I'm living in ultra-urban territory this summer, and I'm loving it. We're in vieux Nice--the very, very old part of a very old city on the southeast coast of France. Most buildings are 5-7 stories tall, with shops on the ground floor and apartments above. A few of the roads are wide enough for cars, but most are so narrow that only pedestrians and the occasional delivery vehicle can pass through. We're on one of the few "big" streets in old Nice.
When I look out my window, this is what I see:
To the right:
To the left:
Living in a very small 2-bedroom apartment has taken some getting used to. Our bedroom is just big enough to fit a double bed and not much else. The kids' bedroom is even smaller. Zari sleeps on the twin bed, and Dio sleeps on the floor in the space between the bed and the wall. It's in the middle of the apartment, so there's no window in their room. Then there's a living/dining room, a small kitchen, a very small bathroom, and a teeny tiny WC. So small that they had to install the toilet at an angle because there wasn't enough room front-to-back to put it in straight.
The apartment is small (to us) but fairly typical for French standards. Between the lack of toys and limited space, we spend most of our waking time outdoors. We don't have a balcony or terrasse in this apartment; the laundry hangs on a rack installed below our bedroom window.
I do admit that my ability to enjoy super-urban, super-crowded conditions comes in part from knowing that I have a larger house, and a yard, back home. Our house in an old residential neighborhood that dates back to the late 1800s. Our house was built in 1883, one of the first in the area. It has 3 bedrooms (1800 sf) and a double city lot (so about 75x200'). Still, even there, we live a mainly urban lifestyle even though we're in a small town. At home, we're within 3-5 blocks of everything we need on a day-to-day basis: Eric's work (campus), post office, playground, bank, public library, gym and indoor track (both free and on campus), 2 pharmacies, 2 thrift stores, pizza store, taqueria, Mexican food store, and all the other downtown shops (which aren't doing super well as a whole; they're suffering from the big box stores south of town). We drive for bigger grocery trips, church, home improvement stores, all of which are about 2 miles away and on busy roads. Actually we used to ride our bikes to church in the warm seasons, but it's on a busy 50-mph road with no shoulder, so we eventually gave that up for safety reasons.
I like urban living--even if it's urban small-town living like we have at home. I still prefer having a house and some yard, because I love having space for the kids to run around in and, most importantly, a place to grow food. But I think I could adapt to apartment living if I were close enough to a park and had sufficient patio/balcony/rooftop space to grow things. I feel incredibly liberated not having to use a car to get where I need to go. I love my neighbors. Seriously, we have the best neighbors ever. And if I lived in a typical suburban enclave, where you rarely walk to school or work or shopping, I wouldn't know my neighbors very well. But I'm always walking around, and I say hi and chat when I pass by. We bring each other food, mislaced mail, keep an eye on others' houses when they are out of town, comment on renovation or gardening projects, and just enjoy the human interaction.
Now I'd like to hear from you: What is your ideal living situation--urban? rural? suburban? small town? How have you adapted to less-than-ideal living/housing circumstances?