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Trip Report Trip report: NYC/DC

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Following my queries about my itinerary ( http://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/what-do-you-think-of-my-nycdc-itinerary.cfm ) I thought I'd come back to do a trip report after all the help I received from you guys :D

Even though our itinerary was packed I'd say we still managed to do most of the things on our list.

After arriving in NYC on Friday 24th Feb, security seemed to take FOREVER at the airport. Seriously, register for the Global Entry scheme in advance if you can as I have the impression this would take some time off your wait. We had registered for the French equivalent (named PARAFES) but this didn't help in the US. We got to our hotel, Novotel on West 52nd St, OK (even though the driving style of our taxi driver was a bit 'special' and the car smelled of vomit) and then headed out again to our restaurant reservation, Bar Boulud. This restaurant was AMAZING and I would totally recommend it. We then got the metro back as far as 42nd Street (as close as we could get on a direct metro line) and then walked back the rest of the way. This was great to help us get our bearings, get some fresh air, and see more of New York. The bright lights of Times Square were overwhelming and we couldn't believe how late the shops stayed open :D

On Saturday 25th Feb we got up early to grab breakfast, although nowhere in NYC seems to open in breakfast before 8. Got it at the Europa Café on Times Square, although we'd recommend to European visitors that you are careful in cafés: if you want an espresso, make sure you actually say the word 'espresso', as if you just ask for 'coffee', you'll get a bucket of brown liquid that tastes like nothing by comparison :p We then went to Ellis Island. BIG THANKS to the person who recommended we reserve in advance; the line for those who hadn't reserved was enormous and this was a very cold and windy day. We loved Ellis Island and got some great pics of the Statue of Liberty too. After this we went for lunch at Au Pain Quotidien (really high quality food; I was surprised) before heading to the Museum of Modern Art (big love for this place!). We then went to Saks and also tried to go to the Food Emporium for some American treats (Pop-Tarts and the like!) but didn't come our with anything significant. It was still really cold and windy so after that we just went back to the hotel and tried to confirm our table at Sushi Yasuda for that night. We had tried several times the night before and during the day to call to confirm our reservation but had got no answer. When we did get an answer we were kindly told that they'd cancelled our reservation! NICE!! Seems a very odd way to run a business and I'm amazed you can stay open when customer service is this poor. Seems that set the tone for the evening as we ended up staying in the Novotel for dinner and the service was shocking in there too.

On the Sunday we headed out for breakfast again, which ate up more time than I would have liked, but I guess there's not much you can do about that when nowhere opens before 8. The Amtrak system seems bonkers (why check tickets in person with one massive 'queue' before boarding and then check in person on the train again?!) but the advice/warnings given by Fodors members beforehand helped enormously. We got into DC at lunchtime and went to Ping Pong for lunch (epic dim sum!) before checking into the Madera Hotel. While not as grand as on the website it was certainly serviceable and friendly and the location was great too for what we wanted to do next - the Phillips Collection (amazing, would definitely go back). After this we decided to go and take pictures of the US Capitol and Washington Monument. The walk between these two was fine. Knowing that museums closed early and that so we had time to kill before dinner, we walked from the WM to the Lincoln Memorial (longer than it looks, but doable!). Knowing we would have to walk back either way, we stopped by the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Roosevelt Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. This was kind of tiring - we estimate that the roundtrip from the US Capitol, via the WM and all those memorials, back to the Smithsonian, is about 5 miles. We're young and fit, so managed it, but I'd recommend the tour bus to others. We then got the metro from Smithsonian to Center for the Old Ebbitt Grill for dinner. Excellent food and service; would recommend!

On Monday we had breakfast at the hotel. At $1 each you couldn't complain: freshly squeezed orange juice, a selection of fresh fruit, toast or muffin, and coffee or tea, as well as iced water. We went to Arlington Cemetery in the morning and were confronted by one of DC's friendly neighbourhood nutters in the metro on the way there...NICE. (Speaking of the metro in DC, why is it so damn dark?! A shame because the rest of the architecture is actually quite nice and the darkness just makes it scary/dangerous.) Had a beautiful sunny morning at Arlington and saw the changing of the guard(?) at the tomb of the unknown soldier. Because we got there early we were able to do the West Wing of the National Gallery of Art in the morning too before getting lunch at Zaytinya's (excellent quality of food and value for money too!). We then went next door to Starbucks for coffee (they don't serve hot drinks at Zaytinyas) and for the free wifi to check for post office locations (I was really surprised at how, compared to Paris and London, small supermarkets and post offices seem virtually extinct in both DC and NYC. If you think you'll need to use such amenities, look them up in advance!). After finding the post office we went to the National Museum of American History, which we loved (except for the simulator ride, that was a bit crappy). We finished there early (maybe at 4.45ish) so figured we'd dash back to the National Gallery of Art and try to do the East Wing before they closed (thinking they closed at 5.30)...only to find they closed at 5 (why do the museums in DC and NYC close so early?). So we sat down on a bench opposite and just people-watched, soaked up the sun and wrote postcards for a bit (the weather in DC was so much better than in NYC) before going to the White House to get a better look at it from the outside. On the way there we did find a supermarket where I was able to get the Holy Grail of a box of Lucky Charms :p After this we headed to the Washington W Hotel for its fabled view over the city. This was a strange experience; the maitre d' just muttered something about a waiting list for the bar seating and shoved us towards the bar (where there was just one seat, which my husband gave to me). The view was amazing, but for a Monday night I wouldn't have expected there to be 'reserved' signs on all the window seat tables; if I'd known I would have booked in advance too! We ordered two cranberry juices, and when we asked for the bill the friendly barman gave it to us on the house. SCORE. We then went to another bar, a Sofitel nearer to the restaurant where we would be dining. We had excellent service there :) Dinner was at Georgia Brown's, where the portions were ENORMOUS. No dessert for us!

On Tuesday we got the train back to NYC in the morning. Ironically, despite it potentially being a commuter train thanks to its stops every 20-30 mins, it was deserted compared to the Sunday morning train, which had been super busy. I know people advised against the train in favour of open jaw plane tickets, but this was a great chance for us to relax, check out some genuine American scenery, and take advantage of free wifi. It was also a lot cheaper than an open jaw airline ticket would have been and we didn't feel we lost too much of either of our days as we took the earliest train possible each morning. On arrival in NYC we checked into the Library Hotel, which was a class act all the way, and was not actually that much more expensive than the Novotel. I know which hotel I would pick if I were to come again! We had lunch at the hotel restaurant, Madison and Vine, which had high quality food and coffee, and excellent service. After this we headed for Central Park due to the weather still being good, and took time to walk around in the fresh air and sunshine looking at the statues. (Seriously, if anyone thinks the air in NYC is not fresh, you need to come and visit Paris: cigarette smoking/people blowing the subsequent smoke in your face seems to have been almost completely eradicated in American cities by comparison.) We also visited a wine shop to bring back some Californian wine, and found a Sephora for me to buy some gifts. I'd also wanted to go to Target, but after finding out it was in Harlem, I changed my mind :( We went to the Mermaid Inn for dinner, and it was good to see a different part of New York, but it was also one of the best meals we had: divine blackened catfish and amazing lobster!

It was really good that we did Central Park on the Tuesday as on the Wednesday (our last day) it pissed it down with rain just about all day. We went initially to the International Centre of Photography, which I would totally recommend, before going to a Benefit shop and the Monocle shop in Greenwich Village. I didn't like Greenwich Village; too trendy and lacking the 'soul' of the rest of NY imo. We got absolutely SOAKED; it was the kind of rain where an umbrella wouldn't have made much difference. We had lunch at the Little Owl; we'd been hoping to go there one evening but they were totally fully booked for the entire time we were there, so we had high hopes for this lunchtime if it was this hard to get into. This turned out to be a little odd, as we turned up half an hour ahead of our reservation and they had plenty of space. We were seated with no trouble. What else was odd was that our starters were delicious (calamari declared the best ever by my husband and I loved the meatball and gravy sliders) but our mains were mediocre and less creative. Service was also kind of surly in here and we couldn't see quite why it was so popular. Given the location it's possibly because it's just "fashionable" to be able to say you've been. It was still pouring with rain, so we were happy to get the train back to the hotel and indulge in their Reading Room (I want a room like this in my house!!! Beautiful soft furnishings, a piano, great views, stacks of books, ample high quality snacks and biscuits, and a coffee machine that grinds the beans for you...LOVE!!) until our taxi showed up. Again it was Dial 7, again the driver's driving was atrocious. The car was also overheated in the extreme. I wouldn't use this car company again. Our wait at the airport wasn't too long, but looking at photos of our trip and eating our body weight in airport Toblerone soon helped to ease the pain of leaving and make the time go :)
too long, didn't read? See below:
Bar Boulud (NYC)
Europa Café (NYC)
Au Pain Quotidien (NYC)
Ping Pong (DC)
Madera Hotel (DC)
Old Ebbitt Grill (DC)
Zaytinya's (DC)
Washington W Hotel rooftop bar (DC) - but book in advance for a window seat!
Georgia Brown's (DC)
Library Hotel (NYC)
Madison and Vine (NYC)
Mermaid Inn (NYC)

Novotel Times Square (NYC)
Dial 7 Cars
Sushi Yasuda (NYC)
Little Owl (NYC)

Hope my trip report is helpful for some people :)

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