Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the hotel as being on Embassy Row. It is in the embassy district, but not on the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue commonly referred to as Embassy Row. The age of the hotel was also misstated. This version has been updated.
Washington’s Normandy Hotel is bringing back cocktail hour.
Okay, it’s more like wine hour. But it’s the same idea. When you’re done with a long day of sightseeing or business meetings, you can return to the Normandy for the “Daily Indulgence,” an appropriately named spread that includes wine, cheese, crackers, fruit and sweets served in the hotel’s library-like common area.
When the wine ran out on a recent night, a couple asked for more, and the front-desk manager was more than happy to deliver.
“I love the decor, the books and the chairs,” volunteered a guest from New York as we rode up the elevator together after a little indulging.
I agree. The lighting in the library was dim, well suited to the pale blue and chocolate palette. I settled into a comfy blue-cushioned chair, sipping a pinot grigio and studying the book collection, which included a Hillary Clinton bio and a picture book of Virginia trees. There were cute cards called “conversation starters” on each table. (Example: “Which vice would you indulge in if it had no negative side effects?” That one could have kept me there for hours.) Across from me, a couple was nesting in pink and beige high-backed chairs before an antique chess board. It felt like a living room.
I had dinner plans with friends that night, but I could have happily stayed in my perch beside the fireplace. Not that I needed the fireplace on an 80-degree day, but it felt so warm, and I’m not talking about the temperature.
That’s how you feel all over the Normandy, a little-known Doyle Collection hotel tucked away on a residential street in the middle of the embassy district. It’s so tucked away that my cab driver had no idea it even existed. It’s a strange place for a hotel but a smart one, because it removes guests from the hustle and bustle of downtown and places them in Kalorama, one of Washington’s loveliest neighborhoods.
My room was small but had thoughtful touches, such as an early-edition Charles Dickens novel, free bottles of water, an espresso machine, reading lights beside the bed and a magazine collection that included Harper’s Bazaar. The decor was a sleep-inducing melange of beiges, browns, blues and greens. Nothing too bright.
The bathroom, however, was unusually large and decadent. Dim lights beneath the sink turned on when I opened the door for a middle-of-the-night bathroom break. How nice not to have bright lights attack me when I’m half-asleep! The shower was marble, or faux, with a seat and a spalike shower head.
Don’t expect a full-service hotel, though: There’s no room service or restaurant. But who needs that when you’ve got eateries galore around the corner on Connecticut Avenue? A continental breakfast is usually available in the morning for $16.95, but I didn’t get to try it during my stay because Hurricane Irene had damaged the kitchen and dining room.
There’s no gym, either, but with your room key you can use the fitness center at the Courtyard Marriott, a sister property two blocks away.
I didn’t mind the little inconveniences. I got to stay at a hip property blocks from Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle. And best of all, I got to indulge a little.