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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).

 

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

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!