It is a discreet America, the one where the heart of power sits. We are here neither in the dazzling New York, nor in the glamorous and touristic West, nor even in those more rustic states regularly put forward to explain the Trump vote. We are in fact in an affluent and democratic region, with an unexpected way of life. A bourgeois America that has learned how to recover Afro-American creations to better turn them into assets.
In the Washington area and surrounding cities, from Baltimore to Annapolis or Richmond, everything seems to slide quietly between beautiful landscapes, sailboat rides and sumptuous wooden houses. These cities, often with a predominantly Afro-American population, have long been excluded from tourist circuits because of their sulphurous reputation.
Twenty years ago, it was considered dangerous to stay out in the evening in Baltimore or Richemond, or even Washington. Henceforth, the wasp bourgeoisie has regained control of security with its zero tolerance policy.
The history of the Afro-American community provides a pretext for special tours and a lavish museum in Washington while in Richmond, subsidized street art has become a part of the city’s identity.
By Cécile Sepulchre
10-day / 8-night trip between Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia from £ 1,750 per person, including direct flights, accommodation, and car rental. The Travel Houses design tailor-made trips through a specialist team in the United States. Contact: www.maisonsduvoyage.com – +33 (0) 1 53 63 13 43 https://www.maisonsduvoyage.com/
Info and documentation in French about the Capital Region of the USA: firstname.lastname@example.org and http://fr.capitalregionusa.org
RICHEMOND, STREET ART Between Washington and Richmond, yet only 160 km from Washington, the temperature rises a notch. The capital of Virginia already feels like the South. From its flourishing period before the Civil War, the city has preserved beautiful southern wooden houses whose verandas invite laziness. This town of 200,000 inhabitants seems particularly endearing because of its location at the mouth of the James River. The wild character of the river offers a striking contrast with the perfectly domesticated city center. Watching youngsters facing rapids by canoe from the top of an iron pedestrian bridge is one of the locals’ favorite attractions during their strolls. You have to leave the traditional center to discover a more creative side of this southern city. Michael Broth, a handsome brown-haired man with messy locks, began his artistic journey confined in a prison cell. In 2004, there was no joking around with the “degradation” of the public walls, as the municipality feared that it would be overtaken by this movement. The young rebel payed the cost of the then government-led war for writing an avenger “Refuse” on a wall on Meadowbridge Street. This was the high point of a turbulent youth, dedicated to transformation of all the walls that surrounded it.
Since then, Michael Broth has become a local star. By a masterful sleight of hand, local authorities have recovered this transgressive art, to better manage it and make it a tourist asset, after a decade of creative hurricane. In the downtown River neighborhood, next to the Virginian art school, a former hydroelectric plant has even become the official playground for artists who have been able to express themselves unabated on huge, fully painted panels. We notice in particular the creations of Jackson Word, RTC, Chrismilk Hulsurt, Hense, or our friend Michael.
The most prominent institutions and traders are now courting the 400 local street artists, asking them to reinvent walls and showcases. Michael Broth has become a recognized artist exhibited in the best galleries. He trades at a high price, as do Stormeie Mills, Hense, Lelo, Zoe Palito and Dennis Mcnett to name a few.
In the the very bobo district of Oregon hill, an area of pretty streets framed by gleaming wooden houses, private individuals and merchants entrust the walls to young artists. “Sometimes it’s even me who has to stop them by advising them not to paint on this or that wall,” remarked Michael Broth. Cary Street has become a trendy area, full of shops and colorful bars.
Institute for Contemporary Art
Richmond is also characterized by trendy marginal areas between bars and restaurants where you can buy alcohol. Located on the outskirts of the city, behind the charmless walls of a hangar, Triple Crossing Beer is a huge, very decorative space with painted walls. You can enjoy beer and pizzas in a friendly atmosphere. Virago Spirit plays in a more intimate courtyard, with a small, stylish bar, behind which hides a vast rum distillery, where tomorrow’s can cocktails are made. At Courthouse Creek Cider, you will be offered a cider tasting, made with the most organic apples in the area. We can also test the most inventive fruit and vegetable juices in the many organic boutiques in trendy neighborhoods. In short, there is no risk of dying of thirst in these suburbs.
If you still have some energy and lucidity after these tastings, head for the American Civil War Museum, which gives you a glimpse of what the city was like during the Civil War. But if you have to choose, it is better to devote more time to the Institute for Contemporary Art. This splendid contemporary building houses the fifth largest art collection in the United States. There, you can find the greatest European names, from Gustave Doré to Poussin or Manet, and a wide variety of collections, including Indian handicraft archives as well as an astonishing reconstruction of Worsham Rockefeller’s room.
ANNAPOLIS Who knows Annapolis, the capital of Maryland? This seaside town of 39,000 inhabitants, equivalent to our Deauville, allows the inhabitants of the region to come and rest for the weekend, or even for an evening. Chesapeake Bay is full of boats belonging to pleasure boaters from Richmond, Baltimore or Washington, and boasts a landmark position in US shipping. Every Wednesday, at sunset, regattas bring together the most beautiful sailboats. We can meet up at after-parties in the nautical club and the chic restaurants of this beautiful city, famous for its Georgian architecture. The Great Frogs Winery is another popular meeting place. This small winery, located a stone’s throw away from the city, offers bucolic wine tastings and charcuterie, in the property’s courtyard, or in one of its buildings, converted into a trendy bar.
The more patriotic will prefer to visit the impressive campus of the Annapolis Naval Academy. Founded in 1845 by the United States Secretary of the Navy, George Bancroft, this prestigious school first occupied Fort Severn and became the Naval Academy only in 1850. Today, cohorts of approximately 4,000 cadets are subject to rigorous discipline in this establishment. The practice of combat sports is indeed among the counterparts of free courses of study. The visit of the establishment, accessible to all, goes through a spectacular refectory whose corridors are decorated with a retro bar, propeller planes, and a huge wooden vessel.
Another coastal city, Baltimore surprises with the imposing architecture of its city center. As is often the case, there is a city center where streets are framed by tall buildings in massive brick walls. But we prefer the more festive waterfront spiced up by buildings such as Feel’s Point, one of the oldest in the city since its construction dates back to 1763, the science museum, the aquarium, or the lighthouse, so small that one wonders how the boats can see it. On a long walk, we meet joggers and lovers, in a carefree atmosphere. Some will advise you to visit the American Visionary Art Museum. Do not believe them: the value of the works presented is very limited. Just admire its futuristic facade and go pic picnic on the lawns of the nearby Federal Hill, which offers a great view of the city.
It is time to join the richest and most powerful city, Washington, known as DC among the accustomed. In the American capital, everything seems calm and prosperous. The city is surprising because of its almost provincial character. In the center, the majority of homes remain beautiful houses surrounded by gardens or low buildings, the most sumptuous ones having been converted into embassies. The typical visit traverses the Mall, the highlight of which are the Lincoln and the Second World War Memorials. After a break in front of White House, for the inevitable selfie, there is still the visit of the 19 museums. It is impossible to ignore the National Gallery of Art, one of the most beautiful museums in the world (see the impressionist rooms and the sculpture gallery), nor the Newseum, the press museum, located directly opposite. The room dedicated to September 11th, with its entire wall lined with blankets of the fatal day, is particularly striking. The latest museum created is the unmissable National Museum of African American History and Culture. Georgetown is also a must-see for shopping enthusiasts with the verdant quays of the C&O canal below the main artery.
U STREET CORRIDOR
As a counterpoint to this very wasp area, there is the district of U street Corridor, which can be visited with an original an itinerant lunch formula. Alina, a young Asian woman, gave us a rendezvous in Ben’s, the mythical chili bowl that welcomed Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Elsa Fitgerald, … As a memo, a fresco by Aniekan, with their portraits, decorates the walls of this modest bistro and photographies line the walls. Our national Sarkozy arises in the middle of a higgledy-piggledy, next to Obama, Bono, Kevin Spacey, Denzel Washington. We began lunch cheerfully with a huge hot dog sausage, before continuing with Ethiopian cakes at Dukem. The Ethiopian community has indeed taken an important place in this quarter and imposed its culinary expertise. There is still a lot to discover about Mexican cuisine, with empanadas from Panino Gourmet, and, in a completely different style, the meatballs from Match Box. This large room with its stylish industrial decor, is among the most popular meeting points for bobo lovers. After walking between concert halls and mythical buildings we land at the Colada, a beautiful restored house that serves lemon cakes on its terrace … for those who are able to resist a nap.
POTOMAC RIVER The most contemporary part of Washington is now on the docks in the new Warf DC neighborhood. This area has long been known above all for its fish market and oversized seafood stalls. Since then, contemporary buildings have sprouted on the Southwest Waterfront, trendy hotels and bars have proliferated, and the banks of the Potomac River have become a popular spot. The « must » is to end the evening in a roof top bar, facing the magnificent view of the city, to better feel the power of those who are still masters of the world.
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