Belated trip report, Washington DC 2018

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Sep 7th, 2018, 05:53 PM
  #1
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Belated trip report, Washington DC 2018

Hi all,
All the excellent help I'm getting with a Christmas trip to Washington DC with DH reminded me that I never wrote one for an six night trip with a friend in February of this year. So I'll see what I can remember:
Hotel: Sofitel DC
I am a serious hotel freak and have been known to hold 5 reservations simultaneously while I contemplate the advantages and disadvantages of each (I'm also very prompt about cancelling so as not to abuse this privilege). We chose the Sofitel because it was a 5 star with low season prices, because I very much like the Novotel chain which is part of the same family, and because we thought the room looked lovely (chose high floor larger room with city view). The good: the room was spectacular and the location pretty good (close to White House, not in busiest part of downtown). The not so good: service was OK but not great and at times seemed fake; room service charge was $12 plus tip; public space minimal. Restaurant was convenient and OK fine.
Flight: Atlantic with extra leg room
SO sorry Atlantic has been sold to Alaska. We had a great experience on the way there--wonderful funny flight attendants and extra leg rooms. We had opted for regular economy on the way home. Will not do that again on six hour flight on any airline. I'm too old.
Food:
often ate either at hotel or at museums for convenience. Both experiences fine, hotel menu could have been more extensive. Had one very good lunch at Ebbett's Grill, an excellent dinner at Mirabelle's to celebrate friend's 88th birthday (she looks 78, thinks and walks like 68!) and a really good lunch with a grad school friend at FiolaMare's (fix prixe Saturday lunch Great Value).
Monuments:
FDR monument was very moving--would be great to see in spring. February cold windy weather deterred us from seeing more of the Mall, but we had both been to DC before and we knew what we were getting into.
Nighttime entertainment:
A jazz concert of Ruthie Foster's at the Kennedy Center Jazz Club. I was wowed and bought 2 CDs. If she ever does a concert within 50 miles of where you live, go. Sings a combination of jazz, soul, gospel, country---I thought I would love it or hate it. I loved it. Her voice is amazing and the Jazz Club is a very intimate setting. The Kennedy Center is always wonderful to be in.
Museums
National Museum of African American History and Culture: You need to get advance tickets 3 months in advance, first Wednesday of each month, starting at 9am Eastern time. I set alarm (West Coast 6am) and had no trouble either then or earlier this week. The museum itself is architecturally stunning. In February it was not crowded. It was often difficult to be in (I'm white), also very moving. I was also overwhelmed (not in the positive sense) by how very much time and information it encompassed. It was my first history museum that was not a Holocaust museum (I've been to many---and they cover a MUCH shorter span of time). This next trip (at Christmas) I plan to take more time and more breaks (the latter is not easy. Cafeteria is at the end and lunch counter in middle has yet more to learn from) somehow. I also may buy a book from its store before we go. I cried when I saw President Obama's video.
National Gallery: We went twice, once to East Wing, once to West Wing, both times to knockout gift shop that runs along a corridor connecting the two wings together. Lovely if pricey cafe in West Wing. Too brightly lit cafeteria in East Wing. The art is truly world class.
Phillips Museum: Perhaps my favorite small museum in the United States. Old mansion turned into museum. Art superb, cafe very nice. (I'm too tired to describe art in any detail but the museum is worth it for Renoir's Boating Party alone.
Weather
It was early February. We had little snow, little sun, only one day of rain, were prepared for worse. Definitely worth it for avoiding crowds and lower hotel prices BUT it was too cold and too windy for us Californians to walk the Mall as we had hoped and we often used Uber or Lyft rather than walking. My Washingtonian friend, Anne, took us on a driving (weather again) tour of the City, which was fun. I liked the Wharf, loved our lunch on the Potomac, and was again moved and impressed by the National Cathedral and the moon rock. It was a bit too nationalistic for my taste and I don't like having to pay to go into churches, but I find it spectacular.
White House
went in high school, will wait to go again until better times.

That's all I can remember--hope it's helpful to someone.
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Sep 8th, 2018, 02:49 PM
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Should have been titled, "February, 2018"
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Sep 9th, 2018, 12:05 AM
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Thank you for writing. I always enjoy impressions about our former hometown.

I am curious about your WH comment:
"White House
went in high school, will wait to go again until better times."

Is there ever a bad time to visit? We lived in DC for 20 years, and every opportunity we were offered to visit, either as a personal guest or on a public tour we accepted and appreciated. DH and I paid a quick visit to DC in early May of this year and one of our first sightseeing activities was to "drop by" and take a selfie with the WH in the background.
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Sep 9th, 2018, 09:21 AM
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Thanks for the report. I have been to DC several times (quick trips all), but missed the Phillips Museum and the National Cathedral. Being from Florida, when there was snow everywhere during a January trip I was in heaven, but the hubs, working there on a 6 month contract, was sick of it.

We were very disappointed to discover the need for advance ticketing to the NMAAHC, but the building is stunning. Another trip!
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Sep 9th, 2018, 09:21 AM
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I am curious about your statement that the service at the hotel sometimes seemed "fake". Meaning what?
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Sep 9th, 2018, 07:25 PM
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Hi Carolmom,
I don't know if you saw it, but there are also other ways to do NMAAHC--same day online at 6:30am, same day walk-ups sometime; check their website if you already haven't. I envy you Florida's closeness to DC--but not Florida's weather. I'm a pretty good sport in the cold, but I melt and get whiny in humid heat. Som
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Sep 9th, 2018, 07:30 PM
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Meaning that people said pleasant things in a way that felt mechanical or insincere, different from what feels like the genuine warmth that sometimes comes with hotel service. This impression, which both my friend and I had, was totally subjective and may not have been an accurate perception. It's what we Californians are often accused of by Europeans and people from other parts of the U.S, though I personally both say "have a nice day" and like having it said to me.
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Sep 10th, 2018, 03:47 PM
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For the month of September, the NMAAHC won't be requiring passes during the week, but they will be required on the weekend. I've been twice and both times had no problem getting same day tickets by starting the online process at 6:30 am. However you get there, the museum is wonderful and worth a visit!
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Oct 10th, 2018, 02:09 PM
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I was in DC last Tuesday (10/2) and was able to get in to the National Museum of African American History and Culture without an advance ticket when they let some visitors walk in at 1 p.m.. Apparently the September experiment with no timed entry tickets for week days worked well and they will be starting that system beginning in January. Timed tickets will still be necessary on the weekends.
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Oct 11th, 2018, 02:56 PM
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Good to know about the ticketing options for the African-American history Museum. We will have to try to get there one day.
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Oct 14th, 2018, 12:32 AM
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I am sorry to hear that the people who actually took the TIME to say "have a nice day" didn't say it with more enthusiasm.
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