Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Daytrip To Washed Ashore Art

Amazing & disturbing. This
piece (jelly fish) was created entirely from plastic bottles found in the ocean. Very scary!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Southwest Oregon

D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 2:21 PM on Mon, Aug 19, 2013: Daytrip In Southwest Oregon - Big Sur has nothing on this place! http://t.co/TEgVKNed1Z (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/369569873216548864) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download

A Porch In A Wood

D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 6:56 AM on Mon, Aug 19, 2013: A Porch In A Wood - Perfect for seeing early sun through the tall trees. Natute as God intended. http://t.co/qT62wN9rff (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/369457877263450112) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Port Orford & The Pacific

D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 0:27 PM on Sun, Aug 18, 2013: Port Orford Indeed-Sun's out/Wind's Up/Temps in high 60's-God's Country West. (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/369178720176578561) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download

Studio In The Trees

D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 8:04 AM on Sun, Aug 18, 2013: Studio In The Trees -First AIRBNB for TNA-Perfect in every way & Margot is perfect hostess. Eugene, OR last night, today Wild Springs. (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/369112576476467200) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Phoenix Layover - Cool Airport

D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 7:01 PM on Sat, Aug 17, 2013: Phoenix Layover-Atlanta Airport a memory-Phoenix Airport is to Atlanta as fresh fruit is to a rotten apple-Clean as a pin & no attitude! (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/368794845873065984) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download


D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 7:55 AM on Sat, Aug 17, 2013: Stress- It's Atlanta International - Gateway to Beelzebub's Living Room & breakfast at Atlanta Bread- Somebody save me! (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/368702566340644864) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download

Friday, August 16, 2013

Packing Done

D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 9:57 AM on Fri, Aug 16, 2013: Packing Done - Murphy's Law for Nomads-You pack the same stuff for 4 days in the states as 4 weeks in Europe-Prepared for all adventures! (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/368370995503308800) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download


We're Going Where There Aint' No Heat
That's right, while friends and family endure the insufferable heat in God's Country, we are headed to the beautiful COOL state of Oregon. Temps will be in the high 60's. Perfect for over heated Floridians like my bride (Susie) and me. And what better reason or place to celebrate forty years of the good, the better & the best - Lance & Lauren, two  Nomads who also happen to be utterly gorgeous, brilliant and witty kids. As for me, I've been good and bad - mostly bad. She, on the other hand, is the embodiment of perfection on every count. She totally gets me, everybody - and I do mean everybody - that knows her loves her, she is still hot and I still get nervous when she comes into the room! 

So we are headed to a place that bills itself as one of the most romantic enclaves in the Great Northwest. In addition, it sounds utterly zen like in every aspect of its architecture and location amongst a stand of 100 foot trees and numerous outdoor sculptures. It's also eco-friendly to the max. They claim they only had to remove two trees when building the five Craftsman cabins for Wild Springs Guest Habitat in this little patch of Oregon Woods on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. A brief description from their web site:

On five acres of old Native American grounds, WildSpring offers a naturally beautiful, parklike environment where nature is encouraged to express itself with little artifice. On a bluff overlooking the ocean, we're located among a secluded second-growth forest of 100-ft trees in a quiet residential area in the south end of Port Orford.
Can you dig it? Of course every new place is an adventure and we won't know if it lives up to its billing and the rave reviews until we get there. If I have done my job, my high expectations will be met and then some. I found this promising Nomad Architect Place To Sleep on one of the best web sites for high design and unique places for Aesthetic Vagabonds - Boutique Homes.
Since I am forbidden to carry a laptop when we travel (outstanding rule by the way), I will be tweeting random thoughts about our trip and this unique part of America. If you want to follow my urbane, witty comments, just click on the Twitter link at the top of the right column. Here is a nice video tune by   My Morning Jacket  that captures the essence, at least in my mind, of this little place in the woods we will be for a few very cool  days.

See You Soon

D.L. Stafford

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Nomad's Lament

D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 9:52 PM on Thu, Aug 15, 2013: The Nomad's Lament - Too Much Stuff  (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/368188547779424256) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download


The Night Before

D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 8:46 PM on Thu, Aug 15, 2013: The Night Before-I look at the lists & hope its all there. Decisions on paraphernalia. Cups-Water pot-unbreakable wine glasses-New hat-Yes!! (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/368171808501280768) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download


D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 8:14 AM on Thu, Aug 15, 2013: Packing - What to take? Cold, hot, no matter. 2 bags with zippers. Your life. Your world for a time out. What to take? Too much stuff. (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/367982706854203392) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting To Pack

D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 9:13 PM on Wed, Aug 14, 2013: Waiting To Pack - Can't pack tonight - too soon. Where we wil be a Gibbous Moon. It seems darker here, except for this stupid laptop (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/367816321565601792) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download


D.L. Stafford (@nomad_ARCHITECT) tweeted at 8:13 AM on Wed, Aug 14, 2013: Anticipation- Of a far place that will open another door. The ocean, the trees, the architecture, the art. Can I wait? No choice. (https://twitter.com/nomad_ARCHITECT/status/367619940079370240) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download

Sunday, August 11, 2013

DC & The Carlyle - It's Not The Ritz But It'll DO

In Travel As In Life, It's All About The Money
If you have followed this blog at all, you know that one of its goals is the discovery of small, boutique hotels that offer great design, great service and great locales. I always say - NOTHING IS TOO GOOD FOR MY PEOPLE. That's why I spend countless hours searching for that perfect combination of architecture and price. As a result, I very rarely stay in places that do not impress. Unlike across the pond, finding quality, reasonably priced small hotels in the good ole USA is a daunting challenge. The Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur will set you back only $675 to $1,400 for one romantic night near or on the Pacific. Or you could go down the road one mile and check into the Ventanna Inn and Spa for the paltry AARP Rate of $810 a night. And for the somewhat frugal, head up Highway One about four miles to Glen Oaks Big Sur, a repurposed,  fifties roadhouse for a sweet $295 a night. Still pretty expensive, but it is Big Sur. Finding a small, cutting edge twenty room repurposed monastery on a lake, a newly renovated farm house in the middle of a small vineyard or a minimalist designed urban enclave in the big city,  at a decent price in the Land of The Free, is akin to searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
When I started our search for hotels in Washington, it became very apparent that DC is a ridiculously expensive place to sleep. And after a few days in the nation's capital, I place our nation's capital near the top of the list of places to blow a lot of money, just below London, which is numero uno. In the classic Guy Ritchie film,  Snatch,  Avi (Dennis Farina's character), when asked by customs - "Do you have anything to declare?" replies "Yeah - Don't go to England". Classic! Now don't get me wrong, England is an amazing country and London is an amazing city, but do not go to England expecting to leave with any money in your wallet or any room left on your American Express credit line. Ditto DC!
A Great Little Place That Could Be The Real Deal One Day
The GoodThe Carlyle Suites Hotel has all the attributes of a quality hotel. It only has 170 rooms. Not small but small enough to qualify as a "boutique" property. It is very well designed, even if it is somewhat cliched with the whole art deco thing. The literal "stylising" is a little tedious.  The lobby is very cordial and nicely scaled for a small hotel. Our room had a very comfortable bed, a nice large shower and comfortable furniture. In addition, the room was quite large with a small kitchenette. Of course, as I stated in my last post, we were upgraded to a larger room, so my guess is the smaller rooms are adequate. One space that impressed was the translucent roofed breakfast room. Very airy and very intimate. And the food  was excellent. Finally, the room rate was very attractive by DC standards - $120 to $170 depending on your choice of room and when you stay.
The hotel could not have been in a better location. Seamlessly located on a side street just off famous  DuPont Circle, it was within easy walking distance of scores of great restaurants and shops. You felt very much a part of the local scene, not ensconced in some large, over decorated corporate big city hotel. Always a plus for Nomads in search of the smaller place.
The Bad - The hotel renovation  missed a few details. The door jambs are original and were not properly repaired and painted. In addition, the room door was noisy and had to be forcibly opened. There is also a tremendous amount of room to room and hall to room noise. To some, these items may seem picky, but, to quote the renown Bauhaus Architect Mies van der Rohe - "God is in the details". If you are going to wear a well tailored suit, it must be well stitched and appointed, or its just a good looking suit from a distance.
The Ugly (Not American) - I covered the misleading and overpriced charge for valet parking and the insolence of the front desk in my last post, so I won't repeat it here. Suffice to say it was very, very bad. Which leads to the "Needs The Most Improvement Award" for this hotel in tony DuPont Circle. The staff - In a word - UGLY! I did not encounter a single staff person who was easily conversant in English. When ordering a glass of iced tea in the dining room, the wait staff literally did not understand what my wife was requesting and had to get someone else to explain to her what we needed. It was similar to talking with someone on the other side of the world in a call center whenever you had to interact with any staff. In addition, the front desk staff had no knowledge of the area. When asked if there were any restaurants within easy walking distant, the girl on duty explained, in broken English, just to head down New Hampshire until we came to the big circle. Really? And there were no lists or recommended places to eat in the room. I have always agreed with the advice of Rick Steves when traveling abroad to  "Travel like a local". The inverse of that would seem to apply in American hotels. Well, the Carlyle didn't get the memo. Excuse me for being politically incorrect, but I expect a staff to be able to communicate in my native language in America!
So what is the bottom line you ask? In my most humble Nomad Architect opinion, I give the Carlyle a 7-8. It is clean, convenient, well designed and perfectly located. And the price is actually cheap by DC standards, except for the valet fee.  If they improve the quality of their staff and install new room doors, I would give it an 8-9.  
If You Gotta Eat - DC Serves Up Some Great Grub
Like those great gastronomic cities  New Orleans, Chicago, Savannah and Charlotte, Washington has many food offerings for every taste. One of the great benefits of staying near DuPont Circle is access to scores of great restaurants. One restaurant that stood out as a Nomad Keeper  was Kramerbooks & Afterword Cafe, a  unique combination of a hip restaurant and uber hip bookstore. They serve you a small sampling of fruit, breads, muffins and other goodies when you are seated. We ordered the spinach, bacon and cheese omelets and they did not disappoint. And the service was excellent. The price? Well, I think you know where I stand on that issue. But it was worth it. After finishing our breakfast, we had some time to kill waiting for our daughter, so we wandered aimlessly in a very unique bookstore. Containing a diverse blend of classics, modern authors and travel books, if you enjoy browsing great book stores, this is your kind of place. It was very pleasing to wander through the stacks of a bookstore that refuses to fall victim to modern technology. Video may have killed the radio star, but the internet has not killed this unique bookstore in the middle of tony DC. I also discovered that this DC landmark sports its very own small bar. And it was full of people  at ten o'clock in the morning. I am sure they were all lobbyists  or senators. Drinking in the morning would seem to come naturally to these two symbiotic symbols of America politics.
And other great restaurants abound. On our first afternoon there, walking among the leafy oaks and landscaped townhouses of the DuPont Circle area, we stumbled upon The Dupont Italian Kitchen. Not only did we have an excellent salad, bread to die for and a nice house Pinot Gris, our waiter actually sat down and discussed the highlights of DC and its environs. He was a transplanted New Yorker who visited fifteen years ago and never left. It was great to get a local's insight on what and where while visiting the nation's capital. Other excellent restaurants that are worthy of any Nomad include Circa at Dupont for everything from burgers to mussels, Odeon Cafe for some descent old world Italian, and Firefly for serious in season comfort food.

And one restaurant that should not be missed is Matchbox. This very cool, urban eatery in the Barracks Row Neighborhood is an absolute Nomad Keeper. In addition to a diverse menu including delicately prepared short ribs,  salmon and steak, this intimate little neighborhood place serves up the best pizza this side of Tuscany. I recommend the Coppa, Italian Ham & Arugula. E' ridicolo!

Next up - Washington for Patriots!
From The Bunker
d.l. stafford

Travel Quote of The Week - What you don't understand about this town is that they can fight about issues all they want, but they don't really care about them. What they really care about is who they sit next to at dinner." - Anonymous Prominent Woman
Video Artist of The Week - The Association - With hits like Along Comes Mary, Windy and the classic Requiem For The Masses, this pop/folk sextet from California was a creative musical fixture on the Sixties Music Scene.


Friday, August 2, 2013

DC - Between The Hot Air & The Summer Heat, Our Nation's Capital Was Very, Very HOT! Did I Mention The Heat?

Now I Know Why The Founding Fathers Went Home For The Summer
Washington, DC in July? Very hot, hot, hot, hot! You could certainly understand why George, Thomas and  Ben, along with their founding brothers, went home for the summer. However, every American should put DC on their list of 1,000 Places To See Before You Die. It has everything you need to see to truly understand the great and not so great of this amazing country. We started planning our trip earlier this year after our daughter, armed with a winding road spirit and a recent Masters Degree from Goldsmiths, University of London , decided to stake her claim in the brave new world. At her young age, she has been to many major urban centers in the UK, Italy, France and Spain, so, realizing that she is a big city girl, she decided Washington is the place for her. And so far, it's all good. I think her travels have given her a great perspective on life and culture. Travel informs you in many ways, both profound and pedestrian.
As we hit the road, leaving the bunker in our rear view, I came to realize two things - 1) It is a long, long way to Washington, DC from Madison, Florida  and  2) Finding small, boutique, really cool hotels "on the road" in the Eastern US is next to impossible. However, we still made the lengthy road trip enjoyable by breaking the trip up into manageable segments. Stopping for lunch in one of the South's truly great cities, Savannah, we took a lunch break at the very cool, very hip SOHO South Cafe. This great restaurant's tag line is "Where Food Is Art". Indeed! Setup in a repurposed warehouse, and dripping funk, this place is what you get in a city that prides itself on merging old and new with panache and wit. And the food ain't bad either. I highly recommend the Blackened Po Boy. And they have sweet iced tea you can only find south of The Mason Dixon.  Johnny Mercer would have loved this place. We could have easily spent the day wandering  the oak lined plazas, streets and riverfront, but, alas, our destination was further on up the road.
Next stop, the Fairfield Inn - Smithfield, North Carolina. I know what your thinking. Who is this clown kidding? No self respecting Nomad would stay in a chain. I mean the obsessive point of this blog is  anti-chain to the tenth power. And I say - Not so fast my fellow vagabonds. When somebody hands you lemons, you make lemonade. First of all, we stopped here because it was about two thirds of the way to our ultimate destination and second, Marriott is actually stepping up their game, design wise. With interesting interiors  sporting nice wall graphics and higher end finishes, this Fairfield was indeed a cut above. The bed was great and the room very comfortable. The view of the loading dock of an adjacent warehouse was nothing to blog about, but, it's the interstate. Plus, it was brand new and the staff was fabulous. Food wise - this is a stopover on I-95, so our choices were not much to write about so I won't bore you with the ugly details.

One noteworthy thing about long road trips and how they affect mind and body. After roughly eight hours on the road  and getting closer to Smithfield, I realized DC was only about another four and a half hours. So I turned to my travel companion, Susie, the most stoic person I know, and soon to be wife of forty years and say - Hey, what do you think about cancelling the Fairfield and calling the hotel in DC and just driving all the way to Washington tonight? Without saying a word, the look on her face can only be described as "Just stop the car right here and I can sleep on the side of the road". Sorry I brought it up.
When in Smithfield - It's Mickie D's for Breakfast
The culture of interstate travel is banal, monotonous and conforming. A good friend once said - You can be at any interstate exchange in America and have absolutely no idea where your are. Smithfield is one of those places. Since our ultimate goal was Washington, we decided to grab breakfast at that most ubiquitous of American interstate institutions - McDonald's. Egg McMuffin, Sausage Biscuit, coffee and hot tea. God Bless The USA! On the way out of town I was fortunate enough to capture a small piece of local roadside architecture. I shot this little ice cream/snow cone shop just for the many fans of The Nomad Architect and architecture aficionados who care about this sort of thing. Route 66 has nothing on this little architectural gem.
After a great night's sleep, some All American Road Food to boost our energy levels and GOOGLE  MAPS on the cell, we headed north on I-95 for what would become a wonderful trip to the epicenter of the free world located just a stone's throw from the center of the sun. As we followed the little digital smart phone lady to our hotel, we traversed many of the leafy green neighborhoods that Washington is known for. Our destination, The Carlyle Suites Hotel, was just off the famous DuPont Circle, which is kind of a political yuppie fairy land replete with restaurants, high end stores and all manner of parks and tree lined streets to enjoy.
I had checked out the hotel pretty thoroughly - Rule One of Nomad Travel is - Do Your Homework. As I began the process of checking in, the  young woman behind the desk informed me that  valet parking was $39 per day. I said to her - Your web site specifically stated that you provided free parking. Then she said - We just changed it Monday. And I said - That doesn't help me since I made the reservation three weeks ago. And then she said - If you like you can find a parking garage down the street. And then I said - You apparently don't get it (I am now officially agitated) and I AM NOT HAPPY !!! Then the manager, overhearing our conversation, took over from the un-nice young woman that did not attend hospitality school and apologized profusely for the misunderstanding and upgraded our room and gave us four free breakfast coupons for their restaurant, which in DC is a big deal, since the average breakfast cost just north of 20 bucks. So I calmed down and considered it a wash.

As it turned out, other than a rather strange and almost entirely non-English speaking staff, the hotel was pretty cool. More about that in the next post. After check in and letting our daughter know that we had arrived in the big city, we headed down the street to find a place for a late lunch. Hello DC and your minions! Next Up - The hotel, the food, the trees, the people, the monuments and the heat. Did I mention the heat?
See You Soon
d.l. stafford

Travel Quote of The Week - “A short distance away is the Tidal Basin, ringed by cherry trees that every year produce flowers, an event to which Washingtonians react as though it were the Second Coming of Christ.”  Dave Barry, Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway

Video Artist of The Week - Dwight Yokum - A modern purveyor of the Bakersfield Sound from the likes of Buck Owens, Yokum brings his own version of Honky Tonk Hill Billy that's old school and new at the same time. I highly recommend his new album 3 Pears. Killer tunes and that unmistakable voice make it a great album for the road.