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It is gray and overcast in San Diego. I’m pretty sure this never happened before Donald Trump became President.

We’re back for a quick bit of business in San Diego on our multi-city tour. One of the best things about San Diego is the Salomar. Our buddy George has moved over to the Palomar these days and has been replaced by the capable and super nice Kayse Potter. Kayse made sure our welcome was warm and nice and that our shower was non-plastic. Thank you Kayse.

We arrived late due to Virgin America SNAFU apparently involving a crazy lady in an unrelated city. Things you overhear when the flight crews gossip. Anyway, we got our rental car and zoomed over to the Salomar just in time to drop off bags and skeedaddle for our reservation at Noble Experiment. A great time was had by all. Thanks Andrew and crew. The back bar shots of rum and tequila made for a damn fun time.

We slunk back around midnight. Room 834 is a great space but it is on the wrong side of the building for me. Too noisy when there is a game on at the stadium (after the game ends).

Party all night after the game right under my window

The bathroom is particularly nice with the gigantic tub/glass shower thing going strong. It’s time to replace the showerhead though.

NPS Approved

Glass Pod

Functional but out of date

A solid night’s sleep and a nice long shower was topped only by Swedish pancakes at Richard Walker’s.

Oh, one funny thing. The lobby music is driving Q nuts. He is the manager on duty in the front lobby and is forced to listen to an endless loop. We’ll see if we can’t get that fixed for him!

All around way too quick but super solid visit to San Diego. Five showerheads (one of which might need replacement) for the Solamar.

The plan was a bit intense and involved a taxi, a train, a plane, a car, and just over 25 hours. We did this to see the New Pornographers.

According to twitter, the day went something like this:

So all in all a long but great day ending at the Philadelphia Monaco in room 616. A room that we like so much we’ll severely overpay just to stay in it!

616 looks different by night and day.

616 by day

616 by night

A bed felt great after 5,000 miles

High style in the bathroom

But we’re here for the shower!

One of the top NPS approved showers on the entire planet

Plus look at this outstanding welcome. Personal note from Abby and a tiki-style beverage.

616 view by night

616 view by day

Anyway, the Monaco room 616 is fantastic. Great style, the best shower within hundreds of miles, a comfortable bed, and management that runs a pretty tight ship. Just avoid the NFL draft weekend crowds if you can! LOL.

Dinner before the show at Sazon was interesting and delicious. Make sure to BYOB or cider or case of cider (as the case may be).

Of course, NPS can’t go to Philly anymore without visiting Paul MacDonald and company at Friday Saturday Sunday. We enjoyed a Cloudbreak or two and a newly minted by as yet unnamed cocktail that we’re calling the Ombre Snowcap for the time being. Back bar Fernet was had by some and ignored by the uninitiated.

Friday Saturday Sunday may be the best bar in Philadelphia

The Cloudbreak

The Cloudbreak is such a good cocktail that it was instantly copied in Virginia at the NPS home bar. Paul makes the best version of course. We’re mere dabblers at NPS.

Paul intends to switch out the Cloudbreak for a summer drink that we call the Ombre Snowcap.

Ombre Snowcap (well we call it that for now anyway)

Ombre Snowcap
1.5 oz Fines Herbs infused Vodka (parsely, chive, tarragon 24-hours)
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz meletti amaro
1/16 oz olive oil
.75 egg white
Dry shake, shake, strain into rocks glass (no ice). Season foam with pechauds and soda and drop on top

This cocktail does a magical separation thing that is hard to describe. Paul’s work is truly amazing. Try this at home if you dare!

Home to the Monaco 25 hours in! Honestly the Friday Saturday Sunday visit was more fun that the masterly but non-charismatic show put on by the New Pornographers. Get some charisma you guys!

Back to our story. If you’re out until 2am after 25 hours, you sleep through breakfast. Which is why they make room service to bring you espressoand a muffin for $45. LOL.

Around noon it is off to Nom Nom Ramen for a leisurely lunch.

Nom Nom

Followed by a coffee at Elixer, and a cocktail at Milkboy.

A steamy day on the sunny side of the sidewalk in Philadelphia

It was a quick hit to Philly, but a great time. Five showerheads for the Hotel Monaco in Philadelphia.

You know how we feel about United airlines here on this blog. They squeezed every single iota of loyalty out of us during the ill-fated Smisek years. Our 1.6 MILLION miles meant nothing to United. So we stopped flying United three years ago.

Is it time to forget and forgive? Well, not exactly. But sometimes we just fly whatever airline will get us where we need to be when we need to be there.

The world colluded to put us in United Polaris across the pond to Frankfurt.

The United pods on a 777-200 are nice. They are easier to manage than the Virgin Atlantic pods and don’t require shenanigans to get into bed mode. In practice, that means with expedited meal service you can get right to pretending to sleep.

Saks Fifth Avenue? Ha ha ha. United and dime stores.

Pod view with a large screen entertainment system running linux

Mimosa and propaganda

On this trip the crew was great, the wine was passable, the flight was bumpy and we arrived early. Well, what you gonna do.

Then there was the indignity of the bus at Frankfurt. No no no no.

Anyway, you get what you overpay for on United Polaris!

OK, strap in for some first world problems and whining. We’ll try to get it over with quick.

NPS exists because, well, no plastic showers. Kimpton usually fulfills that mission admirably and is NPS’s hotel group of choice by a country mile. But San Francisco suffered a massive property meltdown during the IHG acquisition, and its impact can be felt all the way to today. Bill Kimpton would not likely be pleased.

After a very long day of flying across the country and working into the evening on a challenging task, a nice dinner at Slanted Door followed by drinks at Hard Water was just what the doctor ordered on a rainy rainy night. Which means we arrived way late at the Buchanan (after midnight). More about that is a sec.

Hard Water was a blast. If you like bourbon and rye, you need to go there.

We concentrated on Rye, doing a Handy Rye comparison experiment with a Sazarac chaser. Awesome.

On arrival at the Buchanan, things started off OK. We were assigned a room, but it was not the one we explicitly requested. So we proceeded on up.

Which meant, a room with a plastic shower. What happened? Did the system fail? Did nobody bother to work this through? Yes.

811

811

After a brief and very disappointing entry into 811 we went down to see what could be done about it. That is when the Demarco demerits set in, about which we’ll write only that the situation later required management intervention. Someone needs some more training.

A crappy plastic shower in 811

A crappy plastic shower in 811

811 is just fine by Marriott standards, but it is not a room to shlep all the way to Japantown for. The shower is the worst kind of plastic shower. Shower curtains are our bane.

There was a nice amenity, sparkling water, an interesting view, and a note from GM Emily Glick. They knew we were coming, kinda. You see, it turns out that nobody put two and two together about NPS and this mystery inner circle member of 14 years. Dang. We appreciate the perqs, kimpton but all we really want is NO PLASTIC SHOWERS.

The shower was plastic.

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And it got worse. Very early in the morning when it came time to use the crappy plastic shower, the shower curtain was filthy. Just gross.

The nuclear option was pursued, and everything was discussed if not resolved. Thanks to the social media team, mike d, and email for making all of that possible. The room we wanted was (miraculously) free the next day, but there was no time to move stuff on this quick hop. And no we were not expecting any kind of upgrade. We’re happy to pay retail when on business. Flowers were involved, which was a very nice touch.

Thanks for the flowers.  Lets get this right next time.

Thanks for the flowers. Lets get this right next time.

Anyway, we can’t exactly cross the Buchanan off the list, because it is the best remaining Kimpton option in San Francisco. We’ll be back soon hoping that things run more smoothly.

Two showerheads, seven demarco demerits, and a trip to detention for the Buchanan. Thanks for working things out Emily, but lets just have nothing to work out next go ’round please.

No Fly Noël 2016: Kinda

December 3, 2016

Regular NPS readers and lurkers know all about “no fly July” and “no fly Noël.” The idea is simple. Stop. Rest. Think. Read. Get out of the hubbub of everyday modern life, sit by the fire, and exist.

This year’s No Fly Noël is much needed as 2016 was about the most stressful year on record for NPS in 17 years. It was a great year in the end, but boy are we glad it is over.

So, how did the year look? Kinda like this (according to the tripometer).

The 2016 NPS tripometer

The 2016 NPS tripometer

Travel according to the new regimen is trending nicely low. The goal for 2016 was 20 trips and we came in 15% high at 23. Well, almost. Looks like we have to throw off the chains of No Fly Noël and hit the road one more time in December to strategize with the corporate overlords. Or maybe that is overlord with the corporate strategists? Something like that anyway. Stay tuned for those data. (And make that 24 trips and a 20% overrun.)

In other news this year, the Elevate Gold status on Virgin America is a good thing. We switched the firehose from United to Virgin America in 2014 and there is no looking back. NPS likes main cabin select. NPS also likes using points to upgrade to Europe. How that will work going forward is a good question!

Fly too much?  Try Virgin America.

Fly too much? Try Virgin America.

Of course since NPS is based at Dulles, there is no avoiding United. Honestly, they did better this year. Flying United was not great, but it did not completely suck. So maybe the Smisek effect is finally washing out.

And then there is Kimpton which remains the NPS go to hotel chain of choice even after the disaster that is the San Francisco Kimpton property crater. Years ago we helped to start the Kimpton Intouch program (which is now the Kimpton Karma program). We do what we can to stay qualified without calling in air support from Mike Defrino. You go Kimpton!

Inner Circle?  Why yes, we'll have some

Inner Circle? Why yes, we’ll have some

NPS has been to San Diego so many times that the count is lost in the ashes of oblivion. See, that was back before the blog, and that means memory is hazy. This blog is the best prosthetic travel memory ever. Back in the day, we stayed up in La Jolla at the Estancia (highly recommended). Since then, Kimpton has invaded San Diego. And you know how we feel about Kimpton at NPS! So here we are right in the gaslamp quarter.

It took a bit of doing to get here due to San Francisco fog. But Virgin America did its hip thing. Their cross country jaunt in main cabin select is the best in the business.

This is our first visit to the Solamar, and it surely will not be the last. We were greeted by Q at the front desk who was courteous, helpful, and most of all fun. And then we found this in 1003 (a nicely appointed suite):

Cheese! Flowers! Sparkling water! Notes! Kimpton Karma.

Cheese! Flowers! Sparkling water! Notes! Kimpton Karma.

This is a very nice way to re-up our Inner Circle status! At least we think that is what is happening??! Who knows, the system is too complicated for NPS.

Anyway, 1003 is very nice.

1103 living area

1103 living area

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1003 bedroom

1003 bedroom

Of course, the bathroom is the coup de grace. Excellent design. Glass showers. Big giant tub. Windows. Yup.

1103 shower cube (approved by NPS)

1103 shower cube (approved by NPS)

Just cool

Just cool

The event we’re in town for is at the Coronado (an old school resort with more flowery wall paper and old carpet than style). That’s why we’re staying here. Later, we’ll figure out the water taxi situation.

Dinner at Kettner Exchange was very good. Their bar is good but not excellent. Go for the food.

Kettner Exchange

Kettner Exchange

Richard Walker’s pancakes (even though it is utterly full of convention goers with little lanyard tags) is quite fabulous.

Watch a San Diego sunset.

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Take the ferry from 5th avenue pier to Coronado island.

Have a great old school steak at Lou and Mickey’s.

Drink more bourbon

Drink at Noble Experiment. NPS was seated at the bar and served by Tony Roehr, a very talented bartender indeed. We had some classics and some experiments, including what we will call the Dump Trump
1 oz cocchi americano
1 oz cynar
1 oz gin (sipsmith)
sea salt
dash of chocolate bitters
Stir down. Serve up with a twist of orange peel.

Also in the house was Woodford Reserve brand ambassador Luke Ford who go everyone destroyed as an accidental side effect. Much fun was had by all, even the frat boy fascists who invaded.

Five showerheads for the Solamar. Tops. Max.

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.

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With a huge tub.

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And a glass shower, which we must absolutely approve.

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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.