A May 2003 trip
to Washington, D.C. by zabelle
Quote: Washington is one of those places that holds an endless facination for many Americans. This time we went looking for the road less traveled and had a wonderful time finding it.src= http://www.igougo.com/photos/journal_photos/Im003552.jpg border=2 width =300 height=200 >
We wanted to see some of the lesser visited spots in D.C. We began our big adventure at the Museum of Women in the Arts. It was too late to visit another museum, so we walked down New York Avenue to Pennsylvania and walked by the White House and around
We popped into Decatur House Museum,
but the last tour of the day had already left. Tired and thirsty, we headed across the street to Teaism for some sustenance. We saw Beauty and the Beast
at the National Theatre and finished the day with dinner at the Capitol Brew House.
We then went to Decatur House, Octagon House, DAR Museum, Hirshhorn, National Gallery, American History Museum, Hardrock Café, Ford’s Theatre and that was the end of day two.
I used Expedia to put together a package, hotel, flight, and shuttle to and from our hotel. I choose the Grand Hyatt for its location.
and the National Theatre, assumimg we could walk to both these locations from the hotel. This turned out not to be the case, however, not because of the distance, but because of safety issues. We visited the Tourist and Convention Center on Friday, and after making friends with the man at the desk in the lobby, we talked about our theatre plans. He suggested that we might be able to walk to Ford’s Theatre, but we should take a cab to the National. Since he had no reason to steer us wrong, we followed his advice. We did walk home from Ford’s Theatre, and it was one of the scariest walks of my life--I would never recommend it to anyone. There is construction on the street, and there are lots of dark, shadowy spots. This wouldn’t have been that bad if it weren’t for the men who were hanging out on most street corners. We had to zigzag down the street to avoid any encounters. Cabs are plentiful and cheap, so don’t take any chances.
Hotel | "Grand Hyatt"
Our check-in was seamless, and we were soon zooming up to our 11th-floor room. My awe only lasted until I tried to insert my key card into the door, and it took two hands to yank it back out that time and every time I used it.
The room had all the amenities you would expect of a first-class hotel: two double beds
(with uninspired bedding), a large dresser (with two drawers that wouldn’t open), desk, remote-control TV, minibar, coffee maker, chair, marble bathroom, ironing board, feather pillows, and firm mattresses. One amenity that was lacking was a deadbolt that worked. I know I should have called the desk to have it fixed, but I didn’t. We did have the bar that kept the door from swinging open, and Irene felt safe enough with that (I felt less so).
Eating in this hotel is fabulous. We had the breakfast buffet both mornings, and it is one of the best I have ever had.
There are six choices of juice, cold cereal with either skim or whole milk, fresh whole fruit, fresh cut-up fruit, dried fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, turkey, cheese, breakfast potatoes, French toast, grits, oatmeal, toast, bagels, Danish, donuts, croissants, yogurt, and on Sunday, a made-to-order waffle and omelet bar. It was well worth the $14.95/15.95 price. For sandwiches or salads, Zephyrs Café offers a reasonably priced eating option. There are three other restaurants and a bar at the hotel.
The hotel has an underground connection to the Metro at the Metro Center Station, and for an additional charge, you can have access to a health club with pool and exercise equipment. What this Hyatt has going for it is location, especially if you plan to visit some of the same places we visited.
On Sunday, we left our luggage with the bell staff after we checked out at noon, and they put it away in a back room for us. Everyone we met at the hotel was charming, and the security was excellent--there were security guards walking in the lobby at all times of the day and night. The side doors on 12th Street are closed late at night, so you need to come around to the H Street entrance. There is also a line of cabs waiting outside the side door on 12th Street, but the shuttle picks up at the H Street entrance.
This is a very nice hotel with just a few small housekeeping problems. I would recommend it and would come here again myself.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 11, 2003
Grand Hyatt Washington
1000 H St.
Washington, D.C., United States 20001
Restaurant | "Capitol City Brewing Company"
We were seated quickly, and there was no delay in getting our orders taken. I ordered the Bistro Beefsteak Garni, which is an 8-ounce center-cut top sirloin steak with peppercorn butter, marinated in red wine and roasted garlic. It was served with a Caesar salad and fries. Irene ordered the pasta primavera, angel hair pasta with carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and tofu. The portions are generous, and everything was well-prepared. What was unusual was that my Caesar salad was not served first; instead, it was on the plate with my steak and fries.
There was a very mixed clientele the night we were there—everyone from seniors to young students. The main draw is their brew pints. Because of my diet, I was not able to test out any of them, but we appeared to be the only people in there who weren’t. They have a nice selection of souvenirs to bring the experience home with you, and Irene picked up one of the shot glasses for her husband.
The décor is very typical of most brewpubs—large copper vat, kegs above the door, and the open-warehouse feeling. The booths have burgundy cushions, and the table and chairs are wooden. The barstools though look like something from a soda fountain, with chrome and vinyl. The restrooms can be identified by the black-and-white photos of the appropriate sex person. This was very good value, and the service was excellent.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 11, 2003
Capitol City Brewing Company - Postal Square
2 Massachusetts Avenue Northeast
Washington, DC 20001
I wasn’t sure what to expect; I guess I expected it to look like every other theater I’ve gone to in London or New York. In some ways it does, but I was totally surprised by the seats. They are wooden chairs with cushions tied on to make them more comfortable. Your program will be on your seat when you arrive, escorted by one of the ushers. You feel like quite a privileged guest.
By sheer dumb luck, I had ordered what the usher told me were the best seats in the house. I ordered our tickets online. We had two seats that were isolated by a metal railing from the rest of the audience. We had totally unobstructed viewing and more leg room than I can ever remember having. The rows are well-spaced, and they are raised enough to give everyone an excellent view. The acoustics in this venue are fantastic probably because it is relatively small.
The main reason I wanted to visit Ford’s Theatre had nothing to do with 1776 but was, of course, because of its historic significance. It was here in April of 1865 during a performance of My American Cousin that John Wilkes Booth fatally wounded Abraham Lincoln. He was removed across the street to Petersen House, where he died. John Wilkes Booth jump from the presidential box to the stage and escaped, although he had broken his leg.
The box is still there, draped in the American flag, and it is a formidable drop to the stage. The usher assured me that the stage has been raised since those days, so it was even a further drop in 1865. No one uses the boxes in the theater on either side these days. The occupants of the front row of the balcony on the right side, however, were able to lean over and look directly into President Lincoln's box.
Ford’s Theatre is located right next door to the Hard Rock Café, so if you are a fan, it makes a great before or after theater stop. I would highly recommend that you take a cab to the theater, as this is (as one of my guidebooks describes it) "a dicey neighborhood". Street construction has made it even more so.
I would have liked to visit Petersen House as well, but it is closed for renovation at this time. There are no productions playing at the theatre during the summer months. They will begin again in the fall, and you can check their website for upcoming productions.
511 10th Street Nw
Washington, D.C. 20004
The only way to visit the house is on a tour, and they begin on Saturday morning at 10:15am. The last weekday tour begins at 4pm. The normal tour would take about 45 minutes, but ours ran over an hour--we were almost overlapped by the next tour, so I know we took longer than usual.
The Decaturs only lived in the house for a short time before the Commander died from a wound received in a duel. Mrs. Decatur had to sell the house and the contents to pay off their debts. The second owner was Mr. Gadsby, who added a wing to house his slaves. The house then passed into the Beale family, and it had a great deal of Victorian renovations done to it. The Beales' daughter was the final owner, and she lived in the house well into this century.
The house is in the process of being renovated. The projected completion date is 2005. Part of the problem is deciding which of the eras best represents the character of the house. They have decided to bring it back to the Decatur Era without destroying some of the Victorian additions. The current trend in restorations is to make restorations that are reversible if trends change.
You begin your tour in the addition and move to the main house. Because it was raining, we didn’t go outside to do this but rather went through a door in the gift shop. The tour began in the downstairs hallway and then went upstairs to the main reception room. There are original wooden shutters on the windows, which are part of the original Latrobe design. The crystal chandeliers added by Edward Beale are quite spectacular, and there is a Steinway grand piano that was worth a fortune when it was purchased.
The family parlor and dining room on the first floor have several pieces that are original to the Decaturs, including a presentation sword that he was given for winning a naval battle.
During the 1960s, Mrs. Kennedy was instrumental in having some of the new buildings on Jackson torn down and replaced with Federal reproduction townhouses. It looks quite amazing now; if you didn’t know they were reproductions, you would swear they were original.
I loved the gift shop here. There are loads of really interesting items. I purchased a wonderful painted tin tray, and they shipped it home for me for only $6. Sure beats have to carry it around all day.
There is no charge to enter, but you can feel free to leave a donation.
Decatur House Museum
1610 H Street NW
Washington, DC 20006
Attraction | "Octagon House"
This is where the staff lived and worked, or rather, I should say, where the slaves worked. The Tayloe family, who built the house, were slave-owners from Virginia. Mr. Tayloe was a tobacco farmer, and Mrs. Tayloe was the daughter of the governor of Maryland. They had Octagon House built as their winter home. Washington was deserted farmland when they took bids from Latrobe and Thornton for the construction of their new home. They took Thornton's bid mostly because it was one third the price of Latrobe's. In the final analysis, the price ended up being identical to Labtrobe’s.
The lower level has a kitchen, servants hall, and storage rooms.
There are plaques giving good information about what would have been happening in each of the rooms. Renovations have uncovered a well, or a storage cistern, in the floor of the servants hall. One of the unusual features was a bake oven; at this time, most homes didn’t bake their own bread. They brought the loaves to a community oven to be baked. The Tayloes were obviously very well-to-do.
When we came back upstairs, we were joined by a docent, Bob, who took us on our tour of the remainder of the house. He had an amazing number of anecdotal stories about the house's past and present. We spent a very enjoyable half hour or more touring with him.
Octagon House was completed in 1800. Early in the War of 1812, the French Ambassador lived here. Since he was a supporter of the monarchy, not Napoleon, the British didn’t burn the house. After he moved out and the White House was burned, the Tayloes offered the house to President Madison and his wife Dolly. They accepted and moved in. It was in the upstairs office that the treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, was signed.
Octagon House has for years been the center of a plethora of ghost stores. Some of them center on one of the Tayloe daughters who is supposed to have fallen or been pushed down the main stairway when she fell in love with an unacceptable suitor. This has never been proven. Another story is that people have had the experience of smelling lilacs in the house, said to have been Dolly Madison’s favorite perfume. Now, I am not at all sensitive, but as Irene and I were finishing the tour and walking down the stairs,
I was overwhelmed by a very heavy floral scent. I turned to Irene and asked, "Can you smell that?" Guess what--she could too. No one else was around, and neither one of us was wearing perfume. I can’t explain it. Was it lilac? Maybe!
Entrance fee: $5.
1799 New York Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20006
Attraction | "DAR Museum"
We arrived between tours, so we had a few minutes to walk around the lobby area. Security was very strict here; our bags were looked at, and we had to go through metal detectors before getting our badge. You need a badge to tour the building. The member who greeted us suggested we might want to pass the time until the next tour by visiting the library. We did go to the library, but there is a charge to use it. Since neither of us has the slightest chance of finding an ancestor who fought or helped the Americans during the Revolutionary War, we decided to save our money.
We ended up getting a personal tour, just the two of us. We learned the history of the DAR, that they owe their existence to the fact that women were denied membership in the Sons of the American Revolution. The DAR building covers a whole city block, C to D Street between 17th and 18th St. Edward Casey designed the building, and the portico has 13 columns that represent the original 13 colonies. I made sure I identified the one with Connecticut’s name on it.
The library was formerly a theater, and we visited it sitting in what would have been the box seats. We had a bird’s-eye view of all the bookcases. There are flags hanging all around the room, representing the states, and they are hung in the order that they entered the union. The ceiling is made of glass, and the windows open like skylights to let in ventilation.
There are over 30 rooms maintained by the membership of their respective states. Each guide will show different rooms; they all have their favorites, but they will try to show you your home state if they have a room. We began with Massachusetts. It is a Sam Adams-period room with furniture from the 18th century. My favorite is a tea box said to have been one of those thrown into Boston Harbor. (The fact that it has no water damage may put a lie to that story.) Not all of the rooms are period rooms; some of them are collections. Our room, Connecticut, was the board room. We also saw New Jersey, Texas, and New York. All of them were very different, and each one had its own unique flavor. I look forward to visiting again so I can see some of the other rooms.
There is a very nice gift shop and a small museum behind it. Allow at least an hour for your visit.
Daughters of the American Revolution Museum
1776 D Street NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20006
Unfortunately for anyone who might wish to see this exhibit, it ends on June 18, 2003. In the exhibit are works by Angelica Kauffman, Elizabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun, Christina Robertson, and Marie Anne Collot. It was put together to celebrate the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg. Since I am a big Vigee-Lebrun fan, it was a must-see for me, and I was not at all disappointed. It was magnificent, with lots of portraits and sculpture.
The building itself is a beautiful structure with a wonderful open and light feeling.
Ironically, the Renaissance Revival building was originally the Washington Masonic Temple--certainly not somewhere women would have been welcomed, let alone showcased. The permanent collection includes works by Mary Cassatt, Elizabeth Louise Vigee Lebrun, and Camille Claudel, just to name a few. The placement of the works is very attractive, but since the exhibit was taking a large part of the museum, some works were not hung. I did, however, find an artist I wasn’t acquainted with and am now fascinated by: Judy Chicago.
I loved her colorful works and was disappointed by the gift shop's lack of prints.
We particularly liked the silver collection. It was all pieces of work by female silversmiths, or at least from the workshop of female silversmiths. Somehow, I never thought of silversmithing as a craft practiced by women. Many of them began as the wives or daughters of silversmiths and came into the profession after the deaths of their husbands or fathers. Others just owned the businesses but never did the work themselves.
The gift shop is exceptional. They have some lovely jewelry and craft items. It is worth a visit even if you don’t want to spend the $8 that it costs to visit the museum.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C., United States 20005
Most of the more famous sites are clustered around the mall. At one end is the Washington Monument and, at the other, the Capitol. In between is the Smithsonian Museum, which fits anyone’s taste. If you are visiting with children, the Air and Space Museum is a must, followed by the Museum of Natural History. Since we were childless, we happily visited the Hirshhorn
to be wowed by the sculpture, the National Gallery to see the Da Vinci, and the Museum of American History to be brought close to tears by the new 9/11 exhibit.
It was the only time all weekend I saw hundreds of people in a small space being almost silent; it was eerie and very emotional at the same time.
Eating On Saturday it isn’t all that easy to eat on the mall. The restaurant at the Hirshhorn was closed while the restaurants at the National Gallery close at 2:30pm. We had to go down into the concourse at the National Gallery to grab a gelato and water at the Expresso and Gelato Bar. We were starving and very glad to find anything.
Hard Rock Café I have to admit that I am a Hard Rock Lover. I never pass up an opportunity to stop and enjoy. This was no exception. We had dinner here on Saturday, and since it was right next door to Ford’s Theater, it made the perfect stop especially since we were in the middle of a monsoon-like downpour. I have to highly recommend the strawberry shortcake.
It was huge; both of us together couldn’t finish it, not that we didn’t try (some things are worth getting off the wagon for). Teaism It was warm and we were thirsty-it seemed a natural stop. Across the street from the Decatur Museum, this branch was a godsend. We had an iced Rooibos Tisane and coconut rice pudding with almonds. Refreshing and totally decedent.
Lafayette Park It began its life as President’s Park and is dominated by not only the statue of the Marquise de Lafayette, but also one of Andrew Jackson
and Rochambeau. It is a great place for a wonderful view of the White House, for a shady stroll, or for a walk through history.
Roman Catholic Church If you happen to be Catholic, the good news about staying at the Grand Hyatt is that St. Patrick’s Church
is right on 10th Street, about 2 blocks down on the same side of the street as Ford’s Theater. Locating it was the one bright light from our terrifying walk back from Ford’s Theatre. Just a note: please keep your wits about you, and don’t assume that because you are in church, you are safe. During Mass, a street person came and sat in the pew in front of us (and we were quite far forward), and he had his eye on Irene’s purse. I warned her to move it between us so we had a happy ending, but you need to watch out all the time. You definitely don’t leave it while you go to Communion. Even if you’re not Catholic, this church is worth a visit. It was built in 1792 and has a fabulous organ and choir, and the noon Mass is a High Mass.
Buying an Expedia PackageThis was the first time I have purchased a package from Expedia. It was simple and a good bargain as well. After I had priced it, I tried to match it on my own and I was not able to. Even the Blue Shuttle was $1 cheaper purchased before from Expedia. To check them out, go to www.expedia.com.