Monday, 4 May 2009

The Home Tourist - Part Two

If the art of travel is to recognise why we love a place, to grasp the cause and meaning of its beauty, and to fathom its allure, then it is a gloriously subjective thing, not worth committing to paper. (Rather like this blog. Yet I do, so I will. Is that the same as saying ‘I blog therefore I am?’)

Elizabeth Gilbert , in her book Eat, Pray, Love, says that every city has a word which defines it, and that word is also the word going through the minds of most of the people in that city. Such as, Rome = SEX; New York = ACHIEVE; Stockholm = CONFORM. And she suggests that if your word doesn’t match that of the place you’re in, then you don’t really belong there.

So after my day of home-spun tourism, I got to wondering what makes Winchester, Winchester, instead of, say, Salisbury? And I’ve come to the late conclusion that it might be ASPIRE (as opposed to a spire, which Salisbury most impressively and irrefutably does have).

Edgy is certainly not a word one would use to describe Winchester - it is full of white middle class people, all trying to have something slightly better than the very nice things they’ve already got. Its only edge is a ruthlessly competitive and slightly smug one (people expect their toddlers to get French lessons at nursery).

But while I loathe its provincial smugness, I confess I love the reasons for that: its beauty, its sense of privilege, its boutique shops, marvellous hairdressers and fabulous farmer’s market. Yes, I am perfectly at home here, and no wonder. For I aspire to all best wishes: to idleness, happiness, expensive haircuts and one day being able to write a decent blog.

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