The historian John Julius Norwich took us on a whistle-stop tour through many of the world’s great cities and it was a charming and informative romp. From early settlements likes Samarkand which grew up on the great human river that was the Silk Road to the birth of the great cities of Europe. We were told of the detailed planning that went into the creation of the city of Washington DC to be something unique and different from the capitals of Europe – President George Washington’s regarded London and Paris as breeding grounds of vice and corruption.
Architecture featured heavily. Barcelona a truly great European city is marred in Norwich’s opinion by the cathedral of the Sagrada Familia “the most creative example ever of egregious bad taste”. Singapore is Disneyland with the death penalty. Norwich told us of his love an admiration for the modern gleaming spires of Chicago but the ‘most’ modern city on the planet is Shanghai. “The modern architecture of Shanghai makes Chicago look like Bath”.