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Business. What you gonna do. The Pullman is not the kind of hotel we would normally choose, but that’s where they stuck us. After a 15 hour flight, an early arrival is somewhat non-trivial in Sydney. No arrivals lounges at the airport, and no early checkin at this business class hotel. So where do you shower off the metal tube?

The hotel staff did offer up the (not really that private) shower on 23 where the pool and weight room are situated. So yes, we did it. Nothing like shaving in public by the pool! LOL.

The shower on 23 was not plastic at least

Fancy a shave?

At checkin, I asked how many room categories there were and figured out the (small) price difference between our assigned category (two) and category six. Switching to a suite was a no brainer. The suites at the Pullman are all numbered “15,” FWIW.

There was a delay checking in each time of about 20 minutes. The exec lounge on 21 has decent net and some snacks, though once again the furniture needs to be replaced.

Working in the lounge with espresso

Here is an amalgamation of 1215 and 1615, our first night suite and the one we had for the rest of our Pullman time. They were pretty much the same with dated (and very dirty) furnishings that need to be replaced.

Entrance way

Hyde park balcony

Those colors

Same view, different floor

The sitting room (1215)

The shower situation in the Pullman suites is complicated. The showers are all placed in a ’70s era hot tub replete with entry steps. At least the water pressure is good.

The extensive bathroom hot tub shower thing

Hmm

There was plenty of time for exercise due to time zone differential on this trip. Up at 4am? Yeah. I was surprised by the number of people who used the gym.

The weight room on 23

View from the exercise room

A day trip to the Blue Mountains with Brian included two hikes and an overnight stay at the Lilianfels. The hikes:

Hiking wentworth falls

Just around the corner from the Pullman is the Philosophy Cafe where not only do they have an excellent breakfast, they also have remarkably good coffee. For Sydney, that’s a thing. Sydney has great coffee all over. Make sure to take the time to find the best!

Sydney espreso

Philosophy Cafe breakfast

Also just around the corner is a great Italian restaurant called Beppi’s. Old school but very good food.

Vino Italiano at Beppi’s

Sydney is a great place to eat out. This trip included a visit to both Bistecca and Freds. Both were remarkably good. The bar at Fred’s (Charlie Parker’s) is also highly recommended.

Amer Picon at Charlie Parker’s (means a liberal)

Charlie Parker’s bar

Cocoa Banana

The Cocoa Banana from Charlie Parker’s (by Giacomo Franceschi)
house fermented banana wine (local yeast from the air)
bourbon (maker’s mark)
dark rum (havana 7)
montenegro amaro
cocoa butter

Fred’s open kitchen. Absolutely delicious food.

These fish. Just wow.

Recommended by Aaron Bedra

Bistecca grill (where the steaks are hand cut)

Speaking of bars. Make sure to include some time for: Lobo Plantation, a quick visit to the Marble bar (once anyway), the Baxter Inn, and Door Knock.

Zombie lighting at Lobo Plantation

Lobo Plantation tiki bar

The thing about the Marble bar is that it is trapped in a Hilton. The old stuff is beautiful, but whoever decided that plastic cups and formica tables were the way to go needs to be fired. Then again, the clientele was mostly tourists in tee shirts. Ordering fries seemed like the thing to do.

Marble bar

Your fries are ready

Baxter Inn is set up for whiskey drinkers, but the clientele?? Not so much. Go on an off day.

Baxter Inn Willet

The (locked) back room

Door Knock was a blast. Fun bartenders and very good drinks.

Mescal for a Paloma

Sawing the ice at Door Knock

Last Word at Door Knock

Dinner at Spice Temple was very good, though the atmosphere is a bit down market. Go for the food, not the ambiance.

Spice temple western style dumplings

We did some sailing in Sydney harbor.

Sydney transport of the fancy variety

An afternoon visit to the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art is recommended.

All told, a low three showerheads for the Pullman. Great staff, but a property that really needs some investment to stay relevant. No more furniture from the ’70s!

Oslo is a beautiful city, but whatever you do, don’t try to drive in it. Even people who grew up here can’t do it. In particular, trying to get to the Hotel Christiania Teater from Lillehammer is, well, “interesting” in that Chinese curse kind of way.

As a creature of habit who has found a great property in Oslo, NPS is happy to stay at the Hotel Christiania Teater again. The only wrinkle is that someone else has booked 620 for Wednesday night. Scooped!

That meant we were relegated to room 510, which is a nice room with an inner courtyard facing “view.” 510 is very nice, but is not at all a 620!

510 is dominated by this comfortable bed

The suite sitting area is in the same room as the bed (which in our view makes it less of a suite and more of a room)

bathroom alcove

the shower is set apart by a huge heavy door

Sadly the plumbing seems to wake up early and make insane amounts of noise. An alarm clock of sorts.

The glass shower compartment, this shower is OK

One of the best parts of Hotel Christiania Teater is the bar downstairs which is top notch and always nice to visit.

Negroni with Norwegian gin

Excellent Indian food can be found at Jaipur.

Delicious

And of course a visit to Himkok is pretty much mandatory.

Experimental aquavit cocktail

Experimental Aquavit Cocktail
2cl aquavit
2cl tequila
4 cl beech water kefie
10 ml ambrato (bison grass)
10 ml Italicus
stir down. serve up.

After a one day delay, room 620 became available. An excellent, interesting, quirky space with a great shower.

The supermodels show off 630

bedroom is all bed

walk in shower with tub

One of two great alcoves with windows

All in all 620 has tons of room to hang out, exercise (which is important since the hotel has no gym of its own), blog, read, etc, in comfort.

Some time in Oslo, included a visit to Gøran’s cousin’s excellent art gallery PURenkel.

I added a painting to the art collection.

starfish

There was also Indian street food, beer, and espresso.

A talk.

Visiting Miles

Dinner at Hanami was very good. Excellent sushi and great service.

Just skip the bar at the thief. These people have forgotten what hospitality is.

Five showerheads for Hotel Christiania Teater, one of NPS’ favorite hotels on the planet.

It’s conference time at NPS, and you know what that means…conference hotel time.

The grounds of the Lillehammer Scandic are very nice

The Scandic chain seems to be one of those hotel chains that focuses lots of attention on its common areas and not so much on its rooms. This is a common hotel failure condition that older properties seem to suffer from more often than newer ones do.

That said, the staff is professional, courteous and helpful. Also the bar has Zacapa 23…so there’s that.

But you can have hamster cage 542. Good thing there is the back lawn to relax and hang out in and an excellent balcony for late night fun!

Welcome fruit and a personal note. Very nice.

Veneer abounds

The good news is that in the tiny bathroom, there is a glass shower.

The bad news is there is hardly room to turn around in the tiny bathroom.

Then again, the grounds.

Vietnamese food in Lillehammer is pretty not bad (at B&T Kafe og Mat), especially after a glass of wine by the river.

Two showerheads and a sincere wish that the rooms lived up to the rest of the property.

Exciting times here in NPS-land where the youngest progeny is setting up an apartment for his last year of college. That required a visit to Beloit.

This trip we tried out the brand new Hotel Goodwin (walking distance to campus and much of the downtown in Beloit). Excellent service and a stellar property.

We were assigned room 3008, which is very nice. About the only fly in the ointment is highway noise early in the morning (this may only be a problem for people who live in the country…city folks are unlikely to even notice).

The shower

The bathroom is a nicely appointed marble palace with a huge walk in glass shower sporting multiple shower heads. Yes please. Interestingly, design-wise the shower is also exposed to the bedroom through one of its glass walls.

View from the bedroom

The room is also a very spacious design with plenty of room to hang out comfortably.

While in Beloit, a nice Japanese dinner can be found at Zen Sushi. A great burger can be had at Lucy’s. Reasonably good mexican is available in Janesville at El Jardin. Two great breakfast dives are Jerry’s Cafe and Mr B’s Coffee.

United also performed well on this trip, even providing car service between gates for a tight ORD connection. Awesome!

Five showerheads for Hotel Goodwin. Recommended. Oh, and the bar has Fernet.

What a difference a year makes. Last year the Grande Colonial seemed a bit tired and long in the tooth. It has had a facelift.

View from 102

Though the architecture of the building has not changed, the room layout is much cleaner and more spacious. Even the long skinny bathroom (which remains long and skinny) is better.

Looking in the long skinny bathroom. Hey, the shower is not plastic!

This trend to delete bath tubs and replace them with modern shower spaces is a great trend. Much better use of space, and much more reasonable approach to morning cleanliness.

The best part of this design is that the controls are situated logically. No reason to get wet while you turn on the shower.

The rest of the room has been opened up, repainted, and re-imagined. Nice work.

102 bed

Seating area 102

Look how comfortable

Sadly, the parking lot has not been deleted. The ocean is over there somewhere.

Dinner at Catania was very good for a restaurant group property. Modern italian with a negroni to boot. Recommended.

Sadly, the bar at Nine Ten (which is a very good restaurant in the hotel) is still sub-par. Gotta hire some hipsters who know what they are doing. The current bar suits the old, monied, and boring demographic of the hotel. Nuff said.

George’s at the Cove, a La Jolla establishment of many years still deserving its reputation, still has the best cocktail program in town.

Joree Weatherly was a top notch barman who served us this cocktail. It has a name, but Joree did not write it down on the recipe I asked for. Lets just call it Trentino Tincture. Actually, it turns out to be named Shiso Piney
1.5 Amaro Junipero gin
.5 Pasubio amaro (from Trentino where I spent a year in 1993)
1 lemon
.75 shiso syrup
2 dashes of pine tincture
top with soda. serve on rocks in a collins glass.

When we returned the next night with a cast of hundreds, Joree made use these great cocktails:
Mezcal Manhattan
1.5 Mezcal
.75 montenegro
.75 Averna
2 dashes mexican spiced bitters
Stir down, serve on a large cube

Negroni Amarillo
1.5 Mezcal
1 pamplemousse
1 suze
2 dashes sage tincture
Stir down, serve up with sage leaf

United upgraded us on the way out. Lets hope that works for the way back too. Global services rock on! Um, nope. No upgrade, and we’re here to tell you, economy sucks!

NPS is impressed. Nice work updating the property! Four showerheads for the Grande Colonial.

After a weekend of staying with friends (paul, jim and chloe), we spent one night at the Kabuki before heading out of town early in the morning.

1602 is as nice a room as ever. We have been here before.

1602 bedroom in the upper corner

There was just enough time to dash down a craft cocktail before dinner.

The Daffodil-Narcissus
1 oz Sipsmith gin
1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz honey/water 1:1
.5 oz lillet blanc
.5 oz lime juice
spoon of greek yogurt
egg white
dry shake. shake on ice. serve in a collins with a big cube and dill garnish.

Dinner at Mourad was very good indeed. Expensive as all get out, but great food and an excellent quirky wine list.

And we now have a new driver in SF.

Four showerheads for the Kabuki and thanks for putting us up in our favorite room.

Plaza la Reina is a new property originally developed as long term housing for people with family in the nearby UCLA medical center. That plan did not materialize, and the property was transformed into a luxury hotel.

The quaint little courtyard

Room 205 is off the courtyard next to a side entrance to the property featuring some interesting tiled stairs. The room has a quirky layout and in put together well. The furniture is elegant and old school and about as anti-hipster as you can get. Heavy solid chairs, oriental rugs, solid wood cabinets. Very nice indeed.

205

The bed is back in its own nook next to the gorgeous bathroom.

Comfortable sitting area

The bathroom is beautiful, and the shower is excellent.

NPS approves of this shower

A personal note and a very warm welcome on check in was icing on the cake.

Five showerheads for Plaza la Reina. Refined elegance.

NPS has been coming to the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica for many years (starting before there was even an NPS identity). Over the years, many parts of the hotel have undergone updating and renovation, with special attention paid to the common areas. The rooms have all been spruced up as well, but unfortunately the bathrooms were not included in the renovation plan.

Santa Monica is pretty not bad

This trip out allowed for only one night in Santa Monica, so NPS decided to check out a room category one notch down from the ocean view suites. Turns out, it’s a big notch. The king suite room 709 has a spacious design with some very strange quirks. It also has a tiny little bathroom.

Room layout is very similar to the ocean view suites, with a view of the back alley instead on the ocean.

709 sitting area

What stands in as a desk

French doors to the bedroom

But what in the heck is this here for??

709 forlorn chair

That space where the poor lonely chair sits would be better off as part of an expanded bathroom. Here, you’ll see what we mean.

Tiny little bathroom

Though the stuff in the bathroom is spotless and new, the shower over the tub thing has got to go (not to mention the obesity bar). Zero points for the shower.

Dare you to use whatever liquid is in these containers

During our brief stay in Santa Monica, we had lunch at Lazy Daisy, dinner at Lares, and breakfast at Cora’s. All three places are top notch.

We’re demoting the Georgian to three showerheads. Hopefully they will see to some bathroom redesign to go along with all of the other great stuff that they have done.

Located in the heart of Brussels, very close indeed to the Grand Place, the Amigo Hotel is nicely tucked into an old school building. This is a formidable hotel where the demographic is not the hip and young but rather the old and moneyed.

The staff at the front desk is old school too, a bit stuffy and with varying levels of obsequiousness that don’t quite ring true. This is not your California front desk staff of happy kids. OK then.

Overnight, the staff swap led to some people who knew how to relax a notch, and that was nice.

The lobby is beige and marble. Come to think of it, there is lots of beige here in this room as well. I think the olds like beige.

We were upgraded from an expensive junior suite to an even more expensive classic suite. They did email and attempt to upsell the bigger suite, and we just responded that a complementary upgrade would be great. That seems to have worked. So thanks for the free upgrade!

We were assigned suite 237. This looks like the example room from this suite category. Plenty of room to hang out, a great bathroom, etc. “Pretty not bad” as my friend Sammy would say.

237 couch and desk room

The desk has a bluetooth speaker (bonus points)

The extra touches make all of the difference. Like a bluetooth speaker that you can pair a streaming phone with, and water by the bedside that is free (as it should be), and hangers that are real and solid.

Bedroom (mostly bed)

Through the French doors

Of course you should always get water (sparkling)

The room overlooks a classic Brussels street and into a set of offices.

Example view

The hall has lots of closet space, but it is not very well designed.

Closets could use some modernization

The bathroom is palatial. And there is a separate glass shower. “One of the better showers ever,” says ms NPS. Lots of marble.

Bathtub, toilet and bidet

Chair in the bathroom

Sink

Glass shower cube

The art is very nice and Tin Tin oriented.

An amenity with a personal note arrived while we were orienting. Belgian chocolates. Of course.

Amenity.

The bar downstairs is very good, with professional and knowledgeable bartenders who make a mean Negroni with Napue gin (from Helsinki).

A proper Negroni (up)

Napue gin from Helsinki

Local Belgian gins

Look who else has been here

Dinner at Comme Chez Soi was, like the hotel, on the old school side. Excellent food, especially if you like cream, butter, butter, and some caviar. Very heavy but outstanding. Plan to be full for two days.

Some Pomerol

Sauce! There is a cod under there somewhere.

Incredible tartine

Chocolates, because Belgium

With extra dipping sauce (lol)

The walk home helped to make up for the butter and the butter and the sauce and the cream. Kinda.

When in Brussels

Breakfast included a Belgian waffle (this was a mandatory item before we would be allowed to leave the country).

Bottom line: the Amigo is a five showerhead location, but is a bit old school for NPS. So four showerheads and an appointment to update the decor a notch for the Amigo. I imagine we will be back.

No Fly Nöel 2018

December 27, 2018

2018 was an interesting year for travel. We stayed close to our 20 trip goal (miraculous), but still managed to hit Argentina, Africa, the Bahamas, New Zealand, and Australia, not to mention a bunch of domestic travel. From the highest winery on the planet, to walking on the Serengeti. Pretty not bad.

Here is the trip-o-meter for 2018.

Because of all of the international flying, we racked up lots of United frequent flyer miles. It will be interesting to see how this goes in 2019 now that we are finished with the silicon valley corporation (whose travel policies, frankly, sucked). Our best bet is less Germany and more Europe this year, but we shall see. We may miss Nuremberg, but we won’t miss the reason for going there!

2018 was our first trip in international First class. Here is our report.

The United lifetime ticker stands at 1,736,206 miles. Yowza. Hopefully our 146,879 miles will keep us in Global Services next year.

Sadly, our love affair with Kimpton is over. Kimpton just became too IHG too fast to retain any loyalty. Oh well, we will miss our great industry friends who I am sure we’ll see from time to time.

Just remember the rule! NO PLASTIC SHOWERS!