There are cities like Perth, the one I live in. Not that many people across the globe know where it is; even fewer have been there.
And then there are cities like Sydney, the one I'm sitting in right now at the airport, waiting for my flight to the Gold Coast. Sydney is a well-known city and kids in many spots across the world could probably name the Sydney Harbour Bridge. (Side note: I just saw it as we landed and accidentally smiled-out-loud. I think the woman next to me thought this was odd, since I'd been so serious for the whole trip, working hard at my laptop and studiously avoiding conversation.)
But then there are CITIES. These are places like New York and Paris. There are no doubt still plenty of people in the known world who don't really know about these cities but if you live in a land with TV and movies and books then it would be pretty hard not to know and daydream about them.
These cities - sorry, CITIES - have everything. They have those Tourist Things That Must Be Photographed: the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower. They have incredible museums and galleries that really deserve to be visited (I think the d'Orsay beats the Louvre, but that's just my opinion, Francophiles). They have fancy hotels and amazing restaurants and you can easily blurt out every incredible adjective you can think of just to describe one day of sightseeing. They are places that everyone should try to visit at least once in their life. More than once, if at all possible.
But more than anything, these cities have stories. And blogs are about stories, or at least, I think the best blogs are about stories. And this is my story about what's wonderful in New York and Paris. I'm not yet sure which one will win because I've had life-changing experiences in both of them. But here goes.
Two young girls from Perth with matching koalas velcroed to their T-shirts (Mum had velcroed them on so they could be removed before trips to foreign laundromats) visit the Eiffel Tower with their mother and father. The visit comes shortly after quite a shocking display of swearing as said mother and father tried to navigate the campervan around Paris. They had only been driving on the right for a handful of days. It was difficult.
One of these young girls, a little older now, returns to the Eiffel Tower with her boyfriend. He is German. She is living in Germany. But they plan to return to Australia, so they've already decided they may as well get married as it will make the visa process for the boyfriend a whole lot easier.
At the top of the Eiffel Tower, she tells him the story of a friend whose boyfriend proposed to her at that spot. "But now they've broken up and she's marrying someone else," she said. This is not a great segue to the next scene, but this is how it happened: the German ignored this tale, reached into his backpack, pulled out a black pearl ring, got down on one knee as every man should, and proposed. The Aussie girl laughed, smiled, cried a little and said yes, of course.
NEW YORK, 2006
The wedding happens in Germany, small and private, and money is saved for the honeymoon. They visit family and friends in the north-east corner of the US but the best part is their week alone in New York.
Funds are limited - they're both jobless and have just paid thousands of dollars to see all their belongings put on a container ship from Germany to Perth - and neither of them are fussed by luxury, so they book into the YMCA hostel next to Central Park. They have the foresight, at least, to get a private room. They walk the avenues of New York City, they stare goggle-eyed at the paintings of MOMA, they ride the ferry to Staten Island. And they spend the expected honeymoon amount of private time in their private room at the YMCA. Most of all, they cement the fact that they have this travel thing in common, that they can be brave enough to move to another hemisphere, one the German hasn't even ever seen.
I will always remember the bakery smells of Paris and the honking horns of New York. I can't forget the height of Notre Dame Cathedral or the sea of yellow taxicabs. But this is the part I really, really love about travel: I will remember these stories I've just told you even more vividly than any sightseeing trip. My experience of these wonderful cities is my own unique experience, made all the more uniquely mine because special things happened. Can I choose in the New York vs Paris debate? It's a bit like asking someone to choose their favourite child. Harder, actually, because I only have one child! My story, my family's story and my life, they would all be different now without Paris and without New York. I make it a draw.
This blog post is an entry for the ProBlogger Training Event/Virgin Australia contest to win a trip to South by Southwest next year ... wish me luck!