Monday, June 29, 2009

DC is More European than I Realized

I can't remember whether I'd yet been to Europe the last time I was in DC, which, to my memory, was in 1999. But what I didn't realize until I took a walk around the city tonight was that DC has a distinctly European--dare I say even Parisian--flavor.

Yes, we went through some of the less palatable parts of town. No, I'm not talking about those areas. And I know that a lot of DC is made up of those places, sadly. But the cafes on Dupont Circle, with their al fresco dining and eclectic menus, wouldn't look at all out of place in Paris. (The prices at many of them would be appropriate, too.)

There's a fair amount of Euro-style architecture here, too, with the Eisenhower office building strongly resembling the Hotel de Ville in Paris and a small gallery nearby (I forget the name, unfortunately) looking like a tiny version of the Louvre. The whole monument area, with Washington's obelisk, Lincoln's chair and Jefferson's Pantheon, feels a bit like an enormous, more grassy Place de la Concorde and Tuileries; there's one particular bridge in the District that looks very much like the bridge (again, I forget the name) that crosses the Seine and leads down toward Invalides.

Obviously, DC was a planned city largely laid out by folks with a very Euro-centric world view, so it makes sense to some extent that parts of the city resemble parts of the City of Lights. But New York and Boston are older, arguably more Euro-influenced cities, and despite the fact that Boston is often called the most European of American cities, DC bears for me a more striking resemblance to Paris or possibly even London in some spots than does Boston.

We've gotten to see a pretty broad swath of Washington, DC, in the last few days, including some areas that aren't for tourists. On the whole, I've loved the place, the people and the atmosphere. Walking toward the Washington Monument tonight from the White House, I had a brief flashback of strolling though some of the bigger, more grandiose "places" of Paris. It kind of felt like home.

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