Washington is one of the world’s great imperial cities, its squint-white marble memorials and monuments, towering statuary, triumphal avenues, obelisks, shrines and stately edifices every inch as majestic as those in Paris or Rome, Vienna or St Petersburg.
In many ways, Washington is a surprisingly un-American city, full of breadth, incised by wide boulevards, punctuated with circuses and partitioned by parks. A fifth of the map is shaded green. Washington’s famous National Mall is not a shoppers’ paradise with branches of Gap or Walmart, but a swathe of grass and gravel, a déjà vu of the Tuileries Gardens in Paris rather than utterly urban USA.
Washington is also a repository for some of America’s greatest treasures. Stretching for two miles, from the arm-chaired Abe at the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol, the Mall is lined with fourteen separate museums.
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