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.


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.)

It is gray and overcast in San Diego. I’m pretty sure this never happened before Donald Trump became President.

We’re back for a quick bit of business in San Diego on our multi-city tour. One of the best things about San Diego is the Salomar. Our buddy George has moved over to the Palomar these days and has been replaced by the capable and super nice Kayse Potter. Kayse made sure our welcome was warm and nice and that our shower was non-plastic. Thank you Kayse.

We arrived late due to Virgin America SNAFU apparently involving a crazy lady in an unrelated city. Things you overhear when the flight crews gossip. Anyway, we got our rental car and zoomed over to the Salomar just in time to drop off bags and skeedaddle for our reservation at Noble Experiment. A great time was had by all. Thanks Andrew and crew. The back bar shots of rum and tequila made for a damn fun time.

We slunk back around midnight. Room 834 is a great space but it is on the wrong side of the building for me. Too noisy when there is a game on at the stadium (after the game ends).

Party all night after the game right under my window

The bathroom is particularly nice with the gigantic tub/glass shower thing going strong. It’s time to replace the showerhead though.

NPS Approved

Glass Pod

Functional but out of date

A solid night’s sleep and a nice long shower was topped only by Swedish pancakes at Richard Walker’s.

Oh, one funny thing. The lobby music is driving Q nuts. He is the manager on duty in the front lobby and is forced to listen to an endless loop. We’ll see if we can’t get that fixed for him!

All around way too quick but super solid visit to San Diego. Five showerheads (one of which might need replacement) for the Solamar.

NPS has been to San Diego so many times that the count is lost in the ashes of oblivion. See, that was back before the blog, and that means memory is hazy. This blog is the best prosthetic travel memory ever. Back in the day, we stayed up in La Jolla at the Estancia (highly recommended). Since then, Kimpton has invaded San Diego. And you know how we feel about Kimpton at NPS! So here we are right in the gaslamp quarter.

It took a bit of doing to get here due to San Francisco fog. But Virgin America did its hip thing. Their cross country jaunt in main cabin select is the best in the business.

This is our first visit to the Solamar, and it surely will not be the last. We were greeted by Q at the front desk who was courteous, helpful, and most of all fun. And then we found this in 1003 (a nicely appointed suite):

Cheese! Flowers! Sparkling water! Notes! Kimpton Karma.

Cheese! Flowers! Sparkling water! Notes! Kimpton Karma.

This is a very nice way to re-up our Inner Circle status! At least we think that is what is happening??! Who knows, the system is too complicated for NPS.

Anyway, 1003 is very nice.

1103 living area

1103 living area




1003 bedroom

1003 bedroom

Of course, the bathroom is the coup de grace. Excellent design. Glass showers. Big giant tub. Windows. Yup.

1103 shower cube (approved by NPS)

1103 shower cube (approved by NPS)

Just cool

Just cool

The event we’re in town for is at the Coronado (an old school resort with more flowery wall paper and old carpet than style). That’s why we’re staying here. Later, we’ll figure out the water taxi situation.

Dinner at Kettner Exchange was very good. Their bar is good but not excellent. Go for the food.

Kettner Exchange

Kettner Exchange

Richard Walker’s pancakes (even though it is utterly full of convention goers with little lanyard tags) is quite fabulous.

Watch a San Diego sunset.


Take the ferry from 5th avenue pier to Coronado island.

Have a great old school steak at Lou and Mickey’s.

Drink more bourbon

Drink at Noble Experiment. NPS was seated at the bar and served by Tony Roehr, a very talented bartender indeed. We had some classics and some experiments, including what we will call the Dump Trump
1 oz cocchi americano
1 oz cynar
1 oz gin (sipsmith)
sea salt
dash of chocolate bitters
Stir down. Serve up with a twist of orange peel.

Also in the house was Woodford Reserve brand ambassador Luke Ford who go everyone destroyed as an accidental side effect. Much fun was had by all, even the frat boy fascists who invaded.

Five showerheads for the Solamar. Tops. Max.

The Bayfront Hilton in San Diego has exceeded NPS expectations and set a new record for Hilton goodness. Lets see why.

One view from 2935

One view from 2935

The other view from 2935

The other view from 2935

Getting here on Virgin was very good indeed and a huge step up over united. On time, relaxed, room to work, wifi. You go Virgin.

Room 2935 is a hamster cage design, but it has two banks of windows with a gorgeous view of the city. A very nice room indeed.

Windows in 2935

Windows in 2935

From the door 2935

From the door 2935

And the shower is glass. NPS approves.

Hilton has a glass shower.

Hilton has a glass shower.

One of Kimpton’s fun hacks is putting a fish (usually named Walter) in your room for your stay. Hilton is trying to go there by putting virtual fish on the TV. Not quite the same.

And now some good things and bad things about this Hilton.

Real hangers = good

Real hangers = good

iPod dock = good Power by bed = good

iPod dock = good
Power by bed = good

Water for sale = bad

Water for sale = bad

All in all we’ll give this hotel four showerheads, which is a definite step up for a major chain. Most excellent!

In other San Diego news, El Dorado bar has seriously great cocktails as well as a bunch of antique collection bourbon and rye on hand (real Stagg from multiple years for example). Brionnie Briem made a superb and masterful Sazarac (with Sazarac 18). The experimental cocktail she whipped up was only meh, but hey you can’t have everything!

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
t of fallernum (too sweet!! too sweet!!)
2 dashes Angostura
lemon zest

Lou and Mickey’s is still a great place for a steak. Amazingly, they can handle a group dinner of over 20 without a hitch (perfectly cooked everything). Well done chef!

The secret speakeasy Noble Experiment is an oasis of hip in San Diego. Superb entrance, great skull decor, and best of all seriously good cocktails. My spoiled cocktail geek friends and home brewers all loved it.

We were served by Jesse Ross who was happy to play. Though my friends started with a Nevada (nice to see that on the list), but I went straight for the fun.

Pine and Rye
2 oz sazarac 6 rye
.25 oz sapping (a piney French concoction)
.75 oz Dolin’s dry
heavy dashes of Pernod Absinthe

This drink was so similar to what I have been drinking at home lately (the old 48) that it was a shock! Serve on a big cube with a healthy slice of orange peel. Boozy deliciousness.

Non-cyn Thriller
1.5 oz Whistle pig rye
.75 oz Port
.75 oz Campari
dashes of Chocolate Mole Bitters

We ended the evening with some 2014 George T Stagg. Hotter than the last couple of years, but something unbalanced about it.

The evening was just super fantastic. Do not miss Noble Experiment if you find yourself in San Diego.