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As I mentioned we made a sudden trip to Washington, DC for the funeral of a dear friend. It wasn’t all doom and gloom and today I thought  I would share those things that brought a smile to our faces – with one exception- in the midst of a most unpleasant occasion. Bear with me there IS a photo at the end of all this…no cheating.

We needed to get from San Diego to Washington, DC within two days. My husband is a Naval Officer and as they have done time and again his command rallied to pick up the slack for him to leave on short notice. Next up the airlines. As you know they charge a premium for short notice travel. As this was not a family member there were no compassionate fares although the rep I spoke with at United tried very hard to find me a price under $2000.00. *gulp*  Perhaps only my husband would travel to represent us as that was way out of our range. I scanned www.kayak.com for a day and a half trying to find a seat that wasn’t yet sold out and had fewer than 3 connections/plane/country changes when I remembered that Southwest Airlines occasionally offers discounted military fares. Now mind you these are more than most of their published sale fares but for travel on short notice it was a big savings allowing both of us the opportunity to travel.  As it was mid-week travel we were able to get 2 seats on the same flight! A word about Southwest Airlines. I personally don’t like the no reserved seat policy but everything else is stellar. The airport check-in and in flight personnel could not be more courteous. The seats have a titch more leg room allowing this almost six-foot tall woman to sit without her knees pressed up against the seat in front, BIG thank you from me and the unnamed  person who usually has their lower back unwillingly “massaged”. The icing on the cake? The flight was early both directions!

Hotels. We originally had a reservation at the Key Bridge Marriott. Normally big Marriott fans (www.marriott.com) Yep -you guessed it – here comes the exception. The only recommendation I make about this hotel is to NOT stay there. “This is the oldest Marriott” the front desk personnel proudly informed me…*crickets* followed by first inkling of trouble … and despite the extensive facelift it had, still looks….. old. We were tired and had driven an hour from Baltimore so onward we pressed. “It was a dark and stormy night” came to mind when we got a glimpse of our room:  Very small, dark, dingy and ok not stormy but gloomy, not what we needed for the already somber occasion and this was a concierge level room!!! I shudder to think what the basic rooms are like. The worst of it was the heat. FYI on the East coast in many older buildings heat is controlled by management. What?? Yes it’s true. We learned this the hard way many years ago our first time living in a Bethesda,MD brownstone apartment.  Not something you want to hear as transplanted Californians enduring their first east coast winter! Anyway –  around 2 in the morning it became unbearable. I was sick from the heat and unable to remove any more clothing……. After repeated calls to the desk and assurances that they had turned it off and the cooling was on, it was still hot, well over 80 degrees hot. It was like we were in Bangkok not Washington, DC in February.  I will save you all the details about the rest of that awful exhausting night and cut to our hurried check out the next morning and off to the fabulous Palomar Hotel,Washington,DC for the next 2 nights. We were lucky to score an affordable rate online  (http://www.hotelpalomar-dc.com/) We are very familiar with Kimpton as they are a pet friendly upscale chain. One which we normally save for special occasions…$$  When they learned of the reason for our travel they upgraded us to a fabulous suite on the top floor, most importantly with temperature control!  It made a big difference to our mood coming back there after a long, sad, tiring day. They were very kind and accommodating and the service, decor, restaurant are wonderful!  I highly, highly recommend the hotel chain as a whole and particularly this hotel. If you have an occassion to travel to DC look them up you will not be sorry!. But don’t take my word for it…  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g28970-d84093-Reviews-Palomar_Washington_DC_a_Kimpton_Hotel-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html

Restaurants. We ate at several but two stand out. The Blue Duck Tavern (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g28970-d622172-Reviews-Blue_Duck_Tavern-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html) which has the most amazing open kitchen I have ever seen, a bit like dinner theater! The other was Clydes in Georgetown. Just what we needed when we arrived. Delicious comfort food, great cocktails ie: Diablo Mojito! and thoroughly enjoyable live music. A shout out to Shayna B who pointed us in the direction of both places! (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/shayna-brouker/11/730/301)

So ends my travelogue. Never underestimate the power of the little things and great customer service to make all the difference to any travel, but especially unexpected and undesirable travel. Please share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions for the DC area.  I am genuinely interested to hear.

A parting shot of the National mall from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Processed in NIK HD single image.

San Francisco Re-Cap

I could wax poetic for a long time about our weekend in SF but to spare your sanity I will skim over just the highlights. I hear your collective sigh of relief. : ) San Francisco did NOT disappoint!!! We stayed at the Omni this time, and loved it. Would definitely stay here again. Great location, quietly elegant lobby, exceptionally friendly and helpful staff (!) Lovely room with a view of the bay.  5 stars! The city was enchanting as usual, starting with the gorgeous ORANGE  lighted Christmas tree across the street, here…

    the traditional wreath bedecked windows of Macys here..                                                                        

the gorgeous atrium in Neiman Marcus and ice skating in Union square….magical.

We went to the farmers market Ferry Bldg 1 Saturday morning and were surprised by a full choir singing carols from the upper level. 

If you have never been to the farmers market you should make every effort to go. It’s full of wonderful produce, amazing and varied prepared foods, a to die for view, artisan market, wine tasting….need I say more? If you are looking for a different shopping experience from the department stores this is it. Speaking of the market – have you ever taken an immediate liking to someone? Been drawn to them for some reason? One of the artisans there had that effect on me. She makes the most adorable finger puppets. …and also builds them into unique wearable pieces like brooches and bracelets. Charming!  She had a gentleness and quiet spirit about her that I loved and her talent is out of this world. I wish I knew some little one I could buy one of these creations for, they are so imaginative.  Crocheted Creations by Diana, check out her booth, quite a talent!

Had some wonderful food as well. San Francisco can rival NYC with their restaurant scene in my humble opinion. The first night we tried Millenium, an upscale but casual gourmet vegan restaurant. Highly recommend. An unusual and creative cocktail menu, thoughtful and interesting small plates and  entrees as well as a prix fixe menu that is discounted Sun- Wed. Definitely worth a try even if you are a carnivore.  A  bit spendy but the quality is on par with the cost so no problem there.  Second night went to North Beach aka Little Italy and had pizza at BaoNecci .  It was a tiny bit like being back in Italy! The family is from Lucca which we have visited and is definitely a neighborhood restaurant, many people coming in and out greeting each other, very warm, friendly vibe. Towards the end of our meal two nicely dressed older women wearing sturdy shoes – cliché I know – but so accurate, there really is no other way to describe them and carrying  pocketbooks – again, you know what I mean, what else could I do here? -came in, were greeted effusively in Italian and sat immediately at a table up front. It was charming and a scene you will see a thousand times over in Italy it made me nostalgic for our time living in Europe. Oh and the pizza.. Thin crust , very Italian, my husband calls it a cracker crust and that’s a great description.

We finished up our trip with tons of shopping of course, and an unplanned side trip to the Contemporary Jewish Museum for an exhibit that caught my eye on Houdini! Now there was an interesting, enigmatic man.  The museum did a wonderful job.  Very interesting and thorough exhibit. Check it out if you are in the area. That wraps it up.

STILL going through pictures. My photo post of the day is one of my favorites. I hope you are all finished with holiday preparations – I would not want to brave the stores these last few days!

Michelee