Post Gazette Article

Brian O'Neill's book, "The Paris of Appalachia: Pittsburgh in the Twenty-first Century," is available in the PG store.

I've been to France a couple of times. It's nice. They don't know how to pronounce "Versailles,'' but it's nice.

So I'm intrigued by a competition to come up with a slogan to lure more French tourists to Pittsburgh, so our airport's lone direct connection to Paris might attract more folks coming the other way.

If you think this contest is another classic overreach from our ever-earnest civic boosters, au contraire. It has been launched by Virginie and Benedicte Croze, 21-year-old twin sisters from the south of France, here for the summer as interns with Honorary French Consul Jean-Dominique Le Garrec.

Pittsburgh's small French community already has chipped in some possibilities:

Venez decouvrir la jolie ville au grand coeur et aux bras ouverts! (Discover the beautiful city of big heart and open arms!)

La ville des champions (The city of champions)

Venez decouvrir le Paris des Appaleches fonde par les francais. (Come and see the Paris of Appalachia founded by the French.)

The Paris of Appalachia? Gee, that's catchy, though I'm flummoxed no one has suggested Batman dormait ici (Batman slept here).

Mr. Le Garrec doesn't think they've yet found the right slogan, so he's extending the contest to Post-Gazette readers. The winner will get a bottle of champagne and a voucher from La Gourmandine, the French bakery in Lawrenceville, which is very generous considering the way the French were chased out of here in 1758.

The Croze twins aren't too keen on playing the history angle. That isn't likely to excite young Frenchmen and women enough to hop on a plane. The Andy Warhol Museum and exotic sports like baseball and American football are more enticing, Virginie believes.

She and her sister are spending the summer with Kristin Kovacic and her husband, Jim Daniels, in Oakland. Every two years since 1997, the Pittsburgh couple and their two children have stayed in a house owned by relatives of the Crozes in St. Julien de Peyrolas in southern France.

"We ate their food and drank their wine and met their beautiful kids,'' Ms. Kovacic said.

Returning the favor, the Pittsburghers hosted the Crozes' cousin, Eloise Guigue, in 1998. Ms. Guigue was so captivated by the way the young Daniels children made art in the basement of the Warhol that she pursued a degree in museum art education and now has a job teaching art at an ancient Roman historic site in France.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to appreciate what we have here. The Crozes are marketing majors whose job is to explore what Virginie terms "a beautiful city unfortunately unknown in France.'' Even our chipmunks have been a revelation; they'd only seen them in cartoons and had thought them imaginary animals.

Mr. Le Garrec, the French consul, wants the right slogan for the front page of a slick brochure. Just a year ago, he discovered a tour of Pennsylvania offered in Paris that never got farther west than Harrisburg. That opened his eyes. The Grand Palais in Paris held a large exhibition of Warhol's work in 2009, and he sees the artist's museum, Fallingwater and this city's 18th century French connection as among the draws for those French visitors who want to see an America beyond New York.

Is he right? Can anyone reading this string together just the right words to inspire a stranger to cross an ocean? Pittsburgh's lone Delta Air Lines flight to Paris could sure use the passengers; it's starting a five-month hiatus in late October because of slow winter demand.

How about Les frites sont dans le sandwich? That means "The fries are in the sandwich.''

Yeah, I don't think we're there yet, either.

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