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After a seriously turbulent night flight across the pond, a bus ride over the Frankfurt tarmac, a multiply-delayed ICE train and a missed local connection, it was nice to arrive at the Nestor Hotel and have a room ready to go. Walking over from the train station is very easy indeed, and helps you stay awake. Check in was easy even in zombie mode.

Sadly, the Nestor chain appears to be set up to accommodate conferences and large groups more than anything else. This is a four star in Germany, which puts it right smack in JW Marriott territory. Everything looks pretty good on the surface, but it is really cheap veneer with thin carpet allowing lots of noise between rooms. A business class hotel. Not NPS’s cup of tea.

The little NPS cubicle (replete with tiny bed) is 308.

Lil teeny bed in 308

The sitting area and desk are all within 15 feet of the bed

Fortunately, Ludwigsburg is resplendent today.

View from 308

The bathroom is likewise “cozy” and very Euro.

Not plastic unless you count the tub, which is plastic

Sink stand

There is a big pipe in the bathroom. That is just weird.

After a much-needed invigorating shower, it was off into town for lunch. Greek food at Die Griechin is very homey. Great people. Authentic, if not uninspired fare.

Breakfast at the hotel is very nice, and the restaurant serves a decent lunch as well. Service is friendly even if the kitchen is slow.

On a more upbeat note, the Black and White Cocktail Bar just a few short blocks away is cozy and excellent. We were among the only patrons on a Tuesday night.

Amer Picon in the house means a Liberal or two.

La Barrosa Cocktail (by Mario Wirth)
50 ml carlos I brandy
10 ml Strega
.5 ml Balsamico creme (can sub px Sherry)
Amaretto spray on top
Stir. Serve on one big rock.

Make sure to visit the Black and White Bar if you are in Ludwigsburg.

Dinner at the very friendly Zum Urigen was authentic and about as German as you can get. The owners are from Vietnam, but have lived in Germany for 30 years. This place has a very local feel with lots of patrons who know each other.

A very low three showerheads for the Nestor, where function overrides style, and things feel fairly fake.

A grande dame is what this place is, like one of those powdered but slightly too made up, overly attentive birdlike old ladies with a string of natural pearls. The problem is that the perfume is cloying. Frankly, this is a beautiful property if you’re into this kind of old money faded elegance, but, you see, we’re not.

Set in the heart of La Jolla by the Pacific, the Grande Colonial is an institution. It has been here so long that it rests comfortably on its laurels. The staff is ultra professional, engaging and extremely well trained. The common areas are luxurious in an old school way. The restaurant nine-ten has been very good for so long that NPS has even dined here multiple times. The chef is named Jason.

I was assigned suite 102 overlooking the pool and a parking lot. That kind of says it all. Parking lot?

102 entry and seating area

The shape of the room is strange. There are mirrors everywhere, even where they don’t belong. But it’s not a hamster cage!

seating area by the heater presided over by the giant TV

a comfortable poofy bed

The colors and muted and the style is dated in a vertical striped sort of way.

nope

The shower is a plastic tub with an obesity bar. Fortunately the shower curtain is not plastic, but still. These kinds of showers do nobody any good out there in the world. Lets replace them all. 1950s tile is cool.

A nightcap at the bar involved a Corpse Reviver #2 made by muscle memory with no sign of measurement. The non-measurement is a problem, because to do its magic, this drink must be precise. But everyone at the bar was very professional and friendly even as they slung drinks like they had done it forever.

Breakfast by the ocean was excellent. Sadly, it did take place on east coast time.

After mandatory conference fun was complete, we headed down to San Diego for dinner and a nightcap. A visit to Jsix was unremarkable and good. Funny that we had never tried Jsix before, because it is situated in the Salomar Hotel property chunk.

After dinner, Noble Experiment was on the docket. As always, the cocktails were remarkably delicious.

Here’s how to make a drink we invented called Bill’s Big Birthday Beverage:
1 oz cardamaro
1 oz ancho reyes
1 oz fresh orange juice
2 dashes habanero shrub (bittermens)
shake, serve on a big cube. no garnish.

In the meantime, three showerheads and a new perfume choice for Grande Colonial.

(Oh, and United airlines…I will not be flying you across the country any more after the return trip. Economy plus sucks on a cross continental route, even in an exit row aisle seat.)

Here we are again in a university town, this time Ann Arbor. This town is great. Books, coffee, food, cocktails. Almost everything you need, but still no good hotel.

The Residence Inn is a Marriott property, and it is brand new. It’s pretty much what you would expect of a mid-tier mid-market Marriott hotel. Shiny suburban fake is the style. NPS has different style.

When the reservation was made, we requested a high floor and a Panoramic City View Suite. The first room we were assigned was 414 which is ADA formatted. When asking for a non-ADA configured room instead were assigned down to 214. The rooms are almost exactly identical. Moving down was a big mistake because traffic noise starts at 5am. Alas.

So much for the high floor request.

The manager, having heard tell of checkin problems, was very gracious. We had a nice chat. His valet staff is super.

The view from 214 says it all

The room is filled with lots of shiny new veneer cheap furniture that looks better than it feels when you use it. The suite includes a kitchenette.

Entry hallway kitchenette

desk room

desk room couch

View from the bed to a nice bank of windows

large (impersonal) bathroom

The real problem is the shower, which is partially glass and partially plastic. It is open to the huge bathroom without a glass door. Cold air makes for a less than stellar shower experience.

shower. not approved

Anyway, we knew what we were getting into when we agreed to come to Ann Arbor. Apparently, there is a copy of The Graduate here too BTW. Sure wish university towns had better hotel kung fu!

Dinner at Mikette was delicious. Great service.

The cocktail scene in Ann Arbor remains vibrant. A Sunday night visit to Nightcap was optimal in all respects. Andy was a blast behind the bar.

Because there was Handy in the house, we present, The Handy Handy
1.75 Thomas Handy Rye
.3 oz Del’erborista ultra-bitters
.3 carpano antica
2 dashes scrappy aromatic
Stir. Strain. Express orange peel and drop in.

Three showerheads for the Residence Inn in Ann Arbor. Dang university towns.

During our previous visit to the Graduate in Charlottesville, we figured “it will do.” So this time we tried a plus up to what the hotel calls a “suite.” LOL. Just don’t do it.

You can tell that this hotel used to be a Howard Johnson back when Howard Johnson was a thing (was that 1950?). The style is definitely improved, especially if you like shadow art appliqué. But that’s OK. The problem is that nobody blew out any walls to make any interesting non-hamster-cage rooms. Anyway, if you’re up for a hamster cage after a show, this is it.

Here our own personal hamster cage which we think was 624. It is a “suite,” though the term is stretched well past the breaking point.

bed

desk

window

The suite part of the suite is a little triangle (and we mean little), crammed arbitrarily full of various furnishings. Really? No no no.

through the magic door

no room for people

this is probably a hide-a-bed

chair

Anyway, don’t pay for a suite unless you have people in tow who might use the hide-a-bed. Other than the triangle, there is nothing going for this suite.

Dinner was unplanned. We ended up at Himalayan Fusion down by the Pavilion. Dinner was pretty good (think Indian), while the bar was terrible. We ordered some extra gin shots to make our ginger-tinis into something we could at least catch a buzz from.

Then it was The National. Great show. Great seats. Great time.

The National on a Monday night in Charlottesville, VA

After the show we attempted to hit up Alley Light, but 11pm on a school night seems to be too late for them. That meant tequila at the Bebedero. Excellent cocktails.

In any case, we’re still on the lookout for a better place to stay in Charlottesville. Three showerheads and a hamster wheel exercise thingy for The Graduate.

Colonia del Sacramento is tiny, pretty, quaint, and worth a visit. It is also in Uruguay. The town is artsy and tourist friendly. It is also close to Buenos Aires by ferry (a 90 minute ride).

Arriving at the port. The lighthouse is in the old part of town

Posada Paza Major is a very nice little hotel with excellent, historical space and a good location. Sadly, the staff is so checked out that the hotel is not worth a visit. Listen up people, if you are in hospitality, you should be hospitable. Or at least try to pretend.

Courtyard

Room 18 is set apart from the main building. The space is interesting, but there is a real mildew problem down in the 300 year old out building.

The best way to see Colonia is to spend half a day wandering around. Make sure to get a burger at Bocadesanto!

Best Cheeseburger in South America? Maybe.

Though super cute with friendly owners, the coffee at this place was terrible

Bird for Boyle

Dinner at La Pascana was fun and delicious. Make sure to try some wine made from the Tannat grape. We predict big things to come for this grape.

Wine from Uruguay is very good indeed

Two showerheads and a complete reboot of the disengaged staff for Posada Plaza Major. Go for Colonia, but stay somewhere with people who care.

You so much want the super cute cabañas to be all they can be. Sadly, it’s close but no cigar at Los Colorados. Purmamarca is a cute town. The landscape is spectacular and easy to hike around. The design is enticing and nice. The staff is helpful and gracious.

 

 

So what’s the problem? The problem seems to be the plumbing. Swamp gas in the small bathroom (and also wafting around the property) is masked by deodorizer and insecticide to such an extent that breathing is non-trivial. Seriously, NPS gets a sore throat just thinking about it.

And the shower? Nope.

Anyway, just look how cute this place is. Here is Cabaña 2.

living area

bamboo ceiling

The tile is great. Even the bathroom (though very small) looks good. Sadly, that plumbing thing. Not only is the shower plastic (and over a tub) but the water goes pretty much all over the place. Just no.

Then again, there is a rooftop terrace.

rooftop terrace

We slipped into Pulmarca for lunch. La Posta is workaday, but not bad. Beer is always good.

And there is this.

A hike outside of Tilcara to Garganta del Diablo occupied much of the afternoon. No water. Dinner in Tilcara at El Nuevo Progreso was quirky and decent. Great trout in saffron sauce, outstanding fried cheese appetizer, and a great desert. Worth a visit.

Nuevo Progresso

Nuevo Progresso

Nuevo Progresso

Nuevo Progresso

Back in Purmamarca, a hike around Cerro de los Siete Colores (Seven-Color Hill) is quick and easy. The landscape is remarkable (about more which later).

Cerro de los Siete Colores

So, in the end Purmamarca is well worth a visit (though we prefer Tilcara for its slightly more hip vibe).

Back to the hotel—if they rip out the plumbing and replace it, perhaps it will be what it needs to be. But for now, two sad showerheads for a place with lots of potential.

Pretty much the middle of nowhere—well kinda. There are 250K people in this city of San Salvador de Jujuy, and way more lights than we have any where within 8 miles of our house. However, when you are staying in the gateway to the Argentinean Andes, this is where you stay.

Hotel Altos de la Viña has it going on. We arrived around 9:30pm after negotiating a rental car from the airport and finding our way slightly north. What a room! But no time to explore that. Instead, it was “drop off the stuff” and head straight back down to town.

Dinner at Viracocha restaurant (Facebook sucks, but here) was all it was cracked up to be. In fact, the Argentine-bonus Fodor’s guide (which we usually triangulate around) is right on the money way up here in Jujuy. Make sure you get a copy when you come this way.

The food was remarkably tasty. Llama. Park illegally—everyone does it.

Then it was back up the hill to the unmarked 111.

111 entrance

el coucho

this desk is a great place to write some shit down

See?

Room 111 is a suite with the only real balcony on the property. Get this room.

111 sticks out

111 has a zebra bed

And a very fancy closet

And this chair, which you will never use

The bathroom is a good deal. As is almost always the case, glass showers come with ridiculous tubs that never get used.

like this

Euro-shower (Martin says this is not allowed)

If you travel for 24 hours in a row, sleeping comes easy.

Wake up to this!

one way

or another

Have breakfast on the hill

One of the main interesting things about Jujuy so far is the distinct lack of Norte Americanos. There are lots of tourists, to be sure. But there are Porteños all over, and a few others, but not many gringos. We approve.

Up in the morning, we had something that was supposed to be a cappucino but which may have just been a hot chocolate. Then it was north in the rental car.

This place is incredible.

More to come tomorrow.

Four showerheads, a view not to be beat, and some espresso for Altos de la Viña.