The rule has always been: If you don't want to be lumped with the mob, you have to pay more. You think you're going to break out of the Holiday-Hilton-Ramada-Marriott straitjacket? You're talking about the Madison or the Hay-Adams in Washington, that dreadful Plaza in New York, overrated Brown's in London, and so on. But wait. There's an exception.
British visitors to Washington have been coming to the Gralyn for years. It only has 34 rooms, and sometimes you think you can't get there, because it's a 1745 N St., and you have to come up Connecticut, turn off on 18th, which is one-way left and one-way right. And it doesn't have a bar or restaurant or bellboys or conventions or readerboards in the lobby.
In a word, the Gralyn is a London bed-and-breakfast. For your $40 to $50 (some rooms are still in the $30s), you get a high-ceilinged chamber, probably with a fireplace and huge antique furniture. Owned for 40 years by Mrs. Hamilton F. Morrison, the Mayor of N Street, it casually displays pieces that came from Evalyn Walsh McLean's mansion Friendship. The red brick Georgian rowhouse was built about 1870.
The thing is, it's comfortable. The thing is, it's quiet, amazingly, in the very heart of downtown Washington. The thing is, you get a full (that is, English, with ham and eggs and toast and jam and coffee and juice) breakfast for a few dollars more, and on nice mornings you can eat it in the garden out back, surely the most charming (not to say miraculous) garden one block off Connecticut, where you can gaze languidly up at the trees and not even know that a few yards away Washington is snashing itself to death.
It's not the end of the world. It's not fancy. But as manager Sam Oliver will tell you, a touch of the South in his voice, "We're an old-fashioned place."
Glory to be the days when things were actually fashioned.