Home

Maybe we here at NPS are getting even more spoiled? Or maybe hotel standards are rising? Probably both. Whatever it is, the College Hotel seems to be fraying around the edges.

What used to be a quirky and particularly stupid internet solution involving a password for each device (I have 4) and no tracking of MAC addresses is no longer tenable. Even with a monolithic wifi router for “VIP’s,” the throughput today is so bad that OOKLAs speedtest takes several minutes to load. Need to get some high-throughput work done? Better find better net elsewhere (like, say, the RSA Europe Conference). The net and its denizens have changed in the last few years, and the creaky unreliable net available here at College Hotel is no longer going to work.

When I went to see whether there was a better solution this morning, I was informed that the VIP net has a different ISP. I am pretty sure they mean different wireless router (same ISP). No dice. Need proof?

Speed test from the College Hotel (woe is us)

Speed test from the College Hotel (woe is us)

The bar program has also receded drastically since the days of Luke Gertsen who sadly has left rainy Amsterdam for Curacoa where he is, fittingly enough, running his own bar. You may recall that Luke and his understudy Mads Voorheove went so far as to procure a bottle of Amer Picon from France last time NPS was here just to try a real Liberal. That bottle has long since disappeared as has most of the mixology clue.

Case in point. As cocktail fanatics, we wanted a pre-dinner cocktail but the default list was pretty dull (no serious house concoctions anymore). I asked for a Liberal, wrote down explicit instructions, asked for them not to try to make one without the proper ingredients, talked about whether there was Amer Picon still in the house. Eventually they brought me something which they claimed was a Liberal. I even tweeted its picture. It was not.

Betrayed by a bartender. After dinner I went to show the bartender (who shall remain nameless) how to do it right and he revealed his trickery. I think that sucks. I would rather not be misled. And I sure as hell don’t want to pay to be misled. So as a reward I taught him to make a Nevada. At least there’s that. Grumble.

So how about the rooms? I am in 101 this time which is very similar in flavor to 109 but with a better bathroom.

One way 101.

One way 101.

Other way 101.

Other way 101.

The problems with this room are all small but niggling. Like, no outlets by the desk. Incomprehensible room light switches that do random things. No tissues in the bathroom. No music playback device. But the real kicker is bad net (as discussed above). These are all things that upscale hotels (like say, the Kimptons) are doing well. Time for Europe to catch up.

The shower is really nice though. A serious drencher.

Shower pod and toilet pod?!

Shower pod and toilet pod?!

There was a welcome note from the manager Bobbby and some candies when I arrived. That is a very nice thing for Europe and very rare indeed.

IMG_0360

While we’re on the very good aspects of the College Hotel, we need to give some serious kudos to the restaurant. I’ve had several meals there and last night’s dinner was the best so far. Very good oxtail ravioli soup followed by excellent and very Dutch/Italian risotto. Delicious and expertly put together. Thank you chef.

And a bar redemtion. Tonight, barman Rick made both a very good Dutch Negroni and a McSherry Sour:
4 cl Maccallan Amber
20 cc Amontillado Sherry (medium dry)
25 cc Lemon juice
15 cc vanilla simple syrup 2:1
Stir down. Serve on the rocks with a fancy lemon garnish. [This desperately needs a Luxardo cherry and a smidge of such syrup to make it perfect.]

We held an event at the College Hotel on night2, and the event was very nicely executed by the staff, including the barman. Live jazz always helps. After the event we headed out for a late dinner at Solo which was pretty not bad. Then late night drinks at the fantastic door 74. It’s still impossible to get in without a reservation. Absinthe hour stretched to 4am.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 8.38.18 AM

Day3 included trick or treating with the kids (not mine…some friends’) followed by an absolutely world class round of sushi at Okura’s Yamazato Restaurant sushi bar. As good as any sushi I have had anywhere (NY and San Jose might be just a tad better), this restaurant is beyond authentic. No wonder they have a Michelin star.

Of course no visit to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the exquisite Van Gogh museum. It was a particular treat for two reasons: 1) just after the Phillips visit there was lots of data in my head, 2) Friday night there is live music and video art.

CAM00007

CAM00003

CAM00013

CAM00009

Better net and a better bar will earn the College Hotel the ranking it should have. Meanwhile, four showerheads it is.

IMG_0355

Regular readers know that the College Hotel is by far my favorite place to stay in Amsterdam. We’re running a small Conference here this week, and the venue is absolutely perfect for a meeting.

And get this. Serious mixology is available at the College Hotel now too! Bartender Luke Gerntsen is leading the way and is particularly good with the knife.

I checked in way early after an awful flight and a swing and a miss at Privium (did I mention that United sucks? Oh OK). The College Hotel was kind enough to allow me to shower in an unoccupied room since my room was not yet available. Here is how the shower in 301 looks. 301 is cramped but quirky. All bed.

Shower in 301. Nice to recover in from a crap flight on United.

Bathroom pod in 301.

Lunch with colleagues (which we’ll just ignore) and a trip to see the tulips began to improve my mood.

Keukenhof beauty. Stunning.

Upon return, my room, 123, was ready. My first reaction was that I preferred 105, but 123 has grown on me and I enjoy the three major windows and light during the time I spend here in the daylight. FWIW, I was met with a fruit plate and a personal note, which is a nice touch and fairly uncommon in Europe.

Through the double doors.

The shower is plenty big with multiple heads (including a soaker) and a very interesting double door.

The rest of the room is set on two levels with a sitting room (small but very nice) and a bedroom. The layout is quirky and nice. It takes a while for me to remember I am in Europe and to recall the size of my apartment in Trento way back when!

Window seat in the sitting room.

Comfortable bed (well, anything is great after 36 hours awake).

Architecture.

Now back to mixology. Mads Voorheove (who I suppose it Luke’s understudy, but who is very good in his own right) mixed up a nice Royal Navy for me, after which we had an extensive lesson in Genever. We tried three Bols products (Songe Genever, Oude Genever, and the one I have at home…trendy Genever for export) and two Corewyn products (standard and 10 year). Both of the Corewyn products were superb.

We visited Feijoa and said hello to Rob and company. The rum selection is still top notch. And then we paid a visit or two to the speakeasy at door 74 where we were served by Ben and Tess.

What a joy to have real drinks in such a nice hotel. Life is good.

College Hotel, Amsterdam

November 13, 2010

By now I am getting used to staying in the College Hotel when I come to Amsterdam. This time I even requested magical room 105. So far, the electricity seems to be cooperating. Uncharacteristically (and most excellently) there is free net at the College Hotel, but it has a rather silly registration system that barely works on my mac and my google G2.

I have already talked about the really cool bathroom in this room with the infinite mirror effect in previous entries. But here are a couple of new photos anyway. The shower is like a little stage with a stage curtain.


I had the usual tough time adjusting to time zones even with an uneventful flight in. I went out with some friends to the Van Gogh museum in the late afternoon. My favorite part was running around between paintings with a 5 year old girl talking about what she liked and what she saw. That was a blast. It’s nice to see young ones like that get so exceited about art. Upon my return, I went to bed early (I know, I know, a waste of a Saturday night in Amsterdam). Of course I woke up randomly in the middle of the night and did some reading on my new kindle. The kindle is way cooler than I would have expected it to be. The passive screen is really nice.

I finally fell asleep way too early in the morning. I guess the most surprising part of the trip so far was being awakened by my friend marcus who showed up at 10 fresh off a US flight and knocked on my door. I figured I would be up by the time he arrived. No dice. We all went out to the Jazz brunch at American Hotel which has become somewhat of a tradition on my visits to Amsterdam. If you’re in Amsterdam on Sunday make sure to check that out.

Marcus and I walked in the rain from the Eden to Centraal to catch the train to Rotterdam. The Saint Nicholas day crowds were impressive indeed. It rained.

Ultimately, the College Hotel is great. Five showerheads and a permanent place on the list of really nice places to stay on planet earth.

The College Hotel in Amsterdam has already been covered in the blog. It was nice to be back, this time with my son and my dad in tow. We are on a three-generation Spring Break European blowout.

Here’s a picture of the hotel at night taken at midnight yesterday after a visit to my favorite mixology/rum bar in Amsterdam called Feijoa. The rum collection there is world class.

We had some shenanigans getting the room right and had to do what I guess I should call the “College Hotel shuffle.” But in the end we got a great suite with excellent showers and plenty of room to stretch out. Add to that live jazz, a great restaurant, and beautiful high ceilings…what a nice way to visit Amsterdam.

Five shower heads again for the College Hotel.

College Hotel, Amsterdam

January 28, 2010

I’ve been to Amsterdam several times but really had never found a hotel that made me happy.  That all changed this trip.  I can now heartily recommend the College Hotel.

Of course there is a catch. I checked in and got a beautiful room on a very rainy awful day. This was all good because I had a ton of work to get done. Here is a shot of the first room.

The view was gorgeous, and the bathroom was really cool too.  In fact, I was bummed that I had to leave the room when the electricity went on the fritz.  I hope the place doesn’t burn down.

Here’s the shower.

And more importantly the very well designed sink. Check out the infinite mirror effect. Could be very dangerous to certain Amsterdam visitors if you know what I mean!

But I ended up having to move and the move was non-trivial.  You see, once you give someone the best room in the hotel, it’s pretty much impossible to move them to a much inferior room!

After three attempts, I finally ended up in an upstairs room with interesting beams.  It’s shaped along with the roof of the old building.  Here is a picture of the bathroom.  Note how the sink area is directly connected to the room with a couple of long steps down.  And the mirror is tilted at 45 degrees or so (making shaving an adventure).

The shower is interesting too.  Here is a shot of the door.  Inside, the shower is shaped in a most peculiar way due to the roof line.  Also there are two showerheads…one that slides up and down Euro style, and another that is a drench shower.

The College Hotel is very likely to become my hotel of choice in Amsterdam.  Not only are the rooms great, the bar is interesting and fun, the restaurant is top notch, and the service is young and committed.  Five showerheads and an “I’ll be back.”

Supposedly the only five star hotel in Rotterdam, the Manhattan Hotel is very proud of itself. They say so in all of their marketing materials which are liberally scattered throughout the room, in the hallways, and on the intarwebs. The hotel is very conveniently located right across the construction zone from the train station, making it easy to find. And checkin was very generic with cute blonds who know absolutely nothing but what their computers tell them. Alas, five star places in Europe still have not figured out that we like Internet for free. I’m paying 35 Euros for two days worth of net…and get this…the wired variety. Personally, I think that deserves a subtraction of at least two of the stars right there.

I am in room 305 which is a generic euro-rectangle room with a nice high end bathroom. After the College Hotel, this place feels like a hamster cage. I guess it’s good to be spoiled.

Here is a picture of the glass shower cube (we approve) taken through the bathroom mirror. THe shower itself is very nice with plentiful hot water and great pressure.

Hopefully the shower will live up to its modern looks.  (It does.) Another view from the bathtub.

And I would be remiss not to include a picture of the tub itself.  Seems unlikely that I’ll try it out this trip.

We’ll have to give the Manhattan Hotel a four out of five showerheads.  It’s a nice place, but simply too generic to rate a five, especially in comparison to the kinds of boutique hotels that this blog is about.

I broke the 1,000,000 lifetime miles barrier on United just in time before “no fly December” starts. Of course I know about this already, but United hasn’t figured it out yet. I was on a 777 to Amsterdam in business class. Sadly, the equipment was an “old” 777 instead of one of the new 767s or upgraded 747s. It seems the only way to get a 767 to Europe these days (from Dulles) is to fly to London and allow them to misplace your baggage. The new airplane pods rule, but not enough to fly through Heathrow.

My seatmate (I was in my usual seat 8B) and I toasted a “condolences” toast. The flight attendants didn’t understand what I was talking about when I told them I had just broken the one million mark. United needs better programmers. I’ll keep an eye on the mileage plus website to see when the computer over there clues in (see below). Anyway, if you’re expecting champagne and special service for attaining such a lofty goal on a particular flight—forget it!

All in all, the flight was just fine. A bit quick and turbulent for real sleep (especially without the lay flat pods found in real airplanes). I’ve been to Schiphol so many times that I know my way around and was at the College Hotel well before 8. The College Hotel people were incredibly great and let me sneak into room 109 to take a quick shower. My favorite room (105) is currently occupied and check out time around here is noon. It’s nice to be welcomed to Europe like that…feels kinda like home here now. A nice way to end the 2010 travel pile.

The Bellevue Club Hotel is a beautiful little luxury hotel very close to Microsoft (6 miles or so). I’ve stayed here a few times, and each time my stay has been enjoyable. The staff is exceptional, and the rooms are great. My only problem over the years has been late arrivals and a closed restaurant, but such are the hazards of travel.

The rooms are understated and sophisticated with very nice furnishings and plenty of space to work and relax. And the bathrooms are world class.

Here’s a shot of the shower through the bathroom door. Note the mirror effect (which is similar to the College Hotel in Amsterdam).

Not only is the bathroom beautifully appointed, the shower in my room this time is huge and has two showerheads. Seems like fun! Too bad I am here all by myself.

The Bellevue club is definitely on my short list of great places ti stay. There are a couple of other very nice hotels in downtown Seattle that I also like, but they are pretty far away from the evil Empire. I will definitely be back.

I suppose given two actual showers in the shower that the Bellevue should qualify for 10 showerheads! But 5 is the max and 5 it is.