Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Travels - almost reached my limit

I love to travel, always have, but due to two professional meetings, an anniversary and a get-together I have stayed appx. 25 hotel nights in the past six weeks or so. Part of this was a trip to Charleston , S.C. (never been before) and Kiawah Island and I'll have a little report or seven from that. I also spent a few days in NYC separately without an overnight stay.

Things that I have learned from this trip or have had further reinforced by the trip:

1-The best hotels are several orders of magnitude better than very good hotels. Recent stays at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, CA and The Sanctuary in Kiawah have more than reinforced this. I don't tend to stay at the real top end all that often any more (and rarely at full fare because I'm a savvy traveler), but a variety of factors converged and I was fortunate to do so. The level of service is almost overwhelming at times, but the best service is unobtrusive and efficient.

2-I really do not like this current trend for pillow top mattresses that has gotten out of control. We have a small pillow top at home, but it is way less noticeable than on the top luxury beds. You sit way too high at the side of the bed, for one thing. You also feel like you are being swallowed up by a bin of laundry and it all sticks to you and gets hot and is a royal pain in the ass.

3-I hate to tip. The process of it, that is. Goddamn it all, I do not see a reason that I have to buy my way in and out of a hotel each time that I come and go. Places will hit you with up to five people to tip. Some are seemingly added just to add service. Tips don't get recorded and the US Government is denied well-needed tax money. Soon we'll have to fix the next-to-blow-up Health Care which will make the banks look like child's play. Health Care is a right, not a privilege. (Plus, no one ever tipped me for surgery. If not tipping your surgeon to do a good job, who?) I don't want to deny anyone a living, but pay your taxes, dammit.

4-I do not need someone to park my car, rental or personal, Mother PLEASE!, I'd rather do it myself! to recall an old commercial. This also adds to the stack of ones needed for number three.

5-More than ever, expensive food and expensive wine is providing exponentially diminished returns. However, I really do like to charge food and beverages to my room; I always round a bill + tip to an full dollar amount, it is easier to remember what you added so no one can fudge it after you've left. If you do want a fine meal, always seek out a Relais & Chateau property.

6-The second drink you order from the same bartender is always stronger. Period.

7-My wife likes Sidecars and I like the Ocean Course's Ryder Cup Cocktail. Both are real ass-kickers. Still, Gin & T is numero uno by far.

8-The Emperor likes a Negroni and so do I. Good Italian cocktail - a really good one.

9-The Ocean Course is probably the best course you can just pay and play in the U.S.A. Caddie included and they tell you to give the caddie $65 extra per bag, I like that "It's this much". I don't mind that and I highly encourage such transparency. No pecking order for the equals, either.

10-The Ryder Cup Bar is the best place at a public course in America for a post round drink (maybe private, too). St. Andrews Bay Fairmont is a similar place in Scotland on a high bluff with miles of views that are breathtaking. The Ryder Cup Bar is nestled up against the Ocean and the 18th green. And the servers are all topless and naturally endowed.

Back to the tipping thing, it really got old with all that traveling and when the hotel or resort added fees for service daily it was a pleasure just to carry the hotel card key in the pocket and nothing else. At golf resorts, I might now actually choose a place that adds to my daily bill a service charge. I am not cheap. I just do not like handling money. I don't do it. I always use a credit card for everything I can and sometimes $20 can last me a month, especially now that one medical center added charge card payment for hospital lunches, it's a piece of cake.

Our club advances us cash at the starters window for caddies and we just pay it at the end of the month. That's really great. No more trips to the ATM.

New York city is the worst, though. Everyone has his or her hand out. I go to NYC for a show my wife yearly and the hotel is always the Waldorf-Astoria. The most overrated hotel in the world, BTW. Crap beds, crap rooms, no views, no one can find the luggage and you pay for it three times in and three times out. The room is never ready checking in and storage adds up even more. The Bull & Bear does do a great steak, just ask the Emperor. I now always go to the W-A with "Silver Dollars" to tip, it drives them crazy. Some of the staff at the hotel is so privileged as to have flatly refused them, I just put them back in my pocket, spends the same as far as I can tell. I usually need two rolls per trip, it's worth it. Canada and the UK are great with their CAD$ and ₤ coins. Switzerland has a handy 5 Franc coin, too.

Stop me quick ...

Why am I supposed to tip $20-25 for a $100 bottle of wine on top of 300% markup? Should I leave an extra $20 for the guy that poured the water? You can do the Gooogley-thing for tipping and find these trumped up sites falsely populated by waiters who are pretending to be customers and are suggesting 30% on the food + wine + tip now. B.S. That'll fly in this economy.

The French have this one right - Servis Compris. S.C. on the bottom of the menu, and if you really liked the help leave a few € coins on the table. Pine Valley is no tipping allowed for the staff. Anything that the French and Pine Valley both do must be the correct thing to do.

Back to golf and travel now

I shall have something on the Ocean Course and the other courses at Kiawah Resort - save the Oak Point course by Clyde Johnson. In order of stimulation and quality:

Ocean (Dye) ***
Turtle Point (JWN)
Cougar Point (Player)
Osprey Point (Fazio)

p.s. I was joshing about the topless servers at the Ryder Cup Bar. We actually had a fellow ......

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