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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Dec 2014

United States of Art: of vibrant art and cultural scene

Zabeeh Afaque, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, April 17, 2014
First Published: 17:49 IST(17/4/2014) | Last Updated: 18:43 IST(18/4/2014)

The mere mention of the word USA – The United States of America – conjures up an image of all things modern and fast. Cities that are on the move non-stop and are dotted with skyscrapers, malls, fast-food joints and busy streets flooded with neon signs. Seldom does one connect USA with words like history, ­culture and arts. Neither did I, until, I travelled through its different cities and soaked in their spirit.

Philadelphia's historical Reading Terminal Market since 1983. (HT PHOTO)

Washington DC
The first stop was Washington DC, the Capital of USA, and it is exactly what one would expect the Capital city of the world’s superpower to be like – posh and swanky. With the mercury levels resting at -23 degrees and cold winds only stoking the inhospitable weather conditions, I braved up to the cold, with no other option before me, and headed to the Smithsonian Museum, that documents, in the form of installations, the American constitution.

Interestingly, the museum syncs in the old with the modern, through handy digital apps. A visit to the White House, the imposing Presidential residence, was the most obvious next step and expectedly, the highlight of the city. The most interesting visit, however, especially for a journalist, is to the Newseum – a museum that archives everything from newspapers, to evidences of important FBI cases. Standing there, at one go, one can see the front pages of all leading newspapers from across the world.

The perfect wrap to the day happened with vodka shots with crushed chillies at an Indian restaurant, Bombay Club. Day two was dedicated to a visit to Georgetown — a place that oozes old world charm, boasting houses that belong to the Lincoln era. The street walls here are replete with murals and paintings, something quintessentially old town. History, indeed, resides in the many layers of the US.

Philadelphia
The highlight of this city  would have to be a row of houses at Elfreth Alley, dating back to the 1700s. For Hollywood lovers, this is actor Wills Smith's hometown, and the place where the legendary Rocky (1976) was shot. And while you may not get a chance to meet Smith, his parents still live in the town, and one can visit his home, albeit from outside.

Guests enjoying the exhibition at Art After 5 at Philadelphia Museum of Art. (HT PHOTO)

A quick trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the oldest post office in the US (yes, it is still operational) must be followed by a meal at the City Tavern Restaurant, established way back in 1773. In fact, as strange as it may sound, this is where George Washington ate his fancy meals!

State sponsored Murals in Philadelphia. (HT PHOTO)

Boston
For many Indian students, Boston is akin to the citadel of higher education — Harvard University. However,  as I soon realised, there is much, much more to the city. Boston is dotted with historical sites, and parks that flaunt sculptures of historic figures.

Students at the Boston Public Library. (HT PHOTO)

While walkers can opt for a Freedom Trail walk, that takes about 2 hours to complete, and covers 14 sites, buying the Charlie Card on the T train makes historical sites easy and accessible. Art ­lovers should also make a quick trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. But what ought not to be missed, is a meal at The Omni Parker House, a hotel that has been witness to hundreds of years of history.

Thus while Charles Dickens is known to have lived here and practised for his play performances, Malcom X has worked here as a busboy and US President John F Kennedy announced  his Congress ­candidature from here. In fact, legend has it that JFK ­proposed to his wife Jackie at this hotel, and what's more,  I actually got to eat my ­dinner on that very table! 
Disclaimer: The writer's trip was ­sponsored by Brand USA

Fast facts
Quick links to know more about the three cities of United States of America:
1. Washington: washington.org
2. Boston: massvacation.com
3. Philadelphia: discoverphl.com
More travel information at : discoveramerica.com


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