Way back when, I stayed in the Estancia La Jolla MANY times for MANY years.  I have some very fond memories of my time there.  Since we were on a quick hit to Qualcomm, it was time to revisit and see how things are going.

The Christmas Nisse was present at the front desk.  My dude, you are a long way from Norway!

The thing about room 390 is that it is generic.  But the other thing is that the construction is substantial.  Heavy, wide doors.  Things that keep noise out.  It’s true that the architecture is boring, but it is also built properly to last.

Sadly, the shower tub thing.  But the tub is low and is very wide.  Nonetheless, the hotel needs to put in some glass.

Could be anywhere. Get this, there is a clock!  LOL.

But its not!  It’s La Jolla.  And there is a balcony.

Even in December, everything is green.

A fantastic after lunch coffee post meeting.

And possible one of the worst Negronis ever.  The airport bartender measured mediocre ingredients just so and then added a shot of Angostura!  LOL.  What?!  We had a chat.

Extruded ice.  Shitty gin. A dry peel improperly squeezed.  And an extra shot of bitters.  San Diego airport Negroni.


Anyway, four showerheads and warm Christmas thoughts for Estancia La Jolla.

What a difference a year makes. Last year the Grande Colonial seemed a bit tired and long in the tooth. It has had a facelift.

View from 102

Though the architecture of the building has not changed, the room layout is much cleaner and more spacious. Even the long skinny bathroom (which remains long and skinny) is better.

Looking in the long skinny bathroom. Hey, the shower is not plastic!

This trend to delete bath tubs and replace them with modern shower spaces is a great trend. Much better use of space, and much more reasonable approach to morning cleanliness.

The best part of this design is that the controls are situated logically. No reason to get wet while you turn on the shower.

The rest of the room has been opened up, repainted, and re-imagined. Nice work.

102 bed

Seating area 102

Look how comfortable

Sadly, the parking lot has not been deleted. The ocean is over there somewhere.

Dinner at Catania was very good for a restaurant group property. Modern italian with a negroni to boot. Recommended.

Sadly, the bar at Nine Ten (which is a very good restaurant in the hotel) is still sub-par. Gotta hire some hipsters who know what they are doing. The current bar suits the old, monied, and boring demographic of the hotel. Nuff said.

George’s at the Cove, a La Jolla establishment of many years still deserving its reputation, still has the best cocktail program in town.

Joree Weatherly was a top notch barman who served us this cocktail. It has a name, but Joree did not write it down on the recipe I asked for. Lets just call it Trentino Tincture. Actually, it turns out to be named Shiso Piney
1.5 Amaro Junipero gin
.5 Pasubio amaro (from Trentino where I spent a year in 1993)
1 lemon
.75 shiso syrup
2 dashes of pine tincture
top with soda. serve on rocks in a collins glass.

When we returned the next night with a cast of hundreds, Joree made use these great cocktails:
Mezcal Manhattan
1.5 Mezcal
.75 montenegro
.75 Averna
2 dashes mexican spiced bitters
Stir down, serve on a large cube

Negroni Amarillo
1.5 Mezcal
1 pamplemousse
1 suze
2 dashes sage tincture
Stir down, serve up with sage leaf

United upgraded us on the way out. Lets hope that works for the way back too. Global services rock on! Um, nope. No upgrade, and we’re here to tell you, economy sucks!

NPS is impressed. Nice work updating the property! Four showerheads for the Grande Colonial.

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.

Just a few years ago (OK ten) I used to come to San Diego all the time. I stayed at the fabulous Estancia La Jolla so often that they got to know me. But now that Kimpton is, well, Kimpton we figured we could try the Hotel La Jolla on this trip as an alternative. It’s pretty Kimptony!

Looks Kimpton-y in 906

Looks Kimpton-y in 906

You know how we feel about the hamster cage hotel design here at NPS. Hotel La Jolla is what happens when you spiffify and stylize the classic rectangle of doom into a Kimpton property. That means comfortable bedding, cool bathrooms, and nice flooring. But there is only so much you can do with a concrete shell of rectangles, and noise is a problem here at Hotel La Jolla. Like the highway traffic leaks through the door and the building “wakes up” in the morning. Reminds me of living in an apartment in Italy.

On the plus side, you can see the ocean in the morning, and the room is very comfortable in the usual Kimpton way. It feels like a Kimpton.

Then there is the shower! Very cool indeed. A glass cube between the bedroom and the bathroom. We like.

906 rectangle view includes clear shower

906 rectangle view includes clear shower

A nice note and a welcome amenity of cheese was in the room as a greeting. (Sadly, no crackers!)

Karma welcome

Karma welcome

More on that shower, which incidentally has great water pressure too.

Looking in.

Looking in.

Looking out.

Looking out.

And then there is the Pacific ocean.

Night from the balcony.

Night from the balcony.

Day from the balcony

Day from the balcony

A high four showerheads for Hotel La Jolla.

Well almost. After a really yummy dinner at Herringbone during which we taught the barman Victor how to make a Broken Bike, we headed back to Hotel La Jolla for a nightcap. It was 9:15. The bar was staffed but closed. No service for us and no money for the Kimpton bar program.

So, miffed, we went back to Herringbone bar to close it down with Victor. Turns out it was Victor’s first night ever behind the bar (and not doing backbar). Negroni, Pappy 10, perhaps some Fernet Branca? Nice time.

Morning in La Jolla.

When I helped to boot up our California practice several years ago, I spent a huge amount of time flying back and forth from San Diego.  I’ve probably been to the city 20 times over the years if you count all of the conferences.  My favorite place to stay is the Estancia in La Jolla (just north of San Diego).  I’ve stayed at some of the crappy hotels on hotel circle and some of the new conference behemoths in the city as well.

I am here for a conference called Hotel Technology Next Generation.  Last time I gave a keynote for the HTNG guys it was in Lausanne, Switzerland and I swear that the suite I got at the Beau-Rivage Palace was in a James Bond movie.  Anyway, I was wondering how they would top that one.  The hotel guys like to roll out the red carpet for each other, so doing a keynote for them can be a good thing indeed.

The answer is to change the scale orthogonally.  I had high hopes for the Rancho Bernardo Inn, but I must admit some amount of disappointment, especially with the bathrooms.  Maybe it’s that I think golf is a massive waste of both time and way too much of planet earth’s surface?

To show you what I mean by luxury from the ’70s, here is a picture of the bathroom. You can see the “Speaker Boehner” memorial tanning light in the ceiling. As if tanning with UV lightbulb rays directly is a good idea?! Orange was big in the ’70s I guess.  The furniture in the room has that ’70s feel to it as well.

I have two copies of the exact same bathroom design in my suite since the sitting room has one copy of its own. The post-it note stuck to the mirror says “Everything looks better after a trip to the Spa”…that would be wishful thinking. In any case, I am happy to report that the water pressure in the shower goes all the way to firehose level. I think I lost an ear in the shower this morning. Invigorating. And quite possibly dangerous.

I do have a very spacious suite with a sitting room and a huge, nicely appointed bed. Here are some pictures.  The property itself is very pretty and feels like Disney.  (You may recall how I feel about Disney.)

I was very pleased to have a couple of bottles of wine and a cheese plate arrive shortly after I did. I’m not sure whose idea they were, the HTNG guys or the hotel management, but I do appreciate the sentiment. They were a perfect snack in lieu of yet another meal on the east–>west run.

In the end the Rancho Berrnardo squeeks by with a three showerhead rating. The Estancia continues to be my top San Diego pick.