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NPS has accumulated lots of great memories at the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica over the years, including the romantic, slightly-buzzed Italian singing love songs (in Italian of course) and crying about his ex-wife. And if you read this blog, you know that NPS is nothing if not a creature of habit. So we’re here again, and we’re pleased to report that a major renovation has the place all spruced up.

A new bar. A better lobby. New elevators. Shiny new look. Better furniture in the rooms. Well done!

About the only thing left behind is the showers. This is an unwelcome (non) development.

After a slightly-delayed checkin involving lunch at Lazy Daisy Cafe and a Negroni (from 11:30 to 3:00), we were shown to room 803. This ocean view suite on the top floor is very likely the best room in the hotel. The room has beautiful views, many windows, and lots of light.

View from 803

803 is a good place to be in Santa Monica

Old school touches remain on the property, like these “peep holes” directly out of the ’20s.

Who is it?

Sitting room 803

Furniture upgraded. Could use some leather up here.

The room layout has interesting angles and does pretty much all it can to avoid the “adapted hamster cage” architecture of most hotels. This is much appreciated.

architecture

803 bedroom

The bathroom could use some attention, however. Time for a shower upgrade. The current shower is a study in “not approved by NPS.”

nope nope nope

Lazy Daisy is a good place for lunch.

Dinner in the mountains at Saddle Peak Lodge is also old school. Dead animals hand from the walls. There are pistols in frames. Fire. And lots of game on the menu. NPS approved. A taste of Canada in California.

More soon from the upcoming wine luncheon at Little Sister (we’re just here for fun this trip).

Four showerheads and a sincere wish for a shower upgrade at the Georgian Hotel. Apparently they are making money around here, so lets drag the bathrooms into this millennium!

fin

Yeah. No.

Ever wonder how the other half lives? We find ourselves up in Chicago just in front of a major blizzard doing some business. We’re traveling with all of the C-people: CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, LMNOP. Frankly, these guys just don’t travel much. So it has been an interesting trip.

First off, the United experience (first of 2016) was outstanding. Upgrade? Check (first time in two years). Wifi? Check. Actual ceramic cup of tea? Check. Friendly crew? Check. Personal thank you with a look in the eye? Check. On time? Early even!

OK fine, it's business class, but this cup is REAL

OK fine, it’s business class, but this cup is REAL

United, you did well. Keep it up. That blue mood lighting in the 737-900 is outstanding!

Is it the C-level posse that caused that? LOL. More likely, it was the upcoming blizzard. Nobody with an “out” is traveling away from home today. But business calls, so here we are! Thanks mr. blizzard.

Back to our story. So just how does the other half live? Poorly, it turns out.

You see, there is the generic hotel situation. Westin North Shore? Not so much. This hotel has a nice lobby and a set of just awful hamster cage style rooms. You could spit and hit the interstate from here. We are in concierge level service. Well, at least I am (due to a bunch of starwood points?! go figure that). But no no no. This is not it.

Lets explore through pictures, shall we?

Welcome to hamster cage 1411 at the Westin

Welcome to hamster cage 1411 at the Westin

The bed pays homage to the TV

The bed pays homage to the TV

Enter the tiny bathroom

Enter the tiny bathroom

OH NO!  A plastic shower

OH NO! A plastic shower

Obesity bar. Shower curtain over tub.  Welcome to heck.

Obesity bar. Shower curtain over tub. Welcome to heck.

We pretty much do all we can to avoid this kind of experience on the road. But when in Rome, um, wear a toga? The other half puts up with this is what it is. Reality check.

The best part? The Westin (who BTW charges actual money for internet) defends their shower situation on social media. Fiesty!

We walked across the parking lot to dinner at Coopers Hawk Winery/Restaurant. They had cabernet! LOL. It was from “America” and we ordered the “lux” bottle. We believe it cost $29.95. The associated hardware for decanting was outstanding. Is it a winery really?? Skip it.

We pretended it was the CFO’s birthday.

On the positive side of this Westin, the restaurant Saranellos is very good. Delicious upscale Italian with a reasonable wine selection. Recommended.

Anyway, because of the hamster cage design, two tiny showerheads for the Westin. You guys have merged so much you are approaching the color of the universe—beige. We’re pretty sure the homeowners association would approve.

In the end, it turns out that the other half is more interested in getting some business done than in where they sleep.

The Yorktown Hotel was imposing when it was built in 1925

The Yorktown Hotel was imposing when it was built in 1925

Time Warps have their ups and downs. For example, 1925 would have been a hell of a year to visit a real speakeasy in York, PA (assuming they had some). Chances are the Yorketown Hotel was hopping. You can almost hear the din of the jazz and the flappers.

The hotel exists today in pretty much the same state as then. Elaborate. Panelled. Bedecked with chandeliers. But only ghosts of the high life remain.

The lobby

The lobby

There are some modern touches, like free reasonable wifi. But the downside to timewarps also applies. Room 814 is the best room in the house. Sadly, it exists in grandma style with grandma technology and grandma wallpaper. And the shower…it’s not glass. We expected that.

814 sitting room (the king suite)

814 sitting room (the king suite)

Flowery bedspread.

Flowery bedspread.

One of those bathrooms from the '50s.

One of those bathrooms from the ’50s.

A bonus kitchenette with an imposing garbage can.

A bonus kitchenette with an imposing garbage can.

So if you’re looking for high style, this is not the hotel for you. Or more properly, this is not the town for you. But if you wonder how much the world has changed since the cold war ended and what it used to look like before, this place is an interesting historical study.

Three showerheads for the Yorktowne, an aging dame well past its prime. Top notch for the absolute middle of nowhere.

Ding...going up.

Ding…going up.

I admit, we were bitchy yesterday here at NPS. And the Kimpton system, it listens. (So we’re learning that irritability pays off. But don’t tell anyone that.)

General Manager Ryan Kunzer made note of my dismay at 403 and arranged a room swap via email while I was delivering my early morning talk.

I am now in a gorgeous fireplace suite, room 325. A real log fire in a rainy day is just exactly what the doctor ordered. I skipped my lunch meeting and ordered in because it is so perfect.

This room is not only nicely appointed, it is not in the least hamster cage rectangular. But the real kicker is the fireplace. Ahhhh.

Somehow I am feeling less inclined to show up for my panel thais afternoon as well. Bad bad bad.

The bedroom is a minor detail.

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And the bathroom is nicely sized, but needs an upgraded shower. Ryan says that is in the plans. It would be nice to have a truly upscale hotel in Portland.

One way

One way

Or another.

Or another.

Anyway, thanks Ryan for rectifying the situation and calming me right on down. Kimpton karma.

A quick visit to Powell’s was in order. If you have never been and you like books, you’re missing something incredibly special.

Dinner at Clyde Common was truly outstanding again. Who would have guessed that chicken hearts could be prepared so well?! I had a broken bike again (great drink).

The Pépé do Moko speakeasy around the corner is a very nice place for a classic beverage or two. I had a great time playing with Heather and Danny. Thanks guys!

Very high four showerheads for the Riverplace. Time for some glass showers…and then, perfection.

Even when you fill a hotel with 300 people, things can go sideways in Marriott land. Met at the door by a persnickety doorman, I was refused luggage service when I arrived and asked to drive around to the loading dock. What?! Well, there was a bit of music equipment, but in the past it has all fit on 2 carts. No bending of the rules for mr door weeny.

Too much luggage for the front door?  Nah.

Too much luggage for the front door? Nah.

So, instead of a welcome I got to bake in the heat, sweat through the shirt I was going to wear in a video shoot an hour later, and work with (the very able and excellent) security people. Hey Westfields, your front entrance situation needs a reboot. (FWIW, after a chat with the manager, the checkout situation went much more smoothly.)

Still from the video shoot.  Had to change shirts due to checkin SNAFU.

Still from the video shoot. Had to change shirts due to checkin SNAFU.

But there is some good news. The Internet situation has been fixed. Free, more reasonable net. Which when you are running a conference full of geeks (like last year) is important.

And there is some bad news. The shower still sucks in suite 130. I mean really, get a new shower in here. The rest of the room is far better.

This is the bad shower in 130 at the Westfields Marriott.

This is the bad shower in 130 at the Westfields Marriott.

After a long day, including a video panel, a talk, and a music performance, it was nice to retire to some wine and cheese left by the event staff. Thanks for that! It was demolished before I thought to take its picture.

The stage ready for some Gently Let Down by Catherine.

The stage ready for some Gently Let Down by Catherine.

There was fruit and cheese here last night?!

There was fruit and cheese here last night?!

Thanks for the note and the wine.

Thanks for the note and the wine.

All in all, the Westfields Marriott is an even better place for a meeting than in past years. But the staff needs some training and suite 130 needs a new shower. They can make you an espresso in a pinch though, and they’re actually pretty good at it.

Morning at the Marriott.

Morning at the Marriott.

Three showerheads for the Westfields. Run a meeting here, but don’t come here for the sleeping rooms.

Salt Cay is certainly off the beaten path. In fact, one of the only pernicious issues with a visit is the air schedule. M/W/F is pretty much it on the awesome Caicos Express airlines (unless you charter a plane for yourself). So good luck when your rhythm is constrained by the Virginia school system! But all in all, we seek out off the beaten path. Sand, salt ponds, diving, population 60, golf carts, nothing at all to do—perfection.

The Caicos Express Cesna (superb pilots all)

The Caicos Express Cesna (superb pilots all)

Salt Cay: a speck from space

Salt Cay: a speck from space

Castaway is on the north beach up by the airport. Renting a buggy is recommended. Gary has the best deal (and he apparently plays a mean guitar too). Proprietors Haidee and Porter run a nice set of bungaloos.

Castaway from the beach

Castaway from the beach

Inside castaway

Inside castaway

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Sadly, though the shower is phenomenal for Salt Cay (running water, clean, nice), it has a plastic shower curtain. Uh oh! We’ll pretend that didn’t happen.

Plastic curtain?  Say it ain't so.

Plastic curtain? Say it ain’t so.

But besides island donkeys and goats…

Salt Cay donkey

Salt Cay donkey

Island goat

Island goat

there is this incredible Caribbean beach.

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Sunset from Castaway

Sunset from Castaway

Of course, we really came as much for the diving as for the nothing. Deb’s dive shop is not only the island entertainment system, it’s restaurant Coral Reef is also the social hub of the island. But the real gem is Richard, the dive master. Buddha calm under water.

Richard the dive master

Richard the dive master

Coral Reef at Salt Cay Dive Shop

Coral Reef at Salt Cay Dive Shop

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Breakwater cove

Breakwater cove

Prime dinner location

Prime dinner location

Sunset from the breakwater cove.

We had plenty of fun at Coral Reef. Google glass was a phenom (first set on the island). The people of Salt Cay are warm, fun, and a tight community.

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Porter’s bar is also a fun place to carouse. And Island Thyme Restaurant (thanks to Lolli) is the best restaurant on the island. Lolli is a very good cook indeed. If they only kept regular hours…

Of course there are only three restaurants on all of Salt Cay, the other being Pat’s place. We tried them all. Pat is a retired school teacher with great stories of the island.

Karaoke night at Island Thyme after dinner? We’ll never tell.

Apol sings Karaoke

Apol sings Karaoke

Porter’s secret rum punch recipe looks like this:
2 oz white rum
2 oz brown rum
1 oz coconut rum
splash of orange juice
splash of pineapple juice
2 t grenadine
float of Gosling’s family reserve

We tried to teach Porter some new drinks as we tend more toward interesting cocktails than quantity consumed. Will they stick? Lets hope so. There is a very good selection of ingredients available to work with.

Salt Cay is a great place to visit if you’re into roughing it and real Caribbean people. Want to do some nothing? Visit Salt Cay.

We leave you with this.

Salt Cay North Beach

Salt Cay North Beach

Not that long ago, all 300 of us piled into the Westfields Marriott for a technical meeting of the minds. I just came back to this Marriott property to run another conference—smaller but including executives from 38 different firms dispersed around the world.

I stayed in the same room (130 which is the Presidential Suite). Sadly, they did not get around to fixing the shower since my last visit. So this well-appointed marble palace of a room is marred with a plastic shower curtain. Add that to the fact that the shower has no water pressure at all—an insufficient dribble—and we have a problem Houston. Miserable. Here in noplasticshowers-land that sort of problem is a fatal flaw.

This shower is not good.

This shower is not good.

One of these things is not like the others.

One of these things is not like the others.

The rest of the room is probably decorated about the same way it was when Ronald Reagan stayed here in the ’80s. New paint? New carpets? That would be nice. (Contrast with this.)

Living room.  Nice place for an '80s party.

Living room. Nice place for an ’80s party.

Fireplace (fake variety).  On switch.

Fireplace (fake variety). On switch.

And then down the spiral stairs.

Spiral down.

Spiral down.

To the room where nobody wants to hang out. Even when the full bar is put down there and there are too many people upstairs.

Yuck

Yuck

Need music? No problem. Some massive, heavy, metal core speakers can be hooked up with a metal box, RCA adapters, and thick cables to your ipod. Time warp!

The bed is nice.

Bedroom

Bedroom

But Marriott still has very bad Net that costs money?! Authentication systems straight out of the early ’90s too. yay?

Desk with a view.

Desk with a view.

Bathroom art (in bathroom 1)

Bathroom art (in bathroom 1)

No shower here.

No shower here.

We had some fun times in 130. The rent-a-cop came to visit once but then went on his way when informed that it was only 11pm.

All in all the Westfields Marriott is a very good place to hold a meeting. Nice facilities, but very very dated technology. Creaky internet with really stupid authentication (why is net not free here?!). A/V equipment manufactured before advanced alloys. A default liquor and wine list that needs work. But the food is great, and the lobby is gorgeous. Can’t win ’em all I guess.

All in all a three showerhead (a one head demotion) for this place. Hey Marriott, fix your shower!