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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.

We’ve made quite the habit out of holding an annual data crunching summit at the Lorien. Third year in a row. And third time’s a charm.

Helped out by Kimpton/IHG big shot Steph Vogel, we secured a great working space and a bunch of rooms. My room was 611, the presidential suite. Thanks Steph!

Sparse but interesting porch 611

611 is nicely appointed, with almost too much room to spread out. The decor has been updated and is very nice.

611

An amenity was very nice (needed some crackers and silverware tho). The personal note was a great touch too. Nice to be back.

yup. thanks Lorien peeps.

611 includes a separate bedroom with a closet and many windows.

The bathroom is pretty far away from the bedroom, but it has a two-headed shower that is huge with a bench at the end and room for ten.

Looking in

Looking out

One of the highlights of our trip was a meal specially made for us by chef Sebastien Rondier. Chef Sabastien is from southern France, and his cooking reflects that. Absolutely delicious. Best duck a l’orange I have ever eaten. Thanks chef, for the fantastic meal. And thanks Steph for the great idea.

Chef Sebastien presents his fantastic duck

The menu, designed exclusively for us

Fois gras

Delicious Vichyssoise, very thick and served Dutch style over caviar

Peaches, goat cheese, and pine nuts

Here’s that duck again

The servings were generous, to say the least

Though we were full and very happy, dessert was incredible. The cherry tart was out of this world. But so many other delicious things.

That tart back there looks simple and is just fantastic

caffeine cake, LOL

If you get a chance to have Chef Sebastien create a meal for you, take it. A great evening.

Then there was work.

Everyone loves work

On our second evening we headed into the city, mostly targeting the Columbia Room for another visit. Somewhat by accident, we ended up dining and Kinship, which was world class and excellent. Impeccable design. Great service. Tasty food. Great Wine. Boy was that a good find!

Roast chicken (give it 70 minutes…worth every second)

Pork and beans

Caviar and potato chips

The two block walk to Columbia Room was easy. Shaw is so hopping. Though we had a great time at Columbia Room in the usual booth, we were not blown away by the summer cocktail menu. Much fun was had.

Summer menu.

pretend funnel cakes

Though served in a plastic cup (a keepsake), this cocktail is delicious

the pearl

Maybe we were so blown away by Kinship that we were not properly prepared for the Columbia Room. Love that place, but this visit was not as stellar as usual.

In any case, for a week in “no fly July” this visit to DC/Alexanria was pretty not bad. Five showerheads and 10,000 compliments to chef Sebastien at the Lorien.

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.

Third time’s a charm. This year’s cocktail extravaganza was hashtagged (as always) with a tip of the hat to the Clash. (See #londonculling and #rockthecasbar entries.)

From our base at the Mondrian London, we headed out to the shard for lunch.

The food at Aquashard is remarkably good. Fuel up!

After lunch, it was off to the Alchemist. Espresso was in the cards since it was early yet.

Next we paid a visit to our friend Alessandro (and delivered greetings personally from Jacques Bezuidenhout) at Duke’s hotel bar. Simply put, Duke’s somehow makes the best martinis in the world. Better to only have one.

Plans called for a visit to the Ritz bar, but we ran into a shoe-ware issue (someone had on trainers that cost as much as a car). So fuck the Ritz. We will be back never.

No worries, the Connaught Bar manned by Micheal was incredibly great. We sat at the bar. Somehow the Connaught became our home away from home with two visits the next day during much fun was had.

We paid a visit to Gerry’s Wines and Spirits to amass a treasure trove of Amer Picon and some very old Cuban rum. Graham and insta-graham were a blast. Gin tasting occurred.

Then it was time for prophylactic ramen at Bone Daddies. Great ramen with a rock and roll vibe. Beer seemed like a good idea.

Bar Swift was our next target. Without a reservation we shlepped downstairs. After a round, our waitress took pity on us and gave us a great round booth. Then we got into the George T Stagg 2016. Wise?? Of course it was wise.

Next up was a visit to one of our all around favorites, the American Bar at the Savoy. Our barman on point at the establishment did what he could to find us some Catoctin Creek rye to use in the Red Lips Rye. He had 24 hours. Sadly, his attempt was unsuccessful, but he did put in a real effort.

We always seem to get stuck at the American Bar for 2 or 3 rounds, after which we head downstairs and transfer our tab to the Beaufort. Two of our party bowed out after the American Bar visit around 10:30.

It was left for the remaining cocktail enthusiasts to pull all of the weight. Down to the Beaufort we went. Frankly we were not impressed with this visit. Though we love the bar and past visits have been fun (if not expensive as hell), there seem to be too many Russians around for comfort these days.

Back home to the Dandelyan it was. We made it in time for fernet and a last call that seems to have involved two CR#2’s and six Liberals. These things happen!

So, after all this we somehow ended up opening a bottle of champagne at 2am on the balcony. That was a bad idea.

You would figure that we had learned our lesson, but we had not. The next afternoon after some ramen (medicinal this time) at Monohon ramen we walked over to the Zetter Townhouse for some hair of the dog.

Which naturally led us back to the Connaught Bar to see Michael again before our fancy night out.

We leave you with a recipe for a Coburg Collins
50 ml London dry gin (no 3)
20 ml lemon
15 ml simple syrup
10 ml fino sherry
2 dashes celery bitters
top up with soda water over big ice.

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.

From the swank common areas, through the central location in the city, to the glass shower situation, Hotel Duxiana is on fire. The food is great too.

After a late day flying in from Austria, arriving at 10:15pm was a relief. Ahhhhh. We were assigned room 201, which allowed us to quickly charge up the dead phone and head out for a very late dinner.

201 is small, but very nice. The bed is comfortable, and the design elements are modern.

201 bed

seat 1

seat 2

through the looking glass

The bathroom could be bigger, but the shower meets all criteria.

NPS approved

Dinner turned out to be Priorat and some charcuterie at l’enoteca less than a block from the hotel. Recommended.

Morning came too early (at 5:45am) followed by all day meetings. A respite after meeting one involved lunch at the Duxiana. Outstanding food and a real buzz in the common area. Who knew?!

This hotel food is just as delicious as it looks.

duxiana kitchen

What puts Duxiana over the top are the common areas.

all hail the book

Kockeriet is a world-class place for an excellent dinner. Here are pictures from a 7 course meal with a wine pairing.

Then it was off for cocktails around midnight. This turns out to be a thing in Sweden. What we learned: avoid Bastard at all costs, no service vibe; instead go to MJ’s which fit the bill perfectly.

Adjusted sazarac (peach bitters, half cognac)

After hours at MJ’s with fernet until 3am

Five showerheads and a Swedish massage to the Hotel Duxiana. NPS will be back for sure.