Thursday, May 5, 2011


The Great European Cities Tour of America

It is a fact both true and sad that Europe, while awesome and filled with classy old buildings, is expensive. A boyfriend backpacking there after the decline of the dollar told me he missed fruit, which cost too much, and made the wistful request that I eat grapes for him. He also gave up shaving rather than shell out for razors.

But unsightly facial hair and scurvy need not be the prices you pay for travel! Not if you do it right.

Thus, I present to you: The Great European Cities Tour — of America! You already buy and eat local; now travel internationally that way. Your country and your wallet will thank you.

Democracy didn’t start in this Athens, but the B52s and REM did. Who wants to see those places that old white men made famous when you can enjoy the place the New York Times calls “live music central”? Every June, hordes descend for AthFest, when 200 bands perform at bars, music venues, and on three different free outdoor stages.

And there are enough stately houses around to feel like you’ve had a taste of good architecture, too.

The real Venice honestly kind of smells. Pigeons shit on you, there are tourists everywhere, and a gondola ride costs over $100. (If we wanted striped-shirted men overcharging us for the privilege of pushing us around, we’d pay the covers at gay bars, am I right?) Whereas Venice, Florida, has sea turtles. Real, serious, ancient, wise-looking sea turtles that climb out of the water to lay their eggs on the beach starting May 1. Creep out quietly at nighttime and behold the miracle of life.

Turtles are super European, anyway: remember Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Rafael?

Is riding a scooter around Rome, Italy, really better than riding an ATV around Rome, Wisconsin? Okay, maybe. But I’ll bet you can’t hunt wild turkey on the Via Veneto! Rome, Wisconsin, a town turned into art by the widely-different likes of David Kelly (in his TV show “Picket Fences”) and Ayn Rand (in her book Atlas Shrugged), boasts four lakes, lots of recreational sports, and a motel called Shermalot. Plus, espresso is way cheaper. If you can find any.

This is the biggest oxymoron of the bunch: Paris … Texas?

It should be a hilarious fiction, like a vegan Egg McMuffin, or a cute, fluffy dinosaur. And yet there it is, and there is has been for almost 200 years, just an hour north of Dallas and not too far from its rival, Paris, Tennessee.

After the Tennessee city built a replica of the Eiffel Tower, the Texas one countered with a 70-foot-tall tower of its own — crowned with a cowboy hat. How can you not applaud that frontier spirit?

True, there’s not much to do in Paris, TX, except die (“elder care” is a growth industry there), but go just to tell Wim Wenders you did.

A charming mill town in New England covered in snow half the year and in leaves as vivid as a drag queen for a couple of months, Berlin, New Hampshire, is the “City that trees built.” That makes no sense, but as a motto, it’s still better than “the city that runs on Späetzle.” There’s great skiing in those White Mountains. Plus, there are fewer hipsters in New Hampshire, which means you’ll have those bike lanes all to yourself!

Ester Bloom has written for Salon, Nerve, the Morning News, and PANK, among others. She is currently at work on a book of comic essays entitled Never Marry a Short Woman.

54 Comments / Post A Comment


there are some other great ones - Versailles, Missouri and Milan, Missouri... and they are pronounced as they are spelled... :D


@Kristina@twitter My parents are from MO, and they have an old classmate who got into the fashion biz. For the longest time they wondered why such a successful lady would decide to settle down in MY-lan. Ohhh, wait.


@distrighema Milan St. in New Orleans is pronounced MY-lan. For real. Not just by people who don't know about the one is Italy.


@theharpoon I used to live on Milan! :)


@alpelican Ha! Did you ever go to the Milan Lounge or whatever that place was called? Right by St. Charles? God that place is/was disgusting.


@theharpoon Hey, come on, that's my local! I live on Constantinople though. Wait in what universe am I defending the Milan Lounge on the Hairpin?


I once called my mom from Busch Gardens Williamsburg and said "I'm in Italy!" Boy was she miffed till she realized I just meant the Italy portion of the park. Between that and the Eiffel Tower at Kings Dominion, central Virgina's got all the Europe we need!

viola bruise

Most of eastern Virginia is named exactly after places in England (Suffolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Gloucester, etc) so you could spend the day on Knifecrime Island before driving up to Paris, Virginia (pop. 51) for some 'nightlife.' Also, Woodstock is not so far from Paris, if you want to mix it up a bit.

Hot mayonnaise

Ester, did you mean "not too far" to be about 500 miles, or 9 hours by car?


Maine has Paris, Dresden, Belgrade, Athens, Lisbon, and Moscow... and lots of whole countries, like Poland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, China, Mexico, Peru, and Lebanon.

Laura McLean@twitter

As a Paris, TN native I take issue with saying it's close to "its rival" Paris, TX (it's a nearly 9-hour drive). However, I appreciate you targeting them instead, since the biggest thing my Paris is known for is the World's Biggest Fish Fry and having a higher than average number of meth labs.


@Laura McLean@twitter Are you still in Paris? I'm from West Tennessee; just googled a picture of the Eiffel Tower there to show a friend the other day.

Laura McLean@twitter

@sturgeon Nope, I live in Nashville now.

Other European cities in my area of West TN: Milan (MY-lun), Dresden, Como, and up the road in Kentucky is Cadiz.


There's also Rome, New York. You can go and visit the picturesque airfield where Woodstock '99 was held and think about a time when Limp Bizkit was popular enough to cause riots. A sight to behold!


@batgirl I was just thinking this! It's near the Finger Lakes, too, which are really pretty and usually temperate in the summer. This article made me want to go on a road trip real bad!


@batgirl Woodstock 99! So many sexual assaults, so few prepared police officers.


Or you can just visit the best city in the world: NEW YORK! NNEEEEWWWW YOOOORRRRK!

It's not expensive here at all! Nope!


@punkahontas and it kinda counts, since, Nieuw Amsterdam and all. Also, Breukelen, Haarlem, etc

John Band@twitter

@punkahontas And, erm, York.


Or just go to Epcot?

Kidding. I know no one wants to go to Epcot.


@DorothyMantooth my bf's family claims they "love" Epcot. See ya at the Magic Kingdom losers!

Meghan-Sara Karre@facebook

@DorothyMantooth I've been to Epcot AND to actual Europe on the cheap and it's probably less expensive to go across the ocean!

But much more fun to go to the real one first, and then go to Epcot and taunt the Disney workers for their cheap canned versions of real culture *sniff*.


Oh so many possibilities! Toledo, OH for a little Spanish flair. Versailles, KY which is fantastically mispronounced. I advocate strongly for New Orleans. Sure, it's New but if you say it all French (Ohrleaunnn) I think it would count. Plus they have Rue Bourbon. What's more French than that?


@LeSigh: Versailles, Ohio is definitely also pronounced 'Ver-Sales'.


@LeSigh Bourbon Street might be the least French thing ever.


@LeSigh Every street in this town is pronounced oddly. Burgundy is "buh-GUN-dy" and Chartres is "CHART-er" and Royal is occasionally "RERL."

But the oddest are truly the streets named after the nine muses. "TERPS-i-CORE," "YOU-terp," etc. The best one ever is Clio Street, which is, I shit you not, occasionally pronounced "Cee El Ten" as in C L 10.


@alpelican Uh, don't forget "Cally-ope!"


@alpelican i've never heard anyone say "cee el ten" in regards to clio in all my years living in the city, but i have heard terp-sick-o-ree in regards to terpsichore.

kimberly d

I approve this post! I live in Athens, GA, and it's awesome here.


Unlike the German Berlin, the one in NH is pronounced BER-lin. Still, it is quite lovely.


@hellonheels And Lebanon is "Leb-in-in"


CORRECTION: There are no hipsters in New Hampshire. All that buffalo plaid and flannel is actually worn for layering/warmth purposes. Also, any hipsters you happen to catch in NH (Portsmouth) are probably from Boston or are on their way to Boston.


@ohsweet Oh, I don't know, I think I've seen a few in Keene...but then that may be due to its proximity to Brattleboro.


@hellonheels Hmm. Brattleboro theory might be right. The few times that I went to Keene, I just saw tons of bros. Tons.


En route to my parents' house in Maryland, you go through Berlin, Cambridge, and Salisbury. Y'all settlers had no imagination. None.


No love for Lima, Ohio? I hear the high school there has a killer show choir.


@HereKitty Love you.


I grew up in Rome, GA and now live in Athens, GA. And beware, a lot of Athens stately old houses are now frat houses... go dawgs?




There's also a Berlin, Connecticut -- although that one's pronounced Ber-LIN, not BER-lin.

Tits McGee

@nunshallpass I'm from near there and people here actually do put the emphasis on the first syllable, as in "BER-lin TURN-pike" (plenty of fun things to do there on a vacation!) I think it goes back to World War II, sort of a "What? No, our town's not named after a place in Germany, I don't know what you're talking about" thing.

Quick Brown Fox

@rosebowl I grew up in Connecticut and everybody I knew pronounced in BERlin. I know I was confused when I took German in grade school and learned about berLIN.


Ah-ha. Now I know why so many of you American types don't have passports. You don't need to leave home at all!


There's also sexy Madrid, Iowa (pronounced MAD-rid), where you can enjoy smalltown advantages on your vacation.

Quick Brown Fox

Here in Pennsylvania, we have Bethlehem AND Nazareth, Lebanon, Moscow, Hamburg, and York. We also have California, which is just plain confusing.


We're not jet set, we're the old chevrolet set: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XZSzBa0aFU


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