Charming and Historical Lafayette Square in D.C.

Washington D.C., DC, Cutts-Madison mansion, Lafayette Square, architecture, history, Samsung

One of the key sights in Washington, D.C. is the White House.  That symbol of the U.S. Presidency is indeed a big draw even if it is so inaccessible to most of us, the people.  One can be forgiven for losing sight of what is around the White House as the draw is too strong.  However, the square just across from its north side is an interesting place to explore.  The street that separates it from the White House’s north lawn used to allow for cars as recently as the late 1990s.  However, it is now pedestrian only which is quite alright with me – that allows tourists being absent-minded while taking photos without the risk of being hit by a car.

Enter, stage north, Lafayette Square

The square is known as Lafayette Square and is bounded by Madison Place and Jackson Place (on the east and west sides, respectively) and by Pennsylvania Ave. and H. St. (on the south and north sides, respectively).  I used to work a block down from it and enjoyed eating my lunch there a few times.

Washington, DC, Lafayette Square, Andrew Jackson, park, White House, photo, Olympus

The statue at the center of Lafayette Square is NOT Lafayette but, instead, Andrew Jackson

The buildings around the square were almost lost had it not been for some key people intervening, among them the First Lady at the time, Jacqueline Kennedy.  The federal government had bought the land and was planning to demolish all the beautiful buildings around the square to build, guess what, likely-monstrous government buildings.  As a lover of history and architecture, I am so thankful these buildings were preserved even if other work was done to adapt and “blend” them with the new buildings they were to connect to.  Their existence helps capture how the areas near the White House likely looked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Needless to say, these buildings are mercifully protected now.

Jackson Place – on the western end of Lafayette Square

The buildings on the western side are owned mostly by White House for different purposes such as a place for former Presidents to stay when they visit.  But they have incredible pedigrees with past important and famous folks owning or visiting these places.  Their style is quite distinct from those across the square in Madison Place.

Jackson Place, Lafayette Square, Washington, DC, history, architecture, Olympus

The buildings at Jackson Place

Jackson Place, Madison Place, Lafayette Square, Washington, DC, White House, Olympus

Looking across Lafayette Square from Jackson Place towards Madison Place (National Courts is the big red building)

Decatur House on Jackson Place

The Decatur House on the corner of Jackson Place and H Street does deserve special mention.  While it looks pretty “blah” from the outside, it is one of the oldest surviving homes in Washington, D.C. having been built in 1818.

Decatur House, Washington D.C., DC, Lafayette Square, Jackson Place, architecture, history, Van Buren

Decatur House on the corner of H St. and Jackson Place

It was built for a naval hero named Stephen Decatur (fought naval wars in North Africa, fought in the War of 1812, and others) but was subsequently home to other illustrious Americans like Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, and others.  The structure behind it housed the slaves some owners had.  It is said to be one of the few examples of slave quarters in an urban area that remains.

Though I worked literally a short block away, I never visited it – crazy, huh?

Madison Place – on the eastern end of Lafayette Square

The buildings along Madison Place have more charming façades than those on Jackson Place.  These buildings were adapted to fit it with the new National Courts Building (the big red monster behind them in the photo).  Actually the National Courts Building was designed to not take attention away from the old buildings by being built tall and just pretty much red bricks.  I have to agree that it does meet that objective as it helps frame them.

The one on the corner with H Street, the Cutts-Madison mansion, was First Lady’s Dolley Madison’s residence until she died in 1849.  The house was built in 1819 and it has been changed by later owners (for instance, the front door used to face Madison Place but it was switched to H St. in the mid 1800s).

Washington D.C., DC, Cutts-Madison mansion, Lafayette Square, architecture, history, Samsung

Dolley Madison’s home with the National Courts Building behind it. To its right, the Cosmos Club Building.

Other buildings on this street include the Cosmos Club Building and the Benjamin Ogle Tayloe HouseThe latter was built in the 1820s back when this area was still mainly trees and shrubs.  It almost became the official residence of the Vice President of the U.S.  And for three years in the late 1950 and early 1960s, it was the headquarters of NASA.  Who knew.

H Street – the northern side of Lafayette Square

This side of the street, currently housing the U. S. Chamber of Commerce (built in the 1920s, government style) and the Hay-Adams Hotel, used to have houses as Madison Place and Jackson Place have.  Unfortunately those disappeared much earlier in the 20th century when, perhaps, people were not as inclined to think about heritage preservation.  Lost in that shuffle where the Corcoran House and the Hay-Adams Houses.

Chamber of Commerce, Lafayette Square, Washington, DC, Olympus

The northern side of Lafayette Square

The good news on the northern side is that the “Church of Presidents,” St. John’s Episcopal Church, is still there.  It is nicknamed so since every President since Madison has attended service there, even if not regularly.  The church was built in 1816 and it is a gem.

St. John Episcopal Church, Church of Presidents, Lafayette Square, Washington, DC, history, architecture

St. John’s is a neat reminder of the history of the U.S. capital

So next time you are in D.C. gawking at the White House, take a moment to stroll around Lafayette Square and take a peek at these buildings that take us back in the capital’s history.

D.C. has plenty of hotels but I was fortunate to stay at one very close to the square:  the aptly named Sofitel Lafayette.  It is just a block away on H St. and it is perfect as a base to visit the square and many other places in D.C.  Only the Hay-Adams Hotel is closer to the Square but the price difference is huge!  I sampled a couple of the specialty cocktails at Le Bar, where they have an incredible diversity of specialty cocktails – and a very nice wine list too!

Le Bar, Sofitel Lafayette, DC, hotel, bar

Le Bar offers nice spaces to enjoy its offerings

Sofitel, France, hotel, accommodation, Church of Presidents, Lafayette Square, Washington, DC, architecture, Olympus

The entrance to the Sofitel

On the day of departure, I splurged and got an incredible breakfast of smoked salmon pair with a café au lait, and a side of a pain au chocolat 🙂smoked salmon, pain au chocolat, breakfast, SofitelThat was a great way to wrap up my visit to one of my favorite cities in the world!

Have you visited D.C. and explored Lafayette Square?  Are there similar places in your hometown that help portray its history? 

The Power Capitals: Washington, D.C., Beijing and London

White House, Washington D.C., DC, center of power, President's residence, US flag, photo

When I was a kid (some would argue I am still one), I was fascinated with knowing capital cities and flags.  Not really sure why, perhaps it was an early predictor of future sanity.  I was pondering the other day that there are countries that I have visited whose capital cities I have not than I thought.  So I started thinking which capital cities have I visited and could there be some common thread to some of them.  That led me to think of a new series to briefly chat about the capital cities I have visited.

White House, Washington D.C., DC, center of power, President's residence, US flag, photo

The White House, literally and/or figuratively, the world’s center of power

In this group, I’d thought I’d include some capitals that represent power centers.  While I could add a few others, those fit better within future categories I will be sharing.  For this post of power centers, I have chosen to include:  Beijing, Washington, D.C., and London.

Entrance to the Forbidden City Beijing, China bicycles cars pollution

Entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing just north of Tiananmen Square

These are certainly global power centers for financial and political reasons.  But they could not be any more different from each other.  The following statements, of course, are up for discussion and challenge but they sort of indicate how I “feel” these power centers:

  • Whereas London exudes history, D.C. has it but as a secondary or tertiary theme to its power center persona, whereas Beijing seems hell-bent on destroying its fascinating history.
  • Whereas Beijing is exotic to me, D.C. exudes a vibrancy that is uncommon for me and that thrills me, and London exhibits a self-assured calm that almost makes it familiar, yet not exotic nor vibrant.
  • While London feels cozy as you spend time in its neighborhoods (despite its incredible size), Beijing feels large and cold.  And D.C. … well at times it feels just like a large political amusement park until you explore what’s behind “public D.C.”.
  • All three can feel impersonal, but I think once you get to know London and D.C.  that changes with the only difference being that D.C. seems more transient than London does, making London more of a place where one can grow deep roots.

Where I would live?  I would say D.C. hands down.  In fact, in any list, this would be on my top three places to live.  I feel the energy and it transcends the political activity-related energy.  I love walking the treed streets of the city, admiring architecture new and old, and discovering places to hang out (London does offer some of this.)

Where I would learn the most?  I would say Beijing with its long history and fascinating culture.

Where I felt people warmth?  London would have an edge on D.C. but, in reality, none, I’d venture say, excel at people warmth.  Not sure if that is related to the power center nature of the city, the culture of the country/city, or some other factor (like it just takes time to feel it).

Any big gripe on any of these?  The pollution in Beijing is about the worst I’ve experienced.  I got sick from it, putting a big damper on my time there.  And no “nearby Rio de Janeiro” (as Sao Paulo has) for me to go “heal.”  🙂

Where would I love to return?  Sure, I’d enjoy going back to London but D.C. would be it.  Beijing… Been there, done that.  I’d rather learn about China through other places.

The City, London, England, United Kingdom, power center, capital city, financial center

London is a power center, especially in global finance

Of course, different strokes for different folks – what’s delicious to me may be bland to another so take it all with a grain of salt and share your impressions of any of these cities if you have visited them!  Regardless, these are fascinating cities to explore.

Photo of the Week – A Storm over Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC, Potomac River, Reagan airport, National airport, storm, rain, weather, photo, grey

No, I am not referring to the government shutdown or any of the infinite number of incidences of stupidity that emanate from the politicians who make a career in DC at our expense and to our detriment (soap BOX!!!)…  This is a literal storm caught from my hotel in Arlington, Virginia looking towards Reagan-National airport and the Potomac River right behind it.  If it were not raining, you would see in the distance the silhouettes of the famous buildings around The Mall.  But that is not to be in this moment.

I love the clear outline of the core of the storm as it seems to hang over the Potomac.  Quite a sight!

Washington, DC, Potomac River, Reagan airport, National airport, storm, rain, weather, photo, grey

One of the Lesser Known Smithsonian Museums: The Renwick Gallery

Tne Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. built by William Corcoran

I have spent two years visiting Washington, D.C. for work on a weekly or every-other-week basis. I love this city, with its energy, its intrigues, its famous residents, and its power.  I also love it, of course, for the many sights to be seen.

I worked near the White House and was close to a lot of key sites.  One of these was surprisingly close to work:  one block away (as was the IMF and the New Executive Building).  It is the Renwick Gallery, a Smithsonian Museum for American art.  I had walked past it, likely, a hundred times always making a mental note to go in some time.  With it being free (as all Smithsonian Museums are), how could I not with it being so close?

Tne Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. built by William Corcoran

The beautiful Renwick Gallery across from the Old Executive Building

Well, I finally did on my last week in DC.  You see, I had to first do the White House tour.  That took me a year and a half to request and do so this one took longer…  OK, enough excuses.  It was my last week and I decided that instead of just going out for lunch, I would see the gallery.

What an excellent decision! For starters, it was small enough to do a medium speed walkabout checking out its contents.

History of a beautiful building

The Renwick Gallery is a miracle.  It took Mr. and Mrs. John F. Kennedy to save this beautiful building from the demolition of old gems that most modern city planners could care less about that almost was carried out.  This building, which is located right by the White House, was finished in 1861 and had been commissioned by William Corcoran to exhibit publicly his private art collection.  Its architect was James Renwick who also designed the main and iconic Smithsonian building on The Mall, in D.C.  In any case, right when the building was finished, the federal government took over the building for Civil War purposes.  Eventually, it was returned and it housed the Corcoran collection until it could no longer hold all the art and another building was constructed.  At that point this building was used and eventually purchased by the government.  Thankfully, JFK and Jackie O were successful in keeping this majestic yet small structure around for us to enjoy (though the massive ugly New Executive Building was erected next to it on the corner of 17th and H…).

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

Towards the top of the grand central staircase looking at the big room

A new art form to learn:  furniture making

When I visited, there was a special exhibit for Thomas Day, a freed slave from North Carolina who made excellent furniture for the rich families of the area in the mid-1800s (give or take).  So successful was he that these families petitioned the government of North Carolina to allow a free black woman he wanted to marry to be allowed to enter North Carolina from Virginia (this was allowed apparently pre-Civil War).  They liked him so much they allowed him to worship at the white church AND sit with the whites.  His furniture style was unique and I learned a good bit about a topic I knew little about.  Photos were not allowed so I can’t grace this post with one…

The main exhibit – American art

The museum is intended for American art.  It has a massive room which is just architecturally and otherwise beautiful.  There are just the right number of paintings to allow one to absorb what there is.  The paintings seemed, my recollection may fail me, to be from the early-mid 1800s to the early 1900s.  I discovered a new favorite painter:  Guy Wiggins (1883-1962) whose impressionist work (or impressionist-like to me) really grabbed my attention.

The massive room really was worthy of admiring, paintings or not!

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art

But it’s not all “old” stuff – at all!

Funny how stuff from the 19th and early 20th century can be considered old… Only in the USA!  However, there are a few rooms exhibiting really neat art work from glass to a fish made from toys (not sure what it is… it is not sculpted, nor painted…).  This part of the collection includes a couple of interesting furniture pieces, one of which really is something I could have never dreamed of (I will leave it for YOU to discover!).

The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. for American art - glass statue

Phenomenal sculpture (?): a glass dress with a silhoutette as if someone is wearing it! Brilliant.

I am SO glad I finally went inside and checked it out.  My kind of art museum:  not overwhelming but manageable, not just one form of art but a variety, and an interesting special exhibit.  Thumbs up for a nice museum in Washington, D.C. that is sort of off-the-beaten path if that is possible one block away from the White House!

Top 6 Reasons Why It Is Hard to Break Up with Washington, D.C.

Iconic view of Georgetown in Washington, D.C. across the Potomac

Oh, time for some sentimentalism around here…  After 2 years of working in Washington, D.C. I wrap up this client engagement with mixed feelings.  There is more excellent work to be done.  Yet, I want to be home.  But it’s also hard to leave DC because I just really like this city.

Why, you may ask?  Here are some reasons why I love DC – and the photos to go with them!

1.  Yes, the tourist “attractions”

Not because they are tourist attractions but because of one of any number of reasons:  their architecture, their history, or their contents.  The monuments, the Smithsonian museums, the landmarks of the federal government – all these qualify as do other like the Holocaust Museum (a must), the Newseum (surprisingly well-done; with a piece of the Berlin Wall and an antenna from one of the World Trade Center towers), etc.

The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Don’t need a photo album of these… The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are among the most popular

The White House and the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.

Everyone wants to see the White House – and they should! I loved walking by to watch tourists.  Here undergoing preparations for the Jan 2013 inauguration.

Children visiting landmarks in Washington, D.C.

Little tourists…

2.  The importance of the place

I just feel the energy of this city, center of power that it is.  I was far and very close to that center.  Far because I have zero access.  Very close because I worked two blocks from the White House itself.

The White House with the U.S. flag

Most obvious in this category: The White House. Taken when the people had the right to tour it.

U.S. Treasury Department at night - looking at its columns

The Department of the Treasury is a less obvious center of power…

The Old Executive Building on the west side of the White House

The Old Executive Building on the west side of the White House

3.  Its history

Clearly so much history in the obvious places.  But also in less obvious or lesser-known ones…

St. John's Church across from the White House by Lafayette Square - the church of Presidents

St. John’s Church across from the White House by Lafayette Square – the church of Presidents

Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Site of inaugural balls, residence of VIPs including pre-President JFK, and a hangout of J. Edgar Hoover: the Mayflower Hotel – my second home!

The Watergate Complex

The Watergate Complex

Georgetown stairs made famous by the movie The Exorcist

The famous stairs from The Exorcist (that counts as history, right? film history?)

New South residence hall in Georgetown University

New South dormitory in Georgetown University. Never heard of it? Well, maybe not famous yet but it will be known as the place where a young ilivetotravel spent 6 weeks while in high school!

4.  The incredible neighborhoods

Georgetown is likely the grand-dame (or is it masculine?) of the neighborhoods in DC but the city has so many unique areas like Capitol Hill, Adams Morgan, etc.  All worth walking around and just exploring and feeling their vibe.  I wish I had explored even more but I definitely enjoyed walking around, especially the smaller streets with the brownstones and neighborhood places.  I wonder if most tourists venture into the neighborhoods.  If they don’t, they are missing out on the best part of the capital city of the U.S., in my humble opinion.

Iconic view of Georgetown in Washington, D.C. across the Potomac

Iconic view of Georgetown in Washington, D.C. across the Potomac

Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Looking at Georgetown University

Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

A little outside the old part of Georgetown

Sunsets in Georgetown are beautiful

Sunsets in Georgetown are beautiful

Tree shadow onto an old building in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

See what I mean about sunsets in Georgetown?

5. Nothing like running along the Potomac – either bank

One of my favorite post-work activities – take a look and you will see why!

Rowers on the Potomac

Rowers on the Potomac

Looking at Georgetown and the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C.

Looking at Georgetown and the Key Bridge

Running along the Potomac

On the western bank headed towards Reagan National Airport, close to the LBJ Memorial

Runner shadow ona sidewalk at sunset

This runner casts a long shadow…

Runner along the Potomac River casts a shadow on the pavement

Great strides are inspired by the Potomac River and its views

6.  And the fun!

The food, the drinks, and the places to hang out!

Sitting at the Georgetown Waterfront by the Potomac in Washington, D.C.

Sitting at the Georgetown Waterfront enjoying some good stuff on a beautiful early evening

Granville Moore in NE Washington, D.C. offers great mussels

A hideout, almost dive, with phenomenal mussels! Way out of the beaten path!

The Adour at the St. Regis - thumbs up!

The Adour at the St. Regis – thumbs up!

Cocktail at Le Bar in the Sofitel Washington D.C.

Drinks at my favorite bar: Le Bar at the Sofitel Hotel with its great mixologist Alan Jones

Chocolate Smore Bomb at The Oval Room in Washington, D.C>

Chocolate Smore Bomb at The Oval Room – out of this world!!

drink at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington. D.C. prior to Edgar opening

A drink at The Mayflower prior to the Edgar Bar opening

The Bogart from Le Bar at the Sofitel - Hendrick's gin

The Bogart from Le Bar at the Sofitel – genius!!

Au revoir, DC

While my work is done here, I am surely returning to one of my favorite cities in the U.S.!!

A storm over Washington D.C. as seen from the Arlington Renaissance Hotel

Hopefully none of this as I fly out – though it makes for spectacular photography!

View of Reagan National and the Capitol from the Arlington Renaissance Hotel

The Capitol in the background and the Reagan National airport control tower – probably my last views of DC as I fly out

US flag at sunset in Washington, D.C.

Long live the capital of the U.S.!

 

The pursuit of a good cocktail begins!

Decor of Sofitel Lafayette's Le Bar in DC

I have been traveling with some frequency to Washington, D.C. for business.  While I get to stay at some nice properties, I have been underwhelmed at what should be one of the most fun spots of any hotel:  the bar.  And maybe for that reason, I have been remiss in exploring the specialty cocktails that the mixologists may be serving at these bars.  This sad state of affairs took a turn for the better – for the MUCH better – when I stayed at the Sofitel Lafayette just about across the park from the White House.

Le Bar at the Sofitel Lafayette was not my first encounter with a Le Bar.  My first was at the Sofitel in Chicago where I enjoyed one of their specialty drinks:  the Wrigleyville.

Taking it from the top

A few step back though before I get to their special cocktails.  I first went to the DC property’s Le Bar the night I arrived just to have a quick meal as it was getting late so I was pretty much focused on eating and getting to my room.  However, the bar area immediately grabbed me:

Le Bar at Sofitel Lafayette in DC

Decor of Sofitel Lafayette's Le Bar in DC

And I hear that in warmer times, the outdoor seating area is great to take in DC – and people watch.

Chocolate in my mind. What is new?

The following day I returned for a chocolate delight “tea” included in the winter special rate I had gotten.  It was delicious and the hot chocolate perfect for the cold and humid late fall afternoon.

Chocolate delights at the Sofitel Lafayette

On the last night of my stay, I spent more time at Le Bar sampling some of their specialty cocktails and the appetizers on offer.  The bar manager and mixologist, Alan Jones, walked me through a couple of his specialty drinks – the Lafayette and the Senegal – before sharing with me one of his favorite wines:  Argentina’s Clos de Siete.

The Lafayette

The Lafayette, a Bourbon-based drink (I will let Alan tell you the exact recipe in person at Le Bar!), had a delicious smoky flavor that could make me drink quite a few back to back without blinking.  But, this was not the night for that.

Bourbon-based cocktail at the Sofitel Lafayette in DC

It was at this point the croque monsieur bites were brought out.  I have to say the competed VERY favorably with any croque monsieur I ate in France proper!

The Senegal

The Senegal was up next.  Made from spiced rum, tamarind and a couple of other ingredients.  It was extremely refreshing and a great alternative to a caipirinha which was Alan’s goal.

Spiced rum cocktail at Sofitel Lafayette in DC

The Clos de Siete

The Clos de Siete, a blend of mostly Malbec and Merlot but also Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was a very enjoyable red with strong personality and intense flavors that I can’t wait to find in my hometown.  Somewhere before this wine the duck confit appetizer was brought out.  Not something I would order on my own but I took Alan’s word that it was outstanding.  And so it was!

A new pursuit

This tasting gave me my first real experience exploring the art and/or science of developing cocktails – all these years missed!  But thanks to Alan and Sofitel’s Le Bar, I have discovered a new pursuit  😉

Disclosure:  I paid for my stay at the Sofitel at a publicly available rate.  The offerings at the bar were courtesy of the Sofitel.  I write this post because I was very pleased with the offerings!

 

Photo of the Week: The Mayflower Hotel Decked out for Christmas

I wrote in an earlier post about this grand hotel of Washington, D.C.:  The Mayflower, a Renaissance Marriott hotel.  I just stayed there again and got to see it decorated for Christmas.  I’d though I’d share this beautiful photo of its lobby area decorated for the holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all!

Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. decorated for Christmas

A Historical Landmark Welcomes Me in Washington, D.C.

Luxurious lobby at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

As I often travel to Washington, D.C. for business, I seek a place to stay where I find both convenience (including very close to work), comfort, and an overall great experience.  The Mayflower Hotel, a Renaissance hotel, is one of my favorites as it combines all these key aspects.

Mayflower Hotel logo in Washington, D.C.

The Mayflower logo!

I normally do not write a post focused only in a hotel but since I have stayed here so many times, and since I enjoy my stays there, I decided it merited a post.  (This is an unsolicited and non-compensated post in any way, shape, or form!)  There are many good reviews of hotels in D.C. out there so if you are looking for more info (the real scoop) on a hotel, all you need to do is a search!

Mayflower Hotel entrance in Washington, D.C. - a Marriott Renaissance property

Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., a Renaissance hotel in the Marriott family

Facade on Connecticut Ave. just north of L. St.

History

This hotel, the longest running hotel in the capital, has quite a story.  Located about four blocks away north of the White House, it was built in the 1920s and opened in 1925.  It is supposed to be the largest luxury hotel in D.C. and that is quite impressive given some other strong challengers in the category that I have not explored.

Many famous events have taken place here or many famous guests/residents have stayed here.  The hotel has signs in many places outlining some of its history – it is pretty neat to read them.  The hotel used to have a part that was dedicated to apartments where, for example, Sen. John F. Kennedy stayed.  Calvin Coolidge’s Inaugural Ball was held here and, since FDR days, the hotel has hosted inauguration day parties.  Truman stayed here as President during some of the repairs of the White House that took place during his time.  J. Edgar Hoover had lunch here regularly during his prime.  Lots of history make this hotel quite unique.

Mayflower Hotel signs sharing its rich history

There are signs everywhere in the hotel highlighting its rich history

Of course, some of the history is notorious… including that it allegedly hosted JFK’s mistress, where Monica Lewinsky stayed at some point when the scandal with Clinton was unfolding, and where then Governor of NY, Eliot Spitzer paid for a high-end prostitute’s services…  These don’t have signs around the hotel – that I have found anyway!

Around the ground floor of the hotel

The hotel, currently in the midst of major renovations in the front of the house (the new check-in counters are finished, now they are working on the ground level bar/café), has a style that does take one back to the glamor and style of the era in which it was born (or thereabouts).  Nothing like the ground level of the hotel or the elevator area to the former apartment section of the building to appreciate the elegance characteristic of this hotel.  A lot of these details were hidden in renovations done a long time ago as an effort to modernize the hotel but, fortunately, the beautiful original details have been uncovered and restored.

Lobby area of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Luxurious lobby at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Area on the ground floor where the main ballrooms are

Elevator lobby at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. in the former apartment tower

The rooms, though renovated, are detailed to connect well with the rest of the building.  A great example are the cabinets around the bathroom sinks.

Hallway at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C., a Renaissance property

The Executive Lounge

One of my most prized features as a frequent business traveler is access to a nice lounge where I can get water, perhaps a simple breakfast, and if I am lucky free drinks and hors d’oeuvres.  The Mayflower’s has most of these but, like other Marriott chain hotels in the U.S., wine and beer are not free (this is different than international properties and, for that, I am thankful!).  But then the hors d’oeuvres sometimes are like a real meal.  So, on a busy day, I don’t have to bother going on or ordering from the room service menu (which gets rather repetitive).

But my favorite part about this lounge versus others is how large it is!  As large as it is, some mornings it can be hard to find a table to sit at but more often than not, that is not a problem.  The spaciousness of the lounge makes it a great place to hang out as it also has a couch and couple of related chairs.

I will never forget that after the quake of 2011, when the office building I worked at closed, it was the lounge I came to to avoid sitting around in my room for more hours than were necessary!

The gym

One of the features that most hotels get so wrong is their gym.  I can count with half the fingers in one hand hotels whose gyms are better than the average hotel.  Granted, this does not mean they are gyms I would choose to normally go but it is certainly nice to see hotels that beat that nasty stereotype of a gym hotel (usually a former room converted by placing mirrors on all the walls and then having exercise equipment from the times before exercising was important!).

The Mayflower’s gym is certainly spacious.  While the aerobic equipment (treadmill, bikes, etc.) could be better, it is adequate and there are plenty – all with TVs.  There are also a number of weight training machines and equipment.  Finally, there is space to place mats and stretch, do abs, etc.  Apples, water, towels, and -for the really daring- a scale!

The food

I have not actually tried the main restaurant itself but have sampled the room service menu which is consistent with the menus in other Renaissance properties in the U.S. (I do wish for a little more variety or at least a re-do of the menu every few months… However, the hotel’s chef is more than ready to take special requests and I am forever thankful!)

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The Mayflower is most definitely a landmark in this city of landmarks.  If you have a chance, stay.  But, if not, walk in, check it out and imagine all the history this magnificent grand dame has seen!!

Logo in the Mayflower Hotel door (Washington, D.C.)

Note:  I paid a public rate for my stay.  I received no special services or attention in return for this post.  I wrote it because I like this hotel.

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