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Best Stroll St. Louis 2009 - The Central West End

The French pride themselves on speaking a language far more elegant than ours. True, they are a people who regularly deploy phrases such as zut alors! — but sometimes they have a point. Who wouldn't rather be a boulevardier or a flâneur than a loafer or a malingerer? A flâneur is someone who experiences the life of a city, not just a deadbeat who hangs around and takes up space. And where better to practice your flâneuritude than in a neighborhood that practically begs you to engage in people-watching, window-shopping, gallery- and bookstore-browsing, dinner-eating, coffee-sipping, liquor-chugging, house-admiring and maybe even strolling with an ice-cream cone in hand. The Central West End has been that neighborhood for such a long time, we sometimes take it for granted or even malign it for overpopularity. But what makes you feel more a part of a place than knowing it intimately? It's lonely being alone in the middle of a city throng. When you're a part of the life of a city, you know it, and better still, you're known. What a comfort it is to stroll down a city street on a fine summer night, confident in the knowledge that somewhere, in one of the sidewalk cafés, there's sure to be one familiar, friendly face, just enough to turn you into a true flâneur.

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