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After a false start in the Sydney Hilton hamster cage category, we upgraded ourselves to a Relaxation Suite. This was a GOOD MOVE! Thanks to Callan at the front desk for making the whole thing go smoothly and for cutting us a sweet deal.

Apparently there are 16 of these rooms on the property. If NPS is stuck in a big corporate hotel, this is the kind of room we want. 2925 is big enough to stretch out in. Comes with exec level perqs (free breakfast, cocktail hour, concierge service, etc). A completely different universe from “free conference room” category. Yes please.

2925 suite

Hey look, room to breathe!

The furnishings are sturdy and nice, and the shades are all automated. Lots of room to work and play.

The sitting room with a nice desk

Powder room

The bathroom is huge with a gigantic tub (probably never to be used) and a very nice shower that has so many control options we’ve only figured out half of them over the last two days.

Four of the five shower nozzles. The drench head (not shown) is superb.

This huge tub comes with a city view

Visit the botanical gardens!

Spanish helmets

After a nice long walk through the city on our first day, we had a quick pizza at Macchiato. The pizza is better than the service (friendly though inept), and we won’t even mention the bartending. There has to be better pizza in Sydney.

Watson Bay ferry dock

Day two was spent ferrying over to Watson Bay, walking the bridge, wandering the Rocks, and buying way too much product at Aesop.

You can’t leave Watson Bay without consuming mandatory fish and chips

The gap

The Aesops store is in here somewhere

Dinner at Tetsuyas was world class. Very expensive but very very good indeed. Bite the bullet and overpay for dinner.

A negroni with homemade sweet vermouth (cherry). Delicious.

Day three is a rainy disaster, good for getting up late, processing some bits, a nice Thai lunch in the very weird Holy Basil, and some coffee at Doppio.

Before dinner, we stopped in at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. A very powerful video piece on the Palm Island uprising was the highlight for sure.

MCAA

MCAA

MCAA

MCAA

Dinner at Aria was solid. Excellent views at a great table, delicious food, and very good service.

Aria Sydney view

We also went to see a (bad) play at the Sydney opera house. Yeah, probably not the best theater location in the city, but it was the only thing on. The actors were great, the set was creative and high tech, and the writing may once have been good too, but it has aged poorly. What is billed as an “iconic masterpiece by Nobel Laureate Patrick White,” A Cheery Soul is more like a cartoon from long ago. It was fun to do, though.

The next day we did a say trip to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Highly recommended even though the train ride is long. (See a blog entry here.)

Then it was a mad dash through the city in order to shower before dinner in the best restaurant in Australia. That would be quay. Though we were grateful to sneak in with a last minute reservation, we were not satisfied with a table in the “annex” (which seems to be a thing in Sydney). Dinner was remarkably great, but childre’s table treatment is just wrong when you are paying so much money.

View from the children’s table at Quay

We opted for the “drinks” pairing which was really excellent. Not just wine, but beer, sake, fortified spirits, cocktails. A great idea done in an outstanding fashion.

Negroni with QQQQ Pillars gin (a hack from four pillars for Quay)

Here are some pictures from the dinner. World class. Outstanding and well worth a visit.

Quay

There was not much time to explore the cocktail scene in Sydney what with all of the fancy Negronis we had in some of the best restaurants on earth. We did at least pop over to the Lobo Plantation for some nice tiki-style cocktailing after a group dinner. Lobo Plantation was hopping and much fun.

Lobo Plantation is a great bar

Fernet and coconut cream based cocktail (with a side of fernet of course)

CR#2

Did these stairs get curvier?

We’ll have to leave these other bars unexplored for now (including the (gasp!) marble bar at the Hilton which we never made it downstairs for): Bulletin Place, Old Mates Place, Shady Pines, and Hubert.

Here is a view of the sunset from the really cool “window in the mirror” from the suite.

Sunset at the Sydney Hilton

Five showerheads for the Sydney Hilton Relaxation Suite product. Recommended.

Las Vegas comprises equal parts Disney, Porn, and Walmart Shoppers. Pretty much three things that suck in their own ways. Combine them, and they triple suck. So whenever we are forced to come to Vegas, we do what we can to wiggle out of it.

One tactic is to use pricing to dissuade Vegas trips. You can set the price to HIGH (which I do), but the problem is that HIGH sometimes is “the way it is” and there is no avoiding a trip to Vegas using rational grounds.

Here we are. And this time we’re at the huge, modern Aria complex. Filled with smoke and Walmart shoppers trying to up their fine dining capability. Really. Just. Awful. Cows go moo. Cows eat grass. And they poop in their own food.

NPS finds itself in the Japanese wing. How do we know? Low floor. Sliding doors. Toilets that clean you against your will at the press of a button.

Sliding door is glass, no paper.  But Japanese design.

Sliding door is glass, no paper. But Japanese design.

Washy washy. Heated toilet seat

Washy washy. Heated toilet seat

Room 3042 is interesting in terms of angles. But it is cheap in terms of furniture. Like a theater set, it looks good (though a bit beige) from afar. Just don’t sit on the terrible furniture.

The couch is not comfortable. The chair is not comfortable. The veneer is thin.

This is not luxury, this is simulated nonsense.

All hail the TV

All hail the TV

And there is a TV everywhere. Some don’t turn off.

Aria.  Cheap ass furniture.

Aria. Cheap ass furniture.

The bathroom is long, thin, and beige.

The bathroom is long, thin, and beige.

Some attention has been paid to the bathroom, which is one notch or maybe two over Marriott. But this is not luxury. Heck just compare ingredient quality with the Broadmoor. Or on second thought, don’t even bother.

Yuck.

The bed seems to be comfortable

The bed seems to be comfortable

Just because Vegas, we decided not to leave the compound during our prison sentence. That meant a cocktail at “Alibi” which could be a good bar, but just is not. That said, the people are great. The space has, yes, TVs, and a small assortment of bad booze (heavy on the crayon-level Scotch and Vodka). There is plenty of very loud noise.

All situations can be salvaged:

Kendall, who is 24 and talented, made a drink called either “Kendall’s Fifth Eye” or “The Fifth Eye” as follows:
1 oz Calvados
1 oz unfiltered apple juice (hard cider would improve)
.75 allspice dram (cut to .5)
.25 walnut liqueur

Shake. Strain over big rock. Mint and citrus garnish.

Ultimately, this drink needs more attention. Try some Lairds Applejack or 12 year brandy to up its game.

Kendall was delightful.

Sage (restaurant), which takes some non-trivial finding, is good. Recommended.

All told, we will stick to our plan to get the hell out of here as fast as possible. Take the money and run!

Aria, for at least being modern and cheap, you get two point five showerheads that is posing as if it’s four, and a nervous glance.