Crossing the Atlantic to discover the United States is an unforgettable experience. Mixed but deeply united, the 50 states are much better than the clichés of the prophets of anti-Americanism. Land of immigration for a long time, the United States is a country-world, a planet in its own right.
In the United States, the feeling is very strong of belonging to an exceptional nation, messianic destiny, a promised land.
What’s in common between the Arizona desert and the snow-capped peaks of Vermont? Between the Mormons of Utah and the gays of Key West? Between Los Angeles Latino and Boston WASP?
From Boston to Washington via New York and Philadelphia, the northeastern United States is populated by cities with a strong emotional past.
The American West evokes diligences, pioneers, cowboys and Indians, saloons and gold diggers, but also the marginalized fleeing the civilization of cities. In the national parks of the West, from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite Park, everything is disproportionate and of a strange beauty: the wildness of the landscapes, the arid deserts, the old forests like the world, the giant cacti and the sequoias.
California, from free San Francisco to LA’s high-tech foil, to Silicon Valley high-tech, embodies the American myth par excellence.
Florida, covered with swamps infested with mosquitoes, snakes and alligators, has become America of extremes and excess. It is a transition between North America and Latin America.
Louisiana awakens the fantasies of early explorers, and evokes the kinship between the French of France and these Acadians become Cadians and Cajuns.
Alaska is huge: 3,800 km from east to west, 2,300 km from north to south, or 3 times France for well under a million inhabitants, but also 150,000 moose, 110,000 black bears, 100,000 glaciers and 35,000 grizzly bears. It is the Aleut who gave its name to Alaska – a name to its measure, meaning “big earth” or “continent”.
For the Russians who conquered the region in the nineteenth century, it was a large reservoir of furs. For the Americans who came next, the hope of new rapid enrichment, in the placers (gravel beaches) of the gold-bearing rivers. Gold! In the 1900s, the word was regularly displayed in all newspapers in the northern hemisphere, attracting planks of immigrants filled with hope. This is how Alaska populated and gained its current nickname: the “last frontier”.
This end of the continent has long lived only to be exploited. Yet, as early as 1980, President Carter penned 40 million hectares of virgin land for future generations. The debates were heated but all, today, appreciate these preserved spaces.
From the iconic Mount McKinley (6,194 m) to the bluish glaciers flowing into Prince William Sound, from the wild beaches of Kodiak Island to the deep forests of Admiralty Island, the area of bears, salmon and bald eagles it’s the nature we come across in Alaska. ANaturewhose virginity has la little equal. A nature where all the sounds of the developed world vanish.
It could be regretted that Boston has sometimes forgotten by the circuits of European travelers. Yet it is a charming and very pleasant city, with a very American Downtown, but also beautiful vestiges of the colonial city still lit by picturesque gas street lights and, on the border, a lively and charming Little Italy. All bordered by the sea.
For Americans, the name of Boston is tied first to the birth of the nation and all the great liberal causes of their young history: revolution, independence, the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women. New England’s flagship city, Boston is the historic cradle of the United States. Paradoxically, it was also the city of intolerance, that of the Puritans and Quakers.
It also benefits from a European-style quality of life, in the very affluent neighborhoods of the attractive residential suburbs along the Charles River, which is more like the Old World than the New.
With its neighbor, Cambridge student, the cradle of Harvard, MIT and nursery of researchers and high-tech start-ups, Boston is today one of the most innovative cities in the world. In recent years, she has taken a frenzy builder, especially around Fenway Park and especially in the Seaport District, now THE fashionable neighborhood.
Finally, Boston remains a major cultural center with museums that the rest of the country wants, such as the famous Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) which brings together, among others, a unique collection of Impressionist works.
To the west of the United States, bordered by the Pacific Ocean, California represents the allure of a “world end”, both highly urbanized and very wild. Sea, mountain and desert are at the gates of cities, themselves rather open to nature.
For us Europeans, California is at first familiar clichés that are exported with emphasis: the sprawling megacity of Los Angeles; Hollywood movie stars; joggers and rollers of Venice Beach; the San Francisco hills traveled by cable cars; the sirens of Santa Barbara and the surfers of Malibu; the famous Golden Gate Bridge and the most high-tech companies in the world concentrated in the Silicon Valley campaign.
California also offers a kaleidoscope of wild and majestic landscapes: the relentless desert of Death Valley, the extraordinary park of Yosemite, the forests that rise to the sky of Sequoia National Park, the misty cliffs battered by the swell of Big Sur.
Blue skies and mild temperatures almost year-round (except the sea, rather cool!) Give California an incomparable quality of life, a source of economic and migratory dynamism that makes it the engine of the American dream.
In the heart of the industrious Midwest, Chicago, the world capital of modern architecture has long since liquidated its bad reputation. It must be said that it is a pleasant and lively city, enjoying an extraordinary location on the shores of Lake Michigan (so vast it looks like a sea), and which is, for the most part, left on foot. The cultural offer is rich and its skyline.
Chicago is also the city of all superlatives. It has the longest street in the world (Western Avenue), the largest node of rail communications, the second largest air traffic on the planet (Atlanta has stolen the first place) and even on Clark Avenue, McDo that makes the biggest turnover in the United States!
For a long time, the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) was the tallest tower in the world. Even New York was pale with the World Trade Center Twin Towers. But since then, Asia has dethroned, including the 828 m of Burj Khalifa Dubai.
Chicago has had many nicknames throughout its history, but it is that of “Windy City” that remained to him. Probably because it corresponds well to its climatic situation, with the winds coming from the lake which sweeps the city.
This was not the origin of this nickname, given in Chicago because of its inability to inaugurate in time, in 1892, the Exposition of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It was inaugurated a year later, in 1893! “Windy City” was then a pejorative nickname meaning “who brews wind” (who buzzes).
With time, this first meaning nevertheless tends to fade into the collective memory.
Florida, covered with swamps infested with mosquitoes, snakes, and alligators, needed rich and imaginative adventurers to exploit the country’s only (free) resource – the sun! From there to stick to him the sobriquet of “Sunshine State”, it was only a step and it was crossed. Thanks to the immense capital invested by billionaires, planning for rich developed along the coasts. Everything was created out of nothing, the swamps were drained, canals dug, even the sand was brought by trucks to some places!
Florida has become America of extremes and immoderation, where the outward signs of arrogant wealth rub shoulders with dilapidated neighborhoods and misery. The transition between North America and Latin America, it welcomes immigrants from Nicaragua and the Caribbean and awakes to the sound of Cuban rhythms. Its particularly mild climate seduces retirees, stars and sportsmen.
A world of dreams and imagination, Florida remains a favorite destination for families, especially Orlando, which has no less than four Disney parks, two parks dedicated to Universal Studios and water parks with miles of slides! Not to mention the fabulous story of the space adventure in Cape Canaveral.
Hundreds of miles of white sand planted with coconut trees line the shores of Florida. Strings of islands appear, sailing on warm waters: Sanibel and its shells, the iconic Key West, a real postcard, with century-old wooden houses and gardens teeming with vegetation. Wilder? Remains the Everglades National Park and adjoining reserves, with their extraordinary wildlife, a bowl of oxygen.
Mark Twain, when he arrives in the archipelago in 1866, the spirit still clouded by the dreams of earthly Eden that have haunted the West for a century, writes from Hawaii that it is “the most beautiful fleet of islands never anchored to the surface of the oceans “; difficult to give him wrong.
In Hawaii, the brute forces of nature seem to have combined to form the most beautiful scenery in the world. Volcanoes, born from the depths of the ocean, have shaped the islands one by one, still projecting their incandescent magma in fountains or glowing flows. Replica of the appearance of life on earth.
As erosion has begun, Hawaii’s ancient cones have exploded into deep, often inaccessible valleys lined with lush vegetation and streaked with plumes of rainbow-infused waterfalls. The surf tirelessly reduces lava and powdered rocks, beaches of white sand, black or gold on which lean coconut trees and lay turtles.
In the meantime, the waves are forming, creating perfect, sometimes colossal rolls, surfer fantasies. Hawaii? A paradise, certainly.
Travel Los Angeles
Los Angeles devours everything in its path. Rich, energetic, creative, bubbling, this city emblematic of the west coast spirit and the sacrosanct American way of life remains nonetheless viscerally unequal, with nearly 3 million people living below the threshold of poverty. Worked by a host of social problems and ethnic conflicts, this is an agglomeration without a real center, a sort of huge puzzle of 88 neighborhoods, with its splendor and misery, gold and dust.
Just take a little height to realize that the city strikes by its green horizontality. Except for Downtown with its glass towers that tickle the sky, Los Angeles looks like a sea of small single-story houses that flock to flower gardens. Everywhere, trees, cacti, roads …
It is said to be inhuman because of its traffic jams. This is neither absolutely true nor really false. Traffic side, it’s down the anthill, so better to have a good navigation app to get out in this dish of spaghetti for the giant that represents highways and freeways, exchangers and braces … But once past rush hours, the city is very easy to read.
Los Angeles does not do in half measure. With more than 18 million inhabitants, suburbs included, the City of Angels has passed, in less than a century, from a village planted on the edge of the desert to one of the most important cities in the world. It all started with the Hollywood Dream Factory. Follows styles that have conquered the planet: roller skating, body-building, jogging. Los Angeles continues to carry the American dream at arm’s length!
In Louisiana, everywhere, water. First, a river, Mississippi, to which converge large tributaries. Land almost without land, marsh, and deep forest, flat as a cake.
And yet, Louisiana has an irresistible attraction, it is the discovery of another America. No doubt because in the heart of this country, at first sight impenetrable, beats the frenetic pace of a city, New Orleans.
A city of music, a breeding ground for all inspirations, rhythms, genres and not just jazz. A city whose architecture is so special is matched only by the liberated atmosphere that reigns there, so atypical in a country with habits so conventional or even usually so puritanical.
Further north of Louisiana lies what the Americans call Deep South, the Deep South. That of centenarian oaks, rockin ‘chairs creaking on the terraces of planters’ houses, rusty mobile homes, fried chicken and iced tea. Old country in a new world, which we know, has built its opulence on slavery. A counter-model that the Civil War has certainly swept away, but which has been prolonged by segregation.
And then comes southern Louisiana, the alligators, the light that fuse between giant cypresses planted between two waters in the famous bayou. That of those Frenchmen, abandoned a long time ago by their king, of these Acadians who became Canadians then Cajuns, who, driven out of present-day Canada, had to resist in a hostile environment to find a place in the sun. A minority among minorities …
Under the sunlight of the tropics, Miami shines in the hit parade of multicultural cities. The city has been constantly experiencing periods of growth and decline. The real estate boom initiated in the 1920s followed the slow decline of the 1980s. Images of salsa, easy dollars, grandiose villas, limousines, Harley and supermodels were not enough. The pastel of Miami Beach’s Art Deco buildings is fading … to be reborn once again with the 2000s.
The metropolis of the Sunshine State maintains the image of America both glamorous and unbridled. Art Deco has returned to beautiful colors, the villas of stars are snapped up for gold and the wide beach licked by the warm waters of the Atlantic is not empty.
World food has also settled in Miami in a profusion of restaurants; at night, the party seizes the street and the boxes. It is there, in the famous and picturesque Art Deco District of South Beach (SoBe for the intimate), that we advise you to stay.
Beyond Biscayne Bay, Miami offers another face. Driven by an obvious artistic vitality, she prides herself on becoming a hub of contemporary art and fashion.
The district of Wynwood, in full gentrification, is today the place to be of the Magic City. Bars and restaurants branchouilles, microbreweries, vintage thrift stores, art galleries, community markets, not to mention the world of street art.
Next, to Wynwood’s wall murals, Fashion District aligns its designer boutiques; as for the very select Design District, today, besides its designer showrooms and its high places of contemporary art, impressive galleries are appearing devoted entirely to luxury.
New York Travel
New York. Those who have never been there already know it, through cinema, TV series, music, literature. New York is a dream machine. Diverse, frenetic, electric, magnetic, magical, dizzying, inventive, intensive … the adjectives jostle to describe it. It is the city of extremes and superlatives.
New York remains the most populated megacity in the United States, the most visited. Its museums are among the richest in the world. And from its mythical skyline, on the site of the Twin Towers, emerges the faceted silhouette of One World Trade Center, now the tallest skyscraper in North America.
New York is THE city, the city of cities. Too small to be a country and too big to be a mere city. Each borough, each neighborhood has its own identity, but nothing is fixed. Not so long ago, a trip to New York was a visit to the heart of Manhattan. Few tourists dared to venture to Harlem, while today it is a must for its cool attitude and hectic nightlife. Even the Bronx is becoming a tourist attraction! Brooklyn is “the Manhattan of the 20th century”.
About cooking, she too is in full swing. The bio-ecological wave that swept the Big Apple has given New Yorkers a taste for good products. Like Brooklyn, farmers’ markets are flourishing and urban farms are growing on rooftops. A new generation of chefs has turned upside down culinary traditions.
New York displays a permanent creative buzz, fueled by inexhaustible energy. And while some dark episodes have left indelible traces, New York is still standing, ready for new challenges of scale.
Travel National Parks of the American West
The American West is probably home to the most impressive geological formations of our planet, shaped by climate and time. They are discovered according to a course to be made in a loop.
An amazing state that Nevada, vast rocky desert planted with yuccas, giving the impression of crossing a kind of no man’s land. And all of a sudden, in the madness of neon and glitter, luxury and excess, arises Las Vegas, city-light.
A bewitching region, Arizona is made up of a kaleidoscope of intertwined peoples, who have come in successive waves to rub shoulders with its vast spaces, so rough and yet full of promise. The first to have marked the territory of their imprint were the Ancient Pueblos. It is undoubtedly a common heritage that gives a semblance of unity to their descendants today, the Hopi and Zuni. Recent arrivals, the Bisbee miners, Tombstone cowboys, and Phoenix businessmen have been involved in their own way in the emergence of Western culture. The shadow of the pioneers still hangs over this earth.
Land of contrasts, on the borders of the Rockies and the Great American plain, Colorado is a state that those who are fascinated by the conquest of the West will enjoy going. The characteristically red-rock landscapes of Arizona and Utah are less exotic and often resemble Alpine scenery familiar to Europeans.
New Mexico is one of the states that offer the most pristine wilderness. For those coming from the East, it is a transition zone between the vast expanses of Oklahoma or Texas, the Rockies and the great glowing desert of Arizona and Utah.
Northern Rockies are rarely on the agenda for a first trip to the Western US. It’s far, it’s true. Yet Yellowstone Park, the first to be called National Park and unlike any other, is a marvel of the world not to be missed. Its hundreds of geysers and crystalline lakes are of a beauty that summons the imagination of childhood, with breathtaking landscapes.
San Francisco Travel
San Francisco is a city that is incomparably different from the rest of the United States in its cultural diversity, unconventionality, tolerance, and outward-looking outlook.
Beyond the way of life, its singularity is also found in urbanism. Compared to other cities, the city center is not crushed by skyscrapers. In many neighborhoods, Victorian homes still stand. Sown at the mercy of the famous hills and streets (very) sloping, they undeniably contribute to making San Francisco one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
It will enchant you, for sure, with its human size, its many neighborhoods (as different in their decor and atmosphere as their population), its great museums, its cultural and culinary scene, its cable cars that hit the streets , its beaches and parks, to the iconic Golden Gate Glowing in the axis of the bay.
Rich city, pretty bobo, San Francisco has an average income more than 50% higher than the national average. But not everything is rosy. Some corners, like the Tenderloin, at the west margins of the Downtown, concentrate the abandoned by the hundreds.
San Francisco has the coolest climate on the California coast. In July-August, fog banks, derived from the thermal difference between the overheated Californian lands and the cold waters of the Pacific, sometimes envelop the city for days, exfoliating to the Golden Gate. San Francisco has earned another nickname: Fog City!
Washington DC Travel
No factory, no visible fireplace. Washington is a clean city because administration and politics are the main industries. Some 300,000 federal employees, 80,000 lobbyists, and 400,000 lawyers! The highest concentration of journalists in the world! The wide avenues, apartment buildings never higher than eight floors (no skyscrapers here) and official federal buildings make Washington one of the beautiful cities of the western world, especially in the spring, when cherry trees are in bloom on the Mall.
The idea is to stay a short week to enjoy its fabulous free museums, to find yourself in a setting both imposing, almost martial, but familiar for those who often go to the cinema, and finally to approach to almost to touch the fascinating places of imperial power whose ambition is to impose on the world its conception of democracy and freedom.
The Americans are not mistaken, schoolchildren to retirees, all come in patriotic pilgrimage in their capital to travel the Memorials and to take in front of the steles which recall the price that generations of citizens paid to bring the Pax Americana to the four corners of the world. Whatever one’s opinion of the famous American dream, one can not help but admire the unshakable faith that, from the fathers of the nation to the conquerors of the moon to the pioneers and emigrants of the whole world, pushed millions of people to new territories to conquer and new technological challenges to overcome …