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D.C. by trolley

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Normally, I’m anti-organized tours when I’m traveling. I prefer to do things on my own. But I let Mom talk me into doing a sightseeing tour with Old Town Trolley Tours on our first full day in Washington, D.C. The cost is $35 a person and it allows passengers hop-on-and-off privileges for an entire day. The originating point, or stop #1, is Union Station, which is just three blocks from our hotel. There are nineteen stops altogether on two different trolley lines. The selling point for me was the stop near the National Zoo, since we decided that was going to be the first thing we’d see on our first full day. Just like organized tours, I am also anti-zoos; however, there are giant pandas at the National Zoo. I had never seen a real, live panda before (except on TV and in pictures) and figured this would be my only chance.

We rode the trolley for most of the day and got to see most of the major sights. Unlike other tour operations in DC, the trolley tours offer live narrations in each of their vehicles. All drivers are licensed tour guides and they are all incredibly knowledgeable. It was enjoyable listening to them rather than a recorded, piped-in narration. To get to the zoo, we had to switch over from the orange line to the green line, and then after our time at the zoo, ride the rest of the green line route to get back to the orange line and back to Union Station. The green line, I think, is awesome. It takes passengers past the less popular DC destinations, and of course it was those destinations I really wanted to see, like Georgetown and Embassy Row. Overall, the trolley tour was enjoyable. Yes, I am surprising myself by saying that. But with so much to see, it really is the only way to get a glimpse of everything – unless you’ve got an unlimited amount of days to spend in DC. I’m glad we did this tour on the first day because it gave Mom and me an idea of what we wanted to see the most, and those places we would return to at a later time. My only regret is that we didn’t get off the trolley in Georgetown and walk around the area. It is the oldest section of DC and I love the old buildings and rowhouses and all of the history there. I guess I’ll have to spend most of my time in Georgetown on my next trip to DC.

Posted by Francesca

The Liaison Capitol Hill

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

It had been a while since I stayed at a traditional hotel so I’d forgotten just how nice, and sometimes how gross, hotels can be. Our hotel in Washington, D.C., The Liaison Capitol Hill by Affinia, was tremendous. I cannot rave enough about the location, the staff, the décor – everything.

We booked The Liaison kind of at the last minute. I found out about a special rate they were offering via a Travelzoo Top 20 email. Originally we had reservations at a Days Inn a bit farther from the city center. But when I figured that the price at The Liaison would be almost the same as the Days Inn, and that we’d be a lot closer to the action, I jumped on the offer. Like any informed traveler would, I read reviews left by other visitors and they were generally positive. I did not let the few negative reviews sway me, and I am so glad I didn’t. I’ll just say that when I do return to Washington, D.C., I only hope there is availability at The Liaison. It is outstanding. It is located in the Capitol Hill area of the District, just a few blocks from the United States Capitol grounds. It doesn’t get any more centrally located than that, since the layout of the District puts the Capitol as the absolute center. The hotel itself is a former Holiday Inn but it looks nothing like a Holiday Inn these days. It has been completely renovated and updated and has turned into a swank and modern, but comfortable and unpretentious, hotel. The only drawback (and it was not even a big deal to me) is that the on-site restaurant is not open yet; it is still being remodeled. The hotel does offer a complete in-room dining menu for visitors who do not care to venture out into the District for a meal. The prices are a bit steep, as one would expect, but for some it might be worth the convenience. Every member of the staff that we talked to was incredibly personable, friendly, and helpful. One of the bell captains even gave us his cell phone number in case we were out elsewhere in the city and were unable to find a taxi to get back to the hotel. He was willing to call for one and have it sent to us, wherever we might be. The room was attractively decorated in modern brown and light blue hues, with complimentary Aveda products in the bathroom, and a half dozen down pillows on the beds to sink into after a long, tiring day of exploring. The hotel also has a rooftop swimming pool bordered by a huge deck. There are plenty of deck chairs for guests, as well as several huge, bed-type loungers with tons of pillows. The pool is open from 10:00am to 10:00pm, and on weekends the rooftop grill is operational. Guests can sit by the pool and enjoy burgers, hot dogs, and the like. We spent one evening on the deck, enjoying some peach mojitos and the comfort of the pillowy lounger.

We had such a pleasant stay at The Liaison Capitol Hill. This hotel is highly recommended.

Posted by Francesca

Getting to Washington, D.C.

Monday, July 28th, 2008
First thing I have to say about Washington, D.C. is that if you are planning to visit, don’t drive there. Seriously. It is outrageously expensive to park a car at the hotels in the District. Our hotel ... [Continue reading this entry]

Road trip: Change of plans

Monday, July 21st, 2008
This year probably wasn't the best to plan a road trip due to the outrageous gas prices. That thought did occur to us early on but we continued to plan and figured we could make do. Since ... [Continue reading this entry]