Hotel Indigo No Go

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Three Hotels. Three Countries. Thirty Days.

I have been extra on-the-go. Here are three hotel reviews across North America.

Hotel Le Dauphin Montreal

The booming downtown Montreal

The Hotel Dauphin could not be closer to the convention center. It’s a perfect location for a business trip if that is your destination. But the Dauphin had none of a prince’s charm, and came off as more of a pauper.

It is one of these minimalist, modern hotels with a sparsely furnished lobby, lots of steel and cold surfaces, with a front desk staffed by casually dressed young people who serve as both reception and concierge. Well, they will hand you a sheet with local restaurants if you ask.

Our double queen room was spacious.  But there was very little charm or warmth.  Blonde wood, a big iMac, a flatscreen TV, and a couple of kind of depressing posters on the wall. The lighting consisted of four blaring sconces. It is all or nothing with the lights. They are activated by the room key, good for those who are green at heart, but bad for nuance and ambiance. This place is clean and new; it just lacks soul.

Thermostat and sconce decor

And then there was the construction project as the featured view from our 6th floor window. We saw the workers coming and going and we could almost see what they were having for lunch.  And we heard them from morning to night. I recently attended a management training session in New York City, and because the class was subjected to the sound of a jack hammer all day, I received $1,000 off the next training. I wonder if The Dauphin might also offer a noise rebate? But wait, the website did describe the hotel as "in the heart of a booming downtown Montreal."

Killer coffee, the best part
But man, the gigantic breakfast room made up for a lot. Coffee service is the way to my heart. A super-sized espresso machine spits out any kind of coffee you like. And this is not just good coffee, this is great coffee. Serious coffee, like Europe. And the food was continental Montreal’s famous bagels, sweet little chocolate croissants. yogurt, fruit, inexplicably a crockpot full of beans. We are always looking for ways to stay warm in Montreal.

Pendry San Diego

Pendry king, two places to crash
Man, I loved the Pendry, I had never heard of it, but I loved it. Quite the opposite of the Dauphin, this place had tons of style and charm. From the pink and black plaid room keys to the turn-down service with two macarons on the pillow, and the Beach Boys on the stereo.

It’s huge but feels intimate, it spans a city block,  5th  and  6th and J. It is four blocks from the Convention Center, in the heart of the Gaslamp District.

Wallpaper-hares, surfers and birds
The wallpaper is pretty, the room had a glass encased shower facing the room with wraparound curtains, everything was soothing, the nice fainting couch in the window, the cool desk chair. The bathroom with marble countertop, the high quality “products."

I can see for miles and miles
We ate dinner at Lionfish, also part of the hotel, recommended by a local who says it is one of the best restaurants in SD.  I had the Salmon Creek Pork Chop, which they kindly offered to slice for me like a child; my companion had a Specialty Roll called Bezerk—shrimp tempura, avocado, OOBA, salmon belly, brown butter aioli, citrus, Negi, and sweet soy. And a side order of Brussels and Squash in a malt lime vinaigrette with goat cheese. 

Pendry home office. Football starts in the morning in CA!
Another hotel restaurant was Provisional where we ate breakfast outside in the perfect 70-degree weather.  On the flight to San Diego the pilot said "the weather in San Diego is clear and 70 degrees, what else is new?" Fresh-squeezed OJ, avocado toast with poached eggs with Sriracha, and
copper salt and pepper shakers.

Avocado toast al fresco

Flaw. No coffee maker in the room. Please, I am begging you West Coast hotels, do not do this to your East Coast customers. You know that we are up at 5 a.m. On this trip, daylight savings had just begun so we were up at 4 a.m. They told me coffee service in the lobby started at 5:30 a.m. I called at 5 a.m. with desperation in my voice and and they assured me it was ready now.  Good save, but not enough. Fix this black mark with black coffee.
... a Maiden Moscow Mule

..with sunset on the pool deck

Montage Los Cabos, Mexico

A Margo and Judy Joynt

Quarter century plants

I had never been to Cabo, it is Tucson-like, desert dry with cactus-y vegetation, but right next to a body of water, in this case Santa Maria Bay.  Judy has been there several times and told me what's different about The Montage is that it has a private beach. Most resorts there are on the rocks, so to speak.

The Montage Los Cabos, an exclusive luxury hotel with properties in Beverly Hills, Maui, and Deer Valley,  is brand new. It just opened in May. You can see the newness in the vegetation—some of these century plants will take a century to grow. There are hair dryers that have never been used. Beds unslept in. Walkways unwalked.

View for days
And we had it all to ourselves. We like traveling during the shoulder season. But this shoulder was bare. As a result, the staff-to-guest ratio was incredible, one person would walk you from the pool to the stairs to the beach, where another person would walk you to the beach, while another went running for your umbrella and chair, and another fetched a bucket of iced cold water.

When you order pulpo, you get pulpo

What was not to like? This was a drop-out, unwind, refresh, restore vacation like no other. We went there to talk and read and rest and eat, and pamper. Check, check, check, check.

Plus, it was my birthday and Judy alerted the staff, so that I was greeted by the hotel manager, offered Mescal at every turn, provided with cake and balloons in the room, and given birthday gifts in the spa.

The spa

Speaking of the spa, Spa Montage Los Cabos is a palatial heaven unto itself, 40,000 square feet, it goes on and on, delving you deeper and deeper into serenity. I had the best facial ever, in a room that would cost a fortune to rent in Brooklyn.  Everything was deluxe, the automated chair, the 100% attention for more than an hour by the aesthetician. None of this American-style turning on a steamer, leaving you alone in the room, slapping a mask on and leaving the room. She was all there for me.  I even liked the spa music, a sign of ultimate submission.

The beach

Our room had an oceanfront view, a balcony, a Nestle coffee maker with black pods and an indoor/outdoor shower. The bed was so amazing that I wanted to buy it and ship it home. The food was terrific, bowls of berries overflowed at breakfast, the chips and guacamole sang, my birthday dinner featured sea bass with Veracruzano salsa, an avocado-shaped butter dish, and three scoops of ice cream for dessert.

All of this cost a pretty peso, it was “spendy,” as a friend says. But, hey, yo soy worth it.

Two kinds of butter, extra salt

Upside down birthday cake

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Bar Harbor Bar None

Photos by H. Darr Beiser


I recently postulated that I would be entirely happy if I had an oceanfront house. I tested this theory for a week in Bar Harbor, Maine, and my hypothesis is correct. I was happy every day and every minute. I had a view of the ocean from my bedroom, my living room, and even my bathroom. And it was heaven.


In Maine the whole state screams at you to calm the f down. Except it says cam. You will be broken in by the slow movements of the service community, the tendency toward chattiness at the rental car counter, the lackadaisical way businesses answer the phone, if at all. 


Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park turned out to be the have-it-all vacation that I was hoping for. The mountain lovers got mountains, the ocean lovers got ocean, the active got activity, and everyone got all the lobster they could eat.

Atop Mt. Champlain


I'm not a hiker per se, but I guess I am one now. I studied the trails and hikes in advance to rule out anything that said “vertical exposure” or “iron rungs."  We started with Mount Champlain,  "a fairly strenuous day hike" and I did it. It was good cardio and I got a feeling of accomplishment and I received many hands by the boys, both of help and fist bumps. Every hike has a built in reward of ocean view at the top.

Jordan Pond from the Bubbles

The Bubbles at Jordan Pond, I thought, what the hell they are only nice round Bubbles, I can do this. Well the south face of South Bubble was challenging even by my son’s standards. There was a narrow crevasse to shimmy through, there was steep hiking, and scrambling. And then, at one point, I saw the dreaded Iron Lung. That’s what I am calling them. And then onto North Bubble, piece of cake after South. But the biggest Bubble Trouble was coming down on slippery rocks. I fell without incident a couple of times, but then I almost had a 127 Hours moment when my hiking boot got caught between two rocks. I didn’t have to cut my foot off, but almost.

Bubble Up

We rewarded ourselves Post Bubble with a stop at The Jordan Pond House, for the famous airheaded popovers. Our waiter was Ziggy from Vilnius, Lithuania. When he asked us for our order, Peter said “I will have as many popovers as mountains I climbed today…two.” Ziggy asked what mountains Peter had climbed and he said "The Bubbles." We are all quite certain that Ziggy acted unimpressed. I think it could have been a simple case of Bein’ European, but the others insisted that Ziggy didn't think the Bubbles warranted two popovers.



From the airport I googled Lobster Rolls Around Me and found McLaughlin's within half a mile. It was a classic roadside stand with a classic Mainer with no teeth and rings on every finger talking about his classic 1972 Oldsmobile, which he peeled out in. We bought lobsters to cook at home three times at the charming Parson's Lobsters and Seafood Shop. Big fat lobsters fresh as babies. We got our wild Maine blueberry pies there. Because we are a family of lily-gilders we would often go out to Mt. Desert Island Ice CreamWe stocked the house with ice cream and Reddi Wip. One morning Franky came sliding into the living room in his socks, Tom Cruise style, spraying Reddi Wip into his mouth. We ate at Galyn's (solid), Jordan's Restaurant (breakfast) Testa’s (best pie) and Havana where Obama dined and put on the tiny map. It was a little fancy-pants but the paella was top-notch.


Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

First light in the US

This free event is sponsored daily by, I don't know who...some one, some thing in nature? People arrive up to an hour before dawn. They bring blankets and grab a rock, and then they sit silently and watch the magic happen. Something like Druids observing an ancient ritual, with selfie sticks.



“But the water in Maine, why would you go there, it’s too cold to go in.” I've heard this for years and I always say ‘Not for me, I grew up on it,” and indeed I had very early exposure in Old Orchard Beach, and like grasping a new language as a child, I retained this ability. And I gave the gene to my boys. I led the plunge into the ocean and the boys joined in and stayed in. So proud.  Acadia has a tiny but breathtaking sliver of ocean access called Sand Beach. 

Bracing and refreshing!

Rainy Day in Bar Harbor

We went to the Independent Café and had fancy coffees and read books; we stopped by Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegars and dipped bread bites into various flavors. We ate at the merry Side Street Café where Franky ordered a lobster roll that contained the meat of two lobsters. We drove to a bowling alley in Ellsworth, Maine, to enjoy a few frames of candlepin bowling at one of the worst dives I have ever seen.

Sand Beach in the rain

Other Fun Stuff

Improv Acadia has a very talented troupe that provides lots of hilarity. When they asked the audience for a song lyric, Franky piped up with “Cadillac, ack, ack, ack, ack, ack.”  One actor said "How many acks is that, again?  The other actor responded “You ought to know by now.” We did the obligatory beach house jigsaw puzzle. We went to Yoga for Runners. We shopped at Cadillac Mountain Sports. We took a harbor cruise.You can rent bikes, kayaks, an scooters at Acadia Outfitters, you can rent a Colonial Dame to give you a historical tour. You can rent a mountain climbing expert.

Schooner cruise

Le Piece de Resistance 

One night we went stargazing on our zero-light pollution rocky beach and Peter spotted a meteor. It was so big we could see that it was orange and green, it lasted so long we all started to scream at it. Darr broke into “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”

Yup, in addition to an exquisite vacation we had a little outer space action.  That’s something the four of us will share the rest of our lives. I’ve decided to call it The Pete-eor.

The beach where we made the sighting

Sunset on Bar Island

Born-again hiker