Picking the right day to visit

The first time I ever visited Oslo (which I believe is the nearest I’ve been to the North Pole while on the ground) it happened to be June 20 — the longest day of the year. I had a magical and slightly surreal experience wandering around the town in the excellent company of the friends I was visiting, in a city without night. As midnight came and went, and darkness never quite arrived, I felt not tired at all, but rather exhilarated.

The first time I ever visited Albuquerque it happened to be the weekend of the annual hot air balloon festival — one of the zaniest and most fun sights to be seen in these United States, with giant balloons in all sorts of surreal and eccentric shapes floating over the landscape. I didn’t realize at first that this was a once-a-year spectacular, so my initial thought was that I was witnessing a very civilized, if unusual, way for a town to be organizing its daily transportation needs.

The oddest such experience was the first time I visited Nice, after having attended a conference in nearby Monte Carlo. I was delighted to discover that the streets of Nice were filled with jugglers, magicians, stilt-walkers and clowns, street fairs and puppet shows. Wherever I went, people wearing giant papier-mâché heads were walking around in broad daylight, to the general delight of children. I found myself wondering at how tourist friendly Nice was, while pondering how on earth such a city could maintain a sustainable economic model. “Wouldn’t this be a great place to live all year round!” I thought.

It took a while before I realized that I had just happened to wander into town during Carnival.

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