This is my first trip report.
I’m not one to record or remember all the little details I see in other trip reports (like how much each meal cost), nor am I the gifted writer many of you are, so I hope you’ll still find my report helpful.
I am an enthusiastic, insatiably curious, fairly fit traveler in my mid 40s who asked her (surprisingly healthy) 70 year-old mom to meet her in Washington D.C for a mother/daughter trip. We had 5 days, and although the list of things I wanted to see and do was long, we tailored it to what we thought my mom could handle.
We chose flights that would arrive just minutes from each other at Reagan National. We landed at different terminals and I had to take the shuttle to meet her at terminal B.
I had decided beforehand that we would take a cab to our hotel if Mom was too tired or stressed about taking the Metro but she informed she that was fine. So we made our way to the Metro station just up the escalator, found the ticket machine and figured out how to use it within minutes. We lugged our suitcases into the subway car and we were on our way. Piece of cake!
I booked us a room at the Marriott Renaissance Renaissance downtown on Connecticut Ave. through Priceline for $125/night. It’s in a nice neighbourhood just down from Dupont Circle, and it’s conveniently located by several restaurants and shops. And one of the biggest plusses for us was that the hotel was just steps away from the Metro.
The Mayflower is a stately, regal hotel without without being overly posh. Even though most of its patrons were sharply dressed (suits and business attire), I didn’t feel overly out of place in my smart-dressy sightseeing clothes. From what I read on tripadvisor, however, some have found it to be a bit too fancy for them.
Our room was large and was somewhat divided into two parts: the entrance, bathroom, closet and minibar in the front part, and the two beds, wingchair, ottoman and desk in the longer part. The beds had feather pillows and white duvets/down comforters. The only downside was that the tv was in an armoire far from the beds and it was too small for decent tv viewing.
Mom said she was content to leave her clothes in her suitcase but I unpacked my clothes to put into the armoire. The closet had several hangers to share plus two big cozy bathrobes- nice touch!
After chit-chatting and watching tv for a bit, we nestled into our comfy beds and got a good night’s rest.
Day 1- After breakfasting on an egg slider at Fuddruckers (located 2 blocks from hotel towards Dupont Circle), we took the Metro to the National Mall area and got off at the Smithsonian stop which was just a short walk to the Smithsonian Castle. I read that this was a good place to start and get oriented. After a security guard checked our purses with a little flashlight, we walked in and found a glass-encased model of all the buildings and museums on the Mall that was very helpful in planning one’s route.
The Castle also contains several interesting artifacts: a chunk of the Hindenburg’s propeller, Bobby Orr’s skates, a place setting from the Concord jet, as well as several taxidermied animals: a bear, a cheetah, a huge peacock, and the biggest, most disgusting-looking spider I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing.
When we were done touring the inside, we walked out the back door into the Haupt Garden. Even if you’re only mildly interested in botany or gardening, I suggest taking a look-see. And I mean look-see- my mom got a mild reprimand for touching one of the plants.
After our stroll through the garden, we headed directly across the pathway to the Nat’l Museum of Natural History. If you love animals and nature, don’t miss this museum. It contains several animal displays that provide not only interesting information but also an idea of size and scale. I came across several species of animals I’d never seen or heard of- this was surprising to me considering the amount of nature shows I’ve watched in my lifetime.
When we were satisfied with our tour of NMONH, we headed next door to the Nat’l Museum of American History. We started with eating lunch in the large cafeteria style restaurant. It had several stations with different foods- pizza, salad bar, pulled pork, beans…there seemed to be something for everyone. My mom got the chicken fingers and fries basket, and I got some baked beans, potato salad, and a salad from the salad bar (which the cashier weighs). My meal came to about $12. After stealing a few bites from Mom’s chocolate macaroon, I felt sufficiently fueled to continue exploring.
We found this museum to be a little less user friendly than the first one, but once we figured out the different wings on each level, that made things a little easier to get around. Though I consider myself fairly curious about things of a scientific and historical nature, I was only moderately interested in many of the technological displays in the first wing.
That sentiment disappeared once we got to the Presidential wing to see the Lincoln exhibit. I have always been fascinated by this great man who took on such a daunting and noble cause. The museum’s collection of related artifacts, quotes and stories in dimly lit displays pay proper homage to this gentle giant.
To see such tangible things as the suit he wore on the day of his inauguration, and the top hat he wore on the night of his assassination was highly evocative. The admonition on the signs to show our respect by keeping the noise level down wasn’t hard to apply.
Mom was a bit tired at this point so we called it a day and took the Metro back to our room. After resting for a bit, we walked down the street to a pub called Mackay’s. As neither of us eat that much, Mom and I agreed that we would split most of our orders. I insisted that she choose and she ordered the corned beef and cabbage. I wouldn’t recommend it. The cabbage was bland (we asked for butter), the corned beef wasn’t very good, but thankfully the mashed potatoes were.
I ordered a glass of their house red and the waiter looked bewildered when Mom ordered a virgin Caesar. After explaining what it was (and that she was Canadian), he said he’d never heard of it. My mom and I wondered if Bloody Caesars were a Canadian thing. I hadn’t thought so, but maybe they are?
I wasn’t crazy about Mackay’s. The main eating section is down a half level from the street and it lacks a bit in ambiance imo, but judging from the many locals there that night, we might’ve just ordered the wrong thing.
On the walk back to our room, we skipped over to Starbucks where I bought a decaf and a blonde brownie and Mom got a Rice Krispie/marshmallow square. We got there just in time as they close at 7:30 pm.
Mom watched tv while I had a long hot bath (the bathroom has a nice long deep soaker tub). I donned one of the two big cotton bathrobes I found in the closet, and lounged on the bed to eat my brownie. I felt perfectly spoiled and pampered.
Day 2- Mom and I got dressed and headed to Au Bon Pain, located right beside Mackay’s. We stood at the counter for some time waiting for one of the staff to take our order, or to even acknowledge us but we finally figured out that we had to write down our order and place the paper on our tray. Both Mom and I got an egg and cheese sandwich and a coffee.
When we were done, we walked to the Metro station and rode back to the Smithsonian stop for a day of seeing the monuments. It was a beautiful day, 78F and sunny- yay!
We began our trek by heading towards the Washington Monument. It’s larger than I thought, and I didn’t know that an elevator ride would take you to the top. At a little store nearby, I heard the clerk tell someone that the tickets to do so were sold out. Other than just gazing up at it and taking a picture when a plane flew by, there wasn’t much else to do there so we continued our walk down to the Lincoln Memorial.
It’s a longer walk than you might think so be sure to pace yourself and wear comfortable shoes. There are plenty of little benches to sit on if you need to rest.
We walked around the WWII Memorial on the way, (situated between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial), a stately design that encompasses several pillars, a water pool and fountain. We saw several vets there gathered around what looked like a soldier reading something off a paper.
We continued our walk down towards the Lincoln Memorial along the beautifully tree-lined reflecting pool. Some of the trees were huge and provided much needed shade. I was thirsty and was happy to find a vendor selling Gatorade at the foot of the monument. After taking a few sips out of the bottle, I read a sign said that food and drink were forbidden in the monument. Not one to be wasteful, I hid my full bottle of Gatorade in some low-lying brush nearby and hoped it would be there on my return.
We journeyed up the numerous steps of the LM and again, I observed that the monument was larger than I imagined it to be. Stepping through the massive columns takes you to a majestic scene: a very pensive, dignified marble figure of Lincoln, aptly seated on a throne. A dedication is inscribed on the wall above him and part of the Gettysburg address on one of the other walls. Though there were lots of tourists, the area was big and airy to move around in. There’s a little bookstore inside, and I mean little, and I bought a couple of bookmarks.
When I was done taking pictures, we walked back down the steps to where I hid my Gatorade et voila, it was right there waiting for me.
We were hungry for a snack and so stopped at a little kiosk store just steps away from the LN, going towards the Vietnam War Memorial. They had sandwiches, yogourt and chips etc. I got a little bag of Doritos and Mom got some potato chips and a cinnamon bun. They had some nifty tourist items for purchase like mousepads, bookmarks, coins and coffee mugs. Though tempted, I didn’t get anything because I didn’t feel like carrying the stuff around all day. I hoped I would see similar things in the airport on my way home.
Our next destination was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. From the little kiosk store, we crossed the road and followed a pathway that led down to the wall. Some things I didn’t know about the Wall: that it wasn’t a free standing structure. Only one side of the granite wall is exposed, with the other abutting a retaining wall ; that the Wall isn’t in the same height in all sections; that it isn’t in one straight line; and that nothing could’ve prepared me for the innumerous names contained on the Wall.
After walking along the path beside the wall and reading various notes placed at the base of it (mostly from kids thanking the servicemen for their sacrifice and courage), we walked back towards the WWII Memorial, and after consulting our map, decided to walk towards the Whitehouse. In view of how tired my mom was and how sore our feet were later that night, we should have put this off till the next day.
I enjoyed this walk very much. D.C. is such an interesting, clean and organized city; we looked forward to seeing what would be around every corner with anticipated pleasure.
After walking up several blocks, we finally saw the black wrought iron gate. And there it was- a big, beautiful white house set far back on a massive front lawn. A security guarded stood on the road behind us watching everyone’s every move. I wanted to take a picture of him but every time I tried to he looked at me, and I felt too dumb to go through with it.
I saw what looked like a vegetable garden in the front left of the yard. Could that be the garden that Michelle and the girls planted earlier this spring?
We continued down the road, along the gate and came across a gated entrance guarded by two more security guards. They let people have their pictures taken with them and this made me wonder if the other guard wouldn’t have minded me having his picture taken after all.
My mom asked one of the guards if “Obama” was around. He smiled and told her the President was busy in a meeting. Too cute!
It had been a long day of walking and sightseeing so we consulted our map to locate the nearest Metro. A young female city worker approached us and offered to help. She told us we had to walk about 2 or 3 blocks down towards the Capitol then hang a left, and go up a few more. That seemed doable but it took longer than we thought, and we were really tired by the time we got to the platform.
When we finally got back to our room, we removed our shoes and collapsed on our beds. We both snoozed and later on Mom said she was too tired to go back out for dinner. I offered to order in, but she said to let her rest a bit more and she’d try to get up.
After a half hour, she asked if we could just eat in the hotel. We had checked out the menu at the Café Promenade when we first arrived and saw that it was a bit pricey, but she said she didn’t mind if I didn’t.
I looked in the hotel room directory just to ensure that there wasn’t another restaurant and found that there indeed was- the Town and Country, just off to the left at the front entrance. I was surprised we hadn’t noticed it.
So I donned a skirt, a pair of heels and a bit of jewelry and we took the elevator down to the lobby. We located the Town and Country, asked to look at the menu and found that it mainly consisted of lighter fare such as appetizers and sandwiches. We then decided to eat Café Promenade after all.
It’s fancy, with white linen tablecloths and finely dressed waiters, but it’s not overly posh. I ordered the Caesar salad and the clam chowder (delicious) and Mom ordered the steak, not the filet mignon but the other cut. I think it was an 8 oz. Because we were going to share again, we debated on how to have it prepared, as she likes hers medium-rare and I like mine medium. I insisted that she enjoy her meal after our tiring day and have the steak prepared just right for her. After much persuasion, she acquiesced.
Well after all that, Mom found her steak too well done and a bit tough on the tough side. Though it was a bit too rare for me, I thought it tasted very good. It was served with a dark gravy-like sauce, and grilled vegetables and baked potato. With my glass of wine ($11), our bill came to $69. Our polite and highly attentive waiter made our dining experience quite pleasurable. I would definitely eat there again.
Day 3- We discussed our day’s plans over breakfast at Fuddruckers. Because we had pushed Mom too hard yesterday, we decided to take it easy today. Mom needed an outfit for an upcoming wedding so we browsed through some of the local shops. She found a nice black silky skirt at the Dress Barn, and when she complained about the Canadian exchange rate, the clerk gave her 20% off. Way to go, Mom!
The other places we checked out near the hotel were a little too high end for her budget (Rizki’s ? Fileen’s Basement, Pink, Burberry) but there were fairly affordable clothes at Talbot, Ann Taylor and a few other places. For a younger set, there’s a Gap right across from the Mayflower Hotel.
We read about the quaint shops and neighbourhoods around Dupont Circle, so we worked our way towards it down Connecticut Ave. We took our time, popping in and out of shops, a bookstore here, a jewelry/beading place there, a kitchen novelty store…
then we walked through some of the residential streets to admire some of the properties. We took a different route back down towards our hotel and stopped for lunch at Vapiano’s. It’s a modernly decorated cafeteria-style Italian restaurant that serves salads, pizzas and pasta. We weren’t super hungry so we both got a salad and a roll. I got a glass of Zinfandel from the bar and mom got a soft drink. The place seemed popular with the locals and the food we saw being served looked very good. Vapiano is located one street over from the Mayflower Hotel, parallel to Connecticut Ave.
After our lunch we browsed through a few more shops then headed back to our room. My poor mom found the walk down the corridor from the elevator to our room so long (it’s a big hotel), and I dubbed it The Hotel Room Walk of Eternity. I read while Mom had a little snooze.
When she woke up, she watched Oprah, then I read her some of the restaurant descriptions in my Fodor’s guide. I knew she would insist on paying for my dinner this last night (as she had every night) so I only read the descriptions of those that showed either one dollar sign or two. We agreed on Luna Café on P Street a few blocks away from the Dupont Circle. It seemed to have an eclectic menu and we liked the idea of venturing back to that quaint neighbourhood.
I’m glad we weren’t put off by the photos of the entrees posted outside or the non-descript exterior of the restaurant because Luna Café proved to be a sweet little restaurant. Mom and I decided to split a pasta dish with seafood, pine nuts and saffron sauce, but to my dismay the young waiter informed us that the kitchen had no saffron in stock-argh! So we ordered the linguini with shrimp, scallops, artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers. Yum- it was delicious! I ordered a glass of rose’ (not very good), then afterward a glass of merlot, and Mom said she felt like a beer and ordered a Miller Lite. She never has alcohol so it was kinda neat to see my mom enjoy a beer.
I let Mom pay (fortunately the bill didn’t amount to that much), I left the tip, and she said she felt okay to walk back to the hotel.
We arranged for a wake up call at 8 am. I read that the hotel would provide complimentary coffee with your wakeup call but we forgot to arrange that. A woman came to the door shortly after holding a sleeve of Styrofoam coffee cups and asked us something about coffee service- I thought she was seeing if we needed more cups but I thought afterward that that may have been the complimentary coffee service? Not sure.
Mom wanted to head to the airport good and early before her flight so we decided to have breakfast at the airport. By the time we arrived (just after 10 am), breakfast was no longer being served in her terminal. So we got a coffee and pastry at Cinnabon. I could barely get it down- I’m a protein breakfast kind of person.
We looked around the airport shops for a bit and found a neat store that had lots of cool mugs, pens, T-shirts, a “Commander in Chief” mouse pad and other presidential stuff, so I bought a few souvenirs and stuffed them into my carry on.
It was time for Mom to go to her gate so we said our goodbyes and I followed the signs that led me to the shuttle that would take me to Terminal A.
I got through security okay, bought a fruit cup and a National Geographic magazine, and went to sit in my gate. A short while after, I heard the attendant behind the Northwest desk say that if our carry on didn’t fit in the little “cage” by the door, we’d have to check it. I looked around at everyone’s carry on bags and observed that mine looked a bit bigger than everyone else’s. Oh oh.
As I got in line to board, I watched the schoolmarmish attendant place a few of them in the cage and if a side or even a wheel fit in, she’d allow it on. Sure enough, mine was too large and just sat atop the cage. When she said she’d checked it in, I asked if I had to pay the $15 dollars and she said no.
So after a very satisfying and enjoyable five days in D.C., I was headed home.
Here is some advice you might find helpful:
- Save yourself tons of money and learn how to use the Metro. It costs only $1.35 (1.65 during rush hour times) and trust me- if me and my mom can do it, anyone can. If we were ever confused and unsure, the locals were only glad to help. In fact, many of the times we stood on the platform or on the street looking at our maps, people often approached us to offer help!
- Let people exit the subway car before you embark.
- At first, Mom and I weren’t sure which side we’d have to disembark, but the doors will only open on the one (correct) side.
- Some of the seats are to be yielded to handicapped or senior citizens.
- It is very warm on the Metro platforms.
- Rather than buy a booklet or a week’s pass, we just bought one ticket at a time and that worked out fine for our itinerary.
- When you have to change lines, say from the Red Line to the Blue Line, you have to go down a level. Follow the colour-coded directions on the square posts.
- Pace yourself! Though you might want to see and do more, a walk around the Mall is plenty for one day. Your travel day will be much more enjoyable if you’re not exhausted by dinner time.
- Wear comfortable shoes. I wore Sketcher running shoes and highly recommend them as they are the most comfortable running shoes I’ve ever owned. I bought a black pair and dressed them “up” with jean skirts and black tops.
- All of the Smithsonian museums are free.
- Both museums we went to were very warm inside- too warm in our estimation. T-shirts would be better than long-sleeved tops.
- When you see a restroom, take advantage of it. Many of the ones we used were surprisingly clean.
Marriott Renaissance Mayflower
- If you book a room at this hotel through Priceline, try to include a Saturday night. It’s a business class hotel and I think I might have gotten a better rate had I not stayed there from Sunday night to Thursday.
- It’s a large hotel, and my mom found the walk down to the room tiring after a long day. Some of you might want to request a room closer to the elevators.
- It was only on the 3rd day of our stay that I noticed a little ‘do not disturb’ knob right by the door handle. (I wondered why there was no such card to place on the outside door handle!) This little knob is also a deadbolt that gives you further security.
- The bathroom had all of the necessary toiletries: shampoo and conditioner, soap, shoe shine stuff, body lotion, Q-tips, etc. It had a nice big soaker tub, plenty of towels and facecloths, and a blow dryer. There was also a little antique mirror on a stand on the bathroom counter.
- The room is equipped with an iron/ironing board, and a stocked mini-fridge.
- I read that complimentary coffee was served in the lobby but we never saw where it was or took advantage of it because the lobby was either too full of people or we were heading to a restaurant for breakfast anyway.
- As you head out of the hotel exit doors in the front, the Farragut Metro station is to the right, just around the corner.
- There’s a nice little coffee and pastry shop to your right just at the bottom of the escalator. It has a small counter with two maybe three stools, but it was very convenient when we got thirsty or wanted to stock up on juice and snacks for the hotel room.
- Mom always found the hotel hard to locate/identify when we were looking for it. Just look for a bunch of overhanging flags and you’ll be able to see it from down the street.
- There was a USA Today newspaper just outside our door every morning but I think I read that you can request another paper if you prefer.
- The business center has several little phone booth-like kiosks with computers. You pay so much per minute but they have a free airport check in service. Just click the airplane icon on the front screen, type in your information, then print your boarding pass. The printer is outside the little booths on the back wall.
Well I know this was probably way too long but I hope it will prove helpful to anyone either going to D.C. or staying at the Marriott Mayflower.
Washington D.C. Trip Report
This is my first trip report.
- 1 Stay between San Francisco and Redwoods?
- 2 Using public transit in San Diego
- 3 Cedar Point Wait Times
- 4 2 Brits Travelling USA July-Aug 2013
- 5 time for a new countdown to Hawaii
- 6 A Visit to Charleston
- 7 San Francisco - one semi-splurge restaurant?
- 8 How far ahead to book Alcatraz?
- 9 Rocks and Roads in Utah
- 10 San Fran, Napa, Palo Alto, Carmel advice
- 11 San Francisco Anniversary Trip
- 12 NYC Newbie Needs Advice Re JFK Transportation
- 13 First-time to NYC Trip Report as promised!
- 14 1st time in Boston --need advice
- 15 Florida to Yellowstone to Mt. Rushmore-Sept 2013
- 16 Luggage stolen from locked rental car in Orlando
- 17 3 Week Roadtrip Starting in Nashville - Where to Go?!
- 18 Best Marriott Hotels in Hawai?
- 19 New Orleans trip (plus road trip) Help Pls!
- 20 D.C. in a day
- 21 San FRancisco Apt Location - Comments, pls
- 22 Boston, my 2 hour food shopping spree to satiate my man's needs
- 23 How similar are the San Juan Islands and the Tofino area of B.C.?
- 24 Oregon & Washington: What are we missing, as we're big fans already?
- 25 Pine or Deckers as a place to meet (Lost Creek Wilderness)