Eight Great Washington DC Hotels

Whether you’re headed into the town for the Rally to Restore Sanity / March Against Fear on October 30 or just looking for a weekend away, our nation’s capitol is filled with hotels that demand recognition. No matter what you’re searching for, you’ll find a personality, price point and size to suit your needs. Here are eight of our favorites:

For the “See and Be Seen” Crowd: W Washington DC
The first of Starwood’s W chain to enter Washington, the former Hotel Washington has gotten a chic modern makeover. The Beaux Arts façade has remained virtually intact with an interior top-to-bottom makeover that includes the area’s only Bliss Spa, a steakhouse by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and a rooftop lounge that provides a view of the entire city, including the White House. The vibe is New York chic, and the thumping lobby music might be a bit much for those seeking a haven of relaxation … but it’s definitely a place to see and be seen. 515 15th St., NW, Metro Center; www.whotels.com/washingtondc

To Live Like a Diplomat: The Jefferson
Re-opened after more than two years of renovations in 2009, The Jefferson has long been one of DC’s most fashionable addresses. At just 99 rooms, the intimate Jefferson hotel boasts the distinction of being the only DC property to belong to the elite Relais & Chateau membership group. Expect thoughtful and personalized touches in every room, including Red Flower bath amenities and books and décor inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s love of music, wine, gardening and more. Don’t miss drinks in the cozy Quill bar, where some of the city’s best mixologists serve up made-to-order cocktails. 1600 M St., NW, Downtown, www.jeffersondc.com

For Urban Cool in the Heart of Dupont Circle: Hotel Palomar
Lovers of the Kimpton brand will rejoice – the DC area boasts more than ten of the chain’s properties. One of the best? Dupont Circle’s Hotel Palomar, a zen-feeling boutique property and an accompanying restaurant, Urbana, that many have long called one of the city’s best. Enjoy walking distance from much of the city, a quiet neighborhood street, some of the city’s larger hotel rooms and daily happy hours with wine, free for guests. For a similar, yet cheaper feel, book Hotel Rouge, just down the street. 2121 P St., NW; Dupont Circle; Rouge: 1315 16th St., NW; Embassy Row; www.hotelpalomar-dc.com To Rest in the Heart of Power: Liaison Capitol Hill
If you’re looking to spend time exploring Capitol Hill, the Liasion is your best bet. Opened two years ago after a $12 million renovation, the hotel boasts a rooftop pool and sun deck, a restaurant by former Oprah chef Art Smith, and a location that’s walking distance to Union Station and The Mall. 415 New Jersey Ave., Capitol Hill; www.affinia.com/liasion

East Meets West, Luxury Style: Park Hyatt Washington
One of several area properties owned by the Hyatt brand, Park Hyatt Washington is arguably on par with names like Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons. The Tony Chi-designed interior evokes Eastern inspiration in the form of cherry blossom murals, sparse modern spaces, and a top restaurant, Blue Duck Tavern, where guests can dine in glassed-in “power booths.” A favorite of visiting diplomats, the hotel is conveniently located in DC’s West End, just a few block walk in to Georgetown or up to Foggy Bottom. 1201 24th St., NW, Foggy Bottom; www.parkhyattwashington.com

For a B&B Feel in the Heart of DC: Morrison Clark Hotel
If there’s one thing DC lacks, it’s inns and bed and breakfasts. The only DC inn on the National Register of Historic Places, the Morrison Clark is located in trendy Mount Vernon Square, just a few block walk from Penn Quarter, the Convention Center and Logan Circle. Enjoy amenities like free Internet access, period décor and a gourmet, southern-inspired restaurant. Tip: ask for one of the courtyard-facing rooms or a suite, as the rooms tend to be on the smaller side. 1015 L St., NW, Mount Vernon Square, www.morrisonclark.com

For a Long-Term Stay: Capitol Hill Suites
If it’s home-like comfort you crave, opt for Capitol Hill Suites, an extended-stay boutique hotel boasting kitchenettes or full kitchens in each room and a convenient Capitol Hill location. The pet-friendly property also serves a full Continental breakfast daily, making it quick and affordable to fuel up before you head out for a day of sightseeing, rallying, or business meetings. 200 C St., SE, Capitol Hill; www.capitolhillsuites.com

Intimate Luxury in the Heart of Georgetown: Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown
One of four Ritz-Carlton properties in the DC-metro area, our favorite is the intimate Georgetown location. Located just above the waterfront, this small property (only 86 rooms) offers a boutique four-room spa, spacious guest spaces, and daily lobby happy hours with gratis s’mores and a trained smore-mellier who can pair wines with your appetizer of choice. At just a few blocks from Georgetown proper, you’ll feel as if you’re in a private oasis, right in the heart of town. 3100 South St., Georgetown; www.RitzCarlton.com/Georgetown

[Flickr image via Jeff Kubina]

One for the Road: Ingrid Anders’ “Earth to Kat Vespucci”

You probably already know that there is a margarita cocktail and a margherita pizza. But before I studied abroad in Europe, I had no idea that ordering myself a salty, limey, tequila-y beverage might actually yield a plate-sized cheesy, doughy meal. Call me an ignorant American; I don’t deny that I was (and still often am) one.

Ingrid Anders understands, and in her debut novel “Earth to Kat Vespucci” (iUniverse), Anders’ title character makes all the mistakes in the book (except for the margarita mix-up) on her first trip abroad. Kat Vespucci is a senior at Rutgers University when she runs from heartbreak by signing up for a year abroad in Berlin, Germany. The school year marks her first time abroad, and the mishaps start as soon as Kat leaves the airport and attempts to buy a pass for the train: Kat is confronted by not only the different ways in which transport operates outside the US (you mean you buy a ticket, but no one checks it?), but also an often-befuddling European bureaucracy.

Other topics Anders covers include such light-hearted ones as water-saving showers, country-wide Sunday store closures, sexual freedom (yes, fellow Americans, we are just a little bit repressed), the difference between pepperoni and peperoni, and many European males’ lack of macho-ness (is her roommate gay? A metrosexual? Or simply European?).But there’s also the stereotypical stuff that often gives Americans abroad a bad name — our lack of geographical knowledge (at her first school dinner, Kat hides a map of Europe on her lap under the table in order to place where all her European classmates are from), our lack of political and historical knowledge of anything outside our own country, and often a lack of knowledge regarding America’s role in world politics — and the way the rest of the world views us.

The book is in no way anti-American, and I don’t want to give that impression at all. Rather, Anders skillfully and humorously navigates a sheltered young woman’s eye-opening experience abroad. Fortunately., Europe is a tame introduction to the “rest” of the world, and Kat is a curious and intelligent explorer. Anyone who took their first trip abroad as an adult will likely identify with many of her bumblings, and with this character, Anders shows herself to be a promising new novelist.

One for the Road: Carl Hoffman’s “Lunatic Express”

Looking for escape and adventure, Carl Hoffman embarked on a journey to ride some of the world’s most dangerous transport, a trip that he recounts in his new book “Lunatic Express: Discovering the world… Via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boat, Trains, and Planes” (Broadway Books). A bus through a mountain pass in South America, a crowded ship in South Asia, or an airplane in the Congo – if it had a high rate of fatal accidents, Hoffman sought it out and hopped on.

Though he uses the framework of “danger” as a hook, Hoffman’s story is less about safety and more about the human connections he makes as he chooses the type of transport almost no other traveler will. It’s no coincidence that the riskiest rides are also the cheapest, and he is pleased to discover that he connects to “a whole river of people on the move” – people for whom travel is a necessity instead of a holiday. Rather than danger, Hoffman encounters incredible discomfort; instead of being mugged, he finds he is protected by seatmates, shipmates, and new friends who are curious about his presence among them. In fact, his scariest situation is in Afghanistan, a war zone. There, it’s not simply transport that is dangerous, but his very presence in the country.

His exploration becomes, like so much travel, a search for authenticity and an examination of his own motivations. As a fan of second- (but not third-) class transport, I appreciate Hoffman’s experience off of the tourist trail (even when he’s technically on the tourist trail). He writes, “here, on these buses, I was anywhere but at the end of the earth; I felt right smack in its crowded heart.” This experience is where the value in his book lies.

His use of danger as the structure for his travels yields a fortunate, if not entirely unexpected result: the relationships he forms when crammed into the world’s lowest-class transport, which most travelers can afford to skip.

Travel often provides a clearer picture of the place we come from rather than the place we are visiting, and therefore it’s fitting that Hoffman’s most telling leg of the journey is the home stretch – a cross-country trip on a Greyhound bus from California to Washington DC. Dangerous? Hardly. Uncomfortable? Definitely. But the discomfort of a Greyhound bus, where seats are assigned, the roads are some of the best in the world, and there’s nary a chicken clucking from a box in the aisle, is an altogether different kind of discomfort than he experienced previously. In keeping with the “danger” theme, Hoffman dutifully mentions a recent beheading on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba, but true danger is absent in his trek. Instead, the sweaty, stinking, and seething mass of humanity in the developing world is replaced by the soulless, depressing experience of America’s penniless. Comparing the generosity and curiosity he witnessed in underdeveloped countries to his encounters with American counterparts, Hoffman writes, “we were a bus of lost souls in a country that itself seemed without a soul.” Gone is the fresh, bus station food, the kiosks replaced by “vending machines full of Snickers and Fritos and twenty-ounce blue energy drinks.” Everything, not just his traveling companions, feels empty back home.

Hoffman ends his journey as we all will at some point: alone. Though his words claim otherwise, Hoffman hints at the loneliness of the solo and long-term traveler, arriving to an empty apartment, unable to maintain his relationships, disoriented. He concludes tidily, happily even, though I wonder at his ability to ignore his travel addiction for long.

The sounds of travel: What to listen to when road trippin’ in the USA

Here at Gadling we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite sounds from the road and giving you a sample of each — maybe you’ll find the same inspiration that we did, but at the very least, hopefully you’ll think that they’re good songs. Got a favorite of your own? Leave it in the comments below and we’ll post it at the end of the series.

“Do you like American music?
I like American music.
Don’t you like American music?

–The Violent Femmes, American Music

For those who are gearing up to travel the vast roadways of America by car, we have here a list of appropriate music to make you feel relaxed, at peace with the road, and good’n American. Though you may be traveling for the holidays, we’ll exclude holiday music. You’ll hear it at every gas station.

The obvious first choice for pulling out of the driveway is America by Simon and Garfunkel:

Even the street on which you live looks a little more ripe with possibility when that song plays.

Once you head out into the amber waves of grain and the fruited plains, it’s a great time for expansive music like that from accidentally Canadian Joni Mitchell. I recommend Urge for Going, Heijira, and You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio. And those are just a couple of her travel-themed hits.

Going through the purple mountains’ majesty? Forests? (Yeah, “America the Beautiful” totally skipped the forests.) Try the soundtrack to Field of Dreams, composed by James Horner. It will fill you with wonder. Here, watch somebody on YouTube play The Drive Home. Want lyrics?

Next, get out some Bob Dylan and play Tangled Up in Blue. Make sure you dig through your classic rock collection. Especially as you pass through strange towns and cities, The Eagles, Guns and Roses, Jimi Hendrix, and Journey all take on a strange, retro-poignance.

Lastly, though it’s downright un-American, The Beatles are great for road trips. Everyone sings along, and if you’re really up in arms about the Britishness, you can get the soundtrack to Across the Universe with all the new covers.

Drive safe!

Click here for previous Sounds of Travel.

See Rolf Potts in person: Another Gadling connection at book culture

As you’ve probably gathered we’ve geared up for a Rolf Potts extravaganza here at Gadling. Here’s just another plug for Potts, but more so a shout out to one of Gadling’s former bloggers who is bringing travel to your armchair through books.

Kelly Amabile, fellow world traveler and voracious reader –she created Gadling’s feature One for the Road–is combining those passions as the events manager at Book Culture, an independent book store in Manhattan. Considering that Kelly is a whiz at travel and books, who is more better for the job than Kelly? I’m thinking, no one. She’s gathered quite the line-up for October which is rapidly approaching.

For example, Rolf Potts is scheduled for October 21 at 7 p.m. He’ll be reading from his book, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There.

Also on the schedule are Stephanie Elizondo Griest who wrote the travel memoir, Mexican Enough (Oct. 8) and an encore with Rolf Potts on October 23. He’ll be appearing along with Pauline Frommer and Matt Gross to talk about how to make travel happen.

Whenever I read about events like this happening in Manhattan, oh, how I want to go there. If you do go, tell Kelly I said “Hi.”

Book Culture is on 112th Street and is a hot spot for browsing even if you can’t make one of the events. It’s an independent book store after all, and those are few and far between.