Sometimes I have too much content. Ever have that problem? You have so much you want to show and tell that you don’t know where to begin. That’s how I feel about my weekend staycation spent in Washington, DC as an invited guest.
So I’ll follow the immortal words of Lewis Carroll from his book, Alice in Wonderland.
“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
I live about 25 miles from Baltimore and 50 miles from Washington, DC. It’s the best of both worlds! But if you ask me how many times I head to any sort of downtown, it’s going to depend on the day, time of day, and traffic. A trip to DC easily takes 90 minutes. That’s just fact. So we often avoid taking advantage of all the amazing and free things to do there.
When Modus Hotels invited me to spend a family weekend at the Normandy Hotel DC in Dupont Circle, an area in northwest DC that’s close to all of the embassies, we jumped at the chance to take a “staycation” and really become tourists in our own town.
The Normandy Hotel is a boutique hotel just off of Connecticut Avenue, a main thoroughfare through the city. But making that turn onto Wyoming Avenue where the hotel is situated among mostly residential buildings made all the difference. It was a quiet, peaceful area and when we returned to the hotel every evening, it felt like we were coming home.
Perfect. Because that’s how the Normandy wants you to feel. The lobby is small and intimate with areas to read, play checkers, sit by the fireplace, or enjoy a glass of wine (they have Wine & Cheese hour every night from 5pm to 6pm) on any of the couches or outside in the courtyard. In fact, when I showed my son around, he said, literally, “I feel like I’m at home.”
We arrived so close to 6pm that they were cleaning up the wine and insisted on pouring my husband a glass of red. No arguments from him at all. Evan and I were fully satisfied though when we reached our room and found personal touches waiting for us. A chilled bottle of local sauvignon blanc for mama and some chocolate cookies and The Flash (our latest obsession) for Evan!
For this first night, having just flown home on an early morning flight from Miami, I was looking forward to a quiet, casual meal and an early night. The hotel manager helped us with some ideas and we settled on a local takeout Chinese place that has apparently been in the area forever.
I stuffed my face with noodles (Chicken Chow Fun, to be exact) and we walked back to the hotel and fell asleep like nobody’s business.
But bright and early the next morning, we were back at it!
Okay, maybe not so early and maybe not so bright but we were ready to head to the nearby Smithsonian National Zoo. We grabbed a quick bite at the continental breakfast downstairs in the lobby of the hotel and made our plans for the day (which, of course, totally changed as the day went on).
Instead of the longish walk, we decided to give Uber a try and I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, we used Uber everywhere in DC. It was so much easier than a cab and the Metro (which often experiences long delays on weekends) and was pretty cheap with about a $5 minimum per ride.
We knew it would be an abbreviated visit to the zoo since we’ve been before and we had so much else we wanted to do. Tops on our list were seeing the panda bears (the main attraction at this zoo), the Western Lowland gorillas, and my friend Andrea from Just is a Four Letter Word who happened to be in town with her family too!
They have made so many improvements at the zoo that I almost think being a panda there is better than the wild. The other enclosures, though, often made me feel sad for the animals as I saw signs of stress and boredom. As far as zoos go, this is a a gorgeous zoo but I’m not sure how I feel these days about the purpose a zoo serves. And don’t even get me started on the spectators. They’re the worst species there!
At this point, my humans were getting pretty cranky because they hadn’t had a big meal so I used my handy iPhone, picked out a restaurant at random, and we LOVED it. I won’t call Oyamel Cocina Mexicana just another Mexican restaurant because it’s not. We indulged in margaritas, tableside guacamole, and even their specialty – a grasshopper taco.
OMG. I did not eat that but my husband did. My son and I just looked away and asked him to tell us when he was finished.
At this point, we had to decide how much we were up for. I’m a walk-til-you-drop-make-the-most-out-of-your-time kind of gal but my family reaches a point where they are DONE. So I suggested walking to a nearby attraction that I had never been to, The National Archives Museum.
I suspected this would be a walk in, walk out kind of experience but we were all fascinated – even my 9 year old. Not only did we study the evolution of each and every amendment (I was shocked that he was interested) but we got to see so many original documents INCLUDING the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Even though the handwriting is so faded that you can’t see much, it is such an awe-inspiring feeling to see the documents that started it all. The only downside to the museum? Absolutely no photography inside. Apparently they allowed it not too long ago specifying that no flash be used but, of course, people screwed that up and now we’re back to no photography. Thanks, people.
Back in the Uber to our hotel and we felt like we were going home. We caught the tail end of Wine & Cheese hour again (yay!) and headed upstairs to pretty much do nothing until I came up with a plan for dinner.
This time, I chose a restaurant specifically from the hotel’s website of recommendations. We wanted some place with a casual, family vibe so we set off walking to Sette Osteria. Can I just say how much I loved that we could easily walk to and from dinner but not be in the heart of tourist town?
The online ratings for the restaurant were mediocre but I think those people were crazy. We stuffed ourselves with bread and pasta, fully satisfied from a good, reasonably priced meal with excellent service.
And then we collapsed into bed again.
Because we still didn’t want to drive all over town, we checked our bags at the front desk in the morning and asked if we could leave the car there until the afternoon. No problem.
We also found time to take advantage of our Ride the District package which included breakfast for two, complimentary use of the hotel’s Modus City Bikes, equipped with water, fruit, a picnic blanket and a $20 Gift Card from Glen’s Garden Market to stock for our picnic.
With time and weather not entirely cooperating, we made our way to Glen’s Garden Market to fill up on some delicious sandwiches for the day.
My choice was the best egg salad sandwich I’ve ever had in my life!
And with a quick call to Uber, off we went to the Museum of American History, also part of the Smithsonian.
I was admittedly confused when we arrived. Wasn’t this the museum with the big American flag that flew over Fort McHenry? Wasn’t this also where they had the pendulum that knocked a candle down every hour because of the Earth’s rotation?
Times change and so do museums. This one was undergone many changes in the decades since I visited but luckily I could see see some of my favorite nostalgic displays and
bore my son with useless information explain it all to my son.
This visit reminded us that we are so close to so many national treasures. Having grown up in the DC area, I often take these things for granted. This trip made me realize that I don’t have to be deterred from the horrific DC traffic. A staycation in a hotel that feels like home away from home gives us the opportunity to enjoy this city at a relaxed place and spend more time as a family.
Don’t forget to watch my video showing you everything you want to know about our visit including a room tour!
Thanks to the Normandy Hotel, part of Modus Hotels, for providing a two-night stay for me and my family. It was a wonderful hotel that we look forward to visiting again!