By Becky Krystal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 20, 2010; 2:54 PM
Four days with a broken air-conditioner, and I was tired. Tired of stagnant indoor temperatures approaching the upper 80s; tired of the dogs barking out the open windows; tired of forgoing the simple pleasure of a hot shower because it was just too darned . . . hot to take one.
Something had to be done.
So my husband and I threw a day's worth of clothes into our backpacks and hauled the pooches out the door for a cross-county trip from our Fairlington condo to the Westin Arlington Gateway in Ballston.
I'd been curious about the hotel: I'd watched it go up several years ago while driving into town along I-66 every other weekend before I moved to the area. It was also close to the in-laws (where we stashed the car to avoid the $22-a-day parking fee), in a part of Arlington that we don't get to much these days, and best of all, it didn't charge a pet fee.
The hotel's Web site promised an "oasis of calm." From the get-go, we put that claim to the test.
A friendly bellman greeted us as soon as we pulled up. He helped us with our stuff and, most important, was nonchalant when the dogs jumped out of their crate sans leashes and began to scamper around the building entrance.
Eventually, we corralled them and walked into the lobby. Cool air and a palette of soothing neutrals greeted us. After I checked in and signed the requisite pet waiver, the bellman accompanied us to our room and unloaded the luggage cart, down to the dog kibble.
I realized that I'd forgotten to ask about the Heavenly Dog Bed promoted online. Just as I was examining the phone to figure out whether I needed to call the concierge or some other front desk number, housekeeping knocked on the door to deliver a dog bed that matched the people bedspread and a pair of bowls that nestled into a carpet protection mat.
Thoughtful touches filled the room in a comforting chain-hotel kind of way. There was a cordless phone, a recycling basket and a bathroom mirror with a lighted frame, instead of the often harsh overhead bulbs. I liked the double showerhead, though its mere existence - and the fact that one of the heads had been left on - seemed in opposition to the spirit of the hotel's advertised eco-friendly policy of turning one to the off position to save water.
There's only so much examining, however, that one can do on an empty stomach. It was time to eat a real meal, a luxury because I hadn't been able to turn my oven on for days. We dined on the patio of Pinzimini, the hotel restaurant, where the dogs were welcome, too. The patio faces a parklike setting called the Ellipse, peppered with plenty of benches and a central fountain. It was easy to forget the traffic buzzing by on Glebe Road.
As we returned to the hotel that evening after walking the dogs, my husband, who had never seen the Westin's Web site, suddenly said that he felt as though we were in an "oasis of calm." Well, I thought, the hotel delivered.
Mostly, anyway. Yes, there was the toilet that occasionally screeched like a banshee when flushed and the beeping construction equipment across the street. But when the ordeal of the previous few days prompted me to compulsively check the room thermostat, it happily blinked back at me with a beautiful "71."