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There was that pandemic thing that put a kibosh on business travel.  Some hotels and hotel chains (looking at you Kimpton) slumped, starting with their customer experience department.  I mean, no customers so no customer service?  Or something wrong like that.  Others rose to the occasion.  The Umstead Hotel in Cary, NC rose to the occasion.  Well done Umstead!

First off, the hotel remembered that we have stayed on their property before.  They left a note.  They provided an excellent room.  The only problem was not a problem at all…that was that arrival was rushed due to late aircraft arrival and there was no time to appreciate the calm ritual of the umstead.  In the end, it all worked out.

After delivering a 6:30pm lecture, it was back to the Umstead and its world class restaurant, Herons, for dinner.  Just wow.  Excellent food.  Impeccable service.  Great company.  Dinner could not have been better executed.

Herons is still in pandemic mode

The host, software security professor Laurie Williams

The Prix Fixe dinner menu is world class, and fun too.  Elk, caviar, fois gras, and a cheese desert that was a blast.

Then it was up to 512 (a garden view balcony room) for some sleep on birthday eve.

512 bedroom. Very tasteful and comfortable.

 

The bar in the hall

 

Looking toward the balcony

 

An excellent bathroom featuring an NPS approved shower room.

 

The giant tub (alas, unused on this trip)

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NPS was greeted with presents hidden away in our luggage.  Yay!  Birthday.  (NPS is 38 for those of you wondering.)

 

Foggy morning view

 

Looking over the “lake”

 

The Umstead

What else is there to do around Cary on your birthday?  Well there is Krispy Kreme.

Hot donuts NOW

And a visit to the NCSU lab.

 

A little too secure if you don’t have an ID card.

Evidence of bribery (see the table)

Then a VERY early dinner with Michael Rappa, who once again is always right about restaurant choice.  Stanbury is fantastic.

The perfect Negroni

 

Three birthdays in the corner

 

Happy birthday NPS

After dinner it was back to Cary for a nightcap at Mayton Inn‘s bar.  Fernet was available.  The waitress was a newb.

All in all, a great celebratory day with three renditions of the happy birthday song…all terrible.

Much brighter morning

 

The umstead entrance

A walk in the park was in order before flying back home.  Umstead State Park is built around an old Mill complex.  A nice warm day for a walk.

 

 

Hurray for a visit with bright young grad students!

Five showerheads and a fervent wish for an early return (or maybe often…or maybe both).

 

Flip the Hytte

November 27, 2021

If you’re lucky, you will be greeted with love at the new hytte, which has become quite luxurious (now including things like hot showers, modern kitchens, floors, and a roof).  We spent 4 days and 3 nights in Tyinkrysset cooking, skiing, hiking, drinking, conversing, and reveling in a life well lived.

Brusebu is named after the sound the nearby creek makes.

We stocked up on Negroni fixings and wine in Oslo.  Then scooped Romey at the airport.  Her entry was smooth (unlike, say, mine).

 

Brusebu the hytte

 

Romey on her first skis (starting in Norway is the way to go).

 

The intrepid host Gøran

NPS tried using randonee skis (usually used to climb up mountains and ski back down).  This is a technology to explore further.

Anne the ski instructor and her star pupil

 

Gourmet cheese sandwiches were available for those on the tour.

 

 

The view from lunch

A quick trip to Øvre Årdal tested the snow tires and resulted in no purchases whatsoever.

Yule Nisse salmon

 

Crooked vimpel pole

 

Geared up for the walk

 

The walk behind the cabin.

Gin flower in the juniper

 

Over the bridge.

 

Face off one

 

Face off two

 

 

 

Roof repair

A visit to the Låve Museum (a locally curated collection of stuff from old fashioned Norwegian life).  The proprietor is a delight.

 

Self

 

Regional costumes

 

 

The infamous hat

 

 

Also see Art in the Corner for one of these farm implements.

Just like art in the corner

 

Stories of the war

 

Bubbles

 

To the hytte

Sharing pictures of construction (Romey buys a building).  The hytte has been basically reconstructed from scratch with a new roof (expanded roof line) and a new floor (including joists and subfloor).  Now it is a luxury hytte.

Table scene

 

Hytte life

 

The new shower (5 showerheads for this mechanism)

 

The all important hot water mechanism

What a pleasure.  Can’t wait to return.

Being back on the road again is so good!  And we’re not even stuck in the good old US of A.  Oslo even!  When in Olso, NPS always likes to use the Hotel Christiania Teater as the base of operations.  Heck, we even know our favorite room (620) which not only has an interesting shower but also features non-rectangular architecture.

Be forewarned, however, that the “getting into Norway” thing at this phase of the global pandemic is non-trivial.  The rules are tricky and they don’t have things set up for Americans to visit.  The problem is the EU covid passport requirement.  Since the good old US of A has its own digital records system (times 50, one for each state) there is no way to get the QR code signed by the EU authority.

What we did to prepare was download digital records from the Virginia Department of Health for vaccines (NPS is triple vaxxed) and then store them in the Common Health app on our phone.  We did the same thing with covid test results generated the day that we flew (get them done less than 24 hours before entering Norway).  Make sure you practice pulling up the records and displaying the QR code when the police ask you for it at the gate of your arriving plane!  And practice being super nice and explaining, “well, these are the records my government makes available.”

That’s right, even though we were flying in through the EU and had been admitted into Germany with our records with no issue at all, the police met the EU-origin plane in Oslo and asked all passengers for passports and vaccination/testing documents.  After ten minutes of “sweating it” in the hall, we were admitted.

Getting to the hotel from the airport is a breeze.  Just take the express train in from the airport and go one stop past the central station.  Even though we arrived a bit too early for checkin (which is a 3pm), the wait for room cleaning final check was only 10 minutes.

Waiting in the lobby to check in

 

The lobby is well appointed, comfortable, and quirky fun

Then it was up to 620 to shower off the metal tube and start the attempt to stay up until at least 20:00.

Here is the bathroom from 620, built next to one of the cupola rooms.  The shower is over a huge stone tub inside the shower room area.  Very not plastic, and a very nice shower indeed.

 

Here’s the rest of the room.

A small sitting entry way

 

The main living room (not at all rectangular

 

The very cool cupola window

 

Another cool window

 

The king size bedroom dominated by the bed and a closet.

Covid has put a small damper on the bar at the hotel, which is still good but is not as relaxing and excellent as it used to be.  We’ll hope that gets back to normal when the pandemic is over.

Breakfast is fantastic.  A beautiful room, a machine that makes fresh orange juice, excellent espresso drinks, and, well, just a great spread.  Sneaking in for breakfast would be a good move.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  First we had to stay up.  So we started at the bar with an arbitrarily constructed not very good Negroni (how can you fuck that one up?!), and moved on to an Indian restaurant in search of spicy food.

Seeing my friend Gøran was a great pleasure.  The food at The Great India was plenty hot, the wine was good, and they made a much better Negroni.  Soon it was time to slink off to bed and crash for 10 hours straight.

The next day, after an excellent breakfast and a visit with the orange smashing machine, it was time for some work in Oslo.

And then it was out into Oslo with friends old and new.  We started at Torggata Botaniske, a very nice cocktail bar where they were shooting a movie scene as we arrived.

A crazy Sazarac variant with absinthe foam (a bit too sweet and not hot enough for NPS)

 

Sami shall on marie

We had an excellent but way too risky dinner at Habibi.  Absolutely outstanding food, but crowded and stuffy.  No venues in Oslo are requiring vaccination proof (though the double dosed vaccination rate is 87.4%).  In Oslo on the street it feels like the pandemic is over.  It is most assuredly not over.

Then it was a visit to the always outstanding Himkok.  We were once again pressed to finagle the door.  Done.

 

Beetroot

Our obligatory bottle of Aquavit was delivered.

All in all Hotel Christiania Teater remains a five showerhead kind of place.  Tops on the Oslo list! Can’t wait to be back when the pandemic is actually over.

 

The thing about Bloomington is that though almost everybody at IU is vaccinated (in theory), none of the places in town ask for proof of vaccination.  Fortunately, masks are required.  But not when you’re eating or drinking.  Things seem a little lax.  NPS bets that one day pandemic processes will be more like NY or Portland.  Hopefully sooner rather than later.

The old IU stomping grounds

Bloomington is an oasis of intellectual goodness in a sea of rural America.  This has its positive aspects.  The Midwest is a thing.  For example, though NPS has stayed at the Grant Street Inn countless bazillions of times through the years, this trip happened to coincide with an important big ten football game.  That meant that every hotel within 150 miles was filled to the gills with football fans.  Heck, even the Dean’s Advisory Council arranged to send people to the game. No sportsball for us though.  Instead, we focused our energy on intellectual pursuits.

The upshot was that we needed a place to stay Friday and Saturday nights.  Fortunately our friend (and thesis advisor of yore) Rob and his partner Katy put us up in their gorgeous house on Lake Monroe where we kayaked, fossil hunted, and even tried an e-foil.  Honestly, the weekend was the highlight of the trip with excellent conversation, shared art, baking, and fun in the lake. Real life, well lived.

View from the deck

 

Our fearless leader paddles with his feet

 

The best fossil (which also caused the bag to switch guardians)

 

 

Hiking the ridge at scout camp

 

The take: fossils and geodes.

 

The best geode

 

We kayaked on Saturday which was cooler but not raining.  E-foil experimenting was left for Sunday in wet suits.  The weather was shockingly warm for mid-October.

 

We ended up staying at the Grant Street Inn Thursday and then again Sunday and Monday.  NPS chose the usual room (number 30).

Room 30 has a bed

 

Room 30 is quiet with a nice bathroom

You can read more about the Grant Street Inn elsewhere on NPS.

The DAC meeting included a tour of the new Luddy AI Center.  One day it will be filled with students.  For now, it is still being set up.

The VR room of the Luddy School AI Center

 

Tuning the system

Of course, Indiana places a big emphasis on breakfast (at least outside the confines of Rob and Katy’s house).  Here is one example.  This is a light breakfast.

While in town, we made a couple of visits to C3.  One with Kay and one just ourselves.  The cocktails are (still) excellent.

A dughof sighting (at the Spoon of course).  This was a delightful lunch as usual.


 

The icing on the cake of our Bloomington run was a visit to the IU Art Museum which has been completely renovated and updated.  Going to a museum chock full of history certainly puts things in perspective.  9000 years from now, we wonder if some off-planet Earth museum will have one of our everyday items on display.

Read about our visit to the museum here.

IU Art Musem

Fin.

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.

In the mountains, there is always a remarkable difference between the seasons. Our first visit to the cabin in Skarvheimem was in the Fall. We did some great hiking. This time we visited at the tail end of winter, just before Easter. Here is a short montage about our visit.

We arrived in Bergen…well maybe it was Bergen just in time to pee.

Bergen airport bathroom

Nobody in Bergen is sure about anything

After 20 hours or so of travel, sunset was a welcome sight.

Then it was off to the cabin.

Our now familiar pass

This is where the talk about photography began in earnest. It is not where it ended.

The “path” to the cabin was a little snowy

Home for Easter week.

The living room and bar area

Heat turned out to be kind of important

Outdoor fire

This is us lazing around doing nothing. Note that we were not relaxing (right Gøran?)

Panorama by Anne

The cross country ski area

Way down there is the entire crew

Did I mention there was some talk of photography?

Picture by Amy Barley

The two most important things at the cabin are both liquids.

First, there is water.

Then there is rum

Downhill day

My downhill morning companions

Moon over ice (by Anne)

The view at dinner

Music was a thing again even though the violin was left in Virginia.

Fernet anyone?

More skiing

Pretending to fly the planet

Boo!

Another fire

Two fisted Anne

Somebody is very happy

The visitor

Pancakes and ice cream

Some biathalon

Spring in Norway

Another magical visit to Norway with great friends.

Of course the shower itself was not plastic, since it was nonexistent.

The moonlit view

First of all you have to go north, over the Golden Gate Bridge and up the coast. Guerneville is situated on the Russian River.

Up the 101 in a convertible

But before you go to the cabin, a picnic at Preston winery is in order. There is some stocking up to do in the alcohol department.

Picnic on a perfect Spring day (preston winery)

After bread, cheese, some more cheese, salami, and different salami, olives, and hummus, and a couple of bottles of wine, and those wee little pills, it is off to see some big trees at the Armstrong Redwood State Natural Preserve. Make sure to see the amphitheater, but do not dilly dally.

Amy dwarfed by a giant redwood

The band at the crest

We did make it to the cabin after an espresso in town at Big Bottom. No really, that’s what they called it.

The cabin has modern sensibilities

Drama and moss is a thing

The a pit stop by the cabin to change clothes and it is off for dinner in Healdsburg. Chalkboard is worth driving way up to the sticks for. Excellent food. Fun, friendly service. Very good indeed. (We were slightly late the whole time, mostly due to amphitheater…LOL.)

One of the many superb dishes at Chalkboard

These doughnut things were out of this world

Sadly, we ended up being on time to see the show at the Raven. Eileen Ivers played a pre-compiled show of world music (many mixed genres). The show was solid, but also phoned in and somehow cloyingly fake. Still, it was fun singing along, and the support band was filled with excellent session musicians.

Everyone joins Eileen

The show was opened by JigJam who, other than desperately needing a new name, played an opener that topped the main event. The young fiddle player was far better than Eileen will ever be.

Then it was back home in the volkswagon and to bed by 1am.

A stint in the hot tub in the morning happened first thing, followed by some delicious eggy concoction with expert-level toast. Next, we attempted to cram 20 square feet of stuff into a 10 square foot space in the car. The stuff was consolidated, and the trunk was very slowly shut over the lil tiny bass through the use of random quantum properties, black magic, and the power of wishful thinking.

A call by the Pacific was next. The Russian River pours its brown self into the ocean at Jenner.

Then a short hike (maybe 3.5 or 4 miles) through the vernal wonderland (read “muddy”) of the California coastal hills. Sonoma is gorgeous and green for at least a week in the Spring, and we got to witness it.

Uncle Jim leads the way

Also Pacific ocean.

The Pacific at shell beach

By this time we were late again, but who cares? A drive down 1 took us directly to Rocker Oysterfeller’s where we partook of Negronis and oysters. Jim found out that oysters can be cooked and smothered in various things and still be delicious.

What an adventure! We’ll do it again as soon as we make up for lost time.

Paul’s house is situated on a dead end in the city that abuts a park. Pretty much picture perfect. Also, Paul’s house has a beautiful little apartment in it. Yes please.

Why are we in SF? Maybe for something to do with hair.

Or maybe we’re trying to cross the Global Services finish line as quickly as possible.

Probably both.

A visit to Kippu in Japantown seems to be the way we do it now on landing

This aesop thing is Jacob’s fault regardless of continent

Kitchen opens on to the back garden

Glass cube. NPS approved.

For some reason, the chairs have socks

We went to see a Cal concert featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen. The Bartok was particularly good.

Cal concert at 11:30pm EST (yawn)

Cafe du Soleil is a delicious place for a quick breakfast.

R2 Wine Luncheon Take 4

February 16, 2019

The fourth LA wine luncheon run was excellent and fun as always. This time the highlight of the day was an absolutely top notch menu put together by Bistro 45. (FWIW, Bistrot 45 already held the top dining position for these wine lunch things and knocked themselves right out of first place into first and second place.)

Your gracious host donnie sporting a svelte new look

All hands on deck

The fun end of the table

The menu features all organic ingredients

Carpaccio

Ravioli

Duck and polenta

Did we mention the polenta?

Of course, there was lots of wine, good conversation, and laughter.

The whites

The reds

Note to self that wine tasting is much better without the last vestiges of a chest cold.

After lunch we headed into greater downtown Pasadena for a cocktail or two. The bar at Smitty’s Grill is remarkably good. Excellent standard cocktails and a bartender who is even experimenting with milk punch.