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Right, so we flew from New Zealand which was pretty much of a paradise to a big city in Australia on purpose. That’s how it goes sometimes! Fortunately, Sydney turns out to be a great place for a look around.

We must say that the so-called “partnership” between United Airlines and Air New Zealand is utterly useless. No star alliance perqs here. Just middle seats in economy. Not impressed at all with the Air New Zealand experience. Global services my ass.

Anyway, we arrived and cabbed basically across town to the Sydney Hilton.

Any loyal reader of NPS knows that these kinds of big, industrial hotel chains are not our cup of tea. But we’re here on business and the hotel choice is out of our control. The Hilton is a nice property and it is centrally locaded, so that’s all good.

On arrival, our room category (which I believe turned out to be the “crappy” category) was not available, so we went and got some ramen. The front desk staff was helpful and friendly about the delay. Thanks SooYeon.

Ramen at Yasaka Ramen was authentic and delicious, but super heavy. Be forewarned.

Ramen in Sydney

When we returned about an hour later (after coffee at Doppio which we highly recommend), our room was ready. We were assigned hamster cage 2203.

Lets just be cheerful about the whole thing and call it “cramped.” We have so much stuff in tow on our 25 day trip, that there was not even room to stash our luggage.

No room for walking in 2203

This is as far away from the bed as the camera can get. LOL.

The bathroom is likewise very tiny.

But the shower was at least glass!

If you are a hamster or some other kind of tiny rodent, this is the room category for you. Sure it’s free. Yup.

Two showerheads for the “crappy” room category at the Sydney Hilton. Just don’t.

Fortunately, after a walk around the botanical gardens, we ambled right back into the lobby and switched ourselves up to a Relaxation Suite. Apparently there are 16 such rooms available on this property. For more, see part two!

Sadly, Hartford, CT is lacking in both the boutique hotel and high-end cocktail bar departments. That makes life here at NPS kind of difficult. Marriott hamster cage for you! And mid-tier booze to boot.

View from the 19th Floor (Hartford, CT)

View from the 19th Floor (Hartford, CT)

The good news, relatively speaking, is that my travel companion this trip is a super Elite Marriott Platinum whatever. He booked all the rooms. What that means to NPS is that the bottle of water is free! Such amenity.

Here is what cage number 1921 looks like. (FWIW, 1921 is way better than 717 was last go ’round.)

Hartford Marriott 1921

Hartford Marriott 1921

1921 bed

1921 bed

1921 pays homage to the TV (standard Marriott practice)

1921 pays homage to the TV (standard Marriott practice)

The shower is glass and is very nice. NPS approved.

Not plastic!

Not plastic!

img_2487

img_2488

A last minute hunt for a decent cocktail bar in the city came up with nothing. So down to the Marriott bar it was for a nightcap. Negroni? Check. Stagg Jr? Sure why not. NPS advises you to just skip the bar visit.

One ray of sunshine during this visit is that Max’s Downtown is a very nice restaurant with an interesting wine list. Highly recommended.

In the end, this Marriott property is a low three showerhead kind of place. Nice enough in its generic big hotel you must be here on business way.

The noplasticshowers verdict on the Conrad finally reached its tipping point during the last visit (ten thumbs down). But we need to stay in Indy at least once a year, and we need a place to stay!

Our first experience at The Alexander, a fairly new hotel near Monument Circle (and right across the street from Lilly), was a mixed bag. So close! And yet not quite where it needs to be. So much better than the Conrad; but so not at the level of a Kimpton.

A litany of small nits and nots: 1) housekeeping knocked on my door at 8:12am to see if I was gone (the computer probably knows and I was just stepping out of the shower), 2) no morning newspaper? (not even USA Today?!—just a joke), 3) the shower pressure is poor (and you know how we feel about showers), 4) management came to see about a delay during checkin and did not solve the problem?! (managers who simply go to get more staff need to roll up their sleeves and do some work), 5) the gestalt of the building has more in common with suburban mall fake hipster than real art (not as bad as this indigo mess, this Florida mess, or this thing in Norway, but approaching it), 6) the password for the front desk system was divulged live and out loud and joked about (hey, that computer knows my credit card number, that is not a joke).

Beyond the level of nit is the standard issue hamster cage architecture. I was assigned room 6041 which other than being way way way down the hall from the elevators is exactly the same as all of the other rooms. Better than a Marriott hamster cage, but only by reference to surface style stuff! Yuck. Looks like better rooms to ask about might be 6001 (big suite), 6045 (corner facing right way) and 6044 (corner facing wrong way).

Here is 6041 (and all the rest of the 42 numbers not yet covered).

6041 hamster cage

6041 hamster cage

That's pretty much the sum of it.

That’s pretty much the sum of it.

There are some very nice touches though. Power on the bedsides (and USB too). Euro power adapters on the desk with HDMI, serial, USB, etc. Super good free wifi.

Of course wifi is free.  But that is rare in Indy.

Of course wifi is free. But that is rare in Indy.

The bathroom situation is uncluttered, but not very glam. Fixtures too cheap and water pressure too low. This may not be fixable in the model.

IMG_1043

Nice big glass shower, but the water dribbles out of the spout by gravity alone.

Nice big glass shower, but the water dribbles out of the spout by gravity alone.

One of the many style touches has a bit too much Marriott for my tastes.

Good?  Bad?  We can't tell.

Good? Bad? We can’t tell.

The best and most surprising part of The Alexander is its superior bar Plat 99. Though we don’t really dig the architecture at all, the drinks are fantastic. Watch out Kimpton, these guys are coming on strong! I was served by DC barman William Mohring who was willing to play and had a nice body of knowledge. He served me this:
The (Indianapolis) Diplomat
1 oz bulleit bourbon
1 oz bonal
1 oz black seal rum
.17oz all spice dram
[2 drops white creme de menthe]
stir down, serve over rocks with 2 luxardo cherries

Impressive back bar at Plat99

Impressive back bar at Plat99

As a final verdict, The Alexander seems to be the only place to stay in Indianapolis that we can tell anyway. But in the end this hotel is only a high three showerheads place at most. Maybe some of the nits and nots can be eradicated (hopefully they are not too entrenched in the Dolce model). We look forward to finding out.

It’s not as bad as the Disney Sheraton, but it’s close. I find myself trapped in a Marriott resort for a meeting. It smells like a Marriott, kind of dusty with hints of clorox.

Welcome to hall.  Always a cart or two out for your viewing pleasure.

Welcome to hall. Always a cart or two out for your viewing pleasure.

I am in glorious hamster cage number 428, which is distinguishable from all of the other rooms here only by its number. Here is what Marriott has for us today. (There are no flowers. There is no note. There is some water I can buy for $6.)

Rectangle view one.

Rectangle view one.

Rectangle view two.

Rectangle view two.

Yay! A plastic shower of the most banal possible type.

Plastic shower at the Marriott (well, what did you expect?!).

Plastic shower at the Marriott (well, what did you expect?!).

Bzap.

Bzap.

Maybe I can plug in my ipod? Uh, no. Should have brought along some CDs?! Really?

Real new "digital" technology.

Real new “digital” technology.

Yes, Marriott continues to bore. I’m afraid to even go down and look at the bar. When do I get to go to NY??

One sad drippy showerhead for this place. Avoid.

At least it's in Florida.

At least it’s in Florida.

Here’s a little story. A buddy and I came back from a late dinner last night and decided to have a night cap around 11. Fraternity boy server dude (think Spicoli only less cool) was asked to bring some sparkling water and two glasses when he brought our drinks, one glass with ice, another without. 15 minutes later he returns with a tiny bottle of Pelegrino. Said, “That’s a bit small to share, can you get us a big one instead?” Leaves for another 10 minutes. Returns with nothing. “There were no more big bottles,” he said, “Sorry, man.” “But what about the little bottle you brought before?” “Oh I gave that to someone else.” FAIL. FAIL. FAIL. Marriott, what has become of hospitality in ‘merica?

And another. Having a breakfast meeting with a work buddy. Arrive a bit early and request a table. Ask server to sit by window. “Oh you can see just as well from here,” she says directing me to a decidedly non-window table. “I really don’t want to sit here, but I will if you make me.” Silence. “You see sir, sections, <blah blah blah middle management blather>." "Yes, but I don't want to sit here. Do you understand that? I will do so, but I don't want to." Sat there.

Story 3. Wrote down stuff that was broken in my room in a note and put a URL to this entry. When I was walking by the front desk they asked me how my stay was going. I said, “Glad you asked, here is some information about that.” Heard nothing at all from management about the note. Not even at checkout.

Speaking of which, the cute blond at checkout asks, “How was your stay with us? Did you enjoy your evenings?” “Not really. I provided some feedback about that.”
Blink. Blink. She replies. Silence. Nothing. Who trains these people?