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Is NPS spoiled? Yes. Does that make life harder for hotels and airlines when it comes to expectations? Yes. Welcome to the world of high end travel.

2018 started with a trip across the country on the NPS “trip across the country” airline—Virgin America. Or what’s left of it anyway. Virgin America is becoming more and more like Alaska. And frankly, that sucks. Sure, we’re MVP Gold on Alaska by default. But who cares? Going from the Nordstrom’s world to JC Penny is not gonna cut it.

Here’s an example of what is happening to Virgin America. The checkin process at Dulles was always super friendly, efficient, and FAST. Now there is a line and it is a line of Alaska flyers.

The flight across the country was just fine after using cash money to upgrade to First. So there’s that.

Next came the wrong room problem at the Buchanan in San Francisco (216 versus 316 or 416). Sadly this happens almost every time we stay here. Sure, NPS helped to establish the Kimpton InTouch program years ago (now known as Karma and soon to be known as IHG Rewards Club (blech)), but super elite Kimpton/IHG status does nothing to add to the number of available Kimpton rooms we like in San Francisco. The staff at the Buchanan does all they can to accommodate demand. But demand is just outstripping supply. And as a demander, well the market is about to speak.

Time’s up you guys, only two OK quality San Francisco Kimpton properties still?? IHG needs to step it up in this city. Really.

View from the Buchanan San Francisco (Japantown)

Of course, Emily Glick and her people get all the blowback in public, but really it is corporate that is at fault by this stage. Hopefully Emily will forgive us for making clear what we expect!

Amenity. Thanks to the Buchanan team

216 has a few of problems from the NPS perspective. Number one is that the shower needs a better shower head. Water pressure is not sufficient. At least it’s a glass cube! Number two, the room is ADA sanctioned and we are not special needs campers. That means the closet is not usable, and the tub is a mess of machines. Number three, the second floor is too close to the street and it is noisy.

So no more 216 for us. We’ll just have to stay elsewhere next visit.

Shower? Glass is good.

The tub has served as a closet for hanging clothes this trip

Or maybe you can hang your coats on this thing in the hall

Of course, Japantown is great and the Buchanan is hip and well located. Staying here is always a good thing.

Green tree view

216 does not suck. But pretty not bad is not good enough.

Yeah, we brought the violin and even managed to play some music with our friends in Oakland.

Some data from San Francisco. Sweet Maple is a great place for breakfast and so is The Grove. For a real Japantown meal, try to find Kui Shin Bo.

Dinner at Flour+Water is just as fantastic as ever. The Progress is, likewise, a very good place to eat (and unlike its sister next door, you can walk in).

The Dando from The Progress
1 oz rye
.75 oz amaro angelino
.5 aperol
1 oz meyer lemon juice
.5 oz pear shrub
shake. up. large cube.

Cocktails at Wildhawk are highly recommended.

This time three showerheads for the Buchanan’s failed Tetris game. No more games of chance for NPS. 2018 is gonna be interesting.

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!

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Want to be near the Pacific in a terrific city? San Francisco can do that for you.

This visit included a bug free stay at the Buchanan Hotel in Japantown where Emily G and her excellent co-workers made us feel especially welcome. Here’s how.

First, the giant tetris game that is specific hotel room request came out in our favor and we secured 416 (the best room in the property with lots of windows and a great bathroom).

Yellow roses

Yellow roses

Second, yellow roses!

Third, a mystery gift…

What's in the bag?

What’s in the bag?

Sleepytime tea, honey, and some pottery mugs. Just like home.

Sleepytime tea, honey, and some pottery mugs. Just like home.

Arrival was delightful.

416 and roses

416 and roses

Notes, sparking water, cheese and fruit.  All good.  Plus tea!

Notes, sparking water, cheese and fruit. All good. Plus tea!

416 has a spacious bathroom with a glass shower. No plastic showers!!

The glass shower cube

The glass shower cube

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A little rain never hurt anything. Especially in drought stricken California. The fact that the weather was perfect for the weekend was, well, perfect.

Rainy day Japantown

Rainy day Japantown

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With the expert help of Jacob, Saturday’s itenerary was outstanding.

Brunch at Foreign Cinema was first. We used the show up at 10:45 and walk right in at 11 hack.

Foreign Cinema brunch

Foreign Cinema brunch

Followed by a quick last minute stint at the Farmer’s Market

Saturday morning market

Saturday morning market

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And a trip to Lands End.

Land's End

Land’s End

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Who's that?

Who’s that?

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Cocktail hour was spent at the always fantastic Smuggler’s Cove for tiki, rum, and conversation. A meeting of the secret book club was held.

Smuggler's Cove is one of the best bars in the world

Smuggler’s Cove is one of the best bars in the world

Dinner was at The Progress. Super fantastic, rollicking fun time. And the food was good too!

Sunday should start with a great brunch, say at the Hillside Supper Club.

And then a trip to Napa on a gorgeous day! Domaine Carneros is a great target, especially if you have club privileges.

One of my favorite wines in the world is Old Hill from Ravenswood.

Pizza evening (due to a 2 hour wait at the sushi place we targetted) was followed by a visit to the delightful Churchhill bar. This is a low key almost dive like neighborhood place with an outstanding collection of serious booze.

In other San Francisco fun NPS gladly notes the following establishments:
lunch (every day) at cafe claude
ramen in Japantown at Waraku
fun and games with superb cocktails at Forgery
world class brunch at Plow
jacques incredible cocktails in a relaxed and gorgeous room at Wildhawk
outstanding food at rich table

About which these twitterz:

Thursday madness was particularly fun this iteration.

Five showerheads with a wink and a nod for the Buchanan where everything went as planned.

OK, strap in for some first world problems and whining. We’ll try to get it over with quick.

NPS exists because, well, no plastic showers. Kimpton usually fulfills that mission admirably and is NPS’s hotel group of choice by a country mile. But San Francisco suffered a massive property meltdown during the IHG acquisition, and its impact can be felt all the way to today. Bill Kimpton would not likely be pleased.

After a very long day of flying across the country and working into the evening on a challenging task, a nice dinner at Slanted Door followed by drinks at Hard Water was just what the doctor ordered on a rainy rainy night. Which means we arrived way late at the Buchanan (after midnight). More about that is a sec.

Hard Water was a blast. If you like bourbon and rye, you need to go there.

We concentrated on Rye, doing a Handy Rye comparison experiment with a Sazarac chaser. Awesome.

On arrival at the Buchanan, things started off OK. We were assigned a room, but it was not the one we explicitly requested. So we proceeded on up.

Which meant, a room with a plastic shower. What happened? Did the system fail? Did nobody bother to work this through? Yes.

811

811

After a brief and very disappointing entry into 811 we went down to see what could be done about it. That is when the Demarco demerits set in, about which we’ll write only that the situation later required management intervention. Someone needs some more training.

A crappy plastic shower in 811

A crappy plastic shower in 811

811 is just fine by Marriott standards, but it is not a room to shlep all the way to Japantown for. The shower is the worst kind of plastic shower. Shower curtains are our bane.

There was a nice amenity, sparkling water, an interesting view, and a note from GM Emily Glick. They knew we were coming, kinda. You see, it turns out that nobody put two and two together about NPS and this mystery inner circle member of 14 years. Dang. We appreciate the perqs, kimpton but all we really want is NO PLASTIC SHOWERS.

The shower was plastic.

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And it got worse. Very early in the morning when it came time to use the crappy plastic shower, the shower curtain was filthy. Just gross.

The nuclear option was pursued, and everything was discussed if not resolved. Thanks to the social media team, mike d, and email for making all of that possible. The room we wanted was (miraculously) free the next day, but there was no time to move stuff on this quick hop. And no we were not expecting any kind of upgrade. We’re happy to pay retail when on business. Flowers were involved, which was a very nice touch.

Thanks for the flowers.  Lets get this right next time.

Thanks for the flowers. Lets get this right next time.

Anyway, we can’t exactly cross the Buchanan off the list, because it is the best remaining Kimpton option in San Francisco. We’ll be back soon hoping that things run more smoothly.

Two showerheads, seven demarco demerits, and a trip to detention for the Buchanan. Thanks for working things out Emily, but lets just have nothing to work out next go ’round please.

Visiting a new Kimpton property is always fun. We’re happy to say that due to the highly-interconnected nature of the Kimpton GM network, our reputation at NPS proceeds us. LOL. Hopefully that’s not too bad a thing.

Japanese Peace Garden

Japanese Peace Garden

So we met GM Emily Glick on the net well before even landing in San Francisco. She is awesome.

The flight out to San Francisco was very nice on Virgin America. So much better than United! But in the air, an email arrived with the title “Small snag – Buchanan Hotel.” Gotta hate that! Turns out that the evil person occupying the room I was supposed to be in failed to depart! That meant a different room, and frankly one with a few bugs.

The main problem with 216 is that it is too low and close to street noise. As a country boy, city noises are disconcerting and make sleeping a challenge. Also the hotel net has been super flaky this visit with big lags, dropped packets, DNS issues. Say it ain’t so in 2016!

216 spartan

216 spartan

216

216

216 has a glass shower but is set up for handicap access

216 has a glass shower but is set up for handicap access

216

216

216 in daylight, the window pop outs are cool

216 in daylight, the window pop outs are cool

Desk popout

Desk popout

Thanks to the staff of the Buchanan for the amenity. Sparkling water comes in handy.

Snacks!

Snacks!

Switching rooms became an option after the evil occupy 416 person departed. 416 is much better that 216 for reasons that are hard to describe. Better lines. Sleeker. Cleaner. Better view. All around much more Kimpton-like.

416

416

hallway lines 416

hallway lines 416

Shower cube 416

Shower cube 416

View from the glass cube

View from the glass cube

Japantown at night

Japantown at night

The family run restaurant at the Buchanan (mums) is cute and very Japanese. At breakfast I heard French, Russian, and of course English. Sadly, they have no espresso. But three minutes away in the Japantown Mall is the Andersen bakery. They can be taught how to make a doppio macchiato

Espresso can be found at  Andersen bakery

Espresso can be found at Andersen bakery

It remains to be seen whether any non-meeting time will remain this trip. Too busy for San Francisco makes gem a dull boy.

Four showerheads and a room switcherooby for the Buchanan. Nice property a bit off the beaten path with a few snags.

If anything is true, this is: NPS votes with its money. Sure, we pile on the praise (and the snark) as necessary. We even take on hotel chains that think they have us irreversibly trapped in their loyalty program. (See, for example, this fun entry out of Los Angeles.) Well, the time has come to do some fund re-allocation.

You see, the Buchanan Hotel in San Francisco (a Kimpton) has been our San Francisco home for a couple of years. Sadly, due to too much demand, we are unable to get the room we want when we stay there. So how do we solve that problem? We remove demand. Last time we were in San Francisco we walked across the street to the Hotel Kabuki to check it out. As a result, we’re staying at Kabuki this time.

The lobby, common areas, and bar are all very upscale, nicely designed, and worth a visit. On our arrival, we dropped off the bag upstairs and headed straight to the bar. Sazarac? Yes please (with a little help from our friends).

We requested and were happy to occupy a corner room up high. Room 1402 is most likely indicative of the best room category on the property.

design sensibility 1402

The bedroom sector is the most up to date, with interesting design.

bedroom sector 1402

1402 offers a very good view of Japantown and even the Golden Gate in the distance. Two banks of windows provide a very wide view. Mornings were beautiful this week.

Luggage pod is exposed in the hallway to the door.

Luggage and refrigerator

An amenity (!!) on our first stay was very much welcome. Thanks Kabuki!! Champagne and fruit is very nice indeed.

wow, a welcome amenity and they barely know us

the window bank

Then there is the bathroom. Number one, the open design is a bit chilly. A door instead of a doorway would help. That bank of windows in 1402 (including two sliding doors installed in the ’70s) can keep things pretty chilly in February, even with two sets of curtains. Updating the glass would probably help too.

bathroom sector 1402

The shower area is huge. Too huge, as it turns out, mostly because the glass door (approved) does not shut tight and chilly air comes in to make a great shower less than great. Looks like nobody actually took a shower to test this design before implementing it.

glass shower…huge

The shower has both a drench head and a handheld shower head. But that cold air.

shower head 2

So, all is not yet well at the Hotel Kabuki, where some attention to detail is in order.

Did housekeeping remove your not quite empty bottle of sparkling water? Try calling down to get some more. No dice. And no creativity from the front desk. High end hotels solve problems.

Want espresso for breakfast in the morning? Nope.

Want to adjust the temperature? Good luck figuring out how the thermostat works (it appears not to do anything at all).

Did you open the sliding glass door to access the balcony? Getting it closed again may be an issue.

On the positive side again, Japantown is a great base of operations in San Francisco. There are exceptional restaurants and cocktail locations within striking distance, and the Filmore corridor up the hill is hopping.

We schlepped out to Haight-Ashbury for dinner at Black Sand. This local bistrot has great food and good cocktails.

We taught the bartenders how to make Bill’s Big Birthday Beverage:
1 oz Ancho Reyes
1 oz cardamaro
1 oz fresh orange juice
.25 oz hot pepper infusion (in this case, house made)
Shake. Strain. Serve up.

Anyway, with more attention to the details above, Hotel Kabuki will displace the Buchanan as San Francisco’s default location for NPS. Four showerheads for the Hotel Kabuki. Rise to the occasion please!

Maybe you get a pass on the plastic shower thing if you are an historical property and you have peepholes like this??

Peep hole in 504

Peep hole in 504

Of course, we’ve been here before, so we know which end is up and exactly why this property rocks. This time we made double sure to get the right room with an incredible (yuge?) view of the Pacific—especially after our Kimpton debacle last week). 504 is sweet!

The view on arrival

The view on arrival

And it is on the proper side of the building as well.

504 side windows see this

504 side windows see this

So what to expect? A very spacious suite with reasonable furnishings only slightly dated. Plenty of room to work (and to entertain, as it turns out). A large bathroom with the exact wrong kind of shower. Creaky net. Busted speakers. Buy your own flowers. But the view. And the location. And the view.

Flowers. Buy self.

Flowers. Buy self.

Of course it does actually rain sometimes. All day. For three days!

Of course it does actually rain sometimes. All day. For three days!

Entrance hallway 504

Entrance hallway 504

504 sitting room

504 sitting room

504 sitting room

504 sitting room

View into the bedroom

View into the bedroom

504 bedroom

504 bedroom

This is actually from my brother's inlaws house, so ignore it

This is actually from my brother’s inlaws house, so ignore it

Bathroom

Bathroom

Nooooo! A plastic shower. Eat crow and stay here anyway.

Nooooo! A plastic shower. Eat crow and stay here anyway.

Enough room even for certain travelling companions

Enough room even for certain travelling companions

Anyway, did we have fun in Santa Monica? Sure. We started off in LA at the wine thing.

Breakfast crepe was delicious.

Then we visited McCabe’s Guitar Shop (owned by our very own peeps). if you are a music person, just visit, play, hang out, learn. There are ghosts.

McCabe's Guitar Shop

McCabe’s Guitar Shop

Which made us want stuff like this beauty of a guitar. Hurry up and buy it, or I will.

Want

Want

And we had a delicious dinner up the canyon at the very old school and very very good Saddle Peak Lodge. The highlight of the night was talking to Bob while eating elk. Bob is just bob. Maybe one day we’ll tell you. Or maybe not. Talk to Bob you lucky bastard.

Anyway, fütbol in the room on the rainiest Sunday in maybe 8 years in Santa Monica. Mud slides, rocks that closed roads, leaky roofs that (who knew) are supposed to keep water out?! And all of the fütbol teams that we liked were beat. Kind of like the election. At least there was beer and a smidge of bourbon.

Followed by Bourne on OK glass with super bad speakers. Dear hotels, why is it that home cinema situations even among those who mostly don’t give a shit are 10 years ahead of you? No, really. Why? One decade ahead.

Which catches us on up to Monday. Work and LACMA.

LACMA

LACMA

LACMA

LACMA

About which more here.

Then dinner at the very not bad Manchego, where they have yet to discover both Priorat and twitter.

Four showerheads and a wish for glass showers and speakers that are not blown.