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Oh the Kimpton of yore, how we miss it.  After the IGH acquisition, the properties have gone completely corporate.  No brand left at all.  No personality.  No staff that loves their jobs.  So sad.  Our last two Kimpton attempts in NY sucked (see https://noplasticshowers.com/2022/10/17/quick-hit-in-nyc-hotel-indigo-is-very-corporate/ and https://noplasticshowers.com/2022/05/08/back-in-new-york-the-muse-hotel-ihg/).

But the good news is that some of the properties have the old magic.  Like the Zelos in San Francisco that used to be the Palomar.  This was once one of our favorite hotels.  And maybe it will be again.

We remember fondly talking to Mike Defrino about adding good bars to the properties (using Bourbon and Branch as one of the examples of what people will pay for a cocktail).  Jacques Bezuidenhout was hired, and Dirty Habit was born under the direction of Brian Means.

We remember the battle of the Palomars.

At what os now the Zelos, we were assigned 712 (which is a nicely renovated version of a room we’ve stayed in back in the Palomar days).  Great room.

In fact, enough space to conduct a zoom meeting with multiple attendees in the same room. (Don’t ask.)


The bathroom could be bigger.  But it works.  The shower is over a tub, but the nice glass doors make it all OK.

Though we arrived late, there was time for a slightly adjusted Boulevardier before bed.

And then a Cloudbreak (from Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Philly).  This is still a magical cocktail.  Make one!

Though it arrived late, a welcome note did arrive (along with a nice bottle of wine that I gave to madou since I was not checking my bag.  Thanks for that Ben!

This is not your usual hotel art.  Love it.

Breakfast at Cafe de la Presse is always recommended.  At the Chinatown gate.


And for fun?  How about Wildhawk, followed by ABV, followed by the Good Good Culture Club all with a bunch of great friends?  Yes please.

So, a Negroni or a Breakfast Negroni??  Jacques, which should it be?


Maybe Suzu (who has become quite famous, aparently) knows.

While at ABV, tequila (or mezcal).

Thee guys…

Good Good was very good.  What a treat to be in San Francisco for 32 seconds!  Merry Christmas all.

Five showerheads and a big thumbs up for the hotel zelos.  Looking forward to returning.

The Lowry is a business hotel of reasonable quality in Manchester, England.  It rains every day.  Manchester is a cool town.

 

Room 223 at the Lowry is a nicely spacious hamster cage that is just fine, thank you.

Though the shower could use some water pressure and the HVAC system is a disaster.

The view is nice, but short.

Florence will break her foot kind of putting a major damper on the whole thing.

On a rainy evening, head on over to Home and see a movie.  If you’re lucky it will be as great as the Banshees of Inisherin.

Do some retail in the center.

Have breakfast at Côte.

Have dinner at 20 Stories  (which sports not only a great view, but an excellent bar).  Get Lisa to come up.

Visit Chinatown (open all night).

But maybe skip the Cloud 23  at the Hilton.  No skill.  Just view. (We went so you don’t have to.). An attempt at a CR#2 was just, well, just.

This cocktail should be renamed the “Lavender Yeah No.”

And by all means don’t go to the Lowry bar unless you must.  (And just for the record, sometimes you just must.)

WTF?

We did make them try an industry sour.

 

Finally, sort out your ride to the train station the night before.  Manchester traffic is a thing when it rains.  And it rains!

We’ll be back when Florence heals.  Can’t wait to do some dancing in Manchester.

Three showerheads for the Lowry.

Well, there may not even be showers.  And people may steal your boots (accidentally?!) overnight.  But where else are you going to hear a folk story accompanied by live music recounted by Solbjørg Kvålshaugen?  Or run up an impressive bar tab for your 20th year festivities??

We started the night before in Bergen (maybe?).

And then got motivated in the morning and headed up into the mountains towards the Hytte in Tyinkrysset.  On our way, we took a detour to Fondsbu, arriving just in time for the last dinner of the year.  Here’s how Gøran describes it, “If you remember the ski trail we followed along the water last winter. Well, if we follow that road to the end, we get to a place called Fondsbu. They have their closing dinner on Saturday 8th with entertainment and live music.”

A stop by our favorite bakery in Norway.

The best way to spend the drive?  Definitely if you are a teenager.

We arrived and staked out our rooms.  The rooms are very basic and tidy with sinks and bunks.  It all feels like a ship cabin (especially after a bunch of rum).

Eidsbugarden

Dinner was delicious and communal.  Reindeer filet and some red wine.  During the festivities, the moon arrived (one day from full, still waxing).

The dinner marked the opening of winter (and the closing of the summer season).  The live music was great, even though this song is not at all about Norway.  It’s about boneheaded racism.

 

We partied late into the night, meeting mountain men, musicians, and hotel hosts.  Much fun was had.

The boots disappeared.

Late the next morning after fortifying ourselves with some porridge, we headed to the Hytte.

An incredible experience, about as Norwegian as you can get.  My only regret is that I failed to bring my fiddle along to play.  I guess in 20 more years, I will get another chance.

More post-COVID business travel in 2022.  Trondheim, Norway is well north of Bergen and Oslo, situated on a Fjord, and is the home of NTNU where NPS was participating as adversary for a Ph.D. defense.  That meant travel was dictated by university policy.  Fortunately, breakfast was included.

In case you have forgotten what Norway is like, here is a video.  About the same geographic size as California, Norway has only 5.4 million people.  It is a gorgeous country.

Flying in to Trondheim is always an adventure, as you have to stop off in Oslo for customs and then brave the winds at the Trondheim airport.  One poor old lady on my flight was literally screaming in fright as we made our approach and landing.

The great news is some of our good Norwegian friends were in town to greet us.  Our first committee meeting was a very nice dinner out at the cozy Fagn bistrot.

The Scandic chain has done nothing to improve post COVID.  A middle tier hotel chain on par with Marriott in the US or maybe Hyatt, Scandic pays more attention to their common areas and meeting rooms than they do to their actual rooms.

The Scandic Nidelven does boast the “best breakfast in Norway.”  And the spread is actually quite good (and equally crowded).  So go for the breakfast!  I got two breakfasts in while in town.

The shower in my room (423 I think) looked something like this.  Distinctly uninspired, yet functional and not plastic.

Views from the breakfast room over the Nidelva canals are very pretty.

In one minor wrinkle, my suitcases followed me into town by a day.  That meant borrowing a coat and a dress shirt from friends just to stay warm and presentable.

 

The defense itself was interesting and fun.  We minted a new doctor!


After which it was time to celebrate.  First with a large dinner at Rive Gauche a droite (LOL) and then for some late night cocktails at the Britannia.  The hotel has undergone major renovations and now has a world class cocktail lounge fittingly reminiscent of its London cousins.

We had to sort a major travel SNAFU on the way to the cocktail bar (NPS does sometimes drop packets, but we also bring along our credit card to buy entirely new packets…and sometimes a router.)

 

The next day a public talk at the university on Machine Learning Security was in order.

After lunch with the faculty (deeply interested in MLsec), there was a very short window for some tourism in Trondheim.  The Rockheim museum is almost worth a visit..if you go with the right attitude it can be silly and fun.

The Trondheim sense of humor is even visible in the cafe signs.  “probably the best espresso in the world” (more LOL).

 

After a parting Negroni at the Scandic bar (inundated with business types having a cocktail before their conference dinner), it was off to the airport to wait several hours for a quick flight to Bergen?

All in all, three showerheads for the Scandic Nidelven.  Like the headline says, go for the breakfast.

 

 

What was to be a long weekend in the city shrunk down to one night when business did its usual thing of melting away.  NPS stayed on the lower east side on somewhat of a whim.  The verdict?  Meh.

Thing is, Madou had no idea that we weren’t in midtown.  So we shlepped up there for sushi at Sushi by Bou.  Which was hilarious and definitely worth the subway time.

The place is tiny, so make a reservation.  Immediately after coffee, it was back downtown for our meetings, and then back to midtown for dinner at Freemans.  Dinner was great.

But skip the rice pudding fad!  LOL.  Ride pudding is way too filling to catch on.

After dinner, the plan was to wedge into PDF, but the hot dog place was being its persnickety self.  So instead we headed to Amor Y Amargo for some fantastic cocktails.  We made up an experimental cocktail called the McGillicutty.

The Indigo was generic and boring.  All of the Kimpton magic has dispersed.

The shower is not plastic.

The lower east side is close to some stuff, we guess.

NPS doesn’t remember the room number.  Not returning.

Back to EWR you go (in an early Uber).

The United club is all new and fancy, but the flights are still delayed.

All told, three showerheads and no more strikes for Kimpton.  Anybody have a good boutique hotel chain to offer?

 

 

It is in Heidelberg, so that’s good!

And there are some great people in town at the same time to have some fun with.  So that’s good too.

For what it’s worth, NPS actually knows better!  We should have stayed at the arthotel or maybe even Hotel Ritter with the old people.

I mean, any hotel actually named Staycity Aparthotels is gonna be exactly like this.  So just don’t.  LOL.

Hamster cage 223 is just like every other hamster cage here.  Looks great in pictures because of the veneer and plastic.  But it is made of veneer and plastic.  And it has the design sensibility of a modern TV.  Big black slab with some fake wood veneer pasted on.

Speaking of the TV, here it is splotted prominently on the plastic veneer architectural feature.

The toilet does get its own plastic room.

What a nice touch to add those moth orchids!  They are easy to care for after all. And… Oh no wait, they are plastic.  LOL.

Whatever you do, do not steal the hangers!  They are very valuable as they are not made of plastic.

The shower area looks great and there is even glass!  But really, the floor is all thin bouncy plastic.  (We will give them props for good water pressure and plenty of hit water.)

So just don’t.

We’ll leave you with some Heidelberg to cleanse your pallet.

 

Over here on the “used to be an American Army base side (which is quickly transforming into a high tech center, Mandy’s Grill is a great place for breakfast.  Very much international and tasty.

The walk to the center is not too bad from here (about a mile), and there in tourist zone you can find most anything.  Read some science with a Hugo or a Capari Orange.

AAAAAUUUUUGGGGH!

Anyway, two showerheads and no hope for redemption for the Staycity Aparthotel.  We’ll be smarter next time.

 

Our first foray into the city was not that long ago, but was directly impacted by COVID when both stars of Plaza Suite were infected.  We went to see Hangman instead, an OK play, but not really all that.  And then it was back in Virginia for the advent of the Spring green.  Were some of us disappointed?  Why yes we were.

So, soon enough we were back in the city to take another crack at Plaza Suite do some business on the side.  The original plan was to fly in Saturday evening, so we booked a room at the Muse, one of the Kimptons of yore.  Bottom line: the IHG takeover of Kimpton is complete.  These days, the lobby of the Muse seems to be filled with aging midwesterners who have accumulated enough IHG points by staying at many Holiday Inns that they are splurging on a trip to Broadway and the big city.  Kimpton is hip no more.

Times Square remains a Disneyfied tourist attraction and a traffic snarl.  That’s nothing new.

The Muse does retain much of its old staff, and that is nice.  But its computers are corporate and the wiggle room is gone.  So our request of room 1703 was ignominiously ignored due to the fact that we expanded our stay to two nights instead of one (really with plenty of time for the hotel to adjust) and didn’t feel up to switching rooms halfway through our stay.  That leaves us surly and disappointed.

Somehow I think we ended up accumulating lots of IHG points due to all of this.  But guess what?  NPS does not give one shit about IHG points.  None.  We just want really great rooms for our cash money.

Plus it rained the whole time, so 1506 was not all that it’s cracked up to be what with a soggy balcony.

It was great to see Madou.

The rain made business in Brooklyn interesting too.  Traffic was a thing.  Our visit to One World Observatory for dinner was hilarious with zero visibility.  LOL.

Finally we ditched the tail and ended up at Katana Kitten for some real fun (thanks to Jacques for the pointer).  I mean, check out this before and after!

Before Katana Kitten

 

After Katana Kitten

Things were blurry.

Thankfully the canary extracted us before the blurry things got much farther out of hand.  They did get far enough though, and Saturday morning was hard.

Returning to 1506 after a night on the town?  Nah.  The Muse days are over.

At least the shower is NPS approved.  A very nice one.

After recovery, we visited the Guggenheim for a Kandinsky fix.  Ahhh.  That and ramen will do it every time.  It was a glorious afternoon.

There are times when ramen can save your life

After a nap that stretched on just a little too long, it was dinner at Junoon.  Highly recommended.

Breakfast at Banter (the original one south of Washington Square) is fantastic.  The mushrooms are worth talking about.

All dressed up and ready for Plaza Suite

Now it’s time to see the play and then scoot to EWR for a quick hop home.

Four showerheads and a demotion for the Muse.  We miss our Kimpton.

 

 

 

We arrived in NY after a long tarmac delay caused by high winds at Newark.  Newark was, because of the stoppage, packed to the gills with people, and the wait times for the (awful) restaurants in Terminal C were over an hour.  So we did what any sensible traveller would do and took a seriously skanky NJ cab into town for Tapas at Mompou.  The tapas was great, and the vibe was pure NJ.

A quick Uber into the city landed us at our home for a week, Bill and Lisa’s apartment situated on 20th Street between 7th and 8th.  You gotta love friends who invite you up when they score a place for a month in the city!  Lucky dogs all around.

The city at night is a welcome view.  This is the first NPS visit in too many years.

Our first jaunt led us down the High Line to the Whitney.

Checking out the Whitney

See All’s Well at the Whitney Biennial for more.

The Little Island has been added to Manhattan as of late.  It’s a quirky little part worth a quick visit.  More about our quick visit here.

The Little Island as seen from the Whitney

Spring was everywhere on a blustery gray day.

Wait for it!

The High Line has been completed through Hudson Yards these days.  This bridge over 12th (?) avenue yields an interesting and somewhat cinematic view.

Our plan was to check out the Japanese Food Festival situation on closed off 6th avenue, but the hoards of people…and we mean hoards…obviated our plan.  So we stopped for ramen and sake in collectible glasses at Oramen Chelsea.

Later we took the subway down for a visit to PDT.  On the way we stopped in for a fried ice cream and a cocktail.  It’s not clear whether we were lured in to Little Rebel by the fried ice cream or the Bowie mug shot.

CR#2 to start the evening

What is a CR#2?  Glad you asked.  Click here.

Said fried ice cream

 

Said Bowie mug shot

Yes, Bowie was arrested in Rochester in 1976.

It rained.

Our intrepid hosts

Next up, a slice at East Village Pizza.

And then some “hot dogs” at Crif.

PDT is still rocking it.  We had some special fun with the paper plane.

Naked Paper Plane

 

Problem corrected by the astute waiter

Finally, a late night visit to the very local Twist was in order.  Fernet time!

So that was a day!

Our next adventure started at the MoMA, where in addition to lots of famous art to be shared simultaneously with hundreds of others, lunch was really good.

See more MoMA Where Did All These People Come From?

Some of us had waffles on the street.

 

 

The Macy’s Spring flower show

I suppose we are obligated to talk about the showers in the apartment since this is NPS.  The shower was very nice indeed.  Plenty of hot water and lots of shower nozzles, many way high up there in the stratosphere.

Sunday evening we went to see Sleep No More, which was quirky, fun, and well worth doing.  NPS missed the provocative parts.  Alas.  Experiencing theater by being IN the set is a thing.

Then it was Monday.  Breakfast at Banter south of Washington Square was great — best in the city.  Then it was time to do a little shopping.  Did you know that the Varvatos outlet in NY occupies the old CBGB space?  Wild.

There was pastry to be had at Patisserie Claude on the way to the special Chelsea apartment.

Romey visits the shrine

An ill fated “cash only” taxi ride deposited us into midtown to buy some boots and be accosted by a crazy lady.  Our walk home happened under a taxi blackout zone.

And then it was off to Chama Mama with Chalmers in tow.  Turns out that Georgian food is quite delightful.

Wine from Georgia. No not that one. Yeah that one.

The last day in the city was beautiful and sunny.  A perfect day to be sedate and walk the High Line again.

The walk was gorgeous.

So was the lounging.

There was patio time in the sun.

Our intended entertainment target of choice (and the planned high point of the NY run) was to see SJP and Matthew Broderick (I mean Farris Bueller) in Plaza Suite.  Covid prevented that from happening when both stars were infected.  We’re still planning a reprise.  In the meantime we went to see The Hangman while it was still in previews.  Though the acting was a bit uneven, the play was good with only a few kinks to work out.  As always, Broadway staging is the bomb.

Before the show we stopped in for a cocktail and some caviar at Bar Centrale.  Old school, sophisticated and a great place to unwind before a show.  Or is that wind up?  Martinis and negronis pair well with caviar.

The lights on Broadway were doing their thing.

All dressed up in the big city

And thus the first visit to NY in three years ended.  A whirlwind and a delight.  Hopefully travel has returned for good.

 

Ah Kimpton, you’ve become so corporate.  Such a great hotel chain ground down by middle management cost cutting and the boredom of crank turning.  Dang.  We remember the old days, yes we do.  They are never coming back.

Anyway, getting to Texas on United was not so bad even in double masks.  The flight was very sparsely populated, though it is a longish one.  Austin is a great city to visit.  Or is it a town?  Kind of hard to tell.  Here’s the story of our brief stay at Hotel Van Zandt.

The only pair of actual cowboy boots at the hotel when we were there happened to be ours.

First of all, IHG has forgotten everything about what NPS likes.  Just for the record, we like high floors, certain kinds of pillows, and rooms with no plastic showers.  We have also become accustomed to welcome notes from the GM, delicious amenities, sparkling water, and sometimes even a craft cocktail greeting us in the room from a barkeep hired by Jacques.  Not this time.  Even though the Kimpton twitter dwarf (they used to be fairies, but corporations) was given the heads up, not one bit of prep was done.  Kind of astonishing, really.

So NPS paid a pretty penny for an excellent king spa room with a view, and was given a plastic bottle of water at checkin by the Assistant Manager who had obviously not read our secret file in preparation for our arrival.  Hell, there probably isn’t a secret file anymore.

Room 701 is a great room style category.  But the floor?  Not a high one.  The amenities and water?  Nope. And the “lake view” is mostly a dusty construction site surrounded by homeless encampments.  Seriously.  Every city we’ve visited lately has a massive housing problem.  What is wrong with this country?

The bathroom was awesome.  Great tub (which we used a bunch) and a nice glass shower.

Not plastic

 

Tub with a view (that cuts both ways)