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Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

February 3, 2020

OK, so the Pullman Sydney is trying to update itself from the ’70s, but apparently this is all being done on a budget.  Time to spend some money you guys.  Here’s a list:

  • HVAC that works when it is above 80 degrees outside
  • Updated furniture for ALL guestrooms
  • A place to shower on arrival from flying across the world (that is not associated with a swimming pool or a gym)
  • Three working elevators

One of us staying here this visit got stuck in an elevator for 7 minutes.  Another waited 29 minutes for an elevator down.  A third ended up going up in a service elevator and walking down 21 stories to meet us in the lobby.  Elevator tech?  This is a solved problem.  Spend some money.

While we’re at it, lets talk about having rooms of the right category properly assigned.  The front desk, though super nice, was also super clueless and did not pay attention to instructions.  As a result, night one was spent in 1515, the proper kind of room on a non-updated floor.  No really, the decor needs work.  Here is 1515.

Ye olde ’70s color scheme

 

A not very clean couch that is orange. Nope.

 

Purple

 

 

After a set of progressively silly room swaps and 24 hours, room 1915 (which had, you guessed it, broken HVAC) became available.  The room category is right, and there is an updated much more hip color scheme.

Here is what 1915 looks like.

Brown

 

 

Much nicer

Some apology fruit was provided along with a note.

Apologies.

The shower in 1915 is still a hot tub based thing that is amusing.  The one in 1915 is better than the one in 1515.

As far as NPS is concerned, the Pullman has worn out its pretty clear warnings.  No more stays here. Ding. Finito. Basta.

On the other hand, it is Sydney.  So that’s good.  That means aquariums and maritime museumsArt and cocktails.  And great food.  Sydney is a fun city to visit.

95 degrees is too hot for this poor hotel

 

There was a boat race.

 

A visit to the rocks and the MCA was a blast on a Sunday.

Lunar new year

 

El Presidente at Old Maid’s Place

\

We’ll all have one please

 

Pisco sour

Dinner at Bibo was really delicious with great wine pairings and delightful company.  An after dinner drink at Shady Pines?  Not so much.

 

The Palisades is a very hip and fun place for dinner.  Cocktails at Door Knock are top notch.

We’re demoting the Pullman from a low three showerheads to two showerheads. We believe that is below the threshold.

 

 

 

Somehow in this case the word “Rydges” connotes cheap condoms from a gas station vending machine. We’re traveling with a group, and that means little control over situations that NPS usually has a strict handle on. No worries, we were assigned the second best room category on the Rydges South Bank property with a balcony overlooking the river. Room 1116 is a bit cramped, but not bad.

Except for the part where it is connected by a very thin door to the suite next door where an asshole is hosting an all night party. The party involved yelling, loud conversation, noisy sex, door slamming, and more! At least the party wound down for a bit about 1:15am when we called management and they had a chat with the noisy people. But then at 5am it all started again with speaker phone conversations and more loud asshole.

Basically, I guess we’ve decided that the wrong class of people frequents this hotel. That makes Rydges more of a “Walmart-shopper style salesperson on a bender with some hookers” hotel. Or maybe it is only the ridiculous Christmas revelry sweeping the city.

Whatever. We fixed things the next morning after no sleep. Rydges can and does do better!

Brisbane, on the other hand is a great place to visit.

We went to Koala-land (Lone Pine Koala sanctuary) after we ditched our bags at the hotel. Well worth a visit. Just don’t plan to eat any food there. Really. Captive audience means super bad food, even by zoo standards.

Kangaroo

We did the obligatory koala picture.

Koala picture from Lone Pine

About which…

And then it was back to the hotel to shower before cocktail hour (crammed into a tiny bathroom).

Not much room, but the shower is glass

Two people can’t use this sink at one time (unless one is on the john)

River view and a cute balcony

We had fantastic Negroni’s made with Four Pillars gin at Wickham with Rachel. Also gathered data for later cocktail shenanigans. (Skip eleven rooftop bar unless you like fake glitz and dated DJ music.)

Dinner at Caravanserai was very good indeed. Authentic Turkish in a funky noisy boisterous atmosphere. Nice. Just don’t forget to pick up a bottle of wine to drink on your way in.

Caravanserai

Then ride the wheel for a dash of too much AC before bed.

The Wheel

Two showerheads and a fervent hope that the asshole next door gets a cosmic comeuppance for Rydges phase one. Things got better!

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!

Leaving the South Island for Aukland

Sadly, Air New Zealand has a pathetic (almost non-existent) partnership with United Airlines. Global Services? Whatevs. NPS got to experience a coveted middle seat in the back of the plane on the hop between Queenstown and Aukland.

Were we pleased? HA!

But we did get to Aukland eventually (and late). We do highly recommend the professional and courteous Blacklane car service to get around from the airport.

By the time we got to the Aukland Sofitel, we were running slightly late for our 8:30 dinner reservation at Lava (which as it turns out is in the hotel).

Sofitel lobby is modern and stylish

We were assigned 608, a very small room with a very nice view of the harbor. Just don’t try walking around. Stuffy is the right word.

The bed dominates 608 which seems higher than it is wide

The view can’t be beat

Boats

The bathroom is well appointed and nicely sized, though nothing special. The shower itself had seen better days inside. More attention to detail is in order so that everything is in order.

Lava is a nice place to eat, especially if you are in your 70’s. Old school, slightly stuffy with an undertrained and not very attentive staff. The food was creative and good but well overpriced for the experience itself. Seems that the pastry chef is the best person on the staff at the moment. Just go for dessert.

But about that view.

One way

Or another

Three showerheads and less stuffiness in terms of architecture. Very corporate and old school in all the wrong ways.

Milford Sound is an incredible place to be on the planet. Lots of outdoors things to do. SCUBA diving with black coral. Sea kayaking down the sound (with sailing of you’re lucky). Hiking. Just wow.

Sadly, there is only one place to stay in Milford Sound. What we can say for Milford Sound Lodge is that they are taking advantage of their monopoly status. Not our cup of tea, especially when it comes to dining. (A better bet is to stay in the cabins in the national park on the other side of the tunnel.)

We were assigned room 13 (which we booked WAY in advance and overpaid for). The internet did not work.

Little cabins in paradise

The bedroom

At least the shower was not plostic!

However, the toilet was

On our way in, we did the Key Summit walk. A great hike.

Key summit reflection

panorama from key summit

Anyway, skip the Milford Lodge and just do all of the things. We recommend SCUBA with Descend and Sea Kayaking with Rosco’s.

SCUBA with descend diving in Milford Sound

Kayak with Rosco’s Kayaks in Milford Sound

More about high adventure fun at Milford Sound on apothecaryshed.

Two showerheads and some dinner service that works for Milford Sound Lodge. And maybe a staff with some training? Just camp.

Do you rememebr the days when Ft Lauderdale was the hangout of the rich and well-heeled? Neither do we. But The Pillars was there. It has not changed much, but it is now surrounded on all sides but one with towering hotel monstrosities of every single hotel chain on earth.

If you have to stay in Ft Lauderdale, the Pillars is a great choice. Best just not to stay in Ft Lauderdale. Pick a different route to the Bahamas that does not involve Silver Air.

Though the hotel was empty except for one other room, we were still assigned a “suite” that was small and unremarkable. Overpay much? We did.

Wifi was free and decent. The HVAC system in the room was creaky, loud, and needs to be replaced.

The bed takes up the room

The desk/chair console under the window

Tiny bathroom

At least the shower has no plastic!

Dear all old school hotels. Please put some plugs above the surface on bedside tables. This is no longer a design novelty. EVERYONE has stuff to charge. Remember, that’s why you have wifi now.

Need to plug in a device?

Um, not how to do it

The pool (apparently set to 85 degrees)

Dinner was great at the restaurant downstairs by the water. Inspired salads and good wine selection. We were joined by tarpons and the worst Negroni ever created by humankind.

Sunset was beautiful over the waterway

Three showerheads and a leg up to the 1900s for The Pillars. Not worth the money. Just go there for dinner.

Imagine that you blog about showers all over the world and that you have intentionally not had a shower for 3 days during which intense hiking has occurred. You know, like camping, but slightly more civilized since a well-supplied cabin is involved. But definitely “ripe.”

The hiking happened here

Then imagine you decide to stay up way late to catch the 2:23am train to Oslo which gets you to the airport in plenty of time to take a shower. I mean even if the train is delayed by 45 minutes (it was), there will still be time for a long hot shower.

The airport flytoget is fast at least.

Now imagine that there is no hot water at the Radisson Blu. None. And management’s “solutions” are ridiculous. And there you have it!

Showering was like boy scout camp. Cold and awful.

And then when you are crossing the Atlantic after a stop off in Germany the Radisson Blu twitter bot awakens. Good for a LOL.

Fortunately, when offered a 50% discount, NPS requested a 100% discount which was granted. Its as if we never set foot on the property—our precise future intentions.

Do not stay at the Oslo Airport Radisson Blu for any reason. Zero cold shower heads.

NPS is not a first-timer at the Alexis, but we sure do miss our guy Keith (once concierge) who is no longer at Kimpton. Because we have no feet on the ground at the hotel, we had to rely on social media and the CRM system that Kimpton uses to track its guests. Guess what? Knowing people beats the heck out of any computer-based guest database. Especially a guest database that elides the only real hotel room criteria we hold dear.

Which is a short way of saying, “WTF Kimpton, a room with a plastic shower??!” Really, the warm greeting by Sam, the sparkling water, the really beautiful newly-renovated room, all that stuff means not a thing if the shower is plastic. We’ll pay more. We’ll do pretty much whatever it takes to avoid the shower over bathtub thing. We’ll even cash in our loyalty and find a different hotel.

NO PLASTIC SHOWERS!

The first room was 634. It had a plastic shower. What exactly does that mean, you ask? Lets review.

This is a plastic shower. It looks not too awful from here.

But when you approach, the plastic liner becomes apparent

And this bendy “obesity bar” which is not up to the task of such heavy plastic.

Gross. This is just gross. We do not do this.

And over a step in bathtub. No no. A thousand times no.

We tried to make this all very obvious.

Does the machine have a memory??

The rest of the bathroom is very nice and spacious

So lets put this shower episode behind us and hope somebody out there in Kimpton CRM-land is paying attention.

Leave the bathroom behind. Never go back.

High style evident

Cluttered quirky and fun

This is just fine.

Sparkling water is always very nice, and we do appreciate that.

But we do not at all like this trend where our rooms are bugged. Please make these spy devices that invade privacy optional Kimpton.

No bugs please. Spy on your spouse not on your guests.

Anyway, for the record, the Alexis has a great little bar called The Library, where from time to time great bourbon flows through.

The next morning, a room adjustment was already underway. That is good. But it was already too late.

Breakfast at Biscuit Bitch is worth seeking out, even if you have to trawl for a table.

And then work. And then some sailing.

We did some racing, and the good news is that we won first place in our class (really great huge boats that start late and come in last).

By the time the ferry shenanigans finished up, it was midnight and time for the room switch. Imagine our surprise when told that the water was off for maintenance. The Alexis can’t win for losing this trip. We were assigned room 425 which was very nice. We spent 5 hours in it all told.

Though we really do appreciate the shower in room 425, it works better when the water is on.

New room for you

The staff left a very nice amenity which there was no time to get into. Sadly, the water was not sparkly, though who knows it might have started out that way hours earlier.

Fancy

The bathroom is very spacious and awesome. Wish there were more time to use it properly.

Big giant tub with its own platform

Now that’s better Alexis. A glass shower!

All told this chunky visit to the Alexis deserves three showerheads on average. Plastic showers bring your final semester grade way down here at NPS university.

The quick answer is: there is no stay short enough to justify a plastic shower.

NPS set out to prove this aphorism at the truly style-free Renaissance hotel at LAX.

Renaissance is a Marriott property, so we of course made great use of our friend Mr. X who is a Lifetime Platinum Elite member. Mr. X books for us and NPS shoves all the points in his direction. This gets us superior rooms and concierge level hoo hah and whatnot at Marriotts. Sadly they are all still Marriotts.

The front lobby is in the middle of a massive renovation at the Renaissance at LAX. So that may be a good thing (but likely it just won’t matter). NPS was assigned a newly renovated suite (number 425) after much furious typing by the front desk staff on our very late arrival around midnight. If 425 is evidence of the style that is driving this renovation then NPS is worried.

You see, 425 looks like this. But looks (even marginal looks like this) can be deceiving. Super cheap, thin, veneer style is what we have on evidence here.

Like this crooked too big TV. WTF?

No. Not how to hang a TV. Why is there even one here?

The bed is comfortable, but the lights are so cheap a light wind would blow them over. Fortunately the windows do not open.

Comfy bed.

But what is this?

The windows overlook a glowing Burger King sign That pretty much says it all.

Yeah, no. This is not really a cool city view.

More sad, thin style evident in the sitting room.

Your mother in law called and she has some design ideas

There was a sad little plant on the desk wishing for some light. Flourescent bulbs should make it happier than they make the humans trapped in here.

And then there is the plastic shower bête noire—an actual plastic shower with an obesity bar.

no

no

no no no

Everything in the bathroom is very new, very clean and completely devoid of any taste.

no sense of style

Well anyway, the trip to LA was fantastic and the time in this hamster cage was short.

There was this wine thing with new friends.

Wine? Wine!

There was an old school whiskey bar.

And there was some sportsing with the boys.

So all told we would do it again in a second but we would get a real hotel without a shuttle bus and shlep to the airport from Santa Monica.

Speaking of the airport, this Virgin America meets Alaska thing is getting chunky. Remote gates? Wolfgang Puck bullshit? Overfull lounges gussied up in the ’70s? Uh oh. Where is my high style airline?

Let the record show that the Renaissance LAX barely rates two showerheads. Not going back ever. Nice people in a beige land devoid of style.

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.

img_2949

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.