The Great European Cities Tour of America

by Ester Bloom

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.