home to over two million people Paris straddles the river Seine and is divided into twenty districts called ‘arrondissement’, each with its own personality.
The heart of Paris has changed little since the mid-nineteenth century when its grand boulevards and art and villa apartments were built. Strict planning regulations have preserved its layout and ensured and almost total absence of high rises. To fully appreciate the city’s charms you’re best exploring Paris on foot. Take a leisure stroll along the Seine or wander the cobble-stoned streets of Montmartre.
Paris probably has more familiar landmarks than any other city on earth. Once a fortress and royal residence, the iconic Louvre is the city’s greatest gallery, especialising in art from the Middle Ages to the 1848 Revolution.
Stroll the Champs Elysees to reach the might Arc de Triomphe commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate his greatest military victories.
The Eiffel Tower is the most famous fixture in the city’s skyline built for the World Fair in 1889.
Parisians live and breathe fashion, have an immense sense of style and dress with meticulous care. You can get the look and match your credit card in the boutiques of the route of Fabeau Saint Honoré, often cited as the world’s most fashionable address.
The side streets of Paris are full of quirky boutiques and specialty stores. Locals buy their pastries at the patisserie, bread at the boulangerie and cheese from the fromagerie. This style of shopping not only offers a wealth of expertise but a perfect excuse for Parisians to talk about their favourite subject. Food, fresh ingredients, great chefs and the refined style of French cooking makes Paris one of the best places on earth to be hungry, and if you subscribe to even half of the superlatives thrown at this city, it’s one of the best places to be. Full stop.
It’s the nation’s capital. One of Europe’s cultural powerhouses and comes with a reputation for being more alive than any other city on earth. Welcome to Madrid.
Built on a plateau right at the very heart of Spain, Madrid is home to over 3 million people. It is the sort of welcoming city best explored by diving straight in, and making it up as you go along.
The city’s great cultural heritage is on display at the Prado Museum, one of the greatest art galleries in the world. Part of the Prado’s appeal is not the artworks hanging on the walls, but the building that houses them, widely considered to be a neoclassic masterpiece in its own right.
The city’s other architectural gems range from the Baroque Royal Palace to the 20th century delight of the Crystal Palace, and the buildings lining the Gran Via. The Plaza Mayor showcases the city’s unique architectural style, Madrid baroque, which fuses Renaissance and Baroque styles.
Take a stroll through Plaza de Oriente, a living breathing monument to imperial Madrid, or relax in Buen Retiro Park, a great place to escape the urban hustle and bustle.
Eating in Madrid is always a social event. Going out for tapas is one of the most appealing of Spanish traditions. Tapas is a selection of appetizers eaten between meals, as an accompaniment to a drink or as a preview to the main event. Diners first go to Plaza Santa Ana, or try Casa Alberto, one of the oldest tapas bars in Madrid.
Madrileños are sports crazy. Head to Las Ventas to watch a bullfight, or catch a soccer match at the Bernabeu Stadium, the home of local favourites Real Madrid.
Flamenco emerged in the southern Spanish region of Andalucia in the 18th century, but the flamenco seen in Madrid is now second to none. Madrid oldest flamenco restaurant is in La Latina, the city’s medieval district. The Corral de la Moreria serves up a variety of high quality dancing, singing and strumming, that is sure to get your hip shaking and your feet tapping.