D.C. Park Hyatt a fragrant national perk

 
 
Published2/16/2008 2:16 PM

Getting up close and personal with the blossoming cherry trees in Washington, D.C., is always a highlight for me. Sadly, I arrived in our nation's capital one month too early last year to get in on the experience. It was the first week of March and, as I approached my hotel, snow was softly falling on barren trees.

Once inside, though, I could swear I smelled those famous flowers. At the same time my eyes seemed to play tricks on me. I definitely saw cherry blossoms before me, flanking each side of the entrance upon approach to the registration desk.

 

"May I help you?" asked a voice from that direction.

"I am just admiring your décor," I told the hotel staffer. "It's stunning."

At that moment I realized those big trees were actually rather realistic sculptures protected behind etched glass. Their depiction of the celebrated cherry blossoms was just one of many design elements at the new and improved Park Hyatt Washington, D.C., to rave about.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The smell of the blossoms still lingered, confusing me enough to 'fess up to the person with whom I was registering.

"That's our signature scent," she told me. "It's lovely, isn't it?"

Yes, it was. And it was everywhere in this beautiful hotel, wafting in the public spaces and captured in the bathroom amenities. Even the candles sold in the hotel shop carried the fragrance, a mixture of many notes, from orange and rose to patchouli and sandalwood. I bought two even before I went up to my room.

Once there I was enchanted all over again. In fact, this was a place I could envision living in as the premises held all the qualities I love in a home. New Yorker Tony Chi blended oak, limestone and black walnut design elements to bring about a smart but warm study to these oversized accommodations. Decorations included a coffee table book on American textiles, some antique board games and a large flat-screen TV, all of which created a savvy yet comfortable atmosphere.

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The stylish bathroom deserves a special mention, if only to point out its sleek rain shower. Since the design is so precise, the water does not splash anywhere it isn't supposed to and so there is no need for a curtain or even a glass partition. I liked the openness, making the large space feel even larger and very accessible. In fact, I liken this Park Hyatt retreat to a sumptuous spa rather than a simple bathroom.

Back downstairs on the main level of this nine-story hotel, I met a coupe of colleagues for dinner at the on-property Blue Duck Tavern where slow roasting in wood embers is the order of the day. An open kitchen highlights the celebrated work of executive chef Brian McBride and chef de cuisine Mark Hellyar, who offered me a first: a giant bone filled with marrow and accompanied by soft pieces of bread. I dipped in once but couldn't get my palate used to the idea. My cohort Elizabeth lapped up the delicacy and would have eaten more if she had been offered another round.

The seasonal menu at the Blue Duck was sensational, especially dessert, which for me meant key lime and white chocolate custard. Elizabeth chose chocolate cake flamed with bourbon, a dish she deemed "the perfect capper."

The next afternoon I attended a personalized tasting in the Park Hyatt's Tea Cellar. Some 50 rare teas hailing from remote China, Japan and the Himalayas were on an amazing carte that includes the revered vintage Pu-Erh. Not one to easily discern a cup of oolong from a cup of Lipton, I listened and learned about the significance of water temperature and the steeping time each tea requires for optimum results. The high point of this session was when one of said teas literally blossomed after steeping into a beautiful magnolia. That bloom was almost as beautiful as those cherry blossoms I love so much.

For further information on the Park Hyatt Washington D.C., go to www.parkwashington.hyatt.com.

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