La belle vie. La dolce vita. Das angenehme Leben.
What is it about Europe that conjures up sights, sounds, smells and images unavailable in Canada?
When I think of Paris, I am transposed from my tiny office way North of 60 to a tiny brasserie tucked into a leafy corner in the 9th arrondissement. Not that I’m dreaming of Europe during working hours. Who of us would be so bold as to do that?
I see the polished gold of the espresso maker, the hiss of the machine as a steaming hot stream of coffee joins a perfectly frothed cup of milk to make a café latte that does not translate to Starbucks or the Second Cup or, dare I say, Baked Café.
The cup is not fancy, nor is it large. It’s not even always that clean. It just keeps the coffee perfectlyflavoured and steaming hot until I take that last sip and sigh— all is right with the world.
I hear the clip clop of hooves on cobblestones because everywhere–Paris, Vienna, Barcelona–there arecobblestones.
And it might be 2012 and you might be there in Gap jeans and Reeboks with an iPod, but it could be 1847 and you might just be stepping out of a carriage to take tea in the exact same square, and only the people have changed. Only, occasionally some of them look like they haven’t.
I smell the tantalizing earthy goodness of the garlic shrimp tapas that literally stopped us in our tracks in San Sebastian, Spain. The next moment, I breathe in the heady mint stacked higher than my head at the local market.
While big box stores are spreading their scourge around Europe as much as they are at home, there is still a hearty tradition of picking up what you need from the specialty stores that lines the streets.
Oh yes, just a sliver of that Blue d’Auvernge cheese to go with my crisp baguette, if you please. Just a hint of balsamic glaze on those freshly picked asparagus? If you say so.
Do tomatoes really taste that good when properly grown and picked in season? And thank goodness, coffee and red wine are always in season. Whitehorse has this in common with Europe.
Europe puts our history books into context. I learned about the Holocaust from family and from books, but I felt the Holocaust when I looked up and virtually every school had a plaque dedicated to those students who were marched away and never made it back.
And it wasn’t a small piece of the Berlin Wall in a vial that gave me context, but the museum dedicated to those lovers between East and West who defied all odds to be together.
That, and the locals at a bar at 6 a.m. in East Berlin.
I’m pretty sure the walls and ceiling were pink shag carpet, but my memory blurs somewhat.
And while I think (but I’m not sure) I saw a stag in my path as I had an early morning run along the river beside the castle, I’m also not sure that the souls of queens and kings still don’t wander restlessly through the castles sprinkled in the hills of Germany, France, and Spain, wishing they’d had more central heating in the 17th century.
Europe pulsates—not necessarily with the vibrancy and the make-do attitude of the new world—but with the burnished soul of an old world.
It is a world that gleams copper; it can be a bit tarnished, but when you shine the surface, you see a rich patina of what has been for years.
You can’t Twitter that. The urge to do more, buy more, be more, fades with the satisfaction that it has been this way for centuries. And really, that’s not so bad.
I love Whitehorse but the heart pines for Europe.