This year marked the 31st Annual National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Convention, and this year we convened in Washington, D.C.
What the heck is alopecia? Click here to find out.
Though many rallied at the Capitol to raise awareness and urge their congresspeople to consider legislation that would help cover wigs/hairpieces for a patient diagnosed with alopecia, the home of the convention was at The Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, where conference attendees gathered together in support of each other, danced together, cried together, dined together, laughed together, learned together, and did nothing short of have a ball together.
You see, for alopecians, this is the most important event of the year where we can get together from all parts of the world and share our experiences. Because sharing and relating is medicine for the soul. The magic of the conference is that it provides a gathering place for people and their families from all walks of life who are affected by this disease.
I arrived very late on Thursday night, and did not go to Capitol Hill with the others, but I attended a workshop on Friday afternoon called Empowering Lives, Building Resilience, led by Dr. Renee Thomason.
Then on Friday evening, I was treated to dinner by Roti Meditteranean Grill (located in Union Station). It is only about 1/3 of a mile to Union Station (pictured below).
If you have never tried Roti Mediterranean Grill, it’s pretty much like a build your own burrito place, but instead with Mediterranean food. What drew me to Roti is that they have a gluten-free/gluten-friendly menu with gluten-free pita bread. Probably enough said there, too. I am sure all my gluten-free readers are now just as intrigued as I was!
So, I went with the salad with kabob, tahini sauce, and feta, cabbage slaw #becauseprobiotics!, and a side of hummus with an order of gluten-free pita bread. I would have dined in, but I was ready to head back to my room and relax. Plus, I had some yummy wine to pair with my meal chilling in the refrigerator.
So I scurried back like a hungry little squirrel and spread out my Mediterranean feast on the coffee table in front of the TV in my (rather extravagant for one person) hotel room.
I loved the chicken kabob salad because it was filling and healthy, which is how I like to eat even when I am out of town. I could not tell a difference between this pita bread and regular pita bread, and the side of hummus was enormous, and would be used on other food throughout the weekend thanks to the refrigerator in my room. If you’re curious about the wine, I packed three bottles with me to save money on beverages during my trip. Tonight’s wine was a Chardonnay which is a lovely pairing with grilled chicken.
Then for dessert, I snuck down to the Hyatt’s bar, the Article One Lounge, and ordered this cocktail (below) The Ketel One Watermelon Cooler. The title describes exactly the contents of the drink: watermelon, basil, and vodka with a lime wedge. I sat with some other alopecians who were hanging out and having some drinks. I love our community and how you can just ask to sit with someone and you’re accepted. Wig or no wig. It’s whatever makes you comfortable and people understand and can relate.
The next day, I headed out to explore Washington, D.C. via foot/running. I did a five mile run from my hotel to the Capitol building and down to the Washington Monument and back and below are the pictures I took during the run (while managing to get 5 miles in).
When I got back to the hotel, I finished my workout in the StayFit™ Fitness Center. It is a well-equipped gym with several treadmills, ellipticals, weights, a sauna, locker rooms, an indoor lap pool, and an outdoor sundeck. The gym’s set up reminded me of a greenhouse, as detailed in the picture (below). I ran three more miles and did 20 minutes elliptical thanks to the air-conditioning!!
Following my workout and gym time, I headed to another conference session: Ask the Experts. The Ask the Experts presentation was a panel of medical and research experts from a variety of fields to answer questions about the different aspects of alopecia areata including treatment and research. Though I don’t attend the conference anymore in search of a cure (I come for the camaraderie), it’s always interesting to hear the latest research.
Following the Ask the Experts panel, it was time to get blown away by the strength and courage of the panel during the Young Adult Perspective presentation. Seven young adults gave their testimony and answered questions from the audience about their experiences with alopecia. I admired this panel of kids (to me, now at 39) because they were diagnosed with alopecia during more formative years. I was diagnosed at 25 and never had to deal with bullying any of the weirdness an adolescent would have to face like these panelists surely did. They all gave helpful advice to audience members, especially the parents of children with alopecia, on what to say, how to react, and what to do to be a community advocate. It was a powerful seminar to say the least.
Then I headed back up to my room to get ready for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Article One. I had contacted the hotel the week of my trip to see if we could work together on a Paleo meal to feature here on my website. The marketing team for the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. was very receptive to my request. In addition, I received a room upgrade from a regular room that I paid for to an Executive Suite with many more amenities and a separate living room and sleeping area. My room included a refrigerator and a microwave, 2 televisions, and 2 different air/heating controls for the two rooms in the suite. The Executive Suite includes access to the Regency Club King room (a private access 11th floor lounge with dedicated concierge service, Continental breakfast, daily refreshments, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres). With the upgrade to Regency Club, I didn’t have to spend any extra money on meals during the day.
I snapped a pic of me all decked out for dinner (before heading up to the Regency Club for some early evening snacks and a glass of wine).
Following my visit to the Recency Club, I headed down to Article One for dinner.
The restaurant is very contemporary with vibrant reds/burnt orange and browns in its decor, and open to the hotel lobby. I was impressed with the open feel because you can still experience the buzz of the lobby, but still feel like you are tucked away for a private meal.
And a very special and private meal it was for yours truly, as I was treated by the Article One staff and Executive Sous Chef Ryan Ward.
I was thrilled with the amount of research Chef Ryan did on the Paleo diet, and I promise you if you have a dietary restriction, all you have to do is let the hotel know when you make your reservation. The staff will do everything they can to meet your needs and make your dinner a memorable one.
For your reference, here is the wine list at Article One.
Then my meal arrived, served by the Chef himself. It was a Rib-Eye steak, cooked medium rare, with turnips and potatoes. There was also a decadent mushroom sauce (I ordered on the side). Let’s just call it mushroom ketchup because I used it as a condiment for the perfectly cooked bites of steak and tender turnips and potatoes.
Chef Ryan also put together a dessert especially for me with mixed berries and mixed nuts and seeds. I ordered a glass of Pascual Toso Brut (an Argentinian sparkling wine) to have with dessert.
After my workout, which was again finished in the StayFit™ Fitness Center, I got my things all packed up and went down to attend the Closing Session led by NAAF Communications Director (and totally rad DJ) Gary Sherwood, Chief Development Strategist Maureen Smith, and the guest speaker, an NFL linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Shazier.
I want to thank the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. for the room upgrade, as well as the custom Paleo meal and wine I enjoyed during my stay. Everything was perfect including the 24-hour room service (not previously mentioned), which saved me from starving on Thursday night after a late flight and arrival to the hotel. I recommend the Field Greens Salad with Grilled Chicken!
I’d also like to tell you about Hyatt Hotels in Washington 2016 Summer Offer, which is a great deal for anyone who wants to visit D.C. It is available for Hyatt Gold Passport® Members, and offers up to a 15% off stays at participating Hyatt Hotels in Washington DC through September 10, 2016.
Here is the link with more details about this offer: http://www.hyatt.com/content/partnerlandingpage/en/corporate/global/hyatt-member-washingtondc.html
You can find the Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. Capitol Hill online here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
Beginning photo credit: NAAF’s Facebook page