Neuchâtel, Switzerland, is charming in the way all sleepy European cities are charming, only more-so. Even the graffiti is charming—an underpass bears the all-black inscription, “Rock And Roll.” Strict zoning laws, World War II neutrality, and ample limestone quarries preserved its rich architectural heritage, while avoiding modernism’s folly. Neuchâtel (new castle) was the only royalist government when it entered the Swiss confederacy in the 19th century, and the 12th century Romanesque castle, church, and prison parapet still dominate the skyline. A gorgeous Art Nouveau building houses a lady’s shoe store, the Frisbee Nightclub Cabaret, and Le Richelieu Canna-Weed Shop across the street from the Carrara marble Monument de la République 1848. Walk a block northwest and you’ll find the only beautiful Christian Science Reading Room in the world, a tasteful church fashioned in the neoclassical persuasion. It has Corinthian columns, because every building seems to have Corinthian columns.
Consummate D.C. insider Terry McAuliffe resides in the governor’s mansion built by tobacco farmer James Monroe, demonstrating that Virginians have always elected those who excel at peddling its staple crop. The farms that blanketed the I-95 corridor between Washington, D.C., and Richmond are mostly gone now, the land purchased by political profiteers. The stalks have been replaced by glass towers housing the media, contracting, and consulting giants that now serve as the backbone of the Virginia economy. Yet there are some members of the transplanted D.C. caste—former Marines, ambassadors, and George W. Bush appointees—who still pay tribute to the much maligned weed; they can be found at the Embassy Cigar Lounge in Stafford, Va., which celebrated its first anniversary on May 1.