We were here just over a year ago running the very same small conference that we’re running this time. Well, actually more like presiding; other people do all of the actual running. Anyway, the Mondrian is still very nice.

We’re in the same room category as last year but up one level in 571. And we’ve already been in Europe for a week, so the obligatory Tate Modern visit is documented here (as is our stay at the Zetter), there is no jet lag to contend with, and we’ve even been to Scotland. Heck, we even went out to the American Bar for cocktails!

All that was left was to taxi across the Thames and check in at noon.

An absurdity happened then. Even though the massive NPS support staff had set things up so that our room would be available at noon (and we arrived at 12:30) the room was “not quite ready.” What? I’m pretty sure we even ended up paying for an extra night just to avoid this. Sorry, Mondrian, please get organized and give us our money back for the extra night! The delay was not long (only 12 minutes), but that’s not really the point.

Does it make NPS happy to sit in the lobby waiting? Nope. Not one little bit.

Here is what 571 looks like. We’ll start with the balcony view on a cold, blustery London afternoon. The temperature has dropped 10 degrees Fahrenheit since yesterday.

The balcony is nice. NPS bets the higher rooms with balconies are even better.

The room is spacious and huge with an outstanding bathroom. No sign of plastic.

Dining nook

Sleeping nook

Working nook

Sitting nook

Having an amenity at greeting was nice. But get this Mondrian peeps, guests have actual names! Wow! You should use them.

Why thank you guest experience team driod from the bottom of our customer id unknown heart.


We had to order 4 bottles of sparking water to make us through the week. The Kimpton guys mostly have this figured out. Perhaps the NPS computer record was corrupted since last year?

But you’re reading this for the showers, right? Right!

First, a minor diversion.

Extra bathroom

And now for the main show. The incredible 571 bathroom.

Tub and “water closet closet”

What a shower

Yes please

We’re looking forward to week two in the UK. More here as things develop.

DANDELYAN here we come.

What should get a five showerheads rating (on shower karma alone) reduced to four showerheads for poor guest happiness management skills.

Yes, we all know that CARY is an acronym for “containment area for relocated Yankees,” but I guess the northern invaders needed a nice place to stay?! Or maybe it was the SAS corporation?! Whatever the cause, the Umstead Hotel is world class.

Umstead autumn morning

Umstead autumn morning

Super courteous and warm welcome. Amenity arrival within minutes. Southern hospitality and laughter. Light and grace.

Chocolate? Well some people like that.

Chocolates made in house.

Chocolates made in house.

A bottle of wine and a note balance things out.

Amenity table.  Wine and chocolate.

Amenity table. Wine and chocolate.

Auto upgrade to a lake view room (216) with a balcony. Too bad it gets dark so early these days!

Balcony in the morning.  Nice place to read the WSJ.

Balcony in the morning. Nice place to read the WSJ.

The room is nicely appointed and the design, though a rectangle, is well done.


From the bathroom.

From the bathroom.

The shower is not plastic in the least.

Not a plastic shower.

Not a plastic shower.

Huge tub for no apparent reason.

Huge tub for no apparent reason.

All told, we’re at five shower heads. Stay here.

Dinner at the nearby An restaurant was delightful. Very good seafood and an excellent and quirky wine list.

Mixology at the Umstead is OK. Very good for a hotel bar, but nothing to write down. The Sazarac experiment was a wash—literally. But the service is excellent if not obsequious. Great place to unwind.

Incredibly great dinner after a long day with students (and two talks, one of which was a surprise) at Poole’s Diner. Wow. Best dinner in NC ever. Simple, but supremely well constructed. And the bar made a fantastic Sazerac. The Sazerac is a difficult drink to make properly:
Ice down a tumbler. In a second glass mix:
1 t simple syrup
3 oz cask strength Rye (Sazarac 18 is a good bet, or Rittenhouse 100)
7 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
Stir down. Empty first glass and rinse with absinthe. Strain mixture into first glass. Express generous lemon slice over glass. See? Easy, but NOT easy at all to do well.