Greatest Cities of the World

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					                     GRIFF RHYS JONES
                  WORLD’S GREATEST CITIES
Griff Rhys Jones gets under the skin of three of the greatest cities on earth for
a new three part documentary series.

Exploring a day-in-the-life of New York, London and Paris, Griff paints a
landmark portrait of each metropolis revealing what gives each city its unique

From serving breakfast in New York, to late night dinner in Paris and beer in
London, Griff gets stuck into the daily life of these cities. He works with
garbage men in New York, gives a cut and blow dry to a poodle in Paris and
tries his hand at bell ringing in London.

What really makes New York, New York? Griff finds out by rolling his sleeves
up and delving behind the scenes, uncovering how the different cities work as
living machines, and discovering some astonishing secrets.

Armed with his trademark humour and relentless curiosity, Griff tracks down
the individuals who epitomise the character of each city, and celebrates the
infinite variety of life in these great cities.


For Griff, New York, London and Paris are the cities closest to his heart.

“I love a lot of cities that are not included in this series, like Rome and
Edinburgh, but I love the three we are covering most of all. New York for its
style and warmth, Paris for its taste and chic, and London for its grubby soul.”

His feelings for the cities are summed up as,

“Paris for the mouth, New York for the eyes and London for the heart.”

There are some stunning views in each of these cities and Griff reveals his

“In London you can go to Tower 42 and gaze out over the entire city while
drinking a purple cocktail, but Primrose Hill is still a pretty unbeatable vista.
You can climb the Empire State building in New York, and you have to do
that, but the view from the Staten Island Ferry is the one that blows you away.
In Paris, Montmartre gives you a vista of the city, but somehow Paris looks
blank from the air, and you don‟t want to be as high as the Eiffel Tower. The
best view is from Notre Dame over the old historic quarter.”

So what makes a city „great‟?

“A great city is inexhaustible, it keeps throwing new sights, new people, new
tastes and new sounds at you, but I‟m drawn to places which have many,
many layers of history. Anything which is huge scale and uniform tends to
ultimately be dull. So London is a good example of a city which is made up of
dozens of different parts and experiences as you walk through it. Ultimately
it‟s people and their pride in their environment that make a great city work. If
there‟s no place where people can express themselves, either by trimming the
hedges or building extraordinary skyscrapers then the city has no soul.”

For Griff there were some surprises and revelations.

“I was surprised at how quickly New York changes its character. People now
live on Wall Street because so many banks left it after 9/11. The printing area
is now a fashion area and the West Side is changing its spots daily. I was
surprised by how funny and helpful the Parisians were once you stop being a
tourist. We had the best laughs with French people and I wasn‟t expecting

The one thing that made me laugh the most in Paris was when I drove a 2 CV
around the Arc de Triomphe where all the rules of driving are temporarily

Griff admits there were some scary moments as well. .

“When I was working as a window cleaner at a 30 storey building in New York,
I did get moderately scared when the guy who was teaching me didn‟t seem
to know how the safety equipment worked!

However, the most terrifying thing I did was to take part in an inline skating
event in Paris. They do it every Friday and the streets are closed to traffic to
enable the people to skate around the central streets in safety. We did it on a
Wednesday for some reason, into the rush hour traffic. I had never inline
skated before and feared at every moment that my skates would clip one of
the many drains and potholes and that I would fall under the wheels of a
Parisian bus!”


Over the past 100 years, a child has been born, on average, every four and a
half minutes in New York. What sort of place have they arrived in?

In an attempt to find out what makes New York, New York, Griff spends a
typical 24 hours meeting New Yorkers, discovering the city‟s secrets,
experiencing its culture and diversity and trying to understand what makes
New York a great city.

From meeting the man whose job it is to hoist more than 70 American flags
across the city every morning, to the birth of a baby late at night, Griff
uncovers some moving and fascinating stories about New York.

In Brooklyn, a Greek family runs a thriving business, serving the best New
York breakfasts, and Griff tries his hand at waiting on the hungry clientele at
their busiest time. The menu is extensive and Griff has to get to grips with
the “extremes of carbohydrate, fat and sugar that an American in New York
can eat for breakfast”

As the morning rush hour reaches its fevered pitch, Griff visits Grand Central
Station, described by Griff as more like a temple than a terminal. 700,000
people pass through the main concourse every day, the equivalent of the
entire population of San Francisco.        Grand Central Station has some
fascinating secrets and Griff discovers why in one part of the station the public
can be seen talking to the walls.

It‟s time to get his hands dirty with the New York Sanitation Department, an
organization run along military lines. After helping them for a short while he
soon realizes why they are known as „New York‟s Strongest‟.

New York is famous for its skyscrapers and Griff explains that in the early part
of the 20th century tycoons battled to build the highest buildings in New York.
The Woolworth Tower was a prime example, built in 1913 and paid for in cash
by Frank W Woolworth. He wanted it to be the tallest building in the world,
and especially taller than the Metropolitan Life Insurance building because
they had once refused him a mortgage.

In a city of towering buildings, window cleaners are a special breed, and Griff
joins veteran cleaners Brent and Vincent at the top of a 30 story building, and
climbs over the edge, attached to safety ropes in order to clean the windows.
His confidence is not boosted when Brent and Vincent can‟t seem to agree
how the equipment works. This was, Griff says: “The single most terrifying
experience of my life.”

New York is a city of contrasts, and after visiting the Carlyle Hotel where a
suite costs over $7,000 a night Griff travels across town to the Lincoln
Correctional Facility where long term prisoners come to serve out the last few
years of their sentences and are taught how to adapt to normal life again.

In Queens, Griff visits a factory founded over a 150 years ago that employs
450 people to make exactly the same thing that they first manufactured in
1853, Steinway pianos. Before each piano passes out of the factory it has to
pass the ear of one man, Wally, the most critical cog in the whole machine.
Although Wally has worked at Steinway for 45 years, and carries out the
crucial final tuning on the instrument, he only learnt to play the piano four
years ago.

James Allen has invented an inspired way of raising funds for a rehab centre
in the city. He brought together a group of addicts to form a choir in Harlem.

Griff asks if he could audition for the choir and has to sing in front of all the
members. He launches into an interesting version of Amazing Grace, but is
swiftly halted by James, who advises Griff to carry on with the day job. In an
emotionally charged performance the choir sings „Sometimes I Feel Like a
Motherless Child‟.     A visibly moved Griff describes sitting in the midst of a
“waterfall of voices” as “a profound experience for me.”

As day turns to night, Griff goes backstage at a glitzy Broadway production,
and then falls into step with a herd of Indian elephants from the Barnum
Circus being escorted out of town en route to their next gig.

New York is one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse cities in the
world, and it has been estimated that a third of New Yorkers were not actually
born in the city.

On any weekend more than a thousand weddings take place in New York, yet
curiously in this great melting pot, most marriages are between couples from
the same background.

Griff is invited to attend a traditional Russian Jewish wedding and meets the
family and friends who have made New York their home. As the celebration
gets wilder and the vodka flows, Griff leaves for his final appointment.

It‟s 3am and Griff is waiting at the Morgan Stanley children‟s hospital to meet
someone who is taking his time in arriving. Finally, the latest addition to the
city makes his appearance. Born to Peruvian parents, Ivan is the first in their
family to be a native New Yorker.

As the new day starts to break over the city, Griff wonders what New York will
be like as Ivan grows up, and expects that like millions of others he will find
that change and continuous invention are part of the excitement of this
remarkable city.


It‟s 4am and Griff alights from one of London‟s iconic vehicles, a Routemaster
bus. While most of London sleeps, Griff makes his way to a statue in
Trafalgar Square. Not the famous Nelson‟s Column but a statue of Charles
the First, which officially marks the centre of London where all distances are
measured from.

We all know the legend that if the ravens leave the Tower of London the
Kingdom will fall. Not as well known is a similar legend surrounding the Stone
of London, which is located in the wall of a disused shop in Cannon Street.
The stone is reputed to have stood in the middle of the Forum, when the
Romans were in London. It survived the Great Fire and the Blitz and the myth
is that it as long as the stone is safe, London will flourish.

As London starts to wake up, Griff climbs to the top of a 200 foot high crane in
the City to see the sunrise.

His birds-eye-view provides an unusual angle from which to see London‟s
commuters start to make their way into city.

As one of the busiest rush hours in the world commences, Griff decides to
take a short cut to his next appointment. He gets a lift from the harbour
master from the Port of London authority along the Thames to Westminster.

Arriving at the Houses of Parliament Griff is given a guided tour of by Joe
Murphy, political editor of the Evening Standard who points out that 400 years
ago you would have seen Oliver Cromwell‟s head on a pike by the entrance.

Medieval customs are still adhered to in Parliament and age old rituals take
place every day by men and women wearing clothes that went out of fashion
over a hundred years ago. Griff observes: “More than any other city in the
world, London likes to keep one buckled foot in the past.”

Griff climbs the clock tower to Big Ben, probably the most famous clock in the
world whose chimes are transmitted live to 183 million listeners across the
globe. To ensure the chimes never fail the clock has to be wound by hand,
three times a week.

London has nearly 8,000 acres of open land which gives London the official
classification as a forest.

Many of London‟s parks were once the private property of the monarchs.
Nowadays they are public spaces but many of the traditions still remain.
Luckily there are no longer crocodiles in St James‟s Park. James the First
liked to keep two in the lake, but the pelicans are still there, which are the
descendants of those presented by the Russian Ambassador in 1664.

Anyone can take a horse into Hyde Park even if, like Griff, you can‟t actually
ride it. Griff is joined by a group of regular riders, and is told by one rather
grand young lady that riding is a good form of exercise. Griff tells her: “Posh
people like to do any form of exercise…as long as it‟s sitting down.”

Griff‟s next venue is the site of what was one of the most bizarre railway
stations in London, a railway for the dead.      The Necropolis Railway in
Westminster Road was opened in 1847 after a terrible cholera outbreak, and
used to ship coffins to Surrey by rail. It lasted for nearly 100 years as a
terminal, in more senses than one.

London has many hidden gems, and Griff discovers that 150 feet under the
surface of the City, beneath the Central Line is a huge tunnel complex that
was a secret for 50 years. It was built by a secret Act of Parliament and is just
under a mile in length. The labyrinth was to be used as a telephone exchange
in the event of a nuclear attack and is now one of the most unusual properties
for sale in London. .

Beer has run through the body of London for four generations and in medieval
times fermented ale was thought a safer option than water. Griff visits an
eighteenth century pub, „The Old Doctor Butler‟s Head‟ whose original
proprietor, Doctor Butler, came up with numerous liquid cures, all containing
alcohol. Today they are launching new herbal purging ale, and before it goes
on sale it has to be passed by the City of London Ale Conners. The test
involves spilling the ale on a wooden bench and the Conners, in their leather
breeches, sit on the wet patch. If they stick to the bench the ale is no good,
but luckily the ale passes the test and Griff pulls the first pint for the waiting

Griff ventures on to the St. James area of London, an area known for its
expensive and exclusive shops and clubs. Burlington Arcade could be
described as the first shopping mall. It was built 190 years ago by Lord
Cavendish, because his wife said she had nowhere to shop in peace and

The arcade employs the oldest and smallest private police force in the city,
and Griff dons the uniform and takes his place upholding the rules of the
arcade. These include, no whistling, because pickpockets used to whistle
signals to each other, and no singing or humming, because it was
„ungentlemanly‟ to show merriment.

From the riches of St. James Griff journeys to the financial centre of the City
of London – the Square Mile.

Broker Dave Peters from Tullett Prebon explains why London is the financial
hub of the markets. Griff gets a taste of the frantic and, to the outsider,
confusing dealing that goes on in their offices, and discovers just how
stressful moving vast sums around the money market really is. Later in the
programme we will find out how Dave alleviates the tension of the day.

From the ancient to the modern Griff continues his day with a visit to St. Paul‟s
Cathedral and then on to another Wren church, St. Martin in Ludgate, where
Griff tries his hand at bell ringing – managing to put his back out in the

He then visits Sotheby‟s for a modern art auction where he will be helping to
hang the works of art. One of the night‟s star lots is a piece by Fontana that
Griff describes as “the gold one, with holes in.”          To Griff‟s obvious
astonishment and amusement this sells for £9.2 million. The night‟s total
sales add up to £95 million.

It‟s getting late and in East London Griff visits a boxing club where they
describe the matches as „white collar‟ fighting. Dave the broker we met earlier
is fighting tonight. He is on the match list as „Mad‟ Dave from Tullett Prebon
and the other combatants are from various financial and business companies.
However, as can happen on the trading floor, where nothing is predictable,
Dave‟s luck takes a downturn.

As Big Ben strikes midnight, Griff is given a very special lift for a spectacular
view of the city at night. The Metropolitan Police air support unit is on call 24
hours a day, which is why his courtesy flight suddenly turns into a hot pursuit
of a suspected axe wielding man who is thought to have attempted to steal a

Below them most of the city‟s inhabitants are asleep, and London prepares
itself for the next day.


Griff describes Paris as small, intense but full of flavour and sets out to find
the ingredients that make up this great city.

Paris is exquisite in scale and content. New York may boast bigger, taller,
London more extensive, but Paris knows it has the finest. It‟s the attention to
detail that makes this city tick.

Paris has probably had more admirers than any place on earth. From the
Roman Emperor Julian who called it his „beloved city‟ to Adolf Hitler, who in
1940 wrote that he had „always longed to visit Paris‟, having just done so with
his army and 40,000 tanks. It was considered „too beautiful to bomb‟ and
survived the Second World War unscathed.

In Paris they don‟t just make bread, they make the world‟s finest bread. Griff
makes an early morning visit to the Poilone bakery, where they make bread
by hand, and rolls up his sleeves to help prepare the morning‟s traditional
country loaves. French bread is special because of its simplicity; the law
dictates that it is made with flour, yeast, salt and water, and nothing else.

Paris is keen on keeping up appearances, and with a freshly baked loaf under
his arm, Griff sets off to join the city‟s elite Graffiti Eradication Squad, who
move swiftly into action when they receive reports of graffiti on any public
buildings and monuments.

One of the most recognisable landmarks in the world is the Eiffel Tower, but it
was not loved by all Parisians when it was built. The intellectuals and writers
of Paris hated it, and Guy de Maupassant used to have lunch at the Tower
every day because it was the only place in Paris that “you can‟t see the damn

The Eiffel Tower is a feat of engineering and the real wonders are hidden
away out of site. When it was built, the lift mechanism was hailed as a miracle
of French engineering. It is still faithfully lifting and lowering, and Griff has
been invited to help keep it lubricated. Once a week, special grease has to be
applied to the mechanism, while it is still moving. It‟s boiling hot and smells
incredible, because it‟s molten mutton fat. Griff muses that if he were a proper

Frenchman he would take a big scoop of the mutton fat, slap it on some bread
and have it for his lunch!

At the Officer Training School, Griff experiences unarmed combat at first hand
and learns how to break a man‟s arm in four places. From the cut and thrust
of army training, Griff turns his hand to a cut and blow dry at a dog‟s beauty

When the apricot poodle has had the full treatment, Griff takes her out for
lunch, at a fashionable restaurant, where she is perfectly welcome. Lunch is
so important in Paris that nearly all office workers are still given luncheon
vouchers to ensure they eat properly.

Parisians are renowned for their independence of spirit, especially when it
comes to petty rules and regulations, and nowhere typifies that more than
when they are behind the wheel of a car.

The Arc de Triomphe is in the middle of a massive roundabout. 12 highways
converge on it and Griff takes his life in his hands to drive around it. It is the
wild west of motoring, where there are no lane markings but there are lots of

Griff explains that there are two rules, one, give way to the right and two, obey
no other rules.

Leaving the driving to those who do it worst, Griff takes some well-earned
respite at the last working vineyard in Paris, which produces 2,000 half-bottles
of much sought after red wine every year.

But he is soon back on the road, with a group of Parisians who, every week,
skate across Paris. It is still the rush hour but every Friday evening they close
the streets for an inline skating ramble, which can attract up to 24,000 people.
However, this is Wednesday, and novice skater Griff has to avoid the traffic
and try to stay on his feet. He describes the experience as, “the most
dangerous thing I have done in my life”.

It may be approaching midnight, but it is still possible to eat out in Paris at one
of the many brasseries, and Griff is working the late shift with head waiter
Thierry. With fully laden trays causing a problem, and a lost order, Griff is
more than a little relieved when the restaurant closes at 2.30 am.

However, he still has one last appointment - with a group of Parisians who are
passionate, rebellious and nocturnal. The Untergunther restore monuments to
exacting standards, without permission, in the middle of the night. Two years
ago they broke into the Parthenon and spent a year restoring a clock, and the
authorities didn‟t notice a thing.

Griff joins them on their latest mission and is taken down a manhole to a
tunnel underground. They reach a small hole in the wall and squeeze though

it down to a deeper system of passageways where the team are making an
illegal survey of the underground labyrinth in order to preserve it.

As Griff explores the tunnels he comes across a macabre sight. Part of the
tunnel system was used to store bones, the remains of nearly six million
Parisians. In the eighteenth century the cemeteries of Paris were getting full
so they took all the bones and put them in the tunnels under Paris. About fifty
years later they decided to tidy them up, and bizarrely made walls of the
bones, with them all in neat patterns, and here they remain neatly stacked to
this day.

As the night draws to a close, one of the Unthergunter team leads Griff to a
superb vantage point to watch the sun rise over Paris, the Notre Dame

As he looks over the city, Griff says that although there may be no such thing
as a perfect city, what he loves about Paris is that people put so much effort
and work into the quality of life. He says: “It‟s rather nice to think that
somewhere out there, someone is having a sleepless night about trying to
improve a sauce, or make a delicious soup, or bake the perfect cake.”

Press Contact:
Sally Skinner
ITV Press Office
084488 13026

Picture Contact:
Peter Gray
ITV Pictures
084488 13046


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