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NPS has heard plenty of good things about Grand Hyatt Tokyo, but until just recently everything was just rumor and innuendo. The good news is that the rumors were all true. Grand Hyatt Tokyo is a great base of operations for exploring Tokyo.

NPS lives in Virginia. Getting to Tokyo (and to the Grand Hyatt) from Virginia takes about 18 hours. Lets review. First there is the car ride to IAD, then there is the 12.5 hour United flight (Polaris of course), then there is the N’ex from Narita into town.

One or two pieces of advice. We were assigned a deluxe king room 648. The club level is worth paying for (we found this out once we were comp’ed in by a friend). Pay more and get a corner room. Or heck, blow your wad and get a suite. Since this was an NPS first visit to Japan, we relied on friends to make our reservation when we probably should have checked things out more carefully and upped a level or two.

That said, 648 is “pretty not bad.” The sixth floor is a particularly great floor to be on since it also is the restaurant and shopping center (way upscale) connection floor.

Entrance hall 648

Every room needs green tea and a tea set because Japan

The bed does take up pretty much the whole room 648

Fortunately, the shower is WAY not plastic with a built in tub, multiple nozzles, and a very cool slit drain. This shower meets and exceeds NPS requirements on all fronts.

Of course the toilet tech involves many buttons, automatic lid lifting, and other mysteries.

Toilet with an advanced degree

The best part of the Grand Hyatt is the super-professional staff whose attention to detail and courtesy can’t be matched.

Some Tokto recommendations. Get ramen at Afuri (there are many) and also try some tsukemen at Fuunji. The sushi at the restaurant in the Grand Hyatt is quite delicious.

 

Watch out for Pat. He will stretch your Saturday night until 6:30am Sunday. A couple of great bars include Wodka Tonic and Bar Arashi. Vynil bars are over-rated. Watch live music (but use ear plugs if you are over 50).

 

 

 

Homemade gin infusion

See some live Rock and Roll.  Read about The Dead Bambies and Jungles!!! here.

Records and booze

Getting Later

Visit mori tower

Visit the shrines

Meiji Jingu and Senso-ji

Import the Liberal to the Local

Five showerheads for the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

Delta Business Class

May 4, 2017

Is Tumi better than Saks Fifth Avenue? That’s the main branding difference between United’s Polaris thing and Delta’s Business Class. All told, NPS still prefers the Virgin Atlantic business class to Europe experience. All of this is complicated by the fact that Virgin America was bought by Alaska in 2016. Every one of the alliances is re-aligning. No real loyalty left out there in airplane-land for NPS.

Delta and Tumi are a thing

The Delta pods are not quite as advanced as the United pods are these days, but they do lay flat. The tiny just out of reach touch screens need some ergonomic work (or a remote control).

Delta business class pod

The Virgin arrivals lounge at Heathrow (a Delta partner) is worth a visit. Hot showers and food that is slightly better than what you get on the airplane.

So delta will do. Pods make all the difference.

You know how we feel about United airlines here on this blog. They squeezed every single iota of loyalty out of us during the ill-fated Smisek years. Our 1.6 MILLION miles meant nothing to United. So we stopped flying United three years ago.

Is it time to forget and forgive? Well, not exactly. But sometimes we just fly whatever airline will get us where we need to be when we need to be there.

The world colluded to put us in United Polaris across the pond to Frankfurt.

The United pods on a 777-200 are nice. They are easier to manage than the Virgin Atlantic pods and don’t require shenanigans to get into bed mode. In practice, that means with expedited meal service you can get right to pretending to sleep.

Saks Fifth Avenue? Ha ha ha. United and dime stores.

Pod view with a large screen entertainment system running linux

Mimosa and propaganda

On this trip the crew was great, the wine was passable, the flight was bumpy and we arrived early. Well, what you gonna do.

Then there was the indignity of the bus at Frankfurt. No no no no.

Anyway, you get what you overpay for on United Polaris!

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

Lets tip our NPS hat to the people in marketing, shall we? We’re running a conference for a couple of hundred senior people down in Florida. So Amelia Island it is, and the Ritz-Carlton at that. Anyway, how does this property rate? Off the charts.

Room 832

Room 832

United pulled a ridiculous head fake on the way down: You’re upgraded. Oh, sorry, nevermind. Oh no wait, you ARE upgraded but now there is no room for your suitcase since you’re already seated in the back. In the end the trip was great and NPS appreciates the upgrade. Nice try united! Lets do it again and get it all right next time!!

The hotel provided car service at the airport, and our driver was superlative. He took a shortcut that saved us 20 minutes getting on the island. There was some evidence of hurricane damage on the sides of the road coming in. This island dodged a bullet when hurricane Matthew stayed off shore just two weeks ago.

We were greeted by name at the door with some champagne (which we sadly had to skip), and whisked up to 832 by gregarious staff. Outstanding greeting.

And the amenity shows that someone has been doing their homework. Cocktail? Yep. Sparking water? Yep. Hand written note? Yep. It’s all here and all awesome.

Pirate Loot (chocolate treasure, a cocktail, and sparkling water).

Pirate Loot (chocolate treasure, a cocktail, and sparkling water).

832 is nothing short of palacial. A gorgeous room with an incredible view of the ocean from its five balconies.

The suite has two main sections and 5 rooms.

Living area off the bedroom

Living area off the bedroom

832 bedroom

832 bedroom

Dining area

Dining area

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Of course, we’re here for the showers. This non-plastic shower is also off the charts. Multiple shower heads and a bench? OK then.

Shower in the bathroom suite (itself several rooms)

Shower in the bathroom suite (itself several rooms)

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The bar situation here is not good, which in 2016 is just plain sad. Sure, you can get some scotch if you try hard enough. But no bourbon to speak of. And if you order a proper cocktail (say, something like a sazarac) you will be sorely disappointed. Ever had a cocktail served hot in a glass straight from the dishwasher? How about a sazarac made with angostura? Yeah no.

Time to invest in some people who actually know what they’re doing Marriott. In the meantime, stick with the Mt Gay Extra Old rum (in a glass that has cooled off).

Four showerheads and a sincere wish for some more free time and a real bar for the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island. Gorgeous property run by hospitality experts.

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.)

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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)

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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

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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

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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.

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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!

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.