NYC of Asia. Paris of the Baltics. Venice of the North. Generally I am not a fan of anything being described as [something similar] of [a different setting]. This kind of qualification is not just lazy — it does a great disservice to both places. It takes the place being described seem like a lesser, imitation version of the original, while taking away from the original’s uniqueness.
As it happens, I have traveled to two ‘imitation’ Venices in just as many months, and both cities, I must begrudgingly admit, do beg a comparison to the Italian original.
First came Saint Petersburg, often described as Venice of the North. Interestingly enough, it is not the only place to earn that moniker. But unlike the intimate, medieval Bruges, and unlike Amsterdam of tall and narrow townhouses and miles of bike lanes, Saint Petersburg fits the name almost to the T with its sprawling waterside palaces, majestic cathedrals and a general sense of imperial importance.
And now I come to you from Fort Lauderdale, Florida — Venice of America. Now, the other Venice of America — Venice (really), California — might object to this title, but according to my tour boat captain there is no comparison: FtLaud boasts even more waterways than Venice proper, not just its western namesake. Who am I to argue with the captain?
Similarities do not end here. Like Venice, Italy, Fort Lauderdale is a playground for the rich and the famous. This is where Jennifer Lopez has a condo, and Steven Spielberg parks his 282-foot-long yacht Seven Seas. Waterside restaurants are a-plenty, serving fresh, local catch to the crowd made up mostly of tourists and vacationers.. The weather — at least in April — is Mediterranean at its best. And yet, with its beaches and surfers, palm trees and endless cocktails, sunbathing iguanas and American accents, Fort Lauderdale is a truly Floridian experience.