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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.

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!

So, is it really worth it to spend the night in London on the way back from Malta? Why yes. Yes it is. If you stay at the Zetter.

We tried out room 505 this visit, which was a new one for NPS. The porch is fantastic (though London weather remains dreary).

The bathroom is slightly bigger than 503 but we still have to ignore the shower curtain.

Have some Ramen at the incredibly authentic Monohon Ramen.

And cap off the night with a cocktail at the Zetter Townhouse (where they brought me a Liberal 3 minutes after I arrived, unasked. Thanks Guy!).

Quick overnight visit two thumbs up and five showerheads to the Zetter.

Complimenti a Villa Fanny

Villa Fanny located just outside of the heart of Caglieri is filled to the brim with design excellence. Finding a more gorgeous boutique convenient to everything in town would be impossible.

We stayed in suite ercole which is about as far from a hamster cage as you can get. The spiral staircase that dominates the ground floor is as beautiful as it is functional.

Suite Ercole Staircase

And just up the stairs is a comfortable space.

View from the stairway

Of course, the shower is not plastic.

And there is a huge tub likely to remain unused.

The room also shares a beautiful balcony overlooking the grounds.

In fact, all of the common spaces are thoughtfully designed, right down to the lighting.

Front desk

A group dinner at Ristorante Sa Schironada was much better than expected. Tasty and very fresh seafood, excellent cheese and charcuterie, and a house wine which was as mysterious as it was delicious.

Cocktails at American Bar Biffi are delicous. The space is interesting too (though a bit warm when we visited).

Caglieri is worth exploring on foot. There are many sights to be seen. Make sure to visit the Museo Archeologico and the Orto Botanico. See more pictures from the Museo Archeologico. See more pictures from the Orto Botanico.

Orto Botanico

Caglieri

Five showerheads and high hopes for a speedy return to Villa Fanny.

The group we host on an annual basis is getting big (well over 200 now) and that means finding an appropriate venue is getting harder. Fortunately the Omni Montelucia was a great choice for this year’s conference. Gorgeous setting. Updated property. Top notch food and drinks. Well trained and attentive staff. Awesome!

About the only wrinkle with the Omni Montelucia is getting there from the east coast. Flying to/from Pheonix is not the best or the most efficient, but that can be a plus too if you want to get a bunch of very busy people “off the grid” for a couple of days of concentrated work. (BTW, American Air just sucks. My favorite thing was a twitter suggestion from American customer service to remove stuff from the seat ahead for more room. Fuck right on off!)

The conference organizers lined up suite 129 for NPS. It was “pretty not bad” as our friend Sammy says. In fact, it was just as nice as any suite we’ve ever had.

Suite 129

Greeted with a cocktail and a personal note. Very nice. Thanks! (Oh and sparkly water too.)

The bathroom was spectacular with a NPS approved glass shower also incorporating stone and multiple showerheads.

Wait for it

This shower is perfect

Are we spoiled? Should we not be spoiled?

All showers like this always come with an unused side of bathtub

But by far the best part of 129 was the large porch. Each night we entertained on the porch with candles and Liberals (Amer Picon brought from home).

129 porch

View of the porch

View from the porch

View from the porch

One minor quibble about the porch. The weather was so perfect that NPS wanted to keep the huge sliding glass triple door open all night. Sadly the resort musak also played all night in the courtyard of the restaurant. So the doors had to close at 3am.

The bar was also prepped by advance troops (in the form of Noelie) who informed them that they would need more absinthe STAT for CR#2s. That was a very good call. The barkeeps were all greatly accommodating and eager to learn.

And the resort food for 200? Very very well done. Could not really ask for improvement there.

After the conference, we left in an afternoon for play. A hike in the desert. A dip in the pool. And one of the best meals of my life at Sel in Scottsdale.

Camelback Mountain

Five showerheads and nothing to add. Heck six showerheads for the Omni Monelucia. Wishing for a quick return on any other airline than American.

Hotel Christiania Teater

We’ve been here before at the Hotel Christiania Teater, even in this very room (number 620), so we knew what to expect. And it was good.

Room 620 is a large suite with an interesting layout that takes up the cupola of the building. The shower does not suck.

620 sitting room

The cupola

Oslo in the distance

Large comfortable bed

A view out the back cupola (yes, there are two sets of windows)

The extensive bathroom with multiple sinks and heated floors.

One of the best parts of the hotel is the breakfast. A generous spread with fresh squeezed orange juice. Sadly the espresso grinder broke down on day 2.

Breakfast buffet

The orange juice machine

The bad downstairs from reception is very capable. Many good cocktails thanks to Barbara and Martin, including this variation on a Hanky Panky.

A Norwegian Hanky Panky
3 cl gin bareksten
1 cl sweet vermouth mancin
1 barspoon bitters Gotlands “fernet”
2 dashes angostura
stir down. serve on a large cube.

And of course Oslo is a great city to visit. The Vigeland Sculpture Park is striking at night.

Two dinners out could not have provided more contrast. The first was a family run fish place with home style recipes and local beer. The second, Om Restaurant Klosteret, was world class food and wine. Both were delicious.

Om Restaurant Klosteret

Cocktails at Himkok were great, even if we did have to leverage ourselves in the door and into a proper booth.

Mezcal or aquavit? Why not both

Himkok back bar

The still at himkok

Five showerheads (and a new espresso grinder) to Hotel Christiania Teater.

Of course, the best was yet to come:

 

A view from the trail

On the way out of Japan, NPS spent one last night in Tokyo at the Peninsula Hotel. The Peninsula is situated near Tokyo Station right by the high fashion (and expensive) Ginza district.

Check in was a bit chunky when we arrived, because the front desk was understaffed, but we were eventually serviced and upgraded into a city view suite. Room 1712 had not only a spacious set of rooms, but also chauffeur services and breakfast in the room for 500 yen.

Peninsula common area

Sitting room features comfy couches and chairs

The bedroom sub suite is set apart from the living room. There is an extra toilet for entertaining.

Extra bathroom

Makeup desk

Bedroom

The window of the bedroom (by the desk) over looks the city

The spacious bathroom has multiple sinks and a non-plastic shower. The shower could use better water pressure.

Huge tub with city view

Shower

Luggage room and walk in closet

All in all this is one of the best laid out and most interesting suites NPS has ever stayed in.

A visit to the nearby high fashion mall cost us a pretty penny in designer clothing. And then it was off to dinner at the great hole in the wall Sake No Ana. Worth a visit!

Tokyo traffic

Sake no ana

Sake lineup one

The victor

Sake lineup two

The second victor

At sake no ana, dinner is Japanese pub food. You know, like waygu beef cooked on a rock.

The peninsula also provided airport transportation to Narita in a BMW which was well worth the price on the last day of a long trip. We were ferried to the airport in style and helped through the checkin process. Security was very very fast leaving time for sushi at Kyotatsu (terminal one near gate 34).

Five showerheads foe the Peninsula hotel. Very chic in the fashion district of Tokyo.