California's Central Valley is a distinctive place. It is a place of flat ground and extreme weather. It is a place of fruits, nuts, grains and dairy products, yet it's also a place of extensive suburban sprawl. It's a place with some of the worst air pollution in the country, but, when the sky is clear, a place with stunning mountain views. It's a place of recent immigrants and extreme poverty, and of fourth and fifth generation landowners.
When people think of downtowns, they often think of huge cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. But anybody familiar with California knows that the big city downtowns are the exceptions. By and large, California is a state of mid-sized cities, and some of the most delightful urban places are the smaller downtowns. Often in older cities, these districts are manageable, pleasant and, very often these days, in the midst of a strong renaissance.
There are few places more exciting than the pulsing downtown of a big city. There is a vitality and diversity that is palpable. Sure, it might be kind of noisy and dirty and crowded. But there is so much going on � commerce, entertainment, education, travel, socializing � that it's easy to overlook the grime and congestion.