Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Best and Worst Places to Live

Recently when my hubby and I sat in the Travel Clinic to receive our necessary (and not so necessary!) shots for travel to Ecuador, I picked up a magazine—“National Geographic’s Traveler Edition” with the top 109 destinations rated.

As I flipped through the pages, I was amazed—shocked really—to find out that one of the “worst rated places” to live was “Lancaster County Pennsylvania” – our home (score 45)! It was wedged between Deadwood, South Dakota and the Pennsylvania/Maryland/Virginia US 15 Corridor!

Why was Lancaster rated so poorly? The author cited many reasons, but one in particular hit me hard: “The Amish are lost amid the sprawl and schlock.” If you travel anywhere in Lancaster County at 4:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon you will most likely understand and respect the writer’s opinion. We share roads with Amish buggies and all that goes with that (I’ll let you use your imagination on that one!). Some drivers aren’t so patient with the Amish and often put them in harm’s way as I witnessed recently during one of our record-breaking snowfalls. A car speeding 55 mph almost toppled an Amish buggy in the snow (with three small children inside).

Contrast Lancaster County to one of the best rated places to live: Wachau, Austria (score 88). It’s not difficult to understand why Austria consistently makes it into the top ten spots. This past year I had the privilege of traveling with my author friend, Kathy Pride, to Austria. We stayed in the idyllic town Bad Gastein. It was quite arguably the most beautiful place on earth (sorry Switzerland you just got bumped into second place). No wonder I cried when we left; it was simply breathtaking.

As I flipped to page 120 of National Geographic’s top 109 destinations, a smile spread across my face. Nestled between “Sitka, Alaska” and “Morelia, Mexico” was “Cuenca, Ecuador” with a score of 68. It was listed with the cities that are “doing well—“retaining a sense of place with few insurmountable problems.”

Hmm…I like that!

Cuenca scored so highly because of its aesthetic beauty and because it has earned UNESCO World heritage status in part for its architecture. The article ended with the words, “Cuenca’s future depends on proper planning now.”

Is it any wonder that we chose Cuenca as a place to retire? Having had the opportunity to travel to many places in the world, I have to say that Cuenca combines all the qualities that we love: the mountains, nature, city life, Old World charm, and much of what we enjoyed in Sicily (in the way of food, culture, and the warmheartedness of the people).

"The Best and Worst Places to Live" are really just one man’s opinion and in the end, you have to be guided by your own level of comfort and ability to adapt. No place on earth is perfect, but Cuenca is “perfect” for us!

Until next time...hasta luego!

Connie and Mark

P.S. Mark arrives home this evening (actually 1:00 a.m.), so in the next few days I will post pictures of his journey!

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