Even though I had visited Washington DC before, it was my husband’s first time, and even though he is an expert chief navigator, our “naive tourist” status meant this place needed to be easy to find. We needn’t have worried. Washington DC’s metro system, despite (or perhaps due to?) forming the hub of the nation’s capital, is extremely easy to follow; its trains and stations are spacious and get you to your required destination speedily. Once we had been thrown out at Dupont Circle metro (just a few stops from our point of arrival, Union Station) the journey up the enormous escalator to the outside world from the cavernous underground burrow of the station seemed to go on forever. Eventually we began to see engravings of words by Walt Whitman at the mouth of the escalator, then deep stunning blue sky. We were greeted by sunshine and began our circuit around the tiny park at the centre of the intersection to meet the road to our hotel. This proved a little bit tricky the first time but was always easy to find thereafter. The hotel itself was undergoing renovation work at the time of our visit (end of February 2012) so you couldn’t enter by the front door; you had to go via the hotel’s Firefly restaurant instead. Other parts of the hotel were also inaccessible, meaning it was difficult to get a full sense of the place. Staff did their best at the temporary tiny concierge desks in the restaurant and round the corner of it, storing bags, dispensing information and asking how things were going for us while we were there. As well as being easily accessible to the city centre, the hotel is also ideally located for the Phillips Collection, pharmacies selling medicines and American culinary delights such as Lucky Charms, restaurants such as the delicious Ping Pong, and the famous Afterwords Café (which is also a bookstore).
Light, airy, and including a terrace, the room had modern fixtures and fittings and definitely served our needs as a centrally-located crash pad. The bed was enormous and extremely comfortable, with tons of pillows and a proper duvet (no scratchy blankets here). However, the air conditioning unit was noisy and my husband was also bothered by noises made by the nearby lift shaft. Bathroom was also modern, but also more on the side of functional than luxurious.
At $1 per person, who could refuse? Extremely good value. It consisted of freshly-squeezed orange juice, unlimited iced water refills, a choice of a muffin or white or wholemeal toast (get the wholemeal toast if you are active tourists; much more filling), and a platter of fresh fruit, as well as tea or coffee. My only quibble with this was that everyone got the same fruit platter with no choice as to what came on it, which means fussy eaters will get a plate half full of fruits they don’t like (I only ate the pineapple). However, I’m sure if I’d asked for pineapple only they probably could have done it. Tea is served in a cast-iron teapot which weighs a couple of pounds (literally) and provides excellent novelty factor. The Firefly restaurant, where breakfast is served, also offered free newspapers, and newswires were on a constant loop. Our only small regret is that we did not get to test out the restaurant at lunch or dinner – we’d reserved all our dinners in advance and at lunchtime they were too busy to accommodate us without a reservation. A shame, as the food looked good.
We paid $500 for 2 nights in a 32 square metre room, including the breakfast. This was not bad; however, the Library Hotel in NYC, at only $10 a night more , was superior in terms of its room, service and facilities. I appreciate that the impact of the Madera may have been hampered by its renovation works. However, despite its convenient location, at this price I would be as keen to experiment elsewhere in and around DC as I would be to return.
1310 New Hampshire Avenue
NW Washington, DC 20036