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Oh the Kimpton of yore, how we miss it.  After the IGH acquisition, the properties have gone completely corporate.  No brand left at all.  No personality.  No staff that loves their jobs.  So sad.  Our last two Kimpton attempts in NY sucked (see https://noplasticshowers.com/2022/10/17/quick-hit-in-nyc-hotel-indigo-is-very-corporate/ and https://noplasticshowers.com/2022/05/08/back-in-new-york-the-muse-hotel-ihg/).

But the good news is that some of the properties have the old magic.  Like the Zelos in San Francisco that used to be the Palomar.  This was once one of our favorite hotels.  And maybe it will be again.

We remember fondly talking to Mike Defrino about adding good bars to the properties (using Bourbon and Branch as one of the examples of what people will pay for a cocktail).  Jacques Bezuidenhout was hired, and Dirty Habit was born under the direction of Brian Means.

We remember the battle of the Palomars.

At what os now the Zelos, we were assigned 712 (which is a nicely renovated version of a room we’ve stayed in back in the Palomar days).  Great room.

In fact, enough space to conduct a zoom meeting with multiple attendees in the same room. (Don’t ask.)


The bathroom could be bigger.  But it works.  The shower is over a tub, but the nice glass doors make it all OK.

Though we arrived late, there was time for a slightly adjusted Boulevardier before bed.

And then a Cloudbreak (from Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Philly).  This is still a magical cocktail.  Make one!

Though it arrived late, a welcome note did arrive (along with a nice bottle of wine that I gave to madou since I was not checking my bag.  Thanks for that Ben!

This is not your usual hotel art.  Love it.

Breakfast at Cafe de la Presse is always recommended.  At the Chinatown gate.


And for fun?  How about Wildhawk, followed by ABV, followed by the Good Good Culture Club all with a bunch of great friends?  Yes please.

So, a Negroni or a Breakfast Negroni??  Jacques, which should it be?


Maybe Suzu (who has become quite famous, aparently) knows.

While at ABV, tequila (or mezcal).

Thee guys…

Good Good was very good.  What a treat to be in San Francisco for 32 seconds!  Merry Christmas all.

Five showerheads and a big thumbs up for the hotel zelos.  Looking forward to returning.

Way back when, I stayed in the Estancia La Jolla MANY times for MANY years.  I have some very fond memories of my time there.  Since we were on a quick hit to Qualcomm, it was time to revisit and see how things are going.

The Christmas Nisse was present at the front desk.  My dude, you are a long way from Norway!

The thing about room 390 is that it is generic.  But the other thing is that the construction is substantial.  Heavy, wide doors.  Things that keep noise out.  It’s true that the architecture is boring, but it is also built properly to last.

Sadly, the shower tub thing.  But the tub is low and is very wide.  Nonetheless, the hotel needs to put in some glass.

Could be anywhere. Get this, there is a clock!  LOL.

But its not!  It’s La Jolla.  And there is a balcony.

Even in December, everything is green.

A fantastic after lunch coffee post meeting.

And possible one of the worst Negronis ever.  The airport bartender measured mediocre ingredients just so and then added a shot of Angostura!  LOL.  What?!  We had a chat.

Extruded ice.  Shitty gin. A dry peel improperly squeezed.  And an extra shot of bitters.  San Diego airport Negroni.

 

Anyway, four showerheads and warm Christmas thoughts for Estancia La Jolla.

Three tacos in Pheonix

December 18, 2022

When United fucks up ops, they do it spectacularly.  NPS was headed to phoenix for a meeting.  The four hour flight delay (equipment related on a route that has no other backups) caused us to land after the meeting was over.  Just ridiculous.

So we did a post meeting rendez-vous and headed to Scottsdale for a taco.

I almost forgot.  Dulles was all dressed up for the holidays.

And it was a complete zoo.  Security was packed.  This is the TSApre line.

Scottsdale fountain with a Belgian photo bomb.

Tourist tacos for the win.  And a margerita too, of course.

We admired the lights and did some sock shopping in town.

FAST

SLOW

 

Finally we swung by the Westin in Tempe for a fantastic Negroni.  Who knows why, but that hotel bar is one of the best in town?!

Anyway, United still sucks.

 

The Royal Crescent Hotel in the very gorgeous town of Bath in England is a beautiful place to stay (even if you are only staying for one night).  We were in one of the back suites apparently adapted from carriage houses.  This is room 51.

The sprawling sitting room where a note and some chocolate awaited our arrival.  Personal touches from the old days are greatly appreciated!

And without further ado, the best shower in all of England.  Really.  Hands down.  NPS wants this shower.

The bedroom with an absolutely comfortable yummy bed.  We had to get up before we really wanted to in order to go on a guided tour of bath.  BTW, the tour, arranged by the hotel and given by Fred Mawer was excellent in all regards.  Fred is personable, knowledgeable, and fun to boot.

Ah yes, real flowers.

While Romey tried out the Spa (which she loved), I sampled a negroni at the bar.  Nicely appointed with a good solid very young staff.

We enjoyed an early dinner out at The Circus restaurant.  The restaurant was good but not great.  Solid food on the less experimental side.  The wine and drinks program is solid.

Here is a short video of the best shower in Bath and most likely the best shower in all of England.  Yes please.  Hot, lots of pressure, plenty of flow.  You go!!  NPS approved.

Our carriage house.  The window is the window to room 51.

The grounds.

The sitting room where we had morning espresso was dressed up for Christmas.

All told, our abbreviated visit was top notch.  Amazing place.  Excellent town.  Superb service.  And the best shower in England.  Five showerheads!  We can’t wait to return.

The Lowry is a business hotel of reasonable quality in Manchester, England.  It rains every day.  Manchester is a cool town.

 

Room 223 at the Lowry is a nicely spacious hamster cage that is just fine, thank you.

Though the shower could use some water pressure and the HVAC system is a disaster.

The view is nice, but short.

Florence will break her foot kind of putting a major damper on the whole thing.

On a rainy evening, head on over to Home and see a movie.  If you’re lucky it will be as great as the Banshees of Inisherin.

Do some retail in the center.

Have breakfast at Côte.

Have dinner at 20 Stories  (which sports not only a great view, but an excellent bar).  Get Lisa to come up.

Visit Chinatown (open all night).

But maybe skip the Cloud 23  at the Hilton.  No skill.  Just view. (We went so you don’t have to.). An attempt at a CR#2 was just, well, just.

This cocktail should be renamed the “Lavender Yeah No.”

And by all means don’t go to the Lowry bar unless you must.  (And just for the record, sometimes you just must.)

WTF?

We did make them try an industry sour.

 

Finally, sort out your ride to the train station the night before.  Manchester traffic is a thing when it rains.  And it rains!

We’ll be back when Florence heals.  Can’t wait to do some dancing in Manchester.

Three showerheads for the Lowry.

It has been some years since we visited the stuffed cat in the Zetter Townhouse in London, and lo and behold, the cat is in full on Christmas mode.  More about that soon enough.

In town for business, we reinhabited the old haunt (the Zetter Hotel), this time in room 503.  This is one of the three rooms on the fifth floor with an excellent outside deck.  Of course it was rainy and cold the entire time, because London.  But we actually used the deck!

NPS still believes the 50X rooms need refurbished bathrooms.  The showers are long in the tooth, unsatisfying, and involve climbing into a tub.  A complete revamp with some glass showers would do everyone good.

The rest of 503 is great.  Be aware that the stairs down to the bathroom can be hazardous in the middle of the night.

Looking in on 503 from the deck.

Two views from the Zetter (up and down).  The blue sky was extremely temporary.

Now look at that tub!  We’re going to need to try that (but only after a visit to Callooh Callay.


The blue is still around.

Hopefully this shower is not long for the world.  The bathrooms are small but could be laid out much more reasonably.

Of course, the main draw of the Zetter is the Townhouse next door.  Yes please.  We had them fetch the Amer Picon from downstairs.  The visit featured many a Picon cocktail, including the Liberal, the Brooklyn, and Picon Punch.  I never make the latter because it takes way too much rare (in the US) Amer Picon.

Things were Christmasy all over London.

We returned to the Zetter Townhouse multiple times.

But first a quick note about some restaurants we did business things in.  Quo Vadis is an outstanding location for a private dinner.  And the Quality Chop House is unbelievably great.  Seriously, best Pheasant we have ever eaten.  Best Ramen in London at Mohonon.

Fun?  At Quo Vadis.

Picon Punch looks like coke.

Noel was let out on good behavior.  It did not last long.

Guilty as charged.

This South African gem was a perfect match for game.  The Norwegians were in the house!

Romey arrived bright and early and looking very stylish.

A quick hit at the Tate rounded out a full day.

More Townhouse late into the evening.

A new thing?  A visit to the London Eye.  Been there.  Done that.

The band.

A visit to the Churchill War Rooms was stuffy and a bit of a disappointment.  The Ivy, on the other hand, did not disappoint.

Martinis for the band at the Dorchester Bar (the Connaught was packed).  This round did not do much to improve the theater.  We saw A Single Man at the Park Theater. It was OK.

Martinis were not a sufficient dinner.  So we made a late night run to Chinatown.  It was also packed.  Where did all these people come from?

In other news, the Victoria and Albert has a design exhibit that is interesting, the South Bank Christmas market is a bust, Bengal Village is really nothing worth writing home about, and Callooh Callay remains a blast (thanks for the good conversation Charlie).

The Industry Sour cocktail made several appearances during this trip:

equal parts green chartreuse, lime, fernet, and simple syrup (1:1).  surprisingly great.

Always Negroni.

And that tub?  Yup!


A very nice visit to the Zetter again.  We’ll probably be back.  Because.  Four showerheads and a hope for new bathrooms in the near future.

More post-COVID business travel in 2022.  Trondheim, Norway is well north of Bergen and Oslo, situated on a Fjord, and is the home of NTNU where NPS was participating as adversary for a Ph.D. defense.  That meant travel was dictated by university policy.  Fortunately, breakfast was included.

In case you have forgotten what Norway is like, here is a video.  About the same geographic size as California, Norway has only 5.4 million people.  It is a gorgeous country.

Flying in to Trondheim is always an adventure, as you have to stop off in Oslo for customs and then brave the winds at the Trondheim airport.  One poor old lady on my flight was literally screaming in fright as we made our approach and landing.

The great news is some of our good Norwegian friends were in town to greet us.  Our first committee meeting was a very nice dinner out at the cozy Fagn bistrot.

The Scandic chain has done nothing to improve post COVID.  A middle tier hotel chain on par with Marriott in the US or maybe Hyatt, Scandic pays more attention to their common areas and meeting rooms than they do to their actual rooms.

The Scandic Nidelven does boast the “best breakfast in Norway.”  And the spread is actually quite good (and equally crowded).  So go for the breakfast!  I got two breakfasts in while in town.

The shower in my room (423 I think) looked something like this.  Distinctly uninspired, yet functional and not plastic.

Views from the breakfast room over the Nidelva canals are very pretty.

In one minor wrinkle, my suitcases followed me into town by a day.  That meant borrowing a coat and a dress shirt from friends just to stay warm and presentable.

 

The defense itself was interesting and fun.  We minted a new doctor!


After which it was time to celebrate.  First with a large dinner at Rive Gauche a droite (LOL) and then for some late night cocktails at the Britannia.  The hotel has undergone major renovations and now has a world class cocktail lounge fittingly reminiscent of its London cousins.

We had to sort a major travel SNAFU on the way to the cocktail bar (NPS does sometimes drop packets, but we also bring along our credit card to buy entirely new packets…and sometimes a router.)

 

The next day a public talk at the university on Machine Learning Security was in order.

After lunch with the faculty (deeply interested in MLsec), there was a very short window for some tourism in Trondheim.  The Rockheim museum is almost worth a visit..if you go with the right attitude it can be silly and fun.

The Trondheim sense of humor is even visible in the cafe signs.  “probably the best espresso in the world” (more LOL).

 

After a parting Negroni at the Scandic bar (inundated with business types having a cocktail before their conference dinner), it was off to the airport to wait several hours for a quick flight to Bergen?

All in all, three showerheads for the Scandic Nidelven.  Like the headline says, go for the breakfast.

 

 

What was to be a long weekend in the city shrunk down to one night when business did its usual thing of melting away.  NPS stayed on the lower east side on somewhat of a whim.  The verdict?  Meh.

Thing is, Madou had no idea that we weren’t in midtown.  So we shlepped up there for sushi at Sushi by Bou.  Which was hilarious and definitely worth the subway time.

The place is tiny, so make a reservation.  Immediately after coffee, it was back downtown for our meetings, and then back to midtown for dinner at Freemans.  Dinner was great.

But skip the rice pudding fad!  LOL.  Ride pudding is way too filling to catch on.

After dinner, the plan was to wedge into PDF, but the hot dog place was being its persnickety self.  So instead we headed to Amor Y Amargo for some fantastic cocktails.  We made up an experimental cocktail called the McGillicutty.

The Indigo was generic and boring.  All of the Kimpton magic has dispersed.

The shower is not plastic.

The lower east side is close to some stuff, we guess.

NPS doesn’t remember the room number.  Not returning.

Back to EWR you go (in an early Uber).

The United club is all new and fancy, but the flights are still delayed.

All told, three showerheads and no more strikes for Kimpton.  Anybody have a good boutique hotel chain to offer?

 

 

First things first, Hotel Alma is a five star hotel.  So you kind of know what to expect.  The Alma Barcelona feels Japanese on entry and in its design sensibility.  And it is similarly quiet and a little stayed.  Ultimately, it could use a splash of life and fewer hoity-toity guests.  But then again, it is perfectly suited to its slightly snooty demographic.  You will not find any hipsters here.  In fact, after midnight at the bar you won’t find anyone at all.

But it is nice to be overly pampered, have a room where the A/C is beyond sufficient, and have lots of room to spread out.  So all told, the Alma fits the bill this time.  Note that its location is about 10 minutes from the heart of tourist-land.  So plan to taxi.

The staff at the Alma is trying hard to be five star worthy and they almost achieve it.  Almost all are friendly and helpful, but attention to detail and followthrough is lacking.  Perhaps counterintuitively, relaxing a notch and having more fun by loosening up would probably help everyone.

The Madrid train station (at Atocha) gave us a taste of green before our fast train to Barcelona (and a drop of 10 degrees Fahrenheit).

We were situated in room 301 (a “superior executive suite” in the grade inflated nomenclature of the hotel).

This room is nicely appointed, large, airy and a good place to camp for a few days.  The street below is not noisy, and the A/C is up to the task.

The bathroom in 301 is large and marble-lined with tall ceilings, a tub large enough for two, a beautiful shower, and tons of hot water.  Yes please. But we had to bring our own bluetooth device to stream music (well, we had to buy one on La Rambla), and the TV would not stream content from the computer without an HDMI cable.

All told the Alma is a great base of operations for a visit to Barcelona.  It is conveniently close to la Pedrera (Casa Milà), good retail in l’Eixample, and plenty of great food.  Walking is possible if you are up for 2 km at a time.  Since we were taking it easy during COVID recovery, we appreciated all the aspects of the Alma.

Speaking of which, the garden is magical and serene.  If only there were a pool.  But there are snacks and Negronis.

The food at the Alma is delicious and carefully prepared.

On Sunday night, we had dinner outside in the garden at Jardín del Alma, a restaurant that is trying very hard to be upscale, but not quite getting over the threshold.  The food in Barcelona is so good that unless you are staying in the hotel, a visit to the restaurant may not be in the cards.

Ingredients are fresh and service is OK.

Much better is the vaunted hotel breakfast.  Everything about the breakfast situation at the Alma is top notch.  Only the service could be improved.  Once again allowing the staff to relax and maybe have a little fun would likely help.

We enjoyed wandering the gothic district after a walk down to the sea on La Rambla.

After a swing by the Cathedral, we chanced up on a hotel rooftop bar of Hotel Colon.  Go up to the seventh floor, the view is great and the food is delicious.

Why, they even have an Aperol spritz available.

La Rambla flowers.

Perfume.

Just by Gaudi.

Speaking of which, a night visit to La Pedrera is definitely something to do.  We had an excellent dinner afterwards at La Bodegueta Provença.

One night we attempted to visit Park Güell, but were turned away at the entrance because it was “full.”  No guidebook has anything to say about that.  Do not plan to go there for sunset without a ticket.

Fortunately, all was made well with a fantastic visit to Toma Ya Street Food, which was homey, friendly and delicious.  We topped that off with a stop in for some world class cocktails at 14 de la rosa.  Just superior in all respects.  We had a Liberal together as well as an Industry Sour.

We also made a leisurely visit to the Picasso Museum and had some Ramen for lunch one day.  We skipped the sagrada familia after battling their website for tickets.  Spanish websites really need some attention.

All in all, our visit to Barcelona was very relaxing and low key.  We’ll be back for sure to see more sights and experience more night life.  Next time no COVID.

Five showerheads and a wish for the staff to have more fun for Hotel Alma.

 

Upon arrival in Italy, NPS was