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Is NPS spoiled? Yes. Does that make life harder for hotels and airlines when it comes to expectations? Yes. Welcome to the world of high end travel.

2018 started with a trip across the country on the NPS “trip across the country” airline—Virgin America. Or what’s left of it anyway. Virgin America is becoming more and more like Alaska. And frankly, that sucks. Sure, we’re MVP Gold on Alaska by default. But who cares? Going from the Nordstrom’s world to JC Penny is not gonna cut it.

Here’s an example of what is happening to Virgin America. The checkin process at Dulles was always super friendly, efficient, and FAST. Now there is a line and it is a line of Alaska flyers.

The flight across the country was just fine after using cash money to upgrade to First. So there’s that.

Next came the wrong room problem at the Buchanan in San Francisco (216 versus 316 or 416). Sadly this happens almost every time we stay here. Sure, NPS helped to establish the Kimpton InTouch program years ago (now known as Karma and soon to be known as IHG Rewards Club (blech)), but super elite Kimpton/IHG status does nothing to add to the number of available Kimpton rooms we like in San Francisco. The staff at the Buchanan does all they can to accommodate demand. But demand is just outstripping supply. And as a demander, well the market is about to speak.

Time’s up you guys, only two OK quality San Francisco Kimpton properties still?? IHG needs to step it up in this city. Really.

View from the Buchanan San Francisco (Japantown)

Of course, Emily Glick and her people get all the blowback in public, but really it is corporate that is at fault by this stage. Hopefully Emily will forgive us for making clear what we expect!

Amenity. Thanks to the Buchanan team

216 has a few of problems from the NPS perspective. Number one is that the shower needs a better shower head. Water pressure is not sufficient. At least it’s a glass cube! Number two, the room is ADA sanctioned and we are not special needs campers. That means the closet is not usable, and the tub is a mess of machines. Number three, the second floor is too close to the street and it is noisy.

So no more 216 for us. We’ll just have to stay elsewhere next visit.

Shower? Glass is good.

The tub has served as a closet for hanging clothes this trip

Or maybe you can hang your coats on this thing in the hall

Of course, Japantown is great and the Buchanan is hip and well located. Staying here is always a good thing.

Green tree view

216 does not suck. But pretty not bad is not good enough.

Yeah, we brought the violin and even managed to play some music with our friends in Oakland.

Some data from San Francisco. Sweet Maple is a great place for breakfast and so is The Grove. For a real Japantown meal, try to find Kui Shin Bo.

Dinner at Flour+Water is just as fantastic as ever. The Progress is, likewise, a very good place to eat (and unlike its sister next door, you can walk in).

The Dando from The Progress
1 oz rye
.75 oz amaro angelino
.5 aperol
1 oz meyer lemon juice
.5 oz pear shrub
shake. up. large cube.

Cocktails at Wildhawk are highly recommended.

This time three showerheads for the Buchanan’s failed Tetris game. No more games of chance for NPS. 2018 is gonna be interesting.

This California in December thing seems to be a trend now that NPS works for a silicon valley company. What that means is a week-long delay in the start of our annual no fly nöel thing.

So how did 2018 stack up? Well the tripometer was up year over year after many years. And most of the travel was international. This year we visited:

  • London (twice)
  • Inverness
  • Stuttgart
  • Neuremberg
  • Tokyo
  • Kyoto
  • Oslo
  • Sardegna
  • Malta

Lots of time outside the confines of the broken United States and its Orange Caligula of a “President.”

Here’s the graph.

The annual tripometer. Trips are up for NPS.

Because of all of the international travel, we had some interesting impact on loyalty programs. It’s not even clear we’ll make inner circle this year at Kimpton (horrors)!

Other than the “not really Virgin America” we have no loyalty anymore for any airlines. Treat them all the same and let the chips fall where they will. Use money to “upgrade” by starting out upgraded. My my how things have changed.

A direct comparison of international business class shows United has the best service. Here are two examples.
Delta
United

Anyway, time to stay home by the fire for a while.

Back at the Buchanan, this time for “mandatory corporate fun,” and all is well.

Sadly, when we booked, our favorite room was already slated for some other obviously undeserving guest and the Tetris game of chance did not work out in our favor. So what ya gonna do?

Start out in 216 and move up as soon as possible! 216 is a ADA room, which is not that big a problem, but its shower is wimpy and sucky, and it is too close to the street and thus a bit noisy. Oh well, one night won’t kill us.

We were greeted with a much-needed amenity which we scarfed down like the hungry dogs we are.

And then, since it was pretty late, it was straight to bed.

This shower is not plastic, but it needs a better shower head and better water pressure.

Fortunately, the room switcheroobie was smooth. So one night late, we moved up to 416. That’s better. Maybe next time the dice will roll in our favor!

View from 416

Hmm, that design looks familiar.

The MUCH better shower. All praise the shower goddess.

Bathroom with stuff: still life

The Buchanan lobby is interesting too, but not as interesting as GM E mily Gick who we finally connected with this visit. Thanks for the hospitality Emily.

Buchanan lobby

Art out of focus

Either four or five showerheads for the Buchanan. See you again soon!

In other San Francisco news, Zasie is a very trendy and great place for brunch. Cocktails at Blackbird do not suck.

Hinodeya ramen just across the street from the Buchanan is very good indeed and entirely authentic.

Cocktails at P.C.H in popup xmas mode is highly recommended. After that you must close down The Irish Bank. Spent some quality time with Jacques Bezuidenhout. What a blast!

“It’s at a Kimpton,” Scott said. And he had our attention. You know how we feel about Kimpton here at NPS. Not only that, the Kimpton was actually the Lorien in Alexandria, a property on the upswing run by our favorite Steph Vogel! Double bonus.

We’re there!

The drive in around the beltway at rush hour was awful as usual, leaving us only three minutes to valet, drop our bags, and head down to the Catoctin Creek event. Rye, Brandy and tasty treats from chef Sebastian Rondier? Yes please.

Becky and Scott make a great product that is almost as much fun to talk about as it is to drink. Cheers Catoctin Creek!

The fois gras bites with popcorn?! Genius.

The highlight of the evening was hanging out with Steph and catching up. It is always fun to introduce good people to each other!

Needless to say, we had a nice buzz and a warm glow after the event, so we headed over to the bar for a bigger snack. And then it was up to 301 (a new room at the Lorien for NPS).

301 is blue. That will (thankfully) change soon. Can’t wait to see what the designers do to this space.

Sitting room with a balcony

Amenity and note are always nice. Of course chef filled us up.

The all important shower is HUGE which also makes it a bit chilly

Bathtub in the shower

Really the only major bug in this room is the way the toilet is situated relative to the bed. That needs some more thought.

Not really

The sparkling water came in more than handy. It was a necessity after all of that rye!

Breakfast with Steph in the morning bright and early capped off a great Kimpton visit. Five showerheads and a rush order on the designer’s work at the Lorien. We’ll be back for sure.

There’s nothing like experiencing a new Kimpton property for the first time. In all of our countless trips up to NY, NPS has never visited Ink 48 (though we have heard tell of it). Hell’s Kitchen is pretty far up there, but sometimes business uptown happens!

Our greeting at the front was warm and welcoming even though it was supposed to be scary. We were assigned the fantastic river-view suite 1416 (for which we thank Steph and Barry). What a great room.

Room 1416 on a gorgeous day overlooking the Hudson

The sitting room section.

The bedroom section.

And the all important huge bathroom with a distinct shower cube in the corner. Plenty of room in here, and no sign of plastic.

Glowing shower cube of 1416.

The “hot and cold” amenity was impressive and delicious.

Dinner at Taboon is not to be missed. Outstanding bread, delicious food, a real cocktail program, a nice wine list. Seek it out. We enjoyed ourselves so much before the play that we returned after the crash.

Spirits Bisbas
1.5 oz hendricks gin
1 oz rhubarb puree
1 oz lemon
.5 oz dry vermouth
shake. serve up in a coup. smoked paprika on top

We tried to see a play at Lincoln Center, but it was not to be. About an hour in to “Junk,” technical things went south and never recovered. Frankly, we expect more out of NY Theater.

The “hot” part of the amenity came in handy late night when we got back from our cocktail run at Taboon.

Five showerheads and a warm glow for ink 48 in NY.

Though NPS does not fly in July or December, there is still stuff to be done. The solution? A working meeting at the Lorien in Old Town Alexandria. We’ve been to the Lorien a couple of times since Steph Vogel took over as GM. Sadly, Steph is in Switzerland this week. We’ll pretend that the ship runs just as well without Steph at the helm (though it’s really not true).

The Spartan balcony off 619

This visit finds us in 619, which is similar to 615 only slightly smaller and on the other side of the building. There is a very large balcony on this side too. Because it’s 100 degrees this week (with an overnight low in the upper ’70s), the balcony will be ignored due to weather. Strikes us that a remake of these balconies as a garden would make them both more inviting.

Look to the left

Look to the right

Our meeting room was cavernous and highly functional. We spent all day working.

A cocktail was in order after all that work. The bar is still very good, though barman and detail freak Phil Clark is no longer around. Phil has moved to Phoenix. You can tell. Damien is doing his damndest to keep things up.

Whey Sour
.75 cachaça (novo fogo)
.75 rye (copper fox)
1.5 whey
.75 honey
1 lemon
pinch of salt
Shake. Serve up.

Snacks at the bar took forever to arrive. That ended up making them free. Timely is better than free.

Dinner at The Warehouse was a massive disappointment. The crayfish were good. Or was that the crawdads? The wine list?
Unusable. Skip it. In other news from the evening, the bar at Restaurant Eve still holds its own, but Jackson 20 has slipped to skip it level as well. So sad that the old Alexandria Monaco is now a Marriott property.

On return from dinner around 11, we were greeted with a nice amenity. Thanks Stephani. The ice cold San Pelegrino is particularly welcome.

Sitting room 619

Sleeping room 619

The huge glass shower will do just fine.

Shower? Perfect.

Once the work was done, there were museums to see. First stop was the National Building Museum to see Hive. Well worth the visit.

Home of hive. At least for a while.

That was followed by another great lunch at Bistrot du Coin.

And a visit to the Phillips Collection. The old building is under renovation, so only half of the paintings as usual were out. But still fantastic. An NPS introduction to the stunning art of German artist Markus Lüpertz.

German artist Markus Lüpertz

The suit

Detail from Spoon

German artist Markus Lüpertz

A fantastic day. Followed almost immediately on its heels by a fantastic evening.

Roses Luxury is just as stellar as its incredible reputation. Just go. We showed up at 5:10pm and walked right in for a 180 minute dinner extravaganza.

Those poor “other people” had to wait in line

Caviar service

Yes, we took pictures of our food. We also had extensive conversations about it.

The best dish of the evening was a soft shelled crab served with Singapore-style chilli sauce (on the sweet side) over steamed buns with pickles. Delicious.

So really. Go to Roses Luxury as soon as you can.

Then there was the Columbia Room in the back booth (our usual NPS haunt), this time with the geek patrol. Excellent as usual, this time less for the drinks presentation than the company.

Columbia Room

Ice

Seaweed?!

Rum from 1857 always seems like a good idea after the tasting menu is complete.

The moral of the story is: get your work done quickly so you can spend some time being spoiled in DC!

Five showerheads and a real wish that Steph were around. We miss you Steph.

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.