If civic politics is the American religion, then Washington DC is the nation's holy city. White houses, capital and pentagonal buildings, supreme courts - these monumental Lego shrines are rarefied with real power. A patriotic combination of history and histrionics: BYO wiretap.
To some, Washington means white marble, verdant lawns, and the colourful, ritualistic pageantry of American politics: the Capitol dome gleaming against an azure sky; limousine processions on Inauguration Day; the mournful, sombre, stately changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery.
Yet Washington is no mere political ornament. It is also a city, a city where ordinary and extraordinary people live, work and play, a city of vibrant and beautiful neighbourhoods where the federal government and its machinery are merely backdrops to life, not the main-stage drama. After visitors have explored the wonders of the Smithsonian Institution's 14 museums (always free!), strolled through the halls of power, and played spot-the-senator in famous eateries, delightful districts like Dupont Circle, Adams-Morgan and Georgetown offer opportunities to meet ordinary folks, tour lovely historic buildings, and dive into fabulous world cuisine.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track