“This is a gorgeous hotel in a vibrant part of D.C. You get a strong sense of community around here and you are also close to all of the sights you want to see.”
–Misty Belles, Global Public Relations Director for the Virtuoso Luxury Travel Network.
I felt like a diplomat each time the front doors were opened for me upon entering Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle Hotel. The hotel’s main entrance is a discreet portico on New Hampshire Avenue NW – while others can access the Dupont Circle Hotel’s bars and restaurants via the storefront entrances on the Dupont Circle side. The circle-side entrances are tastefully commercial while the hotel entrance feels residential, as it should, since its neighbors are the embassies of Jamaica, Botswana, and Mozambique. The hotel, part of the Doyle Collection, is Irish-owned. The Irish Embassy, which serves as the Ambassador’s residence, is also just a few blocks away.
“When any of our Irish ministers come to Washington, we put them up at the Dupont Circle Hotel,” said Daniel Mulhall, Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S.
Ireland’s Prime Minister himself, the Taoiseach Michael Martin, stayed at the Dupont Circle at the beginning of his traditional St. Patrick’s Day trip to present President Joe Biden with shamrocks. Even the Irish recognize they are renowned for hospitality. “When the Irish say ‘welcome,’ we say ‘one-hundred-thousand welcomes,’” said Ambassador Mulhall.
Worldly, Sophisticated, and Welcoming
Misty Belles has traveled the world as Global Public Relations Director for the Virtuoso Luxury Travel Network. As such, she knows hospitality when she sees it.
“The Irish welcome you into their hotels as if it were their homes. You really feel that here – it’s very warm,” she said over breakfast in the hotel’s bright, beautiful restaurant dubbed The Pembroke. The Emerald Isle is also famed for its “Full Irish” fry-up breakfasts, but The Pembroke is a flower-filled, bright brasserie where breakfast on its marble tables means Crab Chesapeake Benedict with a glass of prosecco and panes providing a panoramic view of Dupont Circle.
Belles is a Texan but her home for the last nine years, after living in Manhattan, has been Washington D.C. She feels at home in the Dupont Circle Hotel. “This is a gorgeous hotel in a vibrant part of D.C. You get a strong sense of community around here and you are also close to all of the sights you want to see in Washington.”
You’ll likely hear some palace intrigue, as well. Such as the buzz that White House press secretary Jen Psaki was about to bolt the Biden administration to have a talk show on MSNBC.
“If the President needs a new spokesperson, I think he should call you,” I suggested to Belles. “With your experience you certainly have a handle on diplomacy and foreign affairs.”
The professional, poised Belles demurred but smiled. Never one to shirk a challenge, I could see the light of battle in her eyes. About to leave on a business trip to London, Belles’ growing role with Virtuoso has taken her everywhere from parabolic weightless space-training aboard an aircraft with Jeff Bezos to, more recently, Antarctica.
South Pole Planning
When Belles said she’d, through Virtuoso, been to the South Pole only a few months earlier, I leaned in to learn more.
“Antarctica is one of those remote destinations that’s easier than ever to get to and enjoy. It was spectacular. It’s the only place I have even been where there is no tourism. It was completely unique in that way. There is not a cuisine you have to try or a sight you have to see. There are none of the trappings of tourism there. There’s no gift shop. There is no penguin trying to sell you a stuffed version of itself. It’s a completely different experience,” she said.
I felt that way about the Galapagos Islands, for the most part. But being on the equator they are much warmer and much closer. I asked Belles if reaching Antarctica was arduous?
“It does take some time to get there. You have to be in for it. I have to admit I cheated a little bit and did not sail the Drake Passage. Instead, I flew into King George Island and picked the ship up there. It’s not as lengthy doing it that way and if you’re prone to seasickness it’s a good way to skip the rough waters. It still does take a long time flying down to Chile to get there,” she explained. “We were six days on the ship sailing from King George Island over to the peninsula. If you don’t have the full two weeks, it takes to sail there it’s an easy way to see it.”
The company Belles represents, Virtuoso is a network that specializes in just the type of luxury experiences she described.
“If you want to find a way to travel that is more unique and more tailored to your exact specifications and you want a company that is service-forward, that’s exactly what Virtuoso is for,” she told me.
Living and Loving Washington D.C.
Since I was in D.C. for a couple days at the Dupont Circle Hotel, I asked Belles, with her local knowledge and Virtuoso experience, to share her advice for those visiting Washington.
“It is a stunning, patriotic city. It’s even more beautiful by night when it is lit up. The Lincoln Memorial is my favorite. Walk as much as you can on the mall and see the Smithsonian Institute and take in as much of the sights as you can,” she advised. You’ll need to get the steps in because the area – from Georgetown to Capitol Hill, is full of intriguing international cuisine. “The culinary scene is really coming up in the D.C. area. There is a new restaurant called ‘Michele’ so make sure you add that to your itinerary.”
I looked it up. Michelin-starred Chef Matt Baker apparently uses his classical French training on dishes inspired by cuisine in New Orleans and Houston. Three for the price of one! Fiscally responsible!
I have some old favorites, too, but this time I also tried a new restaurant called L’Ardente, recommended by Elizabeth Gorz. She’s an attorney who has lived in Washington D.C. for two years and discovered they have 40-layer short-rib lasagna. The flaming tiramisu was also a molten sphere to behold.
For those locals leaving Washington D.C. on holiday, Belles said Africa, Australia, and Alaska, in addition to Antarctica, were currently popular destinations for Virtuoso travelers.
Chilling in Conversation
It was easy to get lost in conversation with Belles because The Pembroke setting was so pleasing, and the big windows allowed for glances at people watching outside.
Arriving at the Dupont Circle Hotel feels like entering an upscale club – a stylish but comfortable one at which you are the most important member. Soothing shades, colors, and artwork decorate the lobby.
At days’ end the quiet corners in the “Mad Men-style,” dark, deco, dream bar Doyle are great places to speak in hushed tones while the bar is populated with people who clink glasses because they, themselves, feel like the toast of the town.
Managing Director Joel Freyberg is the “Ambassador” of this “embassy.” The seasoned, sophisticated hotelier greeted guests warmly and they clearly returned the affection.
Read more on Michael Patrick Shiels’ travel blog, The Travel Tattler. Contact Travel Writer Michael Patrick Shiels at [email protected]