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Washington, D.C. Update


From the moment you alight from your car in the middle of the semi-circular driveway and walk through the front portal of the Four Seasons you know that a notable stay awaits you. After you have been shown to your room, the dilemma is whether to unwind in the comfort of subtle surroundings or to settle in one of the lobby's sitting areas just for the fun of watching some of the comings and goings in this power town. Newsworthy faces like politicos, the media and heads of state--we saw an African leader and his entourage in native costumes--pass through the public spaces with regularity. And even if you don't see many headline grabbers, the common areas and restaurants are great places to people watch.

The hotel is a popular venue for weddings and other celebrations. On the weekend we were there an entire family had traveled from Asia for the marriage of their daughter. Friends of ours who live in suburban Maryland say that they consider the Garden Terrace to be their hangout and stop by regularly when they are in Washington or occasionally come into town just to have a drink at the bar.

A week after you've left you won't recall what your room looked like, but because of the quiet decor the experience will linger. The pillows are the softest to be found anywhere. While we were inspectng the 12,400-square foot tri-level health club a member volunteered that he considered the gym to be the best in the city.

Not the least of the hotel's appeal is its location at the tranquil end of historic Georgetown. Walk in one direction to see rows of 18th and 19th-century Victorian and Federal townhouses. Turn another way and you come upon the bustling scene of shops, restaurants and the three-story Georgetown Park mall. Set on the C & O Canal, the Victorian style mall blends with the neighborhood's architecture.

When it is time to leave the Four Seasons the doorman waves his arm and blows his whistle softly but with authority to summon a taxi. He has the presence of a conductor giving a special performance. Even if you are not someone recognizable, he knows that if you stayed at his hotel you are an important guest.

Four Seasons Hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007. Tel. 800-332-3442, 202-342-0444. Rates begin at $360. www.fourseasons.com


The Jockey Club

Too bad someone (possibly a not too experienced sous-chef) was heavy handed with a salt shaker, sprinkling it on very juicy, tender swordfish and portobello mushrooms and marring what would have otherwise been a fine meal. Washingtonians and out-of-towners go to the Jockey Club to see and be seen, but celebrities and atmosphere are usually not the only draws. Food is too.

Modeled on New York's famed "21" Club and now in its 37th year, the softly lit equestrian decor includes English sporting art, oakwood floors and amber-hued lanterns. The main dining room and wood-paneled Fairfax Bar look much like a members only club. The restaurant is housed in The Luxury Collection Hotel, formerly The Fairfax, which was once owned by the Gore family and was considered highly exclusive.

Executive Chef Hidemasa Yamamoto describes his menu as Continental with Pan-Asian influences. Because of the proximity to the Maryland shore, crab meat is served as an appetizer, in a cream soup and in main courses. Patrons eat 15,000 crab cakes each year. Seasonal soft shell crabs are prepared in several ways. Escargot with wild mushrooms and tuna tartar with quail egg and vinaigrette are novel starters. For entrees a few fish specials are offered nightly along with the chef's own takes on veal, pork, chicken, lamb and beef, such as Black Angus steak with fried artichokes, spinach, sweet potato risotto, ginger, garlic and shallot sauce. Other than the salty fish the kitchen deserves praise.

The Jockey Club, The Luxury Collection, 2100 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008. Tel. 202-293-2100. Open daily, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expensive.



Has Disneyland come to Washington? Not exactly, but the Newseum's slogan, "Where fun is a matter of fact," sums it up nicely. Washington's latest museum is about news and uses some of the techniques that were pioneered in Anaheim. Interactive computer stations allow visitors to try their hands at reporting, editing and taking photographs for a newspaper or broadcasting for a television station. Tapes of one's performance as a newscaster or anchor are for sale. A film in the high definition video theater shows the great events of our era. A time line of the history of news begins with the days when information was transmitted by smoke signals and drum beats. To enjoy it all allow at least three hours for a visit.

Newseum, 1101 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209. Tel. 703-284-3544, 888-NEWSEUM. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Summer 1998