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Washington D.C. Christmas week trip report, 2018: much hotel detail in this post

Washington D.C. Christmas week trip report, 2018: much hotel detail in this post

Jan 6th, 2019, 09:12 AM
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Washington D.C. Christmas week trip report, 2018: much hotel detail in this post

Happy New Year, everyone!
Well our trip to Washington D.C. did not begin in the best possible way. About twenty minutes after take off, the pilot came on and calmly announced we would be returning to San Francisco because of a mechanical problem. Then began a process which included them needing to find another plane, gate etc, all of which involved a four hour wait. Fortunately, we had two United Club passes left and were flying first class using what seemed like an excessive number of miles, but in the end was well worth it. Although United is not our favorite airline right now, at least in the front cabin the service was excellent, the crew calming and cheerful, and the wine quite good. (I cannot say as much for the food. My Italian husband took pictures of our entree` on our flight back as well as the strawberry ice cream (or so they said) with caramel sauce and posted them on Facebook. Italian friends thought it was very funny.
When we arrived at the Willard Intercontinental (hotels are very cheap in DC at this time of year), we were received warmly and delighted to discover we had been upgraded to the Abraham Lincoln Suite. It was decorated in Federalist style, had a full dining room and two bathrooms and was larger than our two bedroom condo in the Bay Area. On Christmas Day, the which I had previously requested because my husband and I first met on Christmas Day arrived with a bottle of champagne and a tray of chocolates and pastries. We happily played hotel until it was time to leave for Christmas dinner with friends where we had delicious homemade gumbo and sweet potato casserole along with the usual turkey and had an interesting conversation about the 2020 election with our host, who had been in the Obama administration.
Two more notes about the Willard: on its website, it looks like the entrance lounge could be elaborate to the point of gaudy. We found it elegant and sumptuous in a beaux-art style, but very lively and fun. It and the adjoining Peacock Gallery as well as the Round Robin Bar were each in their own way spectacular. The food at the Round Robin bar was excellent (I had lamb and Grand Marnier shuffle); the Bellini cocktail was only ok. The breakfast pastries were outstanding. Since we did not particularly care for the decor of the cafe, we mostly breakfasted in the grandeur of the Abraham Lincoln dining room (room service a reasonable $5, unlike the $12 they charge up the street at the Sofitel). Elevators were mirrored with Christmas wreaths that added to the holiday spirit.

cmstraf is offline  
Jan 6th, 2019, 11:45 AM
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So on the 26th which was a mild, sunny day, we got a late start, arriving at Lincoln Memorial at 11. For us, it was too crowded to enjoy, so we walked on to the Martin Luther King memorial, which was austere, imposing and very moving. Except for the statue of Dr. King, the memorial is bright white, with different quotes written on the walls behind the statue and two massive rocks flanking it. You the memorial almost all the way around the reflecting pool heading to the Jefferson Memorial. We spent considerable time in the FDR memorial, which we had also not seen before and liked very much. The statues of a line of obviously very poor men (waiting for food, jobs, I don't know) was very affecting as was a quote of President Roosevelt's about knowing and hating war. Don't miss the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt. Leaving the FDR memorial, we walked on to the Jefferson, beautiful, classical, with famous words inscribed upon the walls. The words "we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal..." were both moving and ironic, as President Jefferson was not only a slave owner, but unlike George Washington, did not free his slaves upon his death.
We took Lyft back to the Willard, lunched in our hotel and took a nap, then spent the late afternoon in the National Portrait Museum and the Museum of American Art. (Note: our usual preference is not to stay in the center of town, the Dupont Circle neighborhood and Georgetown are both appealing...but especially in cold weather, it was tremendously useful to have so many things close by and in walking distance). The highlightsfor us in the Portrait Museum was President Obama's portrait (I cried), which we liked much better in real life than we did in the photographs we've seen of it, but there were many many interesting portraits of presidents and other distinguished men and women. The contrast between the portraits of George Bush Sr (still in black velvet) and George Bush Jr was interesting. I think this museum is underrated, also the attached Museum of American Art where I particularly enjoyed Albert Bierstadt's huge paintings of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. There is a lovely large atrium between the Portrait Gallery and the Museum of American Art, which is a great place to eat or simply rest quietly to avoid being attacked by Stendhal's syndrome.
Once again, TBC.
cmstraf is offline  
Jan 6th, 2019, 01:38 PM
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We arrived at the National African American History and Culture Museum promptly at 10. Make sure to give yourself time to look at the beautiful architecture --its inverted pyramid looks like brown lace, made all the more impressive by being almost completely surrounded by white classical buildings. The museum itself can be overwhelming--it covers 600 years of time, with much thoughtful documentation. I have been twice and it helped me a great deal to follow a 6 hour PBS series on African American history before I came the second time. Take advantage of pauses, especially at the lunch counter, try to leave time and energy for the celebration of art and culture with which the museum finishes. It is a profound and important experience, don't miss it, but don't expect it to be easy, either emotionally or intellectually. On a lighter note, the gift shop has an excellent collection of literature and some terrific t-shirts. We were lucky and after a short wait at the cafeteria, were served fresh fried chicken and cornbread--there are a variety of foods to choose from.
On Friday the 28th, we made a short visit to the National Gallery and its amazing gift shop, then returned "home" to nap before an evening performance of "Miss Saigon" at the Opera House of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The building itself is beautiful with many venues of performance (on my last visit I visited the intimate Jazz Club with a friend)--the opera house itself was stunning and our box seats had a marvelous view. We did not, however, enjoy the music and so left at intermission, giving our tickets to the head usher to gift to someone else. The upstairs Terrace Restaurant is expensive but convenient especially if you don't know the area and want to be sure to be on time for a performance.
Saturday morning we spent at the Phillips museum, perhaps our favorite in DC. We arrived when it opened and had some time alone with Renoir's Boating Party and other Impressionist paintings before others arrived. The Migration series is very moving (I know I keep using this word, but it keeps being the one which seems to best fit my experience) and the Nordic exhibit was spectacular. The cafe was very reasonably priced and charming. I was left with room for afternoon tea with a friend at the tiny but excellent Lady Camiella's tearoom in Georgetown.
On Sunday we went to the Hirshorn sculpture museum ( wonderful Henry Moores)before the National Gallery opened (we are great believers in going early or late to avoid crowds) then on to see the National Galley's the excellent photography exhibit of Gordon Parks, wandered through centuries of its West Wing, having a few moments alone with a DaVinci painting that uses the same model as the one in the Mona Lisa,rested a bit in the hotel, then saw a totally knock-out performance of the Christmas Carol in the Ford Theatre. It included many Christmas carols beautifully sung, an excellent rendering of the classical Dickens story, and an ethnically diverse cast (included Scrooge, superbly played by an African American actor. It was uplifting, left me feeling all Christmas-y which made me aware of how White much of our culture is and wonder what it is like for children of color to grow up in a country which despite progress and change often does not reflect the diversity of our population in the media and the arts. We finished the day with a light supper in the festive Round Robin bar of the Willard hotel--excellent food, great service, and good fun imagining the high powered deals that go on there at those moments when the government happens to be functioning.
I forgot to mention that between the sculpture museum and the National Gallery is the Mall with a view of the Washington Monument---and on the street dozens of food trucks: Mexican, Persian, Moroccan, Southern, Ethiopian, funny and magnificent, and for me yet another reminder that it's our diversity that makes America great. My naturalized U.S. citizen Italian born husband enjoyed the message of the mediums as well.
The morning of the 31st we got to the Lincoln Memorial at 7:15, well worth the effort because we had it almost completely to ourselves. These monuments are indeed monumental. We walked through the Vietnam Memorial then rushed pack to our hotel to pack to go home and have a final lunch in Abraham Lincoln's suite's formal dining room. Flight home was uneventful, but seemed endless -- it would really be nice if planes went back to having more real air on long flights.
All in all we had a great time in what for us is a great city. Thanks to all you Fodorites for your suggestions (especially the Christmas Carol)--we'll probably have a chance to see more of the private things if we happen to be there during the next shutdown

And a special plea to all of you---please please please don't litter in the national parks and monuments while the shutdown continues to shut Federal employees out. These treasures are our homes!
cmstraf is offline  
Jan 7th, 2019, 02:56 AM
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Enjoyed your impressions of our former hometown. Until you added politics, that is.
fourfortravel is online now  
Jan 7th, 2019, 06:05 AM
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I apologize, fourfortravel. I was trying to avoid them, but see places where I did not. And my plea for to people not to litter was totally non partisan. I love the National Parks, belong to the Yosemite Conservancy, and am distressed with us, the public, no matter of what political persuasion, that we haven't been better at picking up after ourselves so far. I think each one of us is responsible for taking everything out that we bring in, whether in the wilderness or urban monuments.
cmstraf is offline  
Jan 8th, 2019, 02:49 AM
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I can empathize. We were annual NPS pass holders and still abide by the "Leave no Trace" protocol. The GS troop (the few girls remaining that made it to Ambassador) that I co-led before moving to Vienna volunteered their time to help clean up the Mall after the post-Inauguration mess left by slovenly feminists. And I don't have enough fingers to count the times that DH and DS's Scout troop stepped in to clean up parks or small river runs, even in and around the upscale postal code we once called home.

All of this said, Fodors is my "escape" from politics and whatever else the MSM is screeching about. We think D.C. is a pretty special city, too; glad that you enjoyed your visit.
fourfortravel is online now  
Jan 8th, 2019, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by fourfortravel View Post
Enjoyed your impressions of our former hometown. Until you added politics, that is.
Where? A moving portrait? America's diversity?

Excellent trip report. I think people fail to realize how interesting the Portrait Gallery is.
Birdie is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 11:18 AM
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I love standing on the place MLK stood at the Lincoln Memorial. I need to go see the National Gallery, it has been years. I feel for those who had made plans to visit and much is closed. My friend took her visitors to Newseum this week.

DC is cleaning up now and will bill the Federal gov. They could also turn off the water at the WH if they wanted. Jose Andres is giving Fed workers free lunch by the Navy Memorial starting today. I know so many not working or working without pay it is very sad. Coast Guard families are getting some help from USAA and Navy Federal will loan and repay when back pay comes.

Such a nice trip report. Thank you, miss going there since my parents have passed away.
Macross is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 11:28 AM
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Nice report. I'm impressed that you got upgraded to the Lincoln suite! congrats!
Kathie is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 04:33 PM
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The March on Washington 2019 is this weekend. I think DC will be prepared and have more trash containers out for the marchers. The numbers overwhelmed the city in 2017. It will be good for the restaurants and hotels with the shutdown.

The monuments in the evening are my favourite part. We had so many school trips to DC and girl scout trips. So much is free and wish more people took advantage. I took my husband several years ago to the Capital and we got to go in and watch the house vote.
I never thought about seeing a play at the Ford. So glad you enjoyed the Christmas Carol.
Macross is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 06:00 PM
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I have finally had a moment to read your wonderful report, cmstraf, and want to thank you for your insights, made all the more powerful, IMO, for the perspective you brought to it, including the political comments you shared. Whether one agrees or disagrees seems irrelevant to me; it was your trip, and your call to speak about whatever made the experience what it was for you. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone is forced to read Fodor’s.
kja is offline  
Jan 17th, 2019, 05:07 AM
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Sounds like a great trip, and I can't say I noticed that much in the way of politics.

For people who like their museums quiet, may I recommend the excellent Sackler and Freer?
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 17th, 2019, 07:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Birdie View Post
Where? A moving portrait? America's diversity?

Excellent trip report. I think people fail to realize how interesting the Portrait Gallery is.
Oh boom. Agree on all counts. Thanks for your great report, cmstraf. People should reference it next time anyone asks about the places you have given great detail to. The Kogod Courtyard between the Portrait Gallery and the American Art museum is one of my favorite places in the city.

Attention: FourforTravel, stop reading here or your sensibilities may be disturbed.

The last time I was in the Portrait Gallery (late last fall) there was still a pair of velvet ropes in front the Obama portrait with people lined up to take their pictures in front of it. That brought tears to my eyes considering the current dystopian nightmare.
obxgirl is offline  
Jan 19th, 2019, 10:03 AM
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Really enjoyed your report. Ditto what kja said about your insight.
travlsolo2 is offline  
Jan 20th, 2019, 06:38 AM
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The velvet ropes, the lines of people (and the guard stationed nearby) are still there.
cmstraf is offline  
Jan 20th, 2019, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by cmstraf View Post
... The highlightsfor us in the Portrait Museum was President Obama's portrait (I cried), which we liked much better in real life than we did in the photographs we've seen of it, but there were many many interesting portraits of presidents and other distinguished men and women. The contrast between the portraits of George Bush Sr (still in black velvet) and George Bush Jr was interesting. I think this museum is underrated....
I felt exactly the same way. I didn't "dislike" it in photographs but fell in love with it in person. Also LOVED Michelle's portrait. I'd not been to the portrait galllery before and loved the distinctive and different styles for the presidential portraits. Really enjoyed the room across the hall, especially Katharine Hepburn's portraits and Oscars. I need to return when I have more time. That was a quick visit, and like you I used Lyft to get around.

Wonderful trip report. Thanks for sharing such lovely details.

I agree with the others than I read nothing "political" in your trip report.
starrs is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2019, 02:44 PM
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Terrific report. Love D.C.!

maitaitom is offline  
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