The group we host on an annual basis is getting big (well over 200 now) and that means finding an appropriate venue is getting harder. Fortunately the Omni Montelucia was a great choice for this year’s conference. Gorgeous setting. Updated property. Top notch food and drinks. Well trained and attentive staff. Awesome!

About the only wrinkle with the Omni Montelucia is getting there from the east coast. Flying to/from Pheonix is not the best or the most efficient, but that can be a plus too if you want to get a bunch of very busy people “off the grid” for a couple of days of concentrated work. (BTW, American Air just sucks. My favorite thing was a twitter suggestion from American customer service to remove stuff from the seat ahead for more room. Fuck right on off!)

The conference organizers lined up suite 129 for NPS. It was “pretty not bad” as our friend Sammy says. In fact, it was just as nice as any suite we’ve ever had.

Suite 129

Greeted with a cocktail and a personal note. Very nice. Thanks! (Oh and sparkly water too.)

The bathroom was spectacular with a NPS approved glass shower also incorporating stone and multiple showerheads.

Wait for it

This shower is perfect

Are we spoiled? Should we not be spoiled?

All showers like this always come with an unused side of bathtub

But by far the best part of 129 was the large porch. Each night we entertained on the porch with candles and Liberals (Amer Picon brought from home).

129 porch

View of the porch

View from the porch

View from the porch

One minor quibble about the porch. The weather was so perfect that NPS wanted to keep the huge sliding glass triple door open all night. Sadly the resort musak also played all night in the courtyard of the restaurant. So the doors had to close at 3am.

The bar was also prepped by advance troops (in the form of Noelie) who informed them that they would need more absinthe STAT for CR#2s. That was a very good call. The barkeeps were all greatly accommodating and eager to learn.

And the resort food for 200? Very very well done. Could not really ask for improvement there.

After the conference, we left in an afternoon for play. A hike in the desert. A dip in the pool. And one of the best meals of my life at Sel in Scottsdale.

Camelback Mountain

Five showerheads and nothing to add. Heck six showerheads for the Omni Monelucia. Wishing for a quick return on any other airline than American.

Well, here we are in North Carolina where NPS owns some land (at the beach) but can’t vote and where the idiots in state government pass absurd laws about bathrooms. This is not where I would choose to spend my travel dollars. But work is work, so, well, here we are.

The flight down on American Air was very nice. Great equipment. Expensive wifi. Good seating.

Nice parking lot view from 424

Nice parking lot view from 424

The Ballantyne is 20 minutes from the airport away from the city and is one of those luxury compounds where you just get stuck and maybe play some golf or have a “spa day.” NPS does not play golf. This property is part of the Starwood family of hotels who seem to have suburban luxury down pretty well—lots of recently planted trees, over manicured lawns, the whole shebang. It is a gorgeous day.

Coffee and water pod

Coffee and water pod

We are assigned cubicle 424. Which means we have the usual hamster cage design but with a much better bathroom pod than usual, and enough room to work (and to eat it turns out, but more about that in a minute). I arrived in a huge rush 4 minutes before a critical phone call. The room key failed to work. So back down to get that fixed, and back up with 30 seconds to spare and no net authenticated yet. Argh!

424 bed land

424 bed land

424 working and eating penensula

424 working and eating penensula

Style = generic

Style = generic

With the call over, it was time for a very late lunch (after 2), but strangely you can’t get any food at the compound between 2 and 5 unless you are in your room? That’s just weird. So anyway, you can eat in 424.

The bathroom is very nice if not a bit rococo. Lots of marble.


With a huge tub.


And a glass shower, which we must absolutely approve.


The porch outside by one of the golf holes (replete with Canadian geese) is a great place for writing blog entries.

Dinner at Baku was very nice indeed. Reasonable cocktails, outstanding sushi and wagyu beef cooked at the table.

Anyway, that’s about it. Once you know what real luxury is, it is hard to experience the suburban kind and be all tail waggy. But this hotel beats the heck out of a Courtyard by Marriott or a Springhill Suites. Four showerheads and a free golf cart ride for the Ballantyne Hotel.