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Access Washington, D.C. 8e
By Richard Saul Wurman
Harper Collins PublishersCopyright © 2003 Richard Saul Wurman All right reserved. ISBN: 0060527137
It takes only an image or two to evoke Washington, DC: the tiered dome of the Capitol, the tall white needle of the Washington Monument, or the Romanesque elegance of the White House. It's no wonder that first-time visitors to the city feel a sense of déjà vu: They've seen many of the sites countless times on TV, in editorial page cartoons, and in the movies.
Images of the capital possess a certain importance and formality: Imposing structures and institutions house a workforce with a single mind-set - the governing of a nation. Along with this mission goes plenty of pomp - monuments, memorials, museums, and statuary. The Mall with its powerhouse sites - the National Gallery of Art and the ever-popular National Air and Space Museum - is certainly not to be missed. After all, it's also home to the cherished Lincoln Memorial and the poignant Vietnam Veterans Memorial, both deeply meaningful to our nation's history.
But after making the requisite pilgrimages, the visitor won't be long in discovering the "other Washington," a city of human scale. By law the skyline is low-level, to emphasize the Capitol and the memorials, and many of the city's neighborhoods reveal shady, quiet streets, lined with charming town houses -perfect for a stroll in spring or fall.
It also has more green space than you'd imagine possible in a city, from the remarkably pristine Rock Creek Park to the Mall, America's "backyard" and the scene of many political demonstrations and holiday celebrations. Transport yourself with a stroll through the lush, formal gardens of Dumbarton Oaks; a wonderland of terraces, pools, and arbors, it's DC's best-kept secret. On weekends at Capitol Hill's Eastern Market, Congressional representatives, TV newscasters, and other familiar faces may appear amid the crowd of regular city dwellers, here sampling a farmers' market chock-full of produce, picking over handmade crafts, or haggling with flea-market merchants.
In terms of nightlife, it's true that Washington isn't as hot as its northern neighbor, New York City. But DC's nightlife has plenty to offer - from ethnic food sampling and bar hopping in funky, mobbed Adams Morgan, to a performance in the Kennedy Center's elegant Opera House, to late-night coffee at Dupont Circle's venerable Kramerbooks (open 24 hours on weekends). Or maybe Georgetown's Blues Alley is your preference, with the hottest jazz headliners around.
And don't confine your sense of Washington inside its famous Beltway. The nearby suburbs in Maryland and Virginia have their own rich history and other surprises, too, like a burgeoning collection of first-rate ethnic restaurants - especially those serving Southeast Asian cuisines. They're also homes to some of the area's well-known sights and attractions, like Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Vernon.
Although politics is the local sport, most Washingtonians do not live and die by which party is in power, and the viciousness that characterizes political rhetoric (remember the Clinton-Starr circus?) is remarkably absent in the District's citizenry. Just stop and ask someone for directions, and you're likely to get a detailed and friendly response. Summing up DC and its environs with a single image - no matter how powerful - could hardly do the area justice. The Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the White House are only just the beginning. The Washington described between these covers offers something for every taste - regardless of political stripe.
Excerpted from Access Washington, D.C. 8e by Richard Saul Wurman
Copyright © 2003 by Richard Saul Wurman
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.