Guest Author - Julia Reed Zaic
Regardless of your political affiliation, if you have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. these days, there is something we can all agree on. It is a place, now more than ever, where history is being made. There is an unprecedented excitement and anxiety about what is to become of our country. If you find yourself on business in D.C., take advantage of the experiences available to you, and the opportunity to say “I was there when…” while staying in a hotel that fills the space of an American landmark.
There is no shortage of historic hotels in D.C. Yet my favorite is not famous for the presence of diplomats or Congressmen. Instead, Hotel Monaco is a small hotel housed in the original United States Post Office, built in 1839. After an extensive renovation in 2001, it was reincarnated as the Monaco, with marble columns and museum-like hallways. Walking the halls at night feels like camping out in the Smithsonian.
Located at the corner of 7th and F Streets, Hotel Monaco is in the heart of the financial district and the intelligence community, close to the convention center, and the Verizon Center. The only building in the area able to compete with the Monaco’s historical appearance is the National Portrait Gallery across the street containing most of the official presidential portraits. It is open until 7:00 p.m. making it accessible in the evening.
Standard rooms at the Monaco in D.C. are small, but there are options. The "Monte Carlo" room is larger, and some of the Monte Carlo rooms are customized for tall travelers. The beds are longer, and the shower heads are placed higher. If you are vertically gifted and need these features for comfort, call the hotel (even if you book online) to ensure that the particular Monte Carlo room you are reserving is a "tall" person's room.
My favorite room option is the "Mediterranean Suite". It is a comfortable two room suite with a king bed, work desk, pullout sofa, T.V. and a DVD player. The bathroom is spacious with a deep Jacuzzi tub and a separate shower.
One of the best features in all rooms is the L’Occitane amenities. These are nice luxury products to have on the road, especially in the winter months if you, like me, have reached the age where moisturizer has become as important as oxygen.
An interesting feature at Hotel Monaco is that it's pet friendly. Now don’t shy away if you are not an animal lover. Although I love pets, I do not love pet odors. Not once in all of my stays at Hotel Monaco have I smelled anything other than the wonderful scents emanating from the kitchen of Poste, the Restaurant attached to the hotel. Actually, it is very comforting to see people pull up with their pets and stroll in.
If you are a pet lover and don’t have your pet with you, don’t worry. You can request a pet goldfish. No kidding. You can even name it. The housekeeping staff will deliver your little fish in a bowl while you are out, feed it and care for it. No smells, no fuss, no responsibility.
The location of the Monaco also makes for a great side trip to the International Spy Museum located one block away. It's a private museum so there is a fee for entry, about $18 per person. It has a wonderful collection of spy gadgets that have actually been used by the intelligence community over the years.
If your days are full, yet you find yourself with a free evening, here's a great suggestion offered by the concierge at the Monaco. I reserved their advertised “Monuments by Moonlight” tour online. It included a 2 hour limousine tour through the city featuring monuments and historical sites lit up at night in all their glory. The driver was extremely knowledgeable. If you take this tour, request to drive by a statute called “The Awakening”, even if it is not on the tour. A colleague who actually lives in the District of Columbia recommended this. The experience of creeping up on it at night leaves quite an impression.
Monaco also offers a business center and meeting facilities for the business traveler. The one disappointment is the small fitness room. Yet as an alternative, I suggest a nice run or walk down to The National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the WWII memorial. If you are ambitiuous, continue towards the Lincoln Monument past the Korean and Vietnam memorials, then back. This route can be explained to you at the front desk if you are unfamiliar with the District.
As for the perks, the Hotel Monaco is a member of the Kimpton family of properties. It has a good rewards program, and most of their hotels, including this one, offers a “wine hour”. What's not to like about free wine in the lobby at 5:30 each night? It makes for an excellent place to meet up with co-workers, or, just take a glass up to your room and tell your goldfish about your day.
Photo Credit: Julia Reed Zaic, 2007