It's true; the East Coast is different than the West Coast. I'm finally getting all the jokes and comparisons. And our first stop on our independent tour of the East Coast was our capital, Washington DC. Having already visited Paris, the similarity in city planning was obvious. The architecture is stellar. The history is palpable. Washington DC was clearly planned to be a formidable representation of American democracy.
I found myself simultaneously proud and ashamed of my country while wandering the halls of her capital city. While you can't help but admire what our nation's forefathers intended and fought to establish, their efforts also make the current corruption more angering. On one hand, the city represents a government for the people, by the people. On the other hand, the abuse of money and power is just as obvious. I left DC feeling even more torn about my country as I did before I arrived.
From a travel perspective, the word I would use to describe DC is potential. The city was planned and that fact is evident. It's beautiful and rich in architecture and history; there is so much to celebrate. However, instead of coming across as a celebration, the city feels more like an obligation. Everyone is SO serious, wearing only business suits, walking briskly like drones. In every other worldwide city I've ever visited, everyone is dressed uniquely, reading different things, listening to different music, having conversations about everything. Every conversation we overheard in DC, every ad we saw, every single thing had something to do with politics or finance. It was almost like the city MUST be about nothing but government; no other personality allowed. Even the Metro stations are bland and dark and blah. The neighbourhoods have occasional refreshing flair, but after four days, I found that I was psychologically exhausted from having to be so somber all the time.
My biggest beef with DC, however, is the Metro. Or more accurately, the lack thereof. When it was there, it was great. The local station near our hotel worked well, and I can see how the system services the commuters efficiently. But the lack of usable stations in and around the tourist core makes for some serious traveler frustration. I've never walked so much in my entire life with a valid unlimited Metrocard in my pocket.
DC is eye-opening; I think every American should visit once to gain perspective and appreciation of our young country. Overall, I did enjoy myself while I was there. But I'm comfortable checking the city off my travel list. I'm just not interested in money and politics enough to sustain a return trip.