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Though NPS does not fly in July or December, there is still stuff to be done. The solution? A working meeting at the Lorien in Old Town Alexandria. We’ve been to the Lorien a couple of times since Steph Vogel took over as GM. Sadly, Steph is in Switzerland this week. We’ll pretend that the ship runs just as well without Steph at the helm (though it’s really not true).

The Spartan balcony off 619

This visit finds us in 619, which is similar to 615 only slightly smaller and on the other side of the building. There is a very large balcony on this side too. Because it’s 100 degrees this week (with an overnight low in the upper ’70s), the balcony will be ignored due to weather. Strikes us that a remake of these balconies as a garden would make them both more inviting.

Look to the left

Look to the right

Our meeting room was cavernous and highly functional. We spent all day working.

A cocktail was in order after all that work. The bar is still very good, though barman and detail freak Phil Clark is no longer around. Phil has moved to Phoenix. You can tell. Damien is doing his damndest to keep things up.

Whey Sour
.75 cachaça (novo fogo)
.75 rye (copper fox)
1.5 whey
.75 honey
1 lemon
pinch of salt
Shake. Serve up.

Snacks at the bar took forever to arrive. That ended up making them free. Timely is better than free.

Dinner at The Warehouse was a massive disappointment. The crayfish were good. Or was that the crawdads? The wine list?
Unusable. Skip it. In other news from the evening, the bar at Restaurant Eve still holds its own, but Jackson 20 has slipped to skip it level as well. So sad that the old Alexandria Monaco is now a Marriott property.

On return from dinner around 11, we were greeted with a nice amenity. Thanks Stephani. The ice cold San Pelegrino is particularly welcome.

Sitting room 619

Sleeping room 619

The huge glass shower will do just fine.

Shower? Perfect.

Once the work was done, there were museums to see. First stop was the National Building Museum to see Hive. Well worth the visit.

Home of hive. At least for a while.

That was followed by another great lunch at Bistrot du Coin.

And a visit to the Phillips Collection. The old building is under renovation, so only half of the paintings as usual were out. But still fantastic. An NPS introduction to the stunning art of German artist Markus Lüpertz.

German artist Markus Lüpertz

The suit

Detail from Spoon

German artist Markus Lüpertz

A fantastic day. Followed almost immediately on its heels by a fantastic evening.

Roses Luxury is just as stellar as its incredible reputation. Just go. We showed up at 5:10pm and walked right in for a 180 minute dinner extravaganza.

Those poor “other people” had to wait in line

Caviar service

Yes, we took pictures of our food. We also had extensive conversations about it.

The best dish of the evening was a soft shelled crab served with Singapore-style chilli sauce (on the sweet side) over steamed buns with pickles. Delicious.

So really. Go to Roses Luxury as soon as you can.

Then there was the Columbia Room in the back booth (our usual NPS haunt), this time with the geek patrol. Excellent as usual, this time less for the drinks presentation than the company.

Columbia Room

Ice

Seaweed?!

Rum from 1857 always seems like a good idea after the tasting menu is complete.

The moral of the story is: get your work done quickly so you can spend some time being spoiled in DC!

Five showerheads and a real wish that Steph were around. We miss you Steph.

No Fly Noël 2016: Kinda

December 3, 2016

Regular NPS readers and lurkers know all about “no fly July” and “no fly Noël.” The idea is simple. Stop. Rest. Think. Read. Get out of the hubbub of everyday modern life, sit by the fire, and exist.

This year’s No Fly Noël is much needed as 2016 was about the most stressful year on record for NPS in 17 years. It was a great year in the end, but boy are we glad it is over.

So, how did the year look? Kinda like this (according to the tripometer).

The 2016 NPS tripometer

The 2016 NPS tripometer

Travel according to the new regimen is trending nicely low. The goal for 2016 was 20 trips and we came in 15% high at 23. Well, almost. Looks like we have to throw off the chains of No Fly Noël and hit the road one more time in December to strategize with the corporate overlords. Or maybe that is overlord with the corporate strategists? Something like that anyway. Stay tuned for those data. (And make that 24 trips and a 20% overrun.)

In other news this year, the Elevate Gold status on Virgin America is a good thing. We switched the firehose from United to Virgin America in 2014 and there is no looking back. NPS likes main cabin select. NPS also likes using points to upgrade to Europe. How that will work going forward is a good question!

Fly too much?  Try Virgin America.

Fly too much? Try Virgin America.

Of course since NPS is based at Dulles, there is no avoiding United. Honestly, they did better this year. Flying United was not great, but it did not completely suck. So maybe the Smisek effect is finally washing out.

And then there is Kimpton which remains the NPS go to hotel chain of choice even after the disaster that is the San Francisco Kimpton property crater. Years ago we helped to start the Kimpton Intouch program (which is now the Kimpton Karma program). We do what we can to stay qualified without calling in air support from Mike Defrino. You go Kimpton!

Inner Circle?  Why yes, we'll have some

Inner Circle? Why yes, we’ll have some

It was a perfect weekend in Virginia (if not hot). Lots of time in the river. An evening playing live music for friends. So how do ease back into work mode? Why with the help of the Donovan hotel of course. My home away from home in DC is particularly welcoming this visit!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is the shower pod

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is the shower pod

You see, my friend Steph Vogel has been holding out on me. But no more! Now we’ve been in 1110. YES!

Welcome

Welcome

We will pretend that this is a flight of Pappy van Winkle bourbon.

Living room overlooking the circle

Living room overlooking the circle

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This suite is huge.

Bedroom

Bedroom

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But the shower is what stands out. A nautilus design with a spiral. Very cool.

The nautilus shower is NPS approved

The nautilus shower is NPS approved

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Without setting foot in an airplane, we’re somehow still pampered beyond belief. Five showerheads for the Donovan. Thanks for ending the weekend on a high note!

No Fly July 2016

July 4, 2016

No fly July means no airplanes, no hotels, and a bunch of actual thinking. Maybe a dip or two in the river for good measure.

See you in August.

And Now No Fly Nöel

December 18, 2015

True. We have not been on an airplane since November. But all these trips to Washington and Philly in cars are encroaching on our no travel respite.

Now it’s time to rest our bones beside the fire. Even if it is a really big fire and we’re dancing.

Solstice Fire 2014

Solstice Fire 2014

This year was the lightest travel year on record since 2002 with only 21 trips (not counting the last three!). Travel is becoming manageable, and that’s good.

Tripometer 2015

Tripometer 2015

Thanks for reading NPS! Salubrious solstice to all.

No fly July had to end sometime, and August 6th was it! Back in the air, I was forced to fly United today. Argh.

First some good news. Checkin was smooth, efficient and had no massive line for the first time in memory. Wow! TSApre worked as advertised. And Dulles Terminal C has had a major facelift and looks way better than it used to. The United Red Carpet club people were nice too.

Then it was off to the gate for some bad news. Ridiculous boarding process angst incited by gate agents in a bad mood (boo). And get this, even though the FAA says you can carry on instruments, the awful gate agent woman would not let me. “You must check one,” she demanded. (I have a violin and mandolin with me.) “We could be fined $2000,” said another. Just unhelpful, unfriendly people. Why the hell are they in customer service? I mean really.

Fortunately, the flight attendants told me to just bring my instrument on and ignore the gate agents. They were actually friendly and helped me sneak it on. (I did have visions of the gate agent getting on the plane and making a scene, but fortunately that did not happen. I only relaxed after we pushed back.)

HEY UNITED GATE AGENTS, READ THIS.

The rest of the flight was fine.

So as usual, United can’t win for losing. They need to clean house of the employees who do not belong in customer service.

No Fly July 2015

July 7, 2015

No fly July means no airplanes, no hotels, and a bunch of actual thinking. Maybe a dip or two in the river for good measure.

Inspiration for the Bitter Liberals sticker, at the Stick

Inspiration for the Bitter Liberals sticker, at the Stick

Let the non-travel begin.

Travel was thankfully almost reasonable this year, down to thirty trips off last year’s forty-two. (FWIW, we’ll shoot for 25 in 2015.) But we did do an out of character trip in December, delaying the start of no fly noël by a few days. We’ll make up for it somehow.

tripometer for 2014

tripometer for 2014

In 2014 we finally gave up completely on United airlines which topped its awful 2013 behavior with an even worse 2014. Bye bye United. You are too broken to pay money.

So lets sit by the fire and regain our sanity. Maybe with a Liberal or two. Then we’ll do it all again.

If you follow NPS, you know about no fly July which basically gives me a chance to slow down and think away from airplanes. You may also have figured out that this year has (thankfully) been a light year of travel so far. After more than a decade of road warrior work, that feels pretty good FWIW.

Anyway, no fly July plans were interrupted this year for a trip up to NYC. United was its usual awful self. For the first time ever, I paid revenue for what was essentially a jump seat on a propjet. United has gone completely to the dogs.

It got better. The NJTransit train from EWR was convenient and fast.

Once we got to NY, we started with a game of Escape the Room, which was pretty fun all told. The only problem with the game is it is not puzzley enough and relies too much on random finding. But we had a good time (even though we ultimately did not escape the room).

We regrouped at Butcher’s Daughter near Little Italy to plan a quick trip down to Battery Park. Where we took a very touristy sailboat ride to the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Dinner at Keste with Jason and Haley was fantastic and authentically italian as always. A quick trip to Mulberry Project was kind of disappointing due to the thundering dance beat. Good drinks, wrong atmosphere.

View from the Cigital apartment in NY.

View from the Cigital apartment in NY.

We’re staying at the apartment again. Midtown 36th floor penthouse. It’s gorgeous in NY this week. Kind of Fall-like weather. Not bad. I guess nature is playing along with no fly July.

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More NY impressions…

Morning way up north at the cloisters. A visit to the conservatory gardens in central park. Excellent tapas at Txikito. Comedy at the upright citizens brigade. Late nightcap at Ayza wine bar.

The Cloisters

The Cloisters

A walk down the high line after a very late but decent breakfast at the Petit Poulet (right across the street from the apartment) is a good way to start the day. Follow that with coffee at the superb Happy Bones. Then a first visit to the 9-11 Memorial museum. When you go, plan to spend over 3 hours.

Liam Finn at the Poisson Rouge

Liam Finn at the Poisson Rouge

A late night begins at Le Poisson Rouge (LPR) for a Liam Finn show. Great show. Excellent use of charisma. Followed by midnight dinner at the Blue Ribbon.

Liam Finn also loves customer 42 (starbucks identity of NPS)

Liam Finn also loves customer 42 (starbucks identity of NPS)

Sunday included a trip up the Empire State Building next door, a visit to the Brooklyn flea market (meh), lunch #2 at The Meatball Shop, an Iranian film (close curtain) at Film Forum and dinner at L’Asso.

The apartment and its tall next door neighbor.

The apartment and its tall next door neighbor.

Way down there is the roof of the apartment.

Way down there is the roof of the apartment.

Time to go home (on the Acela).

No fly Noel 2013

December 1, 2013

No question about it, 2013 was a rough year of travel. My plan to do around 30 trips turned into a complete FAIL with a 40% higher than planned 42 trips. Ouch.

In 2014 I am getting serious about travel reduction. My plan for next week is to create a centralized travel plan for 2014 WAY ahead of time and stick to it. You heard it here first—I am shooting for 20 trips max next year. Truncated air travel will be accompanied by revitalized business-related guest house usage at Coal Stove Sink. It’s better to have guests here at my house than it is to fly around too much. I guess that will mean fewer talks as well.

The 2014 Tripometer does not lie: TOO MUCH TRAVEL

The 2014 Tripometer does not lie: TOO MUCH TRAVEL

To add insult in injury in the too much travel department, United airlines continued to suck throughout 2013. I am not a fan of busses, and airplanes have become busses somehow. Just awful.

Even with all of those trips, I managed to accumulate only 68,691 miles on United which means my status is going to drop to Gold (where because of my lifetime 1,527,990 miles it will bottom out forever). United, I am done with you. (Hey Jeff Smisek, you suck so much you just lost a loyal customer.)

Fortunately I had much better luck with hotels. Kimpton rocks my little travel world. Hopefully I can keep that going in 2014.

For now, I look forward to resting my weary bones beside the fire during December. Much needed battery recharging begins now.