(Unintentional) Hotel Crashing: Hotel Palomar (Arlington)

Thanks to Hurricane Irene and Dominion Power, we spent two nights at this fine hotel located in the bustling metropolis of Arlington, Virginia. (At least we still have a home. Sorry 80s heart-throb, Sebastian Bach. If it’s any consolation, I loved you on the Gilmore Girls.)

“I’m pouting cuz my house got washed away.”

Anywho, the location of Hotel Palomar is great…it’s very convenient to the Rosslyn metro station, which was pretty handy since I had to carry a roll-on suitcase to work on Monday.

Hotel Palomar is a typical Kimpton hotel – hip, young, boutique-y, with lots of attention to design detail. It has the evening wine reception between 5 pm and 6 pm, it has the complimentary coffee and tea in the mornings.

We’ve actually been to this particular Palomar before, for drinks and dinner at their Italian restaurant, Domaso. And, we’ve even stayed at a different Palomar (also a Kimpton) in DC itself.

We didn’t eat at Domaso on this occasion (there’s a pool bar nearby with awesome fried pickles, so….yeah, that won out), but we did have drinks in the dimly lit bar area – a negroni for me and a cosmo for my life partner, XFE. Word to the wise – do not be tempted to sit on the outdoor patio for drinks. It’s between two large office buildings and is a total wind tunnel. No incidences this time, but last time I tried to have a drink there, champagne flutes flew—and shattered–everywhere.

The building itself is kinda weird. It’s a shared building, with other offices and even condominiums. When you enter the front door, you have to go up the elevators to the registration desk on the fourth floor. Then, you walk to another bank of elevators to go to the floors with the rooms. And don’t even get me started on the weird maze you had to go through to get to and from the garage to the hotel – more elevators and stairs (up and down for some reason).

The rooms are Kimpton standard. We had King Deluxe rooms and stayed in two: 621 and 712. They were pretty much the same, with modern furnishings and art, warm dark wood furniture, and pops of orange for color. The bed and pillows were luxurious, the Frette sheets divine, leopard print robe – leopard-y. The room windows were very large and both nights our rooms overlooked the Potomac, Key Street Bridge, and the National Cathedral, which was nice. We’re part of their loyalty program so we had free Wi-Fi, and no issues with connecting.

Hotel Palomar in Arlington, VA

The toiletries were Essential Elements, I think, and were refillable units attached to the shower wall. They did have hand soap and lotion in small, take-away containers, but the days of loading up on travel Aveda products are long gone at most Kimptons. That’s ok. We still have tons of products from the old days.

Hotel Palomar in Arlington, VA

I used the gym both days and this was where this particular Palomar really shined. Usually, hotel gyms are pretty dismal. They’re really an afterthought. Or they’re just a big open room, which is weird. But this gym was gorgeous! It totally had a spa-like feel to it, which makes sense since this gym is also used for the condominiums. There were lots of machines, although I had problems with the treadmill tvs both days – the first day, I couldn’t figure out how to turn it on (there was an extra step listed on the instructions involving an input button that did not exist). The second day, the treadmill TV display kept breaking up and digitizing all weird. Yeah, I know that doesn’t make sense. Also, on the first day, my treadmill pause/stop button only stopped the machine. So no pausing or walk breaks for me! The second day, I didn’t even try to pause and just ran the entire time. Both of my treadmills had fans, which were very necessary.

There were plenty of gym towels and a water cooler, although they were out of cups my first morning. There was also a nice place set off to the side a bit for stretching. It really was a well-designed little gym and you never felt crowded or awkward. Not really sure how they did it, since there were so many pieces of equipment in there. I wish I had taken a picture, because the picture they have on their website isn’t it.

All in all, a very nice place to stay. Too bad our electric is back on and we were able to return home. I didn’t really mind playing Eloise and living in a hotel. Princess Petunia, however, was not pleased by our extended absence and has been giving me the cold kitty shoulder.


Hurricane Snooze, Says the Girl with No Electricity

It should have been called Hurricane Boring. Or, Hurricane Eat and Drink Too Much.

Either way, I wasn’t too impressed with Hurricane Irene. At least, at first. But like a certain snooty cat who twirls around your ankles, only to move away when you try to pet her, Irene had the last laugh. A long, annoying hyena laugh.

"We're all gonna die!!!"

Let me just start by saying I’m very glad that the whole thing was so underwhelming. It’s not like I wanted death and destruction and looting in the streets of genteel Old Town (I totally would have hit up a few boutiques myself, if that had been the case. What can I say? I’m a lemming.) 

But as with the “earthquake” last week, I’m a bit underwhelmed. To hear everyone talking, Mother Nature was about to take a colossal dump on us. All over DC there was a mad dash to get supplies, a clearing out of store shelves by Friday night, and (at least within our house) talk of buying generators. All tweets and Weather Channel hysteria pointed to impending doom and the need for an Ark.

Here’s how we spent the weekend. On Friday, my emergency-disaster-preparation-partner XFE ran all over town like a crazy person procuring supplies. For us, this included brisket (trip to the butcher), liquor, lots and lots of non-perishable snack items, and flashlights. Somehow, even though we’re two grown adults, we don’t have flashlights. Obviously, this last fact required trips to several stores, until XFE tracked down the probably last two flashlights in the greater DC area at a sporting goods store. Good. We were all set.

"There are no flashlights to be found!!!! We're all gonna die!!"

On Saturday morning, we looked out the window and saw a slightly overcast sky. We made a last minute dash to Trader Joe’s for champagne and yet more tortilla chips. We were quite worried we’d run out of tortilla chips, a national disaster in the making. Then we went to Chipotle for our last meal. And other people’s tortilla chips.

XFE put the brisket on the smoker, I did laundry, and we eventually assumed our positions on our designated couches and waited for the worst. It finally started to rain and it kept raining, but it was like any other storm, really. The brisket kept cooking. XFE made trips out to the patio to check the brisket. Returning from one of those status checks, he reported that the shed out back was starting to get some water in it.

Now, this shed is a pretty important and large structure. It’s not really a shed as much as a second little house. It’s fairly large, has electricity and windows, and would make a lovely office if it had air conditioning and heat. As it is, we store all of our multiple pieces of luggage, my winter wardrobe, two barbecue grills, various tools, ladders, and most importantly, our wine fridge out there. Everything is up off the ground via shelves, pallets and wood beams, but only about an inch and a half, and well, we were expecting big things from Irene.

We quickly assembled some cat litter sand bags to put under the door. Yes. You read that right. Cat litter. Don’t laugh – although I certainly did when XFE first suggested it. Those sandbags totally worked. Even after hours and hours and hours of boring, steady rain.

Pleased with our inventiveness, we settled back on the couches. And continued the slow, long slog through the afternoon. Seriously, the ever-so-slight, possible-wine-fridge-disaster was the highlight. It just continued to rain, and we continued to be bored.

I’m not sure exactly what we would have been doing instead, but being housebound made the whole thing just extra boring. I mean, we’d already run all of our errands by Friday, basically, so that was already taken care of. I guess we would have washed the car, but that doesn’t take all day. It’s not like we had a list of things to do. But for some reason, just not being able to go outside made us both very antsy.

"I'm so bored cuz everything's closed!! I'm gonna die!!!"

We were so bored we even watched a couple of terrible movies on cable, including “Unstoppable” with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. And the very bad “Going the Distance” with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. We spent some time debating whether they were dating or not during the filming. I don’t think they were, but maybe they hooked up again during the filming. I’m not sure. Their whole timeline is confusing to me.

Then, things got rull interesting. At around 11 pm, the power went out. For no discernible reason. Nothing had struck the pole or transformer, as far as we could see, no lines were down. Houses a half a block away seemed to have power, but we, and a few of our neighbors, did not.

We called and reported the outage and went to bed. The rain continued all night long, along with some pretty high winds, but our bored selves slept like babies.

On Sunday morning, we looked out the window expecting total carnage. And, I guess, for the trees in the neighborhood, it was. Every leaf on every tree was now in the street. But that was it.

We hopped in the car to go buy emergency ice (same as regular ice, but used in emergencies) and tried to look for damage. We did see one car that had a tree on it, but that was about it in Old Town. Everyone appeared to have electricity except for us (and a few other neighbors).

Once back home, we settled in for more boredom, fully expecting the electricity to kick on at any minute. After all, there wasn’t a lot of damage in our area, so they should be right out, right? Right?

One of our neighbors stopped by mid-day and we compared notes. No, we don’t have any power. Yes, we reported it. Yeah, it shouldn’t be too long till it’s restored. Yes, it’s weird that only our five houses appear to be affected.

By 1:30 pm it was gorgeous outside, so we mobilized Operation Get Out of the House and went and played tennis. We came home (still no electric) and took cold showers (thanks electric water heater!). Finally, we made an escape plan: thanks to Twitter and Kimpton Hotels, we booked an “Irene special” and proceeded to eat what we could out of the fridge. Including lots of cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.

"We gotta get outta here or we're gonna die!!!!"

By 5 pm, we were enjoying the nice wine happy hour at the Hotel Palomar and I began Twitter bombing Dominion Power. To no avail. We still have no electricity.

So now I’m annoyed with Irene AND Dominion Power. Word on the street is we’ll have power by Wednesday. Which is just so patently ridiculous I’m rolling my eyes.

Anyone else less-than-impressed with the annoying, moody teenager known as Hurricane Irene? However did you survive the “storm of the century?”

Hotel Crashing: Kimpton’s Ink48

The first night I was in New York last weekend, I stayed with my lovely friend Emilia in her super cool and industrial loft in Williamsburg and hung out with the hipsters, drinking rose at the Brooklyn Winery and listening to some kind of blues-jazz mashup that might have even been “gypsy jazz.” The band was jammed into a tiny corner and featured a guy with a gravelly voice lamenting some lost loves and whatnot. There may have been a beret involved. And a porkpie hat on the standup bass player.

Brooklyn Winery (from the website)

The whole evening had a very Parisian cinematic feel, but that’s what you get when you’re hanging out in hipster-ville. It was about a million degrees so everything had that hazy, slow-down-and-just-give-in-to-the-heat look and feel. You start to focus intensely on that little droplet of sweat streaking its way down your back, despite the fact that the cab driver has the air conditioner going full blast and the whole front of you is freezing. You look out the window and see the glare of the streetlights shining down through the hot black night onto spraying fire hydrants and kids jumping through the reflective water. Folks hanging out on their stoops because it’s just too hot to stay inside when there’s no breeze moving the still, humid air.

The next night, however, we found a way to beat the heat….the rooftop at Ink48. Now, I’m always a sucker for a hotel bar, but I’m usually into the small, dark, desperate ones tucked away in the side of the lobby, where women slightly past their prime and rumpled out-of-town businessmen inch slowly toward each other in an intricately choreographed getting-to-know-you dance across several stools, their hands meeting over a bowl of mini-pretzels and wasabi peanuts.

A rooftop bar just seemed too bright, too open for the type of drinking I like to do. A rooftop bar is a place to see and be seen, not a place to spy on other people who may or may not be cheating on their spouses.

However, the rooftop bar at Ink48 was exceptional. Mostly because it had the most fantastic views of the city and river.

Hotel Ink48 New York
Me and Emilia on the rooftop. No wasabi peanuts.

The whole hotel was awesome. I will say, it’s in a bit of a weird location at 48th Street and 11th Ave. (Midtown West), which is walking distance from Broadway and the theaters. But it’s not a short walk, and the hotel itself is surrounded by auto dealerships and other warehouse-type buildings. It’s very close to the piers and the museum ship, the Intrepid and the Javits Convention Center, so it’s a great location for that purpose, but not really in the heart of the city so to speak. And I actually think that might work to their advantage since it’s a bit off the beaten path, the rooftop bar is probably a lot easier to get into most nights.

BUT, it was a gorgeous, boutique hotel. We had a really nicely decorated room with plenty of space (a rarity in NY hotels), light-up bedside tables, and contemporary floral artwork above the bed. We also had a great view of the river. Emilia and I also ate at their restaurant, Print, and had yummy oysters, a meh gnocchi dish, and a freaking awesome gazpacho that I want to try to replicate (it had watermelon in it – ahhhhmazing).

Room at Hotel Ink48 New York

Bathroom at Hotel Ink48 New York

The only thing that would make Ink48 even better was if they had a pool on that rooftop. They had lounging chairs and a small rectangular water feature, but no pool.

Rooftop at Hotel Ink48 New York

XFE and I are big fans of the Kimpton chain, and the last time we were in New York, we stayed at the Muse, which is right in Times Square. That particular Kimpton was a bit more run down, so we’ll definitely book at Ink48 next time we’re in town.

Hotel Ink48 New York