When we come to a new city, we like to drive up and down as many streets as we can and then explore the boundaries of the downtown area by truck, too. I haven’t given it too much thought, but it’s probably our way of mapping a city prior to parking and seeing it on a more micro level.
When we come to a town, our approach is a little different. Most of them only have one or two main streets, so we park right away and walk and explore.
We also like to see a place when it’s quiet (weekdays or weekend mornings) and when it’s in full swing (Friday and Saturday nights, typically). That gives us an idea of what it might be like to live there.
When I was in my twenties, I lived in Greenwich Village, a part of New York City that changed dramatically from weekday to weekend. During the week, I loved the way the neighborhood woke up. At that time (the 1990s) there were still bakeries and small coffee shops, vegetable markets, butcher shops and dry cleaners. Older people came out of their apartments during this time of day and did their grocery shopping and other errands. It was a quiet time when the smell of fresh bread and coffee and the sparkle of morning dew on the benches reminded me that this was once a much smaller town.
Even then, I think I knew that what I craved was a small town, a home where people knew one another and life moved at a slower pace. I probably would be very happy living in Mayberry RFD.