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.

Having a Good Time in Willemstad, Curacao: Beach, Food and Music

Map showing Mambo Beach, Curacao

Last year, I visited Curacao, formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, with a couple of friends after spending a few days in Trinidad and Tobago.  Curacao is an interesting place – the Netherlands in the Caribbean, for sure, but also an incredible melting pot – many folks speak Spanish due to its proximity to and semi-shared history with nearby South America.  Yet it also shares a lot with the other Dutch islands in the hood as well with Surinam, another former Dutch colony.

Curacao, license plate

Even the license plate shows off the beautiful architecture

There is much to write about this island.  I struggled with how to not write about it all in one long post.  So this post will focus on the food, fun and beach as I experienced in a very short visit.  I did not get to scratch the surface of what Curacao has to offer so I will, upfront, tell you that and then challenge you to discover Curacao yourself and perhaps share back with me what you discovered!

An upcoming post will focus more on the incredible charming architecture of this island.  Enjoy!

My hotel

First, Curacao’s capital, Willemstad (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), has two sides along the canal that splits it:  Punda and Otrobanda.  Punda is the better known side with the pretty pictures folks normally see whenever Curacao is mentioned (more on this in the next post!).  Otrobanda is or was the poorer side though it contains some neat/charming architecture too.

I chose the Renaissance in Curacao (part of the Marriott family) as my hotel, located in Otrobanda right by the canal entrance.  While the hotel was not an all-around knock-out (e.g., the confusion at breakfast on what was included in my rate and what was not), there were a couple of things that hit it out of the ballpark.  One was the upgrade they welcomed me with.  A corner suite was definitely a great way to greet a Platinum guest.  Thank you for that!!  I wish I had had others sharing the room with me but that was not the case so the space was not taken advantage of.  But what I did greatly enjoy was the humongous bathroom!  Larger than my master bedroom at home!

A cruise ship passes my hotel room at the Renaissance in Willemstad, Curacao

The view from my room includes passing cruise ships!

But what really blew me away was the infinity pool.  Now you may say “seen one, seen them all” but, my friends, this was no ordinary infinity pool:  it was a beach on an infinity pool!  You walked into it as you would on a beach from the sand and the beach chairs.  It was huge and at the far end, the wall dropped down to the rocks by the sea.  When I first exited the hotel and looked at the pool, it seemed the sea was part of the water in the pool – I did not realize it was a pool at all!!   Bravo, Renaissance!

Infinity beach pool at the Renaissance hotel in Willemstad, Curacao

Heavenly!

Beach

Curacao has lots of beaches to choose from, 38 or so.  Some of the best are on the west end of the island.  Beaches in Curacao are not the typical long stretches of sand and surf that we typically envision.  Instead they are smaller, less obscenely huge places to enjoy the sun and surf!   We picked Mambo Beach just for being convenient to us as we were staying in Willemstad and had not rented a car.  I imagine it is far from the best beach but it was definitely enjoyable.

Map showing Mambo Beach, Curacao

Food and Entertainment

We ate at a couple of places that also doubled as entertainment with live music.  I could have kept returning to these places except I ran out of nights!

On our first night, we decided to watch sunset at a high vantage point on the fortress walls in Otrobanda at the entrance to the canal leading to the bay/port.  It was very near to the hotel and these places offered the right angle at sunset to look -or stare- at beautiful Punda!

View of Punda at sunset from Otrobanda in Willemstad, Curacao

Beautiful Punda at sunset

Wine as we enjoy the view of Punda from Otrobanda in Willemstad, Curacao

Wine sets the right mood…

Along the fortress wall in Otrobando in Willemstad, Curacao

Along the city wall we were lounging at

Later that night, we went to Avila Blues Bar for both dinner and entertainment.  The hotel is well known for hosting the Dutch royal family (allegedly, the heir to the throne comes to play here, wink, wink).  The blues bar is on a pier by itself so you are sitting above the sea.  The band plays on a loft-like second story above the bar.  The food was great and so was the music.  More importantly:  great atmosphere!

Avila Hotel Blues Bar by the sea near Willemstad, Curacao

For lunch one day, we sat at one of the average cafés right by the canal that is the entrance to large bay (St. Anna Bay).  While the food was not spectacular, watching people, ships and the movable-floating bridge (aka, Queen Emma Bridge) was fascinating or, at least, entertaining (notice the mist in the picture below coming out under some umbrellas).

Waterfront cafes and restaurants in Willemstad in Curacao by the entrance to the bay

Curacao floating bridge in Willemstand

The floating bridge passes us by as we ate lunch

The Queen Emma "floating" bridge in Willemstand, Curacao is for pedestrians

When not pulled away to let boats pass, the Queen Emma “floating” bridge is for pedestrians

Another night, we went to a Cuban place near the old fortress walls in Willemstad called Mr. Congas.  Its owner is a friendly but serious Cuban guy – the music is authentic (take it from this son of Cubans!) and the food is decent (but I have had and can cook it better!).  The place has an indoor space built into the former fortress walls and an outdoor area where the live music plays.  It was a great evening to sit outside, listen to music (dance for those so inclined), eat, and have a few drinks!

Live Cuban music at Mr. Congas in Willemstad, Curacao

Cuban food at Mr. Congas in Willemstad, Curacao

Cuban food at Mr. Congas in Willemstad, Curacao

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Curacao has a lot to offer – much beyond beaches.  Beautiful architecture, sun, surf, food and a lively entertainment scene.  It is a definite must-see in the Caribbean!

Couple enjoying the view of Punda across from Otrobando in Willemstad, Curacao

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