Every year, some 1.6 million French tourists visit the United States. Most start in New York and visit Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Some may venture out to Florida, especially if they have kids, New Orleans, Boston and Philadelphia. Washington, DC doesn’t get a ton of love though that might all change thanks to a recent article in Le Monde, one of France’s leading newspaper. The article, published in the travel section of M Le Mag, gushes over the District, going as far as labeling it the “new empire of cool.”
So what makes DC so cool now? In a nutshell: a restaurant scene worthy of getting its own Michelin guide, gentrification and the Obamas. “With its institutional, even boring, reputation, the U.S. Capital is changing gear” begins the article, “and dreams itself a rival to New York City thanks to new gastronomic restaurants and gentrified neighbourhoods.” Yep, even in French articles we have to reminded that we are not New York (though obviously we want to be right?) and there are references to the city throughout the article. The decor at Maketto, for example, reminds you of a New York loft. the upcoming hotel The Line is “signed by the Sydell Group — who, in 2012, woke up a few blocs of Manhattan by opening the NoMad Hotel.” Forbes naming D.C. “the second coolest city in the US” in 2014 means we’re “taking our revenge on our exuberant neighbour New York.” Nevermind that we’re really not as obsessed with New York as everyone seems to want us to be… or that Forbes actually ranked us in the top spot on that list, not runner up 😉
In addition to New York City, the author name drops Barrack and Michelle Obama quite a bit too. Rose’s Luxury? It’s where Barrack Obama celebrated his 54th birthday last year! Maketto is a big hang out for “local hipsters, as well as the First Lady.” And Michael Schaeffer, editor of the Washingtonian is quoted saying that «the Obamas have undeniably contributed to the changing perception of the city, more cosmopolitan, more creative. Especially since they frequent local businesses and restaurants instead of staying enclosed in the White House.” I guess on that last note he does have a point…
OK, so I moved from Paris to Washington, DC 13 years ago and yes, I’ve definitely enjoyed the way the district has evolved since. I don’t know that I’d call it the new “empire of cool” though. What’s interesting is that the article, which appeared in the newspaper’s travel section, brushes aside all of the city’s museums, sights and other historical attractions to focus pretty much exclusively on our shopping and dining scene. Sorry National Mall 😉 So who got singled out by the article?
Rose’s Luxury gets an early mention, of course, and the author also spends a considerable amount of ink on H Street NE further north and Erik Bruner Yang’s Maketto (“an on-point men’s fashion boutique, trendy coffee shop and Asian restaurant frequented by locals hipsters as well as the First Lady“), cocktail bar Church and State and local vintage boutique Nomad Yard may see an influx of French tourists following glowing mentions. The article highlights the current duality found in many DC neighbourhoods today, with family owned African American businesses cohabiting with a new generation of businesses. That, the author argues, is fully on display near Union Market, as well as Shaw or U Street. In the neighbourhood “once known as Black Broadway … people now go buy pillows at Salt & Sundry or eat at Le Diplomate, an Americanized version of a French bistro.” The author’s words, not mine, though she definitely sums up perfectly how French expats here feel about the 14th street restaurant. Further up, Adams Morgan get a mention with the Line Hotel as well as its walls “dressed by colourful murals from (street) artist Aniekan.” SO glad he gets a mention!!
So, DC… new empire of cool? That might be a bit much but I love that the article highlights parts of the city that may not usually get a love of love in travel guides or articles. There is more to DC than the mall and Georgetown (Hu’s Wear does get a mention as a good place to go shopping.) It’s nice to see that come through for once in a travel article. And if I start hearing people people speaking French next time I’m dining at the Dabney, I’ll know why 😉
If you can read French, here is a link to the full article in Le Monde’s M Le Mag.