I'm an absolute sucker for 'World's Best City' lists. They're like gangster films and chocolate cereal – all the same, with minor differences only put in there just so the maker can justify making them, and you read each to further the ideas you already have, not to learn anything new or lower your cholesterol (in reference to the chocolate cereal thing).
But, I will say, I was pleasantly surprised to see Conde Nast use only one statistic in its 2013 Reader Choice Awards: opinion.
Yes, I know opinion is too easy to find and too cheap in Twenty-Thirteen. I know the Internet is drowning in it. But I'm also tired of having to read The Economist's indexes and pretend there's something truly valid about them, or at least something that makes those "Top" 10s more valid than yours or mine. When it comes to travel and enjoying your surroundings, blogs and Tumblr feeds are as important as anything the most mainstream of lame-stream can think of.
If you're traveling, the opinion of others is all you need. When you're telling someone else where you've been, your opinion is all you need. And, every once in a while, it's important to look into somewhere you haven't Googled before.
We travel for food, sunshine (or snow), and photos. I trust Conde Nast with all of them. I also trust their 80,000 voters, whose tallies provided some sort of consensus.
It's also nice to see us British Columbians humbled a little bit, although Vancouver and Victoria were hardly slighted. Vancouver Island's biggest city came in at a tie for No. 17 with Santa Fe and Sydney. B.C.'s only metropolis finished 13th, just ahead of Kyoto and behind Bruges and Belgium.
"Beautiful" might be the most frequently used word in our readers' descriptions of this city, "a jewel with its ocean and mountain views." It's not only an "awesome outdoor city for walks and scenery," it has "great restaurants and shopping," "good bike paths," and "friendly people." As one reader put it: "A truly amazing city that blends both nature and modernity. One minute you can be in the heart of a metropolis eating a five-star meal and the next you are driving along a mountain path."
"This "beautiful harbor town with great food" is "a pocket of charm and beauty" on the southern end of Vancouver Island. Our readers raved about the setting and architecture, and enjoyed the variety of activities: walking, biking, antiquing, dining at "great seafood restaurants," and visiting museums and the Butchart Gardens. It's a "hidden treasure.""
The top Canadian town was Quebec City, for its "old-world charm", "awesome historic assets", and "great shopping".
How about Charleston, South Carolina, which finished in a tie for fifth with another surprise, San Sebastian (Spain).
"A small town in the heart of Mexico", San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) finished first.
Two 21st century European heavyweights, Budapest and Florence, tied for second.
1. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
2. Florence, Italy
2. Budapest, Hungary
4. Salzburg, Austria
5. Charleston, South Carolina, USA
5. San Sebastian, Spain
7. Vienna, Austria
8. Rome, Italy
9. Siena, Italy
10. Quebec City, Canada
11. Cape Town, South Africa
12. Bruges, Belgium
13. Vancouver, Canada
14. Kyoto, Japan
15. Prague, Czech Republic
15. Krakow, Poland
17. Victoria, Canada
17. Sydney, Australia
17. Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
20. Seville, Spain
20. Beirut, Lebanon
22. Paris, France
22. Melbourne, Australia
24. Venice, Italy
24. Barcelona, Spain