Moving to France

By Alex Kierkegaard / April 26, 2007

I've had this thing for years, where I keep a top-three ranking of the best cities I've yet visited -- 'best' here being shorthand for "most suitable for me to live in, long-term".

I prefer medium-sized cities. Big enough so that you can find anything you'd want, but not so big that you are forced to put up with the worst aspects of life in the larger cities (traffic, pollution, overpriced real-estate, etc.).

I like to be able to skate or cycle across town. I like to be able to walk everywhere, when I feel like it. I like trees and water. I like to be able to get in and out of town within minutes.

It may seem strange, then, that I've lived most of my life so far in mega-cities. I grew up in Athens, studied in London, and spent the last few years in Tokyo, in a tiny apartment a few blocks away from Tokyo Station -- as downtown and congested as it gets in this awesome city of thirty-six or so million people. Meanwhile, I've done brief stints in other large cities. Los Angeles. Paris. Hong Kong.

What drew me to those places were the same things that draw so many others, I guess. The fast pace of life, the excitement, the many opportunities for new experiences and adventures. And I've certainly had a lot of that sort of thing in Tokyo these past few years. Indeed, I've had so much of it that I now feel I've had about enough.

At the same time I've now reached a point in my life where I feel the need to settle down -- whatever that's supposed to mean. And though Tokyo really is as mind-blowing a place as any I've been to, read about, or imagined, it's just not somewhere I could see myself spending ten or twenty years living in.

The reasons?

There are many.

Part ot it is the sheer size and frenetic pace of the place, which somehow always managed to drain me, even when I wasn't doing much else besides sleeping in all day and playing games all night. And part of it is a growing feeling of weariness with life in Japan in general. You see, it's not just that I am fed up with living in the centre of this gigantic urban sprawl -- if that was all there was to it I'd have simply moved back to idyllic Kyoto (where I lived for a period of six months back in early 2004), or to some other modestly-sized Japanese city. Kobe, perhaps, or Sapporo.

The truth is that there are aspects of Japan which I never liked, and which I've always tried to reconcile myself with and accept. But it was never easy going, and the many extended trips back to Europe that I was forced to make throughout all this time (because of the visa situation) only made things more difficult for me. I was in a position to sample life in Japan and Europe, back and forth, at regular intervals, all the while comparing and contrasting everything, from the big, immediately apparent things to the little details. And when, recently, the time came for me to choose a place to settle down, I just couldn't choose Japan.

And this is where the top-three ranking comes in. The reason I originally started it was so that, once I was ready to stop wandering about and sit my ass down in one place for good, I would have already made my decision as to where. I did it as a kind of mental exercise which would ensure that, when the time came, I'd make the best possible choice.

It was kind of a stupid idea, I realize now. "Best possible choice"! I mean, lol. Gimme a break, man. What difference does it make which city one decides to call home? I've lived in well over a dozen cities over a period of almost a dozen years, and let me tell you something: as long as you don't pick some totally fucked up place, like, say, Kabul, or Amsterdam, it hardly makes any difference.

But anyway there you have it. Once upon a time a younger, more naive version of myself started a list, and now I might as well use it.

So I'll soon be moving to Lyon, the number one city in my silly little ranking table (runners-up were Kyoto in second place and Seattle in third, if anyone's curious). If you've never heard of Lyon you could check Wikipedia or the city's official website I guess, but don't expect more than a drab overview and some insignificant details -- certainly don't expect to understand why I rate it so highly. Short of going there yourself, I'd suggest a Flickr search if you want a taste of the city's flavor. In any case I do plan to write about Lyon at some point. Once I have some interesting stories to relate, perhaps.

But the point here is that because of this move I won't be reviewing any games for a while. You see most of my gear is packed in *crates* and waiting at some warehouse in Tokyo at the moment, to be shipped to France by ship -- a trip that I am told can take up to two months, including administration and customs procedures at both ends.

In the meantime, while most of my game collection and hardware goes on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise around the world, I'll have to make my way to Lyon and rent an apartment (no mean feat in France these days, as French readers will be able to attest to), and buy things like couches and refrigerators, and pick up my study of the language where I left it off back in high school, and get in touch with some old friends, make some new ones, and perhaps get myself a girlfriend or two.

But though I'll be too busy with trying to put together some sort of a life for myself in Lyon to review any games for a while, I do plan to keep updating this site quite frequently. I've had several half-finished articles and essays sitting in my hard drive for ages now, and this will be a good chance to finally get to finish them.

There'll be some pretty controversial stuff in there, like that 'gameplay' article that drew a fair amount of irate responses recently. So this is me warning you: if you decide to stick around during this transitional period, it'd be a good idea to keep an open mind. And to keep your cool if you decide to speak your mind in the forum (rude emails I don't mind -- I can just trash those).

So yeah. This should get interesting.