Washington D.C. Capitolism
|by Paul Rubio|
Fourteen years after the founding of our nation in 1776, Washington D.C. rose from the Potomac wetlands as a federal territory, separate yet equal from the fledgling 15 states. Over two centuries later, the emblematic Capitol Building stands as the epicenter of the United States’ waning superpower status, international mystique, and the dividing point of the federal district itself. Our capitol’s politically charged population spends day and night immersed in the intricacies that run our country – formulating policy and advocating change, lobbying on Capitol Hill, networking during happy hour, commemorating U.S. history, tipping political gridlock, and spending excessive sums of government money on absolutely anything and absolutely nothing.
While the daily grind in DC is more subdued than New York City, the lifestyle is equally stimulating and even more accessible. Despite 68 square miles of land and water, the majority of destination DC radiates a mere few miles from the Capitol Building. A highly expedient Metro and MetroBus system, pedestrian friendly streets and inequitable flat rate taxis allow visitors and residents to easily master Pierre Charles L’ Enfant’s urban planning conundrum. Within the small enclave of alphabet streets and state-named avenues lie the trimmed hedges, the verdant squares, the exquisite Victorian homes, the gayborhood circles, and the concoction of neoclassical, gothic, Georgian, and contemporary architectural styles that define the city’s spectacular memorials.
It takes only a few hours to fall in love with the Obamas’ playground and maybe another three to decide on a favorite memorial. My “proud to be American” moment beckons at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, gazing towards the Washington Monument beyond the Reflecting Pool. It’s moments like these that I mull both patriotism and nationalism in the same breath while wondering if Abe Lincoln was indeed a bottom or if George Washington would now cringe at the country he led to independence in 1776. Regardless of the hypothetical, the reality is that DC gracefully showcases the lessons of our junior high and high school Civics, Government, and American History classes; and it all begins to finally make sense flush against the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the National Air and Space Museum or basically any stopping point along the National Mall.
Since government never goes out of
business, the politically charged “Party in the USA” will never die.
Even during the height of the global recession, DC stood unscathed.
Pricey hotels sold out, innovative restaurants and bars filled to
capacity, toasting George Bush’s long-waited departure! As always,
the city’s museums, zoo, and principal sights remained free of
charge, perhaps one of the greatest surprises of our nation’s
capitol. With each passing year and each presidential term, DC
evolves as a growing metropolis while remaining the focal point of
world politics. The tourist offerings intensify and destination DC
and its infamous cherry blossoms thrust into full bloom.
Uniting Nations & Tastes
One hundred seventy four resident
embassies line the streets of DC, with nearly 60 congregating along
Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue. No matter how poor the
country, everyone’s a show off on Embassy Row, flashing cushy work
pads for expats representing almost everywhere, from Kyrgyzstan to
the Central African Republic. While diplomatic representation does
not always translate to gastronomic representation, several ethnic
strongholds in DC have produced authentic tastes and flavors of far
away lands. Most notably, the plentiful Ethiopian restaurants near U
Street serve up wats (stews) and injera (bread)
equally delectable as in Addis Ababa. Street side vendors in Mt.
Pleasant stuff the best pupusas outside of El Salvador. And
DC’s own legend,
Ben's Chili Bowl, delivers the $5.20
Original Chili Half-Smoke (a 1/4lb. half pork, half beef smoked
sausage on a warm steamed bun, with mustard, onions and spicy
homemade chili sauce) to countless groupies and newbies everyday.
Hotel Monaco: DC’s Historic Trendsetter
DC’s five star signatures – the Ritz-Carlton, the Jefferson, the Four Seasons, the St. Regis, the Hay-Adams, the W, and the Willard InterContinental Washington – relentlessly battle it out to wear the crown of DC’s “it” hotel. However, in this mad competition to become belle of the ball, a few four star underdogs fly under the radar, mildly less luxurious than their 5 star counterparts but often more fabulous (and 1/3 the price)! My personal favorite, the Hotel Monaco Washington D.C., transforms the original US General Post Office Building circa 1839 into a seductive, innovative, funky boutique hotel. At the dawn of the millennium, Kimpton Hotels invested $32 million to resurrect the defunct Post Office, an entire city block of neoclassical marble construction separated by a courtyard. The four-story National Historic Landmark, designed in two phases by both Robert Mills (of Washington Monument fame) and Thomas U. Walter (of Capitol Building fame) preserves a genuine historic spirit through the hotel re-invention. The bold, green, trendy lobby introduces a kitsch, hip, camp style that sustains throughout the hotel. The dramatic contrasting color combinations, the faux animal print undertones, and the original vaulted 18-foot ceilings miraculously amalgamate to produce an eclectic interior design opus. The exterior and interiors are downright awesome, matched by stellar service and all the amazing Kimpton touches (like free internet, free morning coffee, free wine hour). The hotel is situated in Penn Quarter, a short walk from the National Mall and all of DC’s famous sights.