A Delightful Day in Dynamic D.C.


It’s impossible not to run yourself ragged in Washington, D.C. There’s just so much to see and do. So at the end of the day, foot sore and weary, we were ecstatic to be able to return to Donovan House, the boutique jewel box hotel located right in the middle of all the action. (See our review). After all the excitement of our nation’s capital, this oasis of soft lights and subdued, Asian inspired décor was a perfect sanctuary.

It was here I first became aware of a strange prevailing local phenomenon. The front desk clerks are gracious, helpful, even soothing. In fact, most of the people in D.C. are nice. They also don’t cross the street against the light, and what’s positively weird, they don’t walk on the grass. As a transplanted provincial, I have come to accept my beloved adopted home, The Big Apple, as the gold standard for behavior. And the graciousness I discovered in Washington was just so…not New York.

It’s not embarrassing to be a tourist here. In fact, it actually seems to be encouraged. One result of this is how easy it is to approach other out-of-towners for a chance to share impressions. I got to chat with two savvy world travelers, Colin and Karen Twitchett of Sydney; their observations were spot on. “Everything’s so big,” enthused Karen, here celebrating her 50th birthday. “The broadness of the avenues is very impressive, and the footprints of the buildings are large, as well. And the monuments! We also enjoy the leisurely pace here.”

Her husband added, “This trip is especially meaningful for me, because I studied American History at University in Australia. I doubt that many people here do the reverse,” he smiled.

The thoughtful couple also appreciated the beauty of the cherry blossoms in bloom, as did my husband and I, and what seemed like about a million other visitors. While the Tidal Basin was jammed with sightseers, the landscape around the Washington monument was somewhat less crowded, but just as glorious. In fact, the combination of the iconic obelisk and the flowering trees was simply breathtaking.

It’s hard to know where to look next; turn to your left, and there’s the Capitol building, just as we’ve seen it in scores of pictures throughout our lives. Seen head on, without its wings clearly visible, the White House looks so much smaller than we’d imagined it to be; lots of mansions in Greenwich, Ct. are much more imposing. And next time, I would so love to be able to join the ladies having the Champagne Tea in the Willard Hotel  (“They just kept bringing us sandwiches” one elegantly dressed diner confided).

Culture won out, and we spent the afternoon museum hopping. I wish we could have visited every branch of the Smithsonian, but there just wasn’t time. As one who is totally addicted to jewelry, my primary pilgrimage had to be to see the Hope Diamond at the National Museum of Natural History. All the jewelry is fabulous; my husband John equally appreciated the unique quartz and geode specimens. A word of warning: go early. This is where they keep the dinosaurs, and kids come in mad droves.

Not to be missed was the gallery of First Ladies’ Inaugural Gowns at the National Museum of American History. I hadn’t remembered that Laura Bush wore bright red in 2001; the drawings of less recent gowns were nearly as fascinating as the main exhibit. Grace Coolidge was also depicted in red; her 1923 flapper dress was undoubtedly the height of fashion in its day.

It was impossible to see in photographs the meticulous workmanship that made Michelle Obama’s dress so outstanding; standing close up, every stitch and every ruffle was flawless.

There was also a display of pictures that famed photographer Richard Avedon had taken in Palm Beach of the Kennedys in January of 1961. I had forgotten how young and how beautiful they were.

I must admit to being amazed at how sensational the restaurants are in D.C. Our first night in the city, after having driven most of the day, we were thrilled to sample the fabulous food at Againn. Billed as a gastropub, it looks like a casual watering hole for the young movers and shakers of Washington. But the fare rivals any we’ve eaten in more pretentious environments. (See our review).

We did more walking than we’d done in years. That night, we were wracked with aches and pains, and we felt every inch of our age, which we usually try to ignore. Why not eat in the beautiful Zentan restaurant just off the lobby of Donovan House? It turned out to be an experience for which we would have gladly travelled any distance. The Pan Asian food, exquisite service, and harmonious ambiance were heavenly. (See our review).

And what a joy it was to get back to our tranquil room! We toasted with the sake we’d found upon our arrival, and nibbled on the chocolates that had been placed on the pillows. John took a long, luxurious bubble bath in the super deep tub, and then wrapped himself in the sumptuous terry cloth robe that was provided. I just snuggled into the big, comfortable bed, gazed out at the bright lights of the magnificent city around us, and day dreamed about our next trip to Washington, D.C.

Michall Jeffers and her husband, photographer John Warner, enjoy chronicling their travels together in her words and his images. Michall writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. www.michalljeffers.com

Photo credit: John Warner

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