The hotel is in a beautiful historic district; we felt a mounting sense of excitement as we drove past the 19th century brownstones, and arrived at picturesque Lafayette Square. The hotel is an imposing 1928, Italian Renaissance style stone mansion and from the second we pulled into the beautiful driveway we felt cocooned by its old-world atmosphere. 

The Hay Adams lobby is absolutely stunning. Our contemporary eyes have become so used to the hard edges of modernist design - with the sleek coldness of metal and marble - that it is easy to forget the softness and opulence of pre- twentieth century spaces and the richness of the way they were decorated. 

The ornate ceiling, wood panelling, hand crafted antiques and velvety fabrics have a hugely imposing effect - but the grandeur and quiet sophistication is also offset by the warmth of the superb staff. Sheira and I are not ‘cold formal’ people, so we liked the way the Hay Adams gets the balance right. It really has the feel and charm of a private mansion - with a big twist of course.  Because of its remarkable location on Lafayette Square you can step outside, look to the right and stare up at The White House.

There is a hum in the air that all hotel lobbies have when that city’s best stories unfold there.This is where the Clintons stayed before they moved in to the White House to take over the reins in the nineties; President Obama and his family also made the Hay Adams their home for two weeks leading up to the inauguration of his presidency.

I, like most of the Western world followed the last election with more interest than ever before. I get a huge kick out of being on the spot, where it is all happening. 

There is an underground bar, ‘Off the Record,’ where many a secret has been traded under the dim lights and the gorgeous plaster ceilings. The watering hole is considered the ultimate basement retreat for the alpha power players in town. Also nicknamed, “Washington’s most prestigious address,” this is a hotel that fills up with a great deal of the people who run the world. 

When the famous reporters who blew open the Watergate case, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, were finally able to comment on their mystery source, ‘Deep Throat’ in Vanity Fair, Annie Leibowitz photographed them at the Hay Adams. 

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THE HAY ADAMS | 800 16th Street, NW Washington, DC 20006, Washington D.C. | + 1 202 638-6600 | View web site
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There are 21 suites in the 123-room hotel and all have good vantage points over the square, but naturally those with panoramic views over the White House are the pick of the city.  Me being me, I tried to negotiate an upgrade to pull off this ultimate goal for Washington, but the hotel was so busy that it didn’t need to cut a deal with me to fill those rooms! (see MONEY TO BURN). But you should always try - if you work on the premise of hope you won’t succeed, and each time you ask, you become better at it. 

We had booked two inter-connecting DELUXE SUITES with a view over famous St John’s Episcopal Church across the street (which even has its own ‘president’s pew.’). I love the idea of connecting to the next suite when traveling with teenagers. They can have independence but we are still a family and in this together. Sheira says, let the boys have their space and destroy their own bathroom!

When I saw the rooms for the first time I was just blown away: everything is designed to be special, from the antique sunflower doorknobs on the doors to the absolutely immaculate finishings. The suite was beautifully furnished without being over classic or chintzy, with the feel of a top interior designer who could balance both masculine and feminine elements, like big Georgian style windows and solid furniture, with top quality custom sheets, pillows and soaps.

It was more understated than cliché hotel décor, like the cosy guest bedroom at a very distinguished person’s house. I really recommend a suite for families. Our daughter had her sense of own space in the lounge, instead of a cot bed in with us, and it’s just nice to have another room to walk in. And the extra TV set. An $18 million renovation a few years ago has added all the bells and whistles, like marble bathrooms, digitally-controlled heating, high speed wifi access and Bose sound systems. Considering its importance in this political hotspot, the hotel is quite small; you know that you are part of a select clientele for the night when you are in there.


PRICE       US$1,200

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These are the best suites at the Hay-Adams with a lavish size, two bathrooms and breathtaking, White house views - which you can see from a balcony with French doors or the master bedroom.


THE FEDERAL SUITE (1395 square feet) U$6000 a night.

THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE  (1070 square feet) U$5000 a night.

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The head conciergeJack Nargil is as much a Washington institution as the hotel. I was already happy and enthusiastic when I went to chat with him shortly after arrival - I place such a strong emphasis on choosing hotels that I am over the moon when I get it right. Jack is an amiable, older man who rules the lobby and has probably heard every strange VIP request in the book, but mine were easy. I needed an excellent guide for such a historically rich city, and a great place for dinner, as we had crossed the country and were starving! (see WHERE TO EAT). 

This is a concierge who has every nook and cranny of this town covered and simply pulls up places, addresses and numbers from the vast data base stored in his head. I don’t think I ever saw him use the computer! Whatever I threw his way, he’d respond, lightening quick, “Well Mr. Said, here’s what I think you’d like very much” - and give me the who, what and why, instinctively understanding the angles and subtleties behind my request.

A quick call, and a guide had been arranged to look after us for the next few days. ISMAIL NASKAI was his name.

He’ll sit you down in the wood paneled lobby to confer. This is a man who has been concierge to Presidents - every guest is a cog in his unbelievably well-oiled wheels.

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