02 March 2010

An open letter to European cities

Dear City,

I know you have been wondering what it will take to grab hold of my heart and imagination. You want to know how to make me love you. I understand I must seem like a fickle mistress. Visiting some of you repeatedly while passing others by.

Rest easy, I have a lot of love to give. While there's no road map to winning my affection, you might take a page from Toulouse's book, the last city to incite my admiration.

A pretty bridge here, an arcaded square there...I'm not hard to please.

Lighting is always important to a lady.

If you look good at night, chances are I'll look good at night. That's endearing.

Old, medievally looking buildings go a long way.

Cobblestones, cathedrals, a river, a preponderance of sidewalk cafes...throw in a few gardens and I'm hooked. Gardens that have interest even in winter? Captivating.

A tiny little parade, complete with tiny marching band and nonsensical outfits can be very appealing.

The less obvious the reason for the parade, the better. The more outlandish the costumes, the more engaging I will find you.

City, I like you because you are folksy, quirky and true to your roots.

I can imagine your local weirdos parading through this very same square four hundred years ago, in outfits very like the ones I see today, celebrating the arrival of the salt ship from Jabuti or the victory of Aldéric, the city tortoise, in the king's market day tournament. I see it and I like what I see. Speaking of which...

Showing me my first game of rugby was a stroke of genius. Well done, Toulouse.

Seriously, live Rugby is like soft-core porn for women. Have you seen the size of these guys? Thighs the size of tree trunks. And the way they man-handle each other? I'm not sure that exact experience can be repeated, but City, do you have a rugby team? If not, you must have other sports I've yet to witness live. Boules? Cricket? Not sure how they'll stack up but I am willing to try.

It helps if you recruit a friend. In Toulouse's case it was a matter of happenstance. Suzanne has a brother. Brother used to work in Toulouse. Brother opened pub in Toulouse. Suzanne visited said brother several times. Suzanne likes Toulouse. Suzanne lives west and I live east, Toulouse is roughly in the middle. Suzanne's job flies her all over the place, including home to Dublin for the weekend. Suzanne's job will fly her to other locations for the weekend if she so chooses.

Should Suze choose Toulouse I'd be rude to refuse.
"Toulouse!" she enthused.

"Toulouse." I mused.
To shake the Vienna blues, I had nothing to lose,
with booze on the menu, I had no excuse.
And that's how Toulouse got the chance to seduce.

City, I realize this is a convoluted chain of events to follow, much less replicate, but do try. Because I am never so likely to visit a place as I am when someone I know is there.

All of the above are simply suggestions, but the next item is make or break. City, you simply MUST have a good pub. And here is where Toulouse really excelled, how it charmed and disarmed me. I present to you The Melting Pot. (City, are you taking notes?) Large enough to be lively, small enough to be cozy. There was a good crowd and a good buzz about the place all weekend. It helped that Suzanne's brother is The Man at this place, it made her bit of a celebrity (well, that and the fact that she is young, blond and gorgeous.)

Many thanks to Brother D. for the special treatment. The bartenders were chatty and funny, making us feel warm and welcome. Effortless professionals. We had a chance to rub elbows with a few ex-pat regulars as well; good, fun, lovely folks. Just really good fun all around. Even got invited back the next day for a table quiz.

I'd love to share some photos of us with our new pub friends, but...
A) the late hour + varying levels of inebriation + not really knowing them...feels somehow wrong to post them, and (more importantly)
B) Suze and I don't really look that good in any of the pub photos.

City, a good pub will earn you my devotion. Had Toulouse been found wanting on any other front, The Melting Pot did the trick and won me over. So much so that I've been looking more closely at my pubs in Vienna, trying to identify which one has a similar vibe and will hence become my new local.

And so City, those are just a handful of ideas to help you towards your goal of having that certain something, that je ne sais quoi, that will win me over and have me singing your praises. Keep dreaming, I may one day be yours.


p.s. Did I mention our hotel was directly above the pub? Fortuitous placement.

1 comment:

Alli Arnold said...

Great post and fantastic poem, Shirl. I would like to see a poem from you incorporating SHIRL. Do you accept the challenge???

xo NY State Licensed Shirl