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We are still super pleased with the new, clean presence of the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Wilmington. Normally we would not be caught dead in one of these properties, but compared to the zero showerheads of the Hilton just down the street, this place is paradise.

The main reason to even stay in Wilmington is disappearing, so who knows whether we’ll be doing this every year in the future. The Dixie Grill beckons as always. And the town is hopping these days. In fact, Wilmington is walkable and nice and going places. It is also middle of the Bell curve bending down to scoop up the Walmart class. That’s OK. This is America.

Food with the dogs at George on the Riverwalk was not only accommodating, but also delicious. The dogs (especially Mowgli) were a smash hit. So many people stopped by to say hi and pat the dogs.

Sadly, a visit to Circa 1922 where they used to have a superior bar program run by Josh Giles reveals a mere shadow of its old glory. Still a nice bar, but nothing interesting on the mixology front.

Anyway, back to cage 604 at the Courtyard. The hamster cage itself is new, but it is still a hamster cage!

Clean, fresh and a bit small

Lots of light overwhelms the camera

Though the shower has a glass door (huge props), the encasement is pre-fab plastic. Still, it is very clean and a nice shower all around.

Yep

Like the rest of the room, the bathroom is ingeniously designed to seem big even though it is very small and very rectangular. Kind of like a boat. Without the water, the head, the V-birth, the sails, … . OK, not much like a boat.

We’re here for the Stick anyway. Two weeks to read, play music, drink cocktails and forget about the orange orangutang caligula.

A low three showerheads and much to be thankful for at the Courtyard in Wilmington. Will we be back??

Usually NPS has to slum it when we come through Wilmington, NC on the way to the beach. We have had a number of seriously awful experiences at the Hilton. Read for yourself here and here and here (there’s more if you like snark).

So the bar is set exceptionally low, and we’re happy to say the the brand new Courtyard by Marriott is much better even though it is still a hamster cage experience.

A stylish elevator hallway to wait in

A stylish elevator hallway to wait in

We had a SNAFU getting into our room that involved waiting for the front desk and engineering to figure out why a deadbolt was thrown in the room we are supposed to have. Anyway, we ended up in 424.

Instruments on carts

Instruments on carts

Accent wall in the hamster cage

Accent wall in the hamster cage

NIcely appointed bathroom

NIcely appointed bathroom

The shower is a glass pod! Yays.

Glass shower.  We repeat, glass shower!

Glass shower. We repeat, glass shower!

But of course all is not sweetness and light here at NPS. We do have to say that the view sucks.

This is not a view of the river

This is not a view of the river

Blogging chair.  Don't spread out!

Blogging chair. Don’t spread out!

Anyway, good on the Marriott for bringing the town up to a low three showerheads! Way more than zero (the Hilton’s last rating). Looks like we’re going back to circa 1922 for dinner.

The best part about Circa 1922 other than the food is the barman Josh Giles, a reformed architect who has become a master barman. John specializes in growing ingredients in his garden and incorporating them into his drinks. The C4 is a great example:
1 oz cucumber shrub (cucumber, lovage, chervil, salad burnett, white wine vinagar, rice vinagar)
1.25 oz hendricks gin
.5 green chartreuse
splash of st. germaine
.75 oz soda

Both the shrub and the drink are out of this world. Josh rotates the menu regularly and features a cocktail with local produce (like the C4). World class.

And tomorrow, the Stick!!

Sophie at the stick

Sophie at the stick

Well pickled okra anyway. In a martini. At circa 1922 which is a pretty good restaurant in Wilmington, NC, but nowhere near as good as they think they are. (The Dixie Grill is still the best thing in town.)

Okra martini (pickled) from Circa 1922

Okra martini (pickled) from Circa 1922

Okra beats this.

Rectangular building paying homage to parking lots and puddles.

Rectangular building paying homage to parking lots and puddles.

But you already knew how I felt about the Wilmington Hilton. Somebody build a real hotel down here!!

Preferably one without bathroom consoles like this.

Curvey.

Curvey.

One showerhead for Wilmington Hilton. Only stay here if you have to.

The epitome of plastic showers can be found at the Hilton, which, like still sucks still. Like Paris would never, like, stay here. Eeeeew. Grody. (All it has done since last year is age a year.)

Here’s what the stylish hall looks like. It has the ineffable Hilton smell. Maybe that’s the Paris scent?!

Room, er, I mean one room suite 416, has two tiny crappy beds and a couch that pays homage to the Almighty Television. Go TV. Paris prolly likes that.

Hide-a-bed from the '70s.  Comes with its own Hotwheels car.

Hide-a-bed from the ’70s. Comes with its own Hotwheels car.

One tiny crappy bed.

One tiny crappy bed.

But a spectacular view.

Nice roof.  And the parking structure is truly fantastic.

Nice roof. And the parking structure is truly fantastic.

Shower? Sucks.

Plastic shower.

Plastic shower.

But we do love Wilmington. Dinner at Caprice Bistro was very nicely put together. They even create some nice cocktails.

And tomorrow, the Dixie Grill will be perfect for breakfast.

Hilton? One showerhead. And maybe the bottom of the big chain barrel.

More slumming on the way to the beach. This seems to be an annual event. The Wilmington Hilton has not improved.

Purple light on the building? Nah. Flickering flourescent bulbs in the bathroom? Nah. Design sensibility? Nah.

Plastic showerland.

Obesity rod included, for free!

In Soviet Russia, corners round you.

Ah, round. Like, um, before we were born.

Peter Roth. Poor guy.

Two shower heads for this place. Don’t stay here unless there are no alternatives. Damn, there are no alternatives.

Better news from Wilmington, which is not a bad town. Caffe Phoenix is a nice place to dine, with a sensible but unsurprising menu and an attempt at real mixological creativity. Joel Finsel has left the building, but slight echoes remain.

Summer Jewel
1.5 oz gin (plymouth would be best)
1 oz green Chartreuse
juice from 1/2 orange
simple syrup (not much)

South Manhattan
2 oz Rye
1 basil leaf
Tablespoon honey
Splash of sweet vermouth
(this one needs to be improved with some interesting bitters)

And there is always the Dixie Grill where breakfast will be served this morning. All Wilmington needs now is a boutique hotel.

A belated entry about our trip down to the beach. Just like last year we are slumming it. There just aren’t any boutiques on the i-95 beach bound corridor yet I guess. This year we hoofed it all the way to Wilmington, NC, a quaint little town that has really improved over the last decade. Make sure to stop by the Dixie Grill for breakfast!

If the way down was any indication, we were in for some plastic showers indeed! A last minute car switch up led to a tire explosion on I-95 and a trip to the tire store during vacation.

Blowout on I-95 means spare tires on the mosquito.

Anyway, we made it to Wilmington 90 minutes later than planned for a late slice of pizza. Our executive suite looks like this. Perhaps they meant smurf executives.

Youch. Those purple lights may look cool on the outside of the building, but just try stopping them from leaking in your room.

Bed. 2 of these. Good thing we were wiped out.

And the all important bathroom. Sadly, plastic showers, but better than last year by a long shot!

Hilton bathroom design #42.

You guessed it...plastic and even a bendy shower rod. No instructions though.

At hilton, they want to make sure you don’t take their hangers home.

Right, so way close to the beach house = great deal! Breakfast at the Dixie Grill? Also great deal. Wilmington time? Not so bad. Hilton? Three showerheads. Sneak your puppy in through the side entrance as necessary.

We always slum it on the way to the beach every year so we can get to the Stick as early as possible Saturday morning. ┬áThis year’s slum is the number 23,675 Courtyard by Marriott in Wilmington, NC. Too bad the really bad river Hilton was sold out.

Wilmington is a cute little university town on the ocean with budding culture. The restaurant turnover is rapid and relentless. Sometimes an OK restaurant lasts 2 or 3 years. Make sure to go to the Dixie Grill for breakfast, though. That’s a classic.

Without further ado, some pictures direct from plastic shower land.

Classic obesity-rod plastic shower with a bonus feature. The plastic slabs have artificial smudge marks in them meant to simulate marble. My companion noticed the marks first thing and said “Do we need to get somebody to clean this shower? It looks like a steel worker showered in here.” Nope, those black smudges are intentional! Took me a while to figure that out too. Here’s a poor picture.

Really. There were these weird smudges. Really.

The Marriott chain continues with their bottom of the barrel one shower head rating. But who cares. Tomorrow it’s the beach!