Since we're not staying in D.C. right now, I've typed up five characteristics of the city (or the part of it we saw) that I noticed.
1. Little night life. Washington seemed to be mostly a city of commuters - people who drove in to do office work, and left at around five o'clock. Most places closed in the evening.
2. No big-city feel. I expected this place to feel like LA. In some ways it does: there are huge buildings, traffic, and an unusual amount of foreigners. In other ways it doesn't: there's not a lot of bustle, everything is clean, and the heritage is strictly American. The only big-city life we ran into was a person playing his trumpet by the subway entrance and a teenager rapping on the way down an escalator.
3. No cold water! The faucets all run warm and stale, and drinking fountains match them. One has to walk miles to find a building with a single refrigerated fountain in it.
4. Educated people. The number of office workers makes a large percentage of the population walk around in suits, and it's more common to see someone reading here than in Denver.
5. Grandeur, but plainness. As I said in another post, there's more granite here than concrete - and yet somehow it still feels like small-town America. Whole streets are lined with majestic stone edifices fronted by pillars ten times as tall as I am; the architecture proclaims the presence of a great state. But the feel is not modern, artistic, or cosmopolitan. Whole acres of lawn owned by the Federal government are left unkept, and the city is organized, planned, and operated with more precision and security than style and flair. This is the head of a practical and economic nation, not a creative one.