Perhaps you feel the same way as we do about Disney. If you love it, stop reading this blog now. If you were sentenced to your Disney time when you had children, well so were we. If you did your time and escaped alive, well don’t come to this island.

After a very low key and pretty great week on Salt Cay (hold your horses, that entry after a glass sync)—lots of diving, great people, no A/C, sand, golf carts, island people politics, and donkeys, we flew Caicos Express to Provo—we were thrust directly and abruptly into Colonel Sanders mode or maybe now we call it Wolfgang Puck mode (same kind of huckster). True American garbage brand imported to the islands. Ouch.

We went from this:

Salt Cay

Salt Cay

To this (you will have to imagine the pretend clean smell):

Oooh that smell, can't you smell that smell.

Oooh that smell, can’t you smell that smell.

You can keep this place. Super bad “live” music a la Casio blared on arrival with volume not compensating for competence, trees lit by blue (the new red) LED lights, cloroflourocarbons in tens of parts per million ruining the room air, overly clean hamster cage hell, this is it. The people are great, and they are woefully confused by the American consumer’s propensity for schlock.

Open all doors, air out the artificial atmosphere.

Open all doors, air out the artificial atmosphere.

Our advice? Skip provo, spend your time in hell after you die, and head straight to Salt Cay and its petty island politics.

At least there is an outside patio for this hamster cage.

At least there is an outside patio for this hamster cage.

But as Turks and Caicos virgins, who is gonna warn you? Maybe this blog?? OK hopefully. Glimmer on hope.

We are trapped in C102. The bathroom looks like this, so maybe our heuristic is not scaling in the Caribbean.

The shower, she not plastic.  But everything else, she very plastic.

The shower, she not plastic. But everything else, she very plastic.

We leave you with two showerheads and a blue tree. Not returning, ever.

Unnaturally blue.

Unnaturally blue.

Oh, a!most forgot. Magnolias is a very decent restaurant. Nice dishes. Dated but decent wine list (featuring that asshole parker). Great sweeping terrace view of the bay. Go there and sleep on the streets.

After two very good flights on USAir (the long international one with WiFi), we arrived in ProvInciales— referred to as Provo by those in the know.  The airport is tiny, but they take themselves very seriously for an island.  A very expensive ride to anywhere on the island seems somehow like a downscale Orlando.  You’re there, so you are screwed.  The currency of choice is US dollars.  Bring lots.

We spent one night at the Alexanda,, about 15 minutes from the airport and right on the ocean.  This is resort style living, replete with palm trees, bad landscaping, tall buildings, and overpriced food.  Nice, but certainly not what I am looking for on a tropical island.  It is beautiful of course, but about as touristy as, say, Disney.  Equally pretend.

A mixup with the room category was straightened out fairly quickly once it became clear we were going to hold our own.  We ended up in 4205, which is for sale BTW in case anybody needs a Disneyfied condo in paradise.

 

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The suite is nicely appointed and could be most anywhere in the world.  Net is free and decent.

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Double wide balcony off the living room and bedroom.

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The bed is very comfortable.

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The shower is not plastic.

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The kitchen is workaday, and there is a washer/dryer combo unit.

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There is a resort pool and several very bad bars.  An attempt to create an El Presidents was a dismal and complete failure..  The restaurant, mango reef, is way overpriced and low to middling.  Service is attentive if not clueless.  Food needs work. There is espresso in the morning, however, not to mention fresh OJ, and the wine list is ok,.

One whole night layover before flying Caicos Express to our real destination was just fine.  Four showerheads and some mouse ears for the Alexandra. 

The beach is very nice indeed.

 

I switched my flight to NY on the way up to LGA to avoid a united-caused crew delay which would have made me miss a major meeting. The red carpet club was very helpful and the switch was efficient and quick. But when the switch was made, my return flight seat next to my wife was relinquished magically by the computer and I am now reassigned to 22C on a 23 row plane. This makes me unhappy. Row 22 on an EMB-145 is truly awful.

I spoke to a frankly bitchy customer service supervisor who bordered on rude about the situation. Awesome. I suppose only assholes make supervisor in customer service at United these days since they have to deal with millions of angry customers? Lady, you need a different job.

Congrats United on taking 3 legs worth of reasonable service (a refreshing and surprising change), balling it up in a tight ball, and throwing it away.

Jeff Smisek’s pathetic operational capabilities have made their way to customer service. Why so harsh? Because running an airline is about more than Jeff Smisek marketing. It’s about operations.

The most ridiculous aspect of this particular delay was that United knew about it for hours and was not able to rectify the situation. In other words, operations is about as brittle as you can get. The second most ridiculous aspect was the ever changing departure time (and the request that passengers be at the gate at the original time just in case…because everyone knows how great EWR is). We decided to stay in the city and have dinner at tre dici instead. It was a risky decision but we made the flight just fine.

Here is the email trail:

at 3:57pm
United flight UA5837 on April 11 is delayed due to a late inbound aircraft.
Now departs: 9:10 p.m. on April 11 from gate A21, New York/Newark, NJ (EWR – Liberty)
Now arrives: 10:33 p.m. on April 11 at Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)
Please be at the gate for boarding prior to the original scheduled departure time of 7:41 p.m., as the departure time could be revised again.

at 6:08pm
United flight UA5837 on April 11 is delayed due to a late inbound aircraft.
Now departs: 9:50 p.m. on April 11 from gate A23, New York/Newark, NJ (EWR – Liberty)
Now arrives: 11:13 p.m. on April 11 at Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)

at 8:00pm
United flight UA5837 on April 11 is rescheduled.
Now departs: 9:34 p.m. on April 11 from gate A23, New York/Newark, NJ (EWR – Liberty)
Now arrives: 10:57 p.m. on April 11 at Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)

at 8:54pm
United flight UA5837 on April 11 is rescheduled.
Now departs: 9:26 p.m. on April 11 from gate A23, New York/Newark, NJ (EWR – Liberty)
Now arrives: 10:49 p.m. on April 11 at Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)

FWIW, wheels up at 9:45.

By monitoring the app, I was able to see when some passengers bailed and switch my seat back. Did anyone at United do that? Nope, not even the twitter watchers. Why not?

United airlines still sucks. Jeff Smisek still needs to be fired.

The Expressjet crew was nice at least.

It was one of those days. Plenty of time to get to the airport, no real rush. But somehow my belt did not get the memo and I arrived in NY beltless—for a big meeting with lots of senior banking execs flown in from all over the world?! Horrors. (They were all wearing French cuffs and pocket squares.)

Kimpton attempted to bail me out when the massive belt oversight emergency was broadcast to the world over the @noplasticshower twitter feed (follow us here). [BTW, it turns out that @kimpton does a better job realtime monitoring twitter than @kimptoninnyc! Hmm. It also turns out that Kimpton emergency coordination better accomplished by central emergency services (in san fran maybe?) than by Kevin the concierge in NY.]

Thing is, there was no time to lose. So we uber’ed to two hotels and a mall on the way to the financial district. JC Penny belt it is!

About 20 minutes before my meeting downtown, a twitter DM arrived from @kimpton emergency services who, of course, had managed to pick me up a belt! It was waiting in my room when I got back after the meeting, dinner, general carousing, and shutting down a bar. Super amazing great, but just a smidge too tardy. Thanks anyway Eventi staff (and double thanks to @kimpton central emergency services)! You guys are the best.

Not only was there a belt, there was also a nice snack and some sparkling water. The water probably saved us from certain death by dehydration. Thanks Rebecca.

Thank you Kimpton for beltifying the emergency!  Super kind.

Thank you Kimpton for beltifying the emergency! Super kind.

Another great authentic Italian meal at Roc in Tribeca. It seemed like the after dinner grappa (moscato) was a good idea, but it completely dissolved our resolve to make an early night of it right there on the spot. And then the lemoncello.

So instead of heading in to harbor, we simply walked over to weather up for some delicious beverages and a bourbon lesson.

By that time we were on a roll and managed to uber on up Lantern’s Keep where I believe we stayed until they ran out of fernet branca. Oh woe is us. We did determine that barman bob is no longer working at Lantern’s Keep , and I am sure that we met the current barmen, but we pretty much don’t recall.

Thursday morning was blinding and way too early. But rally we did for another busy day at the office.

Bright.  Ouch.

Bright. Ouch.

BTW, our secret noplasticshowers spy contingency is with us this trip. That may explain why the bathroom is so messy and there is a yoga mat on the floor.

Glass shower in 2104

Glass shower in 2104

Two shower heads in the shower.  And plenty of water pressure.  Ahhh.

Two shower heads in the shower. And plenty of water pressure. Ahhh.

Who knew that there were yoga mats?!

Who knew that there were yoga mats?!

We strolled down the high line to NYU from midtown. The high line is beautiful in every season.

Thursday evening was capped with a relaxing visit to the Brandy Library.

Anyway, the eventi is feeling more homey in NY even though there is the apartment, and it is in NY! Must be the Kimpton vibe. Five showerheads and some much needed sleep.

This is my friend Pooh’s favorite drink (well, actually he likes whatever drink is currently in his glass best, but no quibbling). From the fun and mostly accurate book Boozehound.

This is a classic gin fizz derivative with some fun features. Get your ingredients together before you make this one. It takes confectioner’s sugar and an egg white. (The egg you use must be ultra fresh, laid the day of mixing.)

Boris Karloff
0.75 oz gin (we recommend Sipsmith for this drink)
0.75 oz St-Germain Eiderflower liqueur
1 oz lime juice
1 T confectionner’s sugar (10X)
1 egg white (FRESH)
club soda to top
lime zest (small pieces)
fresh ground pepper
Combine gin, st-germain, lime, sugar. shake well. add egg white and shake to foam (20+ seconds). strain into glass with ice. add soda to top. sprinkle lime zest and pepper on top.

The noplasticshowers verdict on the Conrad finally reached its tipping point during the last visit (ten thumbs down). But we need to stay in Indy at least once a year, and we need a place to stay!

Our first experience at The Alexander, a fairly new hotel near Monument Circle (and right across the street from Lilly), was a mixed bag. So close! And yet not quite where it needs to be. So much better than the Conrad; but so not at the level of a Kimpton.

A litany of small nits and nots: 1) housekeeping knocked on my door at 8:12am to see if I was gone (the computer probably knows and I was just stepping out of the shower), 2) no morning newspaper? (not even USA Today?!—just a joke), 3) the shower pressure is poor (and you know how we feel about showers), 4) management came to see about a delay during checkin and did not solve the problem?! (managers who simply go to get more staff need to roll up their sleeves and do some work), 5) the gestalt of the building has more in common with suburban mall fake hipster than real art (not as bad as this indigo mess, this Florida mess, or this thing in Norway, but approaching it), 6) the password for the front desk system was divulged live and out loud and joked about (hey, that computer knows my credit card number, that is not a joke).

Beyond the level of nit is the standard issue hamster cage architecture. I was assigned room 6041 which other than being way way way down the hall from the elevators is exactly the same as all of the other rooms. Better than a Marriott hamster cage, but only by reference to surface style stuff! Yuck. Looks like better rooms to ask about might be 6001 (big suite), 6045 (corner facing right way) and 6044 (corner facing wrong way).

Here is 6041 (and all the rest of the 42 numbers not yet covered).

6041 hamster cage

6041 hamster cage

That's pretty much the sum of it.

That’s pretty much the sum of it.

There are some very nice touches though. Power on the bedsides (and USB too). Euro power adapters on the desk with HDMI, serial, USB, etc. Super good free wifi.

Of course wifi is free.  But that is rare in Indy.

Of course wifi is free. But that is rare in Indy.

The bathroom situation is uncluttered, but not very glam. Fixtures too cheap and water pressure too low. This may not be fixable in the model.

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Nice big glass shower, but the water dribbles out of the spout by gravity alone.

Nice big glass shower, but the water dribbles out of the spout by gravity alone.

One of the many style touches has a bit too much Marriott for my tastes.

Good?  Bad?  We can't tell.

Good? Bad? We can’t tell.

The best and most surprising part of The Alexander is its superior bar Plat 99. Though we don’t really dig the architecture at all, the drinks are fantastic. Watch out Kimpton, these guys are coming on strong! I was served by DC barman William Mohring who was willing to play and had a nice body of knowledge. He served me this:
The (Indianapolis) Diplomat
1 oz bulleit bourbon
1 oz bonal
1 oz black seal rum
.17oz all spice dram
[2 drops white creme de menthe]
stir down, serve over rocks with 2 luxardo cherries

Impressive back bar at Plat99

Impressive back bar at Plat99

As a final verdict, The Alexander seems to be the only place to stay in Indianapolis that we can tell anyway. But in the end this hotel is only a high three showerheads place at most. Maybe some of the nits and nots can be eradicated (hopefully they are not too entrenched in the Dolce model). We look forward to finding out.

Well, more like thunderstorms. This week is wet. Fortunately, the Grant Street Inn will provide umbrellas for those guests too clueless to plan ahead with the Interwebs.

Radar around Bloomington

Radar around Bloomington

Sometimes I miss the thunderstorms in the midwest. You can see them coming for miles and then they arrive in a hurry. Lightning, thunder, heavy rain in sheets, wind. It’s not tornado season now, but those happen too.

Sometimes I don’t miss the thunderstorms at all. Here’s what it sounds like at 6am in room 30.

After some finagling during prep for this trip, room 30 magically became available. The management does know its guests. As always, the only place to stay in Bloomington is the Grant Street Inn. Room 30 has a good shower.

Rainy days on Grant Street

Rainy days on Grant Street

In other news, Farm is OK, Soma coffee is still the best in town, the Irish Lion continues to have an outstanding selection of fine bourbon and rye (served by delightfully sassy waitresses), and The Rail will serve you breakfast for dinner if you want, along with a world class cocktail.

Try this little number, whose clever name escapes us:
1.5 oz buffalo trace bourbon
.5 oz eldorado 8 yr rum
.25 spiced honey syrup (1:1 with cinnamon, allspice)
.25 amaro abano
3 dashes mole bitters
Stir down, serve on the rocks with an expressed orange peel dropped in. (this drink needs to be adjusted toward the bitters.)

Almost forgot, United Express (operated by Shuttle America) flew a nice new Embrear 170 this trip. No net, but plenty of room for a commuter jet. Then again, it was April Fools Day.

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