On February 16th 2015 I was on the final day of a short break to Warsaw in Poland…
I woke early the next morning so made good use of the time before breakfast by reading the complimentary guide books supplied by the Tourist Information Office.
I shouldn’t really have been surprised by this because I have seen it so many times but there on the first page of the ‘Warsaw Top Ten’ guide was the description, Warsaw – Paris of the East.
After Venice it seems that it is the city that more than most other cities want to associate themselves. I have yet to come across a New York of the East, a Moscow of the West or a Melbourne of the North but, when it comes to Paris, even without leaving Europe we have:
Baku, Azerbaijan; Bucharest, Romania; Budapest, Hungary; Leipzig, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Riga, Latvia; Saint Petersburg, Russia. As if to make doubly sure, in a belt and braces sort of way, Saint Petersburg doubles up in this respect by also calling itself the ‘Venice of the North’ even though it has competition for this particular title from Amsterdam, Bruges, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester, Edinburgh (which good measure also calls itself the Athens of the North) and even Birmingham amongst others.
I am unable to find anywhere that calls itself the London of the East, or North, South or West for that matter but by way of compensation there are twenty-eight villages in England called Little London including one only two miles or so from where I live which is a hamlet with just a handful of farm cottages, a pub, a railway crossing, a caravan site and a farm shop but no Little London road sign.
Exciting isn’t it? It suddenly reminded me of the small village of Twenty in South Lincolnshire. Twenty has a road sign to identify it and a local wag had added the tag line “Twenty – Twinned with the Moon – No Atmosphere”.
By coincidence Twenty is just about five miles from the town of Spalding where I used to work and an area of the town called … wait for it… Little London.
Including Warsaw I have had the good fortune to visit five of these alternative Paris cities, Budapest, Saint Petersburg, Riga and Prague and I have to say that I can find very little similarity in any of these places with the real thing. Prague would have to come closest I would have to say but only on the basis that they have a sort of Eiffel Tower.
Beyond Europe there are a few more but the most bizarre of all surely has to be Beirut! Paris itself if often called the City of Lovers or the City of Light but I have never heard of it calling itself the Beirut of the West and I am fairly certain that it is most unlikely ever to do so.
In addition to the French capital there are of course a number of places that are officially called Paris including nine in the United States – in Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Kentucky, New York, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and one that was even the title of a film – Paris, Texas. There is one missing from this list however and the one that is most Paris like of all, the one at EPCOT World Showcase in Disney World Florida. Three other U.S. cities have at some time been called the Paris of the West – Denver, Detroit and San Francisco but these all seem just as unlikely to me as Shanghai in China!
There is also a Paris in Ontario in Canada and the city of Montreal in French speaking Québec has unsurprisingly also been dubbed the Paris of the West.
Paris at Disneyworld in Florida…