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Estee Stanley Headshot

Not Impressed

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The title of my blog more or less says it all, but don't hate me: I come by it honestly. I am
by trade a designer. Of homes. Of people. Of lifestyles. I am by choice, a mother, a wife,
and friend. Sadly by nature, I am largely not impressed. Call it "bitchy", call it "jaded", call
it whatever you like. Perhaps my Jewish heritage makes me a bit more prone to the
occasional kvetch -- but when I spend my hard earned money, I want to feel taken
care of. I want to be impressed. Especially when I travel.

And I travel a lot. Mostly for work, sometimes for pleasure -- and a lot with celebrities. That's right, the ones who get to take the plush bathrobe home free of charge. The kind of treatment most people don't get -- but should.

A Napa Valley Hotel

It's 2008 and that dreaded time to plan holiday travel. I've been elected to organize a Christmas vacation for myself and three other couples. Two of us have newborns, so it's already certain to be hell on stroller wheels. I've come to the planning party late, so there's not a whole lot to choose from. Hawaii's booked. Mexico's booked. Aspen's booked. Then I remember how much I love Napa. California's Wine Country. I can't however remember the last time I really got my drink on. And this seems like as good an excuse as any. Napa in the winter just sounds charming. It's notorious for great food and great wine. And the cold weather months -- even in California -- are all about comfort, right? Not to mention, by travel standards, it's close. We can throw the little one in the car and drive, or slip some Benadryl in his bottle for the plane flight.

The hotel I choose comes at the recommendation of one of the couples -- who incidentally got married there. And it sounds fabulous. A luxury resort tucked into a private canyon on a 150-acre site marked by ancient oaks, majestic hills, a rock-hewn stream and private lake. Pictures on their website look tranquil, showing rooms with a great indoor/outdoor flow. Not to mention, Travel & Leisure voted it one of the 500 Best Hotels in the World. They also happened to mention this hotel was being acknowledged for its continued commitment to providing an exceptional experience for its guests. And I love exceptional experiences. I'm sold.

As our rental car makes its way up the long tree-lined driveway, we can make out them hotel's cozy cabin-like welcome center. There's a big bowl of apples in a silver tureen right when I get out of the car. A guy in a monogramed windbreaker gives me a bottle of water. Everyone who works here looks like either a golf pro or a professional spokesmodel. At first blush, they seem to care that I have an exceptional experience. I turn in a circle to take in the setting -- it's a rustic slice of amazing. Woods rising up valley walls, it makes me want to go run off into the forest and hunt an elk. Except I'm wearing a pair of Blahnik heels and I don't hunt. Or eat elk. So I just check into our lodge. And let me tell you: the lodges are gorgeous. They look just like the pictures on the website. Finally some truth in advertising. It's two rooms, both free-standing and separated by a sprawling wood deck. The living room has a pull-out couch, which is perfect for my nanny and room-enough for a crib for my little one. First order of business is to do the business that hasn't been done in the more than three months since our baby came.

My husband and I run to our room and lock the door. I'm sure anyone who has children are well aware that alone time is rare. I swear I think this was the first time we were going to have sex since the baby came 3 months ago!!! It was on! My husband was about to remember why he married a cougar! I threw my husband on the bed and attacked. It was getting hot and it was getting heavy. Then a knock on the door. It was my nanny asking to use the bathroom. The bathroom? I had to let her in right? I barely open the door and when I'm about to ask why shes not using the bathroom in her room she explains there isn't one.

So I throw something on, my husband hides under the covers and we listen to my nanny tinkle. Weird. There goes hot and heavy. I get into a post natal argument with the manager who swears he told me these lodges only contain 1 bathroom. Had I known that was the case, I would have chosen differently. I would have chosen accommodations where I would not run the risk of sharing a toilet with my nanny. Don't get me wrong -- I love my nanny. In fact, that's why I brought her. So that I could have intimate time with my husband. Mid conversation, another knock, my nanny asking if she can shower. But good news: the manager isn't quite looking for a fight in the way I am, and he wants to accommodate me. He wants to provide me with the exceptional experience that they're so known for. So he offers to upgrade me to the two bedroom lodge. All I have to do is pay the $700 a night difference. I try to reason with him. I try to meet him in the middle. But he's sticking to his guns.

I am now sexless and sharing a toilet with my nanny on my Christmas vacation.

Then the phone rings. I think it's the manager calling back with a better offer. He's surely come to his senses. But it's not him. It's my celebrity friend. She's not happy with her room either. But there's hope! They're being moved to a bigger room. I guess $700 a night is a drop in the bucket for some people. She and her boyfriend have kindly invited us up to their new-and-improved digs for a drink which at this point I'm desperate for. I imagine I'm going to get the opportunity to see the two bedroom lodge I could have had if I wasn't so tight with my Benjamins. Perhaps my nanny can pee and shower in their spare bathroom? But what I see when I get there -- well, quite simply -- it makes my jaw hit the floor. They weren't moved to the two-bedroom lodge. No. They were moved to the humble little residence known as the owner's mansion. Three bedrooms. Living room. Chef's kitchen that opens on to a deck with a fireplace. "What happened?" I asked. "We thought our room was a little... tight. We called and they just gave us this one. They're so great here. Pinot noir?" "How much more are you paying for this?" I asked in shock. "Nothing I already told you they just gave it to us. We're for sure coming back here next year!!!! What was the story you were going to tell me about the hotel?" she asks opening another bottle of comped wine." "Doesnt matter. Not impressed!" On the way back to my shared bungalow I see the red light blinking on the room phone.. maybe this had all been a misunderstanding & they had a second mansion waiting for me. I check the message, to add insult to injury it was indeed the manager letting me know they were sending over a complimentary bottle of shampoo & conditioner, their gift for putting me out.
Really? Not Impressed.