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This California in December thing seems to be a trend now that NPS works for a silicon valley company. What that means is a week-long delay in the start of our annual no fly nöel thing.

So how did 2018 stack up? Well the tripometer was up year over year after many years. And most of the travel was international. This year we visited:

  • London (twice)
  • Inverness
  • Stuttgart
  • Neuremberg
  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Oslo
  • Sardegna
  • Malta

Lots of time outside the confines of the broken United States and its Orange Caligula of a “President.”

Here’s the graph.

The annual tripometer. Trips are up for NPS.

Because of all of the international travel, we had some interesting impact on loyalty programs. It’s not even clear we’ll make inner circle this year at Kimpton (horrors)!

Other than the “not really Virgin America” we have no loyalty anymore for any airlines. Treat them all the same and let the chips fall where they will. Use money to “upgrade” by starting out upgraded. My my how things have changed.

A direct comparison of international business class shows United has the best service. Here are two examples.
Delta
United

Anyway, time to stay home by the fire for a while.

Back at the Buchanan, this time for “mandatory corporate fun,” and all is well.

Sadly, when we booked, our favorite room was already slated for some other obviously undeserving guest and the Tetris game of chance did not work out in our favor. So what ya gonna do?

Start out in 216 and move up as soon as possible! 216 is a ADA room, which is not that big a problem, but its shower is wimpy and sucky, and it is too close to the street and thus a bit noisy. Oh well, one night won’t kill us.

We were greeted with a much-needed amenity which we scarfed down like the hungry dogs we are.

And then, since it was pretty late, it was straight to bed.

This shower is not plastic, but it needs a better shower head and better water pressure.

Fortunately, the room switcheroobie was smooth. So one night late, we moved up to 416. That’s better. Maybe next time the dice will roll in our favor!

View from 416

Hmm, that design looks familiar.

The MUCH better shower. All praise the shower goddess.

Bathroom with stuff: still life

The Buchanan lobby is interesting too, but not as interesting as GM E mily Gick who we finally connected with this visit. Thanks for the hospitality Emily.

Buchanan lobby

Art out of focus

Either four or five showerheads for the Buchanan. See you again soon!

In other San Francisco news, Zasie is a very trendy and great place for brunch. Cocktails at Blackbird do not suck.

Hinodeya ramen just across the street from the Buchanan is very good indeed and entirely authentic.

Cocktails at P.C.H in popup xmas mode is highly recommended. After that you must close down The Irish Bank. Spent some quality time with Jacques Bezuidenhout. What a blast!

“It’s at a Kimpton,” Scott said. And he had our attention. You know how we feel about Kimpton here at NPS. Not only that, the Kimpton was actually the Lorien in Alexandria, a property on the upswing run by our favorite Steph Vogel! Double bonus.

We’re there!

The drive in around the beltway at rush hour was awful as usual, leaving us only three minutes to valet, drop our bags, and head down to the Catoctin Creek event. Rye, Brandy and tasty treats from chef Sebastian Rondier? Yes please.

Becky and Scott make a great product that is almost as much fun to talk about as it is to drink. Cheers Catoctin Creek!

The fois gras bites with popcorn?! Genius.

The highlight of the evening was hanging out with Steph and catching up. It is always fun to introduce good people to each other!

Needless to say, we had a nice buzz and a warm glow after the event, so we headed over to the bar for a bigger snack. And then it was up to 301 (a new room at the Lorien for NPS).

301 is blue. That will (thankfully) change soon. Can’t wait to see what the designers do to this space.

Sitting room with a balcony

Amenity and note are always nice. Of course chef filled us up.

The all important shower is HUGE which also makes it a bit chilly

Bathtub in the shower

Really the only major bug in this room is the way the toilet is situated relative to the bed. That needs some more thought.

Not really

The sparkling water came in more than handy. It was a necessity after all of that rye!

Breakfast with Steph in the morning bright and early capped off a great Kimpton visit. Five showerheads and a rush order on the designer’s work at the Lorien. We’ll be back for sure.

There’s nothing like experiencing a new Kimpton property for the first time. In all of our countless trips up to NY, NPS has never visited Ink 48 (though we have heard tell of it). Hell’s Kitchen is pretty far up there, but sometimes business uptown happens!

Our greeting at the front was warm and welcoming even though it was supposed to be scary. We were assigned the fantastic river-view suite 1416 (for which we thank Steph and Barry). What a great room.

Room 1416 on a gorgeous day overlooking the Hudson

The sitting room section.

The bedroom section.

And the all important huge bathroom with a distinct shower cube in the corner. Plenty of room in here, and no sign of plastic.

Glowing shower cube of 1416.

The “hot and cold” amenity was impressive and delicious.

Dinner at Taboon is not to be missed. Outstanding bread, delicious food, a real cocktail program, a nice wine list. Seek it out. We enjoyed ourselves so much before the play that we returned after the crash.

Spirits Bisbas
1.5 oz hendricks gin
1 oz rhubarb puree
1 oz lemon
.5 oz dry vermouth
shake. serve up in a coup. smoked paprika on top

We tried to see a play at Lincoln Center, but it was not to be. About an hour in to “Junk,” technical things went south and never recovered. Frankly, we expect more out of NY Theater.

The “hot” part of the amenity came in handy late night when we got back from our cocktail run at Taboon.

Five showerheads and a warm glow for ink 48 in NY.

So, is it really worth it to spend the night in London on the way back from Malta? Why yes. Yes it is. If you stay at the Zetter.

We tried out room 505 this visit, which was a new one for NPS. The porch is fantastic (though London weather remains dreary).

The bathroom is slightly bigger than 503 but we still have to ignore the shower curtain.

Have some Ramen at the incredibly authentic Monohon Ramen.

And cap off the night with a cocktail at the Zetter Townhouse (where they brought me a Liberal 3 minutes after I arrived, unasked. Thanks Guy!).

Quick overnight visit two thumbs up and five showerheads to the Zetter.

Though this place is generally unavailable to the public, the showers are not plastic.

Valetta, Malta

Enemy boat hat (Leukemia Cup)

The definitely-no-sign-of-plastic shower.

Even the second bathroom!

Transparent glass sink

Coffee service is unprecedented. Espresso Macchiato in the morning.

The taproom is an outstanding place for dinner. Great cocktails too.

Make sure to visit Medina, the Dingli Cliffs, and a beach!

Don Berto pizza in Cospicua is as enthusiastic as it comes. Great pizza and a bunch of great bargains on the wine list if you know what you’re doing.

In Valetta, lunch at Trabuxu Bistrot is a must.

Skip dinner at Rampila. It is old school and needs some work on serving people under 70. The food is good, the experience is nothing special.

Visit the Malta War Museum and wander around in Valetta.

Complimenti a Villa Fanny

Villa Fanny located just outside of the heart of Caglieri is filled to the brim with design excellence. Finding a more gorgeous boutique convenient to everything in town would be impossible.

We stayed in suite ercole which is about as far from a hamster cage as you can get. The spiral staircase that dominates the ground floor is as beautiful as it is functional.

Suite Ercole Staircase

And just up the stairs is a comfortable space.

View from the stairway

Of course, the shower is not plastic.

And there is a huge tub likely to remain unused.

The room also shares a beautiful balcony overlooking the grounds.

In fact, all of the common spaces are thoughtfully designed, right down to the lighting.

Front desk

A group dinner at Ristorante Sa Schironada was much better than expected. Tasty and very fresh seafood, excellent cheese and charcuterie, and a house wine which was as mysterious as it was delicious.

Cocktails at American Bar Biffi are delicous. The space is interesting too (though a bit warm when we visited).

Caglieri is worth exploring on foot. There are many sights to be seen. Make sure to visit the Museo Archeologico and the Orto Botanico. See more pictures from the Museo Archeologico. See more pictures from the Orto Botanico.

Orto Botanico

Caglieri

Five showerheads and high hopes for a speedy return to Villa Fanny.