I spent a few days in Madrid this weekend and I felt very constricted.
All the buildings are at least 5 stories high, everything is paved (even the occasional tree which is not even given a square foot of grass), and you can never see very far ahead of you. You get the feeling that the city goes on forever, choking you into itself.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time there, but I was missing an openness, a freedom.
What I couldn’t understand is that I’ve never felt that way when I’ve been in Manhattan. Madrid has 3 large designated parks like Central Park, but unlike the Park, they felt like pathetic attempts at nature.
As my bus was leaving Madrid, the countryside reminded me of California–but why is it that California relaxes you, while the aridity of north-central Spain seemed tiring and endless?
And that’s when it hit me. New York and LA have the ocean.
That infinite blue that can take you away to anywhere else in the world. A part of nature that we can’t build over or hide. The ocean is that natural escape that reminds us that the city does not last forever. It gives us peace of mind to know that we’re not pigeon-holed in, eternally stuck in urbanity and civilization.