The Bluestone on George is a cozy place to stay in Dunedin, New Zealand even on a cold, rainy, Spring day.

Once the dense cloud cover broke (at a very low ceiling), the green of New Zealand peeked through.

A quick trip into town from the airport was aided by the fact that Eli can drive on the left, which is right around here.

Bluestone on George is nicely upscale. Clean and modern with friendly staff. We are in room 405. The room features a balcony overlooking soggy Dunedin. In the middle of the night, the wind and rain was so strong that the doors blew open (they were not properly latched).

The lobby is a great place to vanquish your temporary chess enemies.

Beautiful lines in the lobby

Dunedin from the balcony

Without further ado, room 405.

Eaves set off the balcony

Sleek kitchenette

Though tight (probably because the hot tub thing is so wide), the bathroom is also sleek and modern. Cool showerhead too.

So many nozzles

Dinner at Etrusco features working class Italian in a setting with a great fireplace. Friendly service and good food.

Fireplace at Etrusco

We accidentally discovered a new gin at the restaurant. Too many sweet aromatics for a Negroni. This gin should be saved for cucumber cocktails. Tellingly, they were advertising Bombay Sapphire as a London Dry. Nopey nope.

New Zealand gin

For breakfast near the George, try Capers which has great pancakes. Good Earth Cafe is a nice college hangout with great looking cakes.

If you’re on the road, make sure to hit the Hokonui Moonshine Museum in Gore. Turns out it was NPS ancestors who brought hooch to New Zealand from Kintail.

Four showerheads and a nice warm welcome for Bluestone on the George. Highly recommended.

This is only my second time at the Hotel George (probably because it is so close to my actual home), but it already feels like home. Super friendly staff who have fun at checkin. Plus my friend Steph Vogel runs the place. You can tell his positive nature has sunk into the roots around here.

The presidential suite (or is it the royal suite??) is great (room number is 801). Nicely appointed rooms with the absolute best shower to be found in all Kimpton properties.

We’ll start with the shower. Glass and marble with a bench and its own window. Awesomeness.

When we got up to the room, we were greeted with excellent charcuterie from bistrot bis and a bottle of Côtes du Rhone. Delish. And some san pellegrino.



Here is the sitting room.


Messy bedroom

Messy bedroom

Tonight we’re off to an adventure at the Columbia Room (tucked in the back at The Passenger, and Steph is coming with us.

The Columbia Room was absolutely fantastic as always. It is an oasis of calm and a great place to relax, converse, and maybe learn a little something about great cocktails. We chose to go à la carte this visit and were ably served by JP Featherston and Tyler. The food was particularly outstanding and only outdone by the phenomenal beverages.

Drink of the night was The Archimboldi (by JP Featherston):
1 oz Blanco or Resposado Tequila
.75 oz Punt et Mes
.75 oz Rainwater Madeira
.5 oz Nux Alpina
Stir down. Strain into a coupe.

The Columbia Room is absolutely worth a visit each trip to DC. And the George is a fiver showerheads plus hotel. Magic.

Leave it to my friend Stephane Vogel to arrange for the presidential suite! My first stay at Hotel George (a Kimpton hotel) was super fantastic. And the shower is simply not to be beat.

Room 801 (the presidential suite) at Hotel George

Room 801 (the presidential suite) at Hotel George

After a warm greeting by Blair at the front desk, I headed up to 801 where I was greeted with: note, wine, cheese, and sparkling water. A superb welcome. Thanks Steph, for the hospitality and the room! This is Kimpton Karma in action.


801 bedroom at Hotel George

801 bedroom at Hotel George

The bathroom is fantastic.

Best shower in DC.

Best shower in DC.

A glass shower with a view.  And a bench!  NPS is in love.

A glass shower with a view. And a bench! NPS is in love.

Five showerheads and a free lunch for the George and its staff!

Dinner at Proof was good. Proof has a reasonable bar program and a great wine list. After dinner we somehow got trapped at the Bistro Bis bar which though not owned by Kimpton is associated with the George by reference of being attached to it. Ouch.

Among other cocktails and before absinthe hour, barman Ed Jenks created an experimental Essay #3
2 oz Laird 7.5 yr apple brandy
.5 oz Leizzaroni Amaretto
.5 oz malmsey madeira
.5 oz sour mix (fresh)
.5 oz chilli honey syrup
dash angostura
Stir. Strain. Serve with lemon twist. (In general, too much going on with this drink. Still needs work.)

Steph and I had a delicious lunch at Bistrot Bis next day after my talk. It’s always fun to catch up and learn more about the hospitality business.

Manet at the cusp of impressionism and the academy.

Manet at the cusp of impressionism and the academy.

The afternoon yielded some time to a visit to the National Art Gallery with Richard. An afternoon of art and discussion is just what the doctor ordered in late August.

As early evening rain fell, we made another fantastic visit to the incomparable Columbia Room where mel mixed some excellent drinks including the Leap Year Cocktail
2 oz plymouth gin
.5 oz sweet vermouth (cocci)
.5 oz royal combier
.25 oz lemon juice
shake. strain. garnish with lemon peel.

Dinner and bad bluegrass at Argonaut rounded out the visit.


Third time’s a charm. This year’s cocktail extravaganza was hashtagged (as always) with a tip of the hat to the Clash. (See #londonculling and #rockthecasbar entries.)

From our base at the Mondrian London, we headed out to the shard for lunch.

The food at Aquashard is remarkably good. Fuel up!

After lunch, it was off to the Alchemist. Espresso was in the cards since it was early yet.

Next we paid a visit to our friend Alessandro (and delivered greetings personally from Jacques Bezuidenhout) at Duke’s hotel bar. Simply put, Duke’s somehow makes the best martinis in the world. Better to only have one.

Plans called for a visit to the Ritz bar, but we ran into a shoe-ware issue (someone had on trainers that cost as much as a car). So fuck the Ritz. We will be back never.

No worries, the Connaught Bar manned by Micheal was incredibly great. We sat at the bar. Somehow the Connaught became our home away from home with two visits the next day during much fun was had.

We paid a visit to Gerry’s Wines and Spirits to amass a treasure trove of Amer Picon and some very old Cuban rum. Graham and insta-graham were a blast. Gin tasting occurred.

Then it was time for prophylactic ramen at Bone Daddies. Great ramen with a rock and roll vibe. Beer seemed like a good idea.

Bar Swift was our next target. Without a reservation we shlepped downstairs. After a round, our waitress took pity on us and gave us a great round booth. Then we got into the George T Stagg 2016. Wise?? Of course it was wise.

Next up was a visit to one of our all around favorites, the American Bar at the Savoy. Our barman on point at the establishment did what he could to find us some Catoctin Creek rye to use in the Red Lips Rye. He had 24 hours. Sadly, his attempt was unsuccessful, but he did put in a real effort.

We always seem to get stuck at the American Bar for 2 or 3 rounds, after which we head downstairs and transfer our tab to the Beaufort. Two of our party bowed out after the American Bar visit around 10:30.

It was left for the remaining cocktail enthusiasts to pull all of the weight. Down to the Beaufort we went. Frankly we were not impressed with this visit. Though we love the bar and past visits have been fun (if not expensive as hell), there seem to be too many Russians around for comfort these days.

Back home to the Dandelyan it was. We made it in time for fernet and a last call that seems to have involved two CR#2’s and six Liberals. These things happen!

So, after all this we somehow ended up opening a bottle of champagne at 2am on the balcony. That was a bad idea.

You would figure that we had learned our lesson, but we had not. The next afternoon after some ramen (medicinal this time) at Monohon ramen we walked over to the Zetter Townhouse for some hair of the dog.

Which naturally led us back to the Connaught Bar to see Michael again before our fancy night out.

We leave you with a recipe for a Coburg Collins
50 ml London dry gin (no 3)
20 ml lemon
15 ml simple syrup
10 ml fino sherry
2 dashes celery bitters
top up with soda water over big ice.

It all came together just about perfectly. A morning talk at Georgetown, a nice dinner out (sadly not at Rose’s Luxury), cocktails at the Columbia Room, and then the highlight of the weekend, attending the inspiring March for our Lives. Our base of operations was the commendable Palomar DC (a Kimpton).

Turns out that our friend Matt Hurlburt (once of the Alexnadria Monaco) is now Director of a bunch of DC properties, including the Palomar. And Harald Han, as assistant GM, is running the ship day to day. The front desk staff is as professional, courteous, and great as always, remembering us from our time at the Lorien and from previous visits in the mosquito. This is a great thing!

We finagled our way into 1024 (again), a gorgeous room at the very top of the hotel. Nothing makes us wag our tails like the Presidential Suite (though, we agree with Jacques that maybe they should change the name of it for now until the #assholeinone is impeached and out of office).

palomar 1024: yes please

The shower is NPS approved.

bed room 1024

extra bathroom

the usual mess

An amenity of cheese, fruit, and a cocktail arrived with a note from Matt just before we headed out. Very nice. Thanks you guys!

We spent the mid-afternoon wandering around Dupont and getting a coffee. Then it was off to try our chances at Roses Luxury. When we arrived at 5, the line was already way too long. We could have been seated at 9, but instead went to plan B, a dinner at Convivial (in Shaw). The food and cocktails were great (as was the company), but the service was terrible. Super nice, and caring, and about as unprofessional and useless as possible. Can’t win them all.

Then came the booth at the Columbia Room, always just an incredible experience. If you have not yet made it to the Columbia Room, do it. Make sure to do the tasting room and go for the entire experience.

A late night drink at the Urbana bar was just what was needed for a good night’s sleep.

The next day we headed in to DC for the March for our Lives rally. Incredible. So proud of what the Parkland kids have done. Keep it up and we will change this country for the better!

After some great ramen at Jinya and a chance encounter with our neighbor Harry, we headed back to the Palomar to retrieve our car and our bags.

It was chaos. And the reason why turned out to be that the kids from Parkland had been staying at the Palomar as well. They boarded their bus to fly back to Florida as we hopped in our car. Amy got a hat from Emma’s mom.

Five showerheads and a hope that our next visit is just as incredible.

We are still super pleased with the new, clean presence of the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Wilmington. Normally we would not be caught dead in one of these properties, but compared to the zero showerheads of the Hilton just down the street, this place is paradise.

The main reason to even stay in Wilmington is disappearing, so who knows whether we’ll be doing this every year in the future. The Dixie Grill beckons as always. And the town is hopping these days. In fact, Wilmington is walkable and nice and going places. It is also middle of the Bell curve bending down to scoop up the Walmart class. That’s OK. This is America.

Food with the dogs at George on the Riverwalk was not only accommodating, but also delicious. The dogs (especially Mowgli) were a smash hit. So many people stopped by to say hi and pat the dogs.

Sadly, a visit to Circa 1922 where they used to have a superior bar program run by Josh Giles reveals a mere shadow of its old glory. Still a nice bar, but nothing interesting on the mixology front.

Anyway, back to cage 604 at the Courtyard. The hamster cage itself is new, but it is still a hamster cage!

Clean, fresh and a bit small

Lots of light overwhelms the camera

Though the shower has a glass door (huge props), the encasement is pre-fab plastic. Still, it is very clean and a nice shower all around.


Like the rest of the room, the bathroom is ingeniously designed to seem big even though it is very small and very rectangular. Kind of like a boat. Without the water, the head, the V-birth, the sails, … . OK, not much like a boat.

We’re here for the Stick anyway. Two weeks to read, play music, drink cocktails and forget about the orange orangutang caligula.

A low three showerheads and much to be thankful for at the Courtyard in Wilmington. Will we be back??

It is gray and overcast in San Diego. I’m pretty sure this never happened before Donald Trump became President.

We’re back for a quick bit of business in San Diego on our multi-city tour. One of the best things about San Diego is the Salomar. Our buddy George has moved over to the Palomar these days and has been replaced by the capable and super nice Kayse Potter. Kayse made sure our welcome was warm and nice and that our shower was non-plastic. Thank you Kayse.

We arrived late due to Virgin America SNAFU apparently involving a crazy lady in an unrelated city. Things you overhear when the flight crews gossip. Anyway, we got our rental car and zoomed over to the Salomar just in time to drop off bags and skeedaddle for our reservation at Noble Experiment. A great time was had by all. Thanks Andrew and crew. The back bar shots of rum and tequila made for a damn fun time.

We slunk back around midnight. Room 834 is a great space but it is on the wrong side of the building for me. Too noisy when there is a game on at the stadium (after the game ends).

Party all night after the game right under my window

The bathroom is particularly nice with the gigantic tub/glass shower thing going strong. It’s time to replace the showerhead though.

NPS Approved

Glass Pod

Functional but out of date

A solid night’s sleep and a nice long shower was topped only by Swedish pancakes at Richard Walker’s.

Oh, one funny thing. The lobby music is driving Q nuts. He is the manager on duty in the front lobby and is forced to listen to an endless loop. We’ll see if we can’t get that fixed for him!

All around way too quick but super solid visit to San Diego. Five showerheads (one of which might need replacement) for the Solamar.

The River Antoine rum distillery in Grenada is well worth a visit. Driving up from St George’s takes about 90 minutes, but the drive is a great way to see more of the island. As in all travel Grenada, get a driver!

Rivers farms about 400 acres of sugar cane which provides 85% of the mash they need. The rest comes from elsewhere in the Carribean.


The cane is mashed with a water wheel operational since the 1800s.

Gears for the cane conveyor also use water power.

Cane detritus

The mash evaporates from a 4% concentration of sugar in several stages into a 15% concentration. It is then put into a vat to ferment into beer (with natural yeast fron the air). The beer comes in around 15% before heading into the pot stills.

Beer vat

Pot still one

Fired by wood.

The still runs off a proof of about 150 (75% alcohol). The coil is water cooled from the river.

Loading the still cooker

Storage of unmixed product in 500 gallon tanks below.

This used to be a bonded tank measured with a stick.

The computer (batch notes)

By all means visit the distillery when you are on Grenada.

For more about Grenada, see this entry on Laluna.

You know that quandry where you’re just below the threshold for Inner Circle status by one night? That. Somehow it happens every year.

Why leave this?

Why leave this?

Fortunately, NPS can always make the best of it by visiting Steph Vogel and finding out what he is up to. A little backstory, Steph has run a number of DC-area Kimpton properties, lifting them every time up into excellence: the Palomar, the George, and the Donovan. Now it’s time for the Lorien.

The Lorien’s main problem is competition from the very fabulous Hotel Monaco just down the street (and much closer to the water). The Monaco seems to have sucked up all of the great design resources, leaving the Lorien marooned in the dreamscape ’90s. That is all starting to change now that Steph is in charge.

For example, the bar and restaurant are already going places. Once a scary exclusively white tablecloth space is now a bar buzzing with life and engaged with the street (not to mention soaked in cocktail excellence). Phil Clark runs a very nice bar.

The Lorien bar program is top notch

The Lorien bar program is top notch

Get those drinks right!  Attention detail, you are now on call.

Get those drinks right! Attention detail, you are now on call.

Just take a look at the glassware. This is top shelf.

Liberty Punch

Liberty Punch

Bourbon Crusta

Bourbon Crusta

The amenity deposited for NPS in 619 highlighted both the bar and the kitchen to great effect. Just gorgeous, very welcoming, and kind.

Fancy a sweet?

Fancy a sweet?

How to make a Liberty Punch: Some Assembly Required

How to make a Liberty Punch: Some Assembly Required

Watching the rooms transform from their current stark, almost bland design to something better will be fun. NPS money says that in six months this property will be the hottest ticket in town.

619 Bedroom

619 Bedroom



The shower, we are happy to report, is glass shower excellence (and huge). NPS could shoot a movie in there!

Enter the glass door for showering

Enter the glass door for showering

NPS approved shower

NPS approved shower

And off the bedroom and sitting room both, is a balcony overlooking Alexandria. Can’t wait to come back and see what that is like in the summer.

View from balcony of 619

View from balcony of 619

Our visit was punctuated by a drink with Phil and Steph at the bar. And then it was off to the always fabulous Restaurant Eve for dinner. Eve did not disappoint. The five course tasting meal was absolutely delicious and worth every penny (that’s lots of pennies for those counting). Three hours of laughter, great flavors, and fun was just what the doctor ordered after this year.

We returned for a nightcap of Liberty Punch.

Four showerheads and massive velocity towards five for the Lorien. Let the transformation begin.

Great food. Great drinks. Great hospitality. 2016, we bid you adieu.

NPS was in a bad mood because United improperly rejiggered seating into economy from economy plus (how do people stand that kind of travel?) and then an Uber driver pulled a super flaky move doing a multi-client pickup dropoff scam. So a taxi it was into Chicago in heavy stop and go traffic.

Fortunately the Gray fixed everything instantly. Alexsis and Happy greeted us at the front desk so cheerfully we knew we were in the midwest. The Gray, being a Kimpton, was alerted to NPS arrival and had already plussed us up into a fantastic suite. (Thanks Nabil Moubayed! You rock.)


1113 is new, modern, spacious, and excellent.

Amenity including a "Come Sail Away" from Volume 39

Amenity including a “Come Sail Away” from Volume 39

Living area

Living area

1113 bedroom

1113 bedroom

The shower is not plastic in the least. World class.

Awesome shower (with tub inside and bench)

Awesome shower (with tub inside and bench)



After dropping off stuff it was down to Volume 39 where Barman Bob (no, not that one) created a bastardized (but very delicious Liberal before we headed out for some pie.

Volume 39

Volume 39


Volume 39 is a welcome addition to Kimpton’s excellent bar program. Mr Ryan, well done!

Then it was off to some pie. Call ahead and see whether it matters!

Best burned cheese deep dish in town

Best burned cheese deep dish in town

By 9pm it was cocktail time. We headed over to Barrelhouse Flat for some excellent drinks. Fernet backbar shots, amaro tastings, general merriment. The George T Stagg was definitely a bad idea though


Barelhouse Flat

Barelhouse Flat

We did finally have some of the hyped up Plantation Overproof Rum. It is a good product, but frankly the over the top hype built it up too much. Solid. Drinkable. But not the gods’ gift to rum salvation.


And then it was back to the Gray past last call. The Come Sail Away came in very handy.

Five showerheads and best of wishes to the brand new and utterly fabulous Gray.

Oh and guess what, United upgraded us on the flight home. Woo hoo!