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Well, here we are in North Carolina where NPS owns some land (at the beach) but can’t vote and where the idiots in state government pass absurd laws about bathrooms. This is not where I would choose to spend my travel dollars. But work is work, so, well, here we are.

The flight down on American Air was very nice. Great equipment. Expensive wifi. Good seating.

Nice parking lot view from 424

Nice parking lot view from 424

The Ballantyne is 20 minutes from the airport away from the city and is one of those luxury compounds where you just get stuck and maybe play some golf or have a “spa day.” NPS does not play golf. This property is part of the Starwood family of hotels who seem to have suburban luxury down pretty well—lots of recently planted trees, over manicured lawns, the whole shebang. It is a gorgeous day.

Coffee and water pod

Coffee and water pod

We are assigned cubicle 424. Which means we have the usual hamster cage design but with a much better bathroom pod than usual, and enough room to work (and to eat it turns out, but more about that in a minute). I arrived in a huge rush 4 minutes before a critical phone call. The room key failed to work. So back down to get that fixed, and back up with 30 seconds to spare and no net authenticated yet. Argh!

424 bed land

424 bed land

424 working and eating penensula

424 working and eating penensula

Style = generic

Style = generic

With the call over, it was time for a very late lunch (after 2), but strangely you can’t get any food at the compound between 2 and 5 unless you are in your room? That’s just weird. So anyway, you can eat in 424.

The bathroom is very nice if not a bit rococo. Lots of marble.

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With a huge tub.

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And a glass shower, which we must absolutely approve.

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The porch outside by one of the golf holes (replete with Canadian geese) is a great place for writing blog entries.

Dinner at Baku was very nice indeed. Reasonable cocktails, outstanding sushi and wagyu beef cooked at the table.

Anyway, that’s about it. Once you know what real luxury is, it is hard to experience the suburban kind and be all tail waggy. But this hotel beats the heck out of a Courtyard by Marriott or a Springhill Suites. Four showerheads and a free golf cart ride for the Ballantyne Hotel.

So close and yet so not close. We’ve been to the umstead many times, but they don’t seem to know that. Hey guys, maybe a computer??

As predicted, in the Spring it is just gorgeous here.

But all is not perfection. Arrival after midnight should pay attention to reservation constraints. Like: 2 beds (actually made), the fact that we have been here multiple times (?!), the fact that we like sparkling water, and so on. The umstead has slipped management-wise over the last few years. Who is the general manager? Great property, but not managed very tightly at all. Get it together, umstead, if you want to be world class and not just the best property in NC.

Hmmm

Hmmm

Room 107 is beautiful as all of the rooms here are.

107 Umstead

107 Umstead

We're in it for the bathrooms

We’re in it for the bathrooms

The shower is to write home about. Really. Bench. 4 shower heads. Plenty of pressure. World class.

Unbelievably great shower

Unbelievably great shower

It's Spring

It’s Spring

Are there sheets under there?  Maybe not.

Are there sheets under there? Maybe not.

Note that the patio is a superior place to have a leisurely dinner on a fine Spring evening. Delicious. The company was the best part of course. Oh, and there is real mixology here now too, mostly stolen wholesale from NY. Nothing if not good mimics here.

However, we’re looking for perfection. Four point five showerheads for the Umstead. Time for management to wake up and figure out that being great means serious attention to detail and a history on your guests.

During college and the arts, there was a visit to Duke and UNC. Both schools are to be avoided for different reasons. Duke thinks it is Stanford (uh, nope). UNC thinks it is a sports franchise. Ouch.

The only interesting thing about Duke

The only interesting thing about Duke

The only interesting thing about UNC

The only interesting thing about UNC

UNC: Centered around a stadium, or is that a prison?

UNC: Centered around a stadium, or is that a prison?

Hey look what North Carolina collected when you weren’t watching. ART.

genius

genius