The Luxury Travel Bible - LUXURY HOTELS: The Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington D.C.

LUXURY HOTELS: The Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington D.C.

T The White House excepted, real-estate in Washington DC doesn't come much better than the Beaux-Arts grandeur of The Willard Intercontinental Hotel. In fact, it is a near neighbour of The White House. Both share Pennsylvania Avenue addresses and are only a couple of blocks apart.

The Scene: Suits, and more suits interspersed with elegantly-coiffed society matrons and tourists who know their place. Often described as Washington's crown jewel, the Willard InterContinental Hotel has hosted nearly every President since 1853. Due deference should be shown.
Ent er the Willard's stately lobby and you experience a frisson of awe, such is the history that has taken place within its majestic interior. You can almost hear echoes of some of the greatest orators through the ages, and sense the brinksmanship of the final days leading up to the Civil War - the southern drawl of Confederate sympathizers and the twang of Union supporters. You could also have identified which side they were on from the hotel exits they chose: Confederates - F Street, Union supporters - Pennsylvania Avenue. You daren't get your crinoline caught in the wrong door!

the willard
the willard
oval suite living room
lobby
peacock alley
willard room
round robin and scotch bar

You might also re-imagine the flirtatious chatter of Confederate spy Antonia Ford, the tinkle of champagne glasses and chandeliers at the magnificent Napier Ball in 1859 - held to farewell the outgoing British ambassador Lord Napier. It was the last social event prior to the Civil War.
The Willard is mere footsteps steps from the White House - you could walk there in your ball gown. It is only a stroll to the Washington Monument (in one of the hotel's rooftop suites, a bull's-eye window perfectly frames the monument), is close to the Capitol, not far from the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian, and downtown business and theatre districts. Besides, it is the preferred address for heads of state, the world's business leaders, and the cultural, social and political elite. It has ever been thus. As early as 1860, The Willard housed the first Japanese Delegation to the United States, comprising three ambassadors and a retinue of 74 and 80 tons of baggage.
American writer, Nathanial Hawthorne, covering the Civil War for The Atlantic Monthly wrote: 'You exchange nods with governors of sovereign states, you elbow illustrious men and tread on the toes of generals. You are mixed up with office seekers, wire pullers, inventors, poets, and prosers until identity is lost along them'.

W ith the enthusiasm generated by Steven Spielberg's film masterpiece Lincoln, and Daniel Day-Lewis' Oscar-winning performance as President Abraham Lincoln, The Willard InterContinental is offering an immersion package: Lincoln at the Willard Hotel. Lincoln and his family stayed at The Willard in 1861, prior to moving into the White House.

The package is for two and is available year-round. It features a weekend night in a Deluxe King Room, a Sunday morning tour of Lincoln Cottage from where the President commuted to the White House during the Civil War, and a signed copy of author Harold Holzer's Lincoln: How Abraham Lincoln Ended Slavery in America. This new book - a companion to Spielberg's film - traces how Lincoln came to view slavery, and to end it. You can also visit the hotel's histo ry gallery which features memorabilia relating to the President's 1861 stay, including a copy of his Willard hotel bill of $773.75.     
Here at the Willard, Julia Ward Howe wrote the stirring words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and another Julia of note has also been a guest - Australia's first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
The term 'lobbyist' was coined here during Ulysses S Grant's Presidency, when identities of various persuasions, political and otherwise, would approach him as he sat smoking his cigar and warming his boots in front of the fire in The Willard's lobby. Later, writer Mark Twain was a familiar sight as he preened and strutted up and down the hotel's famous Peacock Alley in his signature white flannel suit. In more recent times, the revered Dr Martin Luther King drafted his momentous 'I Have a Dream' speech within the Willard's hallowed halls.
Today, the hotel's 335 well-appointed guestrooms including 41 elegantly furnished suites combine heritage and luxury with contemporary comfort and the latest technology. The hotel's bistro, Café du Parc is overseen by Michelin-star consultant chef Antoine Westermann. Its Parisian-style outdoor seating during DC's spring and summer months is a lovely leafy spot to soak up atmosphere and play spot the senator. Other eateries are The Occidental Grill & Seafood which features contemporary American fare (watch out for the soft-shell crabs - yum), traditional Afternoon Tea in Peacock Alley and take in the classic Round Robin Bar just off the lobby. It has been a lively meeting place for DC's political and social elite since the days of Abraham Lincoln. The bar is indeed round, and competition for a slot is fierce. Lurk in the lobby, watch the traffic then make your move for a ring-side spot.
Eavesdropping is a given and doubtless 'top secret' twitters originate right here. Long celebrated as one of the best in DC, the iconic bar attracts a smart, stylish cross section of DC movers and shakers. Be there.
Check in: 1401-1409 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington DC USA. Tel. 202-628-9100, 1-800-827-1747
Most Indulgent Moment: A stay in the sumptuously outfitted Presidential Suite.
Insider Secrets: Hanging out in the Round Robin Bar overhearing...insider secrets
The Little Things: I love the old concierge desk in the lobby and wonder what billets-doux or state secrets might have been pigeon-holed here.
Junior Luxies: A win-win address for kids and parents alike. It parents behave, the kids will allow you to accompany them to Washington's most popular attraction, the  National Air & Space Museum Space museum.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link:   www.washington .intercontinental.com
Maggy Oehlbeck 8/5/13
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