U is for Urbanity

The word urbanity popped into my head  — thanks to the word search triggered by the Challenge — while looking through old family photos.

When my mother visited last year, we took her on a city tour. Downtown L.A. (city center) is not a place I drive to often — the traffic is a mess — but her visit qualified as good reason to push through the stream of vehicles. And once there we had fun.

We also experienced … urbanity.

To have urbanity (my dictionary says) one must live in an urban setting, or close to one. I live in Southern California, a place of suburbs connected by highways and freeways. We have a decent downtown area, but  nothing like Manhattan or the center of European cities.

When I lived in Europe, dressing up and going downtown (aka having urbanity), for culture or a stroll along streets lined with boutiques and coffee shops, was a normal occurrence.  Everyone wanted to be downtown. The streets  were filled with people.

Where I live now, everyone wants to be away from downtown. Those who venture there for a play or dinner, rush out of the venue and to their cars desperately trying to avoid the traffic.

So, over the years we exchanged urbanity for suburbanity, because there’s organization in the suburbs.  We have developed neighborhoods, less traffic, houses with yards replacing apartment buildings, wide open streets, easy freeway access, parks, and most areas are thirty minutes away from the beach. 

No car horns at all hours, no people coming out of clubs/bars at 2 o’clock in the morning. Just good ol’ peace.

I have fond memories of my urbanity days. Dressing up and going out on the town every weekend, in no hurry to find a silent place. What a difference a couple of decades makes.

DTOWNBut we had fun taking my mother downtown — catching a few exhibits, taking in a show.

When I got home it was clear that while fun, urbanity was abandoned in the days of youth for a reason — takes too much energy to keep up such a mood and lifestyle. So, I shoved it right back in its forgotten little corner. And there it shall reside until further notice.

How is the city center — or downtown area — where you live? 


Photo courtesy: Night life in the city, from google user content.


27 responses to “U is for Urbanity

  1. My town centre isn’t very urbane on Friday nights.

  2. awh that is a nice picture of you two. dublin is very busy with tourists especially during the night, most of us live in the suburbs and just go into town to work….also it is way to expensive to stay in town, i rather have a quiet life and less stress!

  3. Oh, that’s a good word. I enjoy visiting big cities like Chicago and New York, but there is no way I’d want to live there with a family.
    I live outside of Indianapolis, and going downtown on normal nights is lots of fun. Even when there is a big event going on, traffic isn’t horrible. The city planners did it right. Most things are within walking distance, so you can park your car and walk wherever you want.

  4. Wait until you see what a difference four decades make! I’ve been urbane, I’ve been suburban, I’ve been small town, and now I’m going back to me roots – strictly rural!

  5. I live in rural Pennsylvania so my “city” (as it is classified) is nothing close to what you’d reference as Urbanity. However, I have visited several cities and I believe that the most interesting one was Providence, RI simply because of the way the city center was layed out. Everything seemed to be in circles rather than squares.

  6. Having recently spent the greater part of a week in LA in a car, I have no desire to live in a city – not LA in any event. However, my daughter loves it there – the people, restaurants, theaters, exhibits, in short, the urbanity!

  7. I live in a fairly rural part of England – not much urbanity going on here – but I’m only a couple of hours outside of London, so I can get my urban fix if needs be!

    Inane Ramblings

  8. I was born in New York City. Grew up at the beach. Now live in a very quiet rural area. I love love love to go to the city. But the only city close enough to me that has that “urbanity” feel that you’ve mentioned in this article is Washington DC. It has the most amazing little neighborhoods with their own separate vibes much like NY only smaller.
    btw, love the picture of you and mom, adorable!

  9. I live in a suburb with no down town. There is some downtown life in Minneapolis, the nearest city, but not as much as some other cities because it’s only warm enough to be outside half the year. :/

  10. Urban living is enjoyed more by the young, and the hustle and bustle becomes more of an occasional need as we age. I live in suburbia outside of DC. I enjoy all the free smithsonian offerings.

  11. I don’t think I could manage living in a city… I live an hour from Seattle now, and I rarely venture in. There’s far too many people, and not enough incentive for me to go. ;-) But every now and then, things like the opera or ballet do draw me into the city depths. Whenever I visit, it’s always a wealth of people-watching and inspiration though. I don’t mind visiting the city, but I always love coming home to my rural home.

  12. Silvia, like you I live in an area where we’ve exchanged urbanity for surburbanity. Growing up and in my young adult years, I lived in an area where dressing up and going out “on the town” was what we did evenings and weekends. But now, in an area where the traffic has grown exponentially in the last 10 years, I don’t go out unless I have to and then with some chagrin attached to my visitation into the outer orbs of my personal sphere. There was an accident last evening on one of the major bridges heading south to north downtown. A large i-beam for a bridge project was being moved by an extra large tractor/trailer rig. The load was properly secured, the driver was not intoxicated but the grade of the bridge caused the load to tip. When the truck rolled, the beam fell off crushing a VW under its weight. Fortunately, the driver of the VW escaped without serious injury, the interstate was closed 15 plus hours. Do you know what that does to traffic?? I don’t want to live downtown ever again! Sorry to go on, but you got me started. :)

  13. I enjoyed your post and your pictures. Thanks for visiting my blog today

  14. Hi Silvia .. urbanity is a good word – I don’t drive in London now .. though I guess I could. Eastbourne is a suburban largish town on the coast – it thankfully is quite quiet .. we have our noise, but not where I live I’m pleased to say. Cinemas and theatres are good and walkable .. as is the seafront and station – so all in all I guess I’ve got the best of the suburban world, but I need to get to London to see the exhibitions etc ..

    Loved seeing the photo of you and your mother – bet she enjoyed her trip …

    Cheers Hilary

  15. It’s always such a toss up! There are some definite advantages to urbanity. Having everything so close, being able to just pop out for dinner if you don’t feel like cooking, or go shopping without spending forever in the car.

    But I’m happy with our little country life. I’m willing to give up that convenience for the peace and quiet, and my ducks and chickens!

    Rinelle Grey

  16. I prefer country myself. I grow up in a country town in Maryland! I go back to visit often. Yes at some point in our lives we do grew tired of the hustle and bustle of noise and cars and people traffic. There’s nothing like peace and quiet to simple relax and listen to the natural sounds of nature!

    Thanks for sharing the post , Silvia! I think we can all for the most part relate to what you have written.

    Great pic of you and you mom! Glad you had a good time!

  17. I grew up in the suburb and our urban city was nothing to write home about, we rarely ventured to it. Actually, our suburb had everything we needed. In the last couple of decades has our Urban area become more trendy and we have ventured to hang out there but it will never be like New York or even L.A. but it has been fun to watch it become a little more trendy. Now, our suburbs they are nice and could give some cities a run for their money :)
    Lucy from Lucy’s Reality

  18. It was good to see someone talk about suburbanity without all the typical negative cliches. Suburbs wouldn’t exist if there weren’t something about them that people find desirable, yet we’d be culturally impoverished if there weren’t big cities that we could at least visit. Bakersfield has a small urban center, some of it is busy and vital (relatively) and some is still down at the heels. But one of the good things about living there is the proximity to LA, at least for people like me who like visiting there.

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