I had been counting down the days feverishly for months. It was the last thing I thought of before I went to sleep, and the first thing I thought of when I woke. It consumed me, vigorously updating my statuses as though people actually cared that it was only 142 days, 141 days etc until my first visit to the USA.
With the bright lights of the Big Apple in my mind - the all important questions started to arise- What to pack, where to visit, will I have time to watch Breaking Bad whilst I am there, and of course where the hell should I rest my weary head after the spoils of the city have chewed me up and spat me out? If you Google search 'hotels New York' it is literally page after page of options, with each hotel claiming to be more luxurious / boutique / more hip than the rest. "Where the devil should we stay?" I wailed whilst questioning my very existence and the very weight of this decision. Would this decision prevent the apocalypse? No. Will this decision aid in the overall enjoyment of my trip from a consumer perspective? Yes.
The ultimate reason for my visit to the USA was for my friend's wedding. That was just the event I needed to force me to plan my US adventure and take it out of the 'I'm going to go there one day' pile. Fly into Boston, head to Cape Cod for friend's wedding, head back to Boston for sightseeing (read: Cheers bar and Baseball), train it to the big Apple for fun and frivolity and fly back business class with accrued air miles was the decided plan.
Planning a trip to the unknown can be very daunting once you get into the nuts and bolts of actually booking and handing over the credit card details. The anticipation and excitement, coupled with the fear of a: not being able to fit absolutely every bit of sightseeing in and b: getting stuck in some unsavoury hotels that look amazing on the website but don't stack up in real life. Well, you can take my word for it that after much internet based research, I managed to successfully select some of the most tremendous hotels on my trip, so if you are in need of a little guidance, please take my lead and read on.
Start of trip - land in Boston after 6 hour delay at Heathrow due to technical issues with the plane. Technical issues on a plane are always quite comforting.
Hotel One: Nine Zero Hotel, Boston
Three words: Zebra print robe
After a seemingly endless day of travelling, we promptly landed, visited a bar, shoved lobster and shrimp into our faces, laughed about how big shrimp are and how silly it is to call them shrimp, and then we arrived at Nine Zero. Immediately I knew that a wise choice had been made. The reception area sported some brilliantly designed, modern as hell furniture making me give an instant thumbs up to the hotel prior to even seeing the rooms.
The room - well ours had fantastic views over Boston - we could see the golden domed roof of the beautiful Boston State House, and we were a stone's throw away from a 7-Eleven where we went for jetlag breakfast Twinkies at 5am. The hotel is also situated right on the doorstep of the Freedom Trail (the Freedom Trail is a red brick path through downtown Boston, that leads to 16 significant historic sites) - 2.5 miles of history at your doorstep. We had 350sq feet of space to lounge around in, with the added benefits of swanning around in Zebra print robes and receiving in-room spa treatments, if one so desires. The bed was massive, and the room sported a sleek and modern palate with dashes of dark brown leather. Saucy.
The receptionist said the rooms matched my leopard print trousers, and on the theme of animals -pet-friendly accommodation is available too (as was the case with all of the hotels that I stayed in).
Would I go back? Oh yes. I had my first ever serving of home fries at the adjoining restaurant, KO Prime, and I grew to love this completely acceptable form of breakfast chips.
As we boarded the train from Boston to New York, the excitement was palpable. I was feeling about 85% excited, and 15% uncomfortable because I had decided to wear a dress sporting horizontal stripes which I am always unsure about. After arriving at Penn Station I had the open-mouthed, overwhelming feeling of the unknown that I had not experienced since I moved to London years ago. Within the first 5 minutes of my arrival I had been told to hurry the swear word up, and been kindly asked 'what you looking at, swear word-swear word.' I was then happy as I knew I was in the safe embrace of New York City.
Hotel Two: The Benjamin Hotel, New York
Four words: This room is huge
Named after a chap called Benjamin Denihan who made a name for himself by providing a supreme laundry service in the 1930's, which lead to him branching out into real estate, this hotel has old world charm in a perfect location in Midtown Manhattan. The decor was charmingly reminiscent of days gone by, and gave the feel of how you imagine a hotel to be. It felt like a place where Sinatra would stay if he were still with us. The room was bigger than my apartment and there were windows in every room. Having been told that 'window real estate' is hard to come by in Lady New York, we were positively spoiled by natural light. The bed was so big that two of us could fully extend our arms across and they were still not touching, which meant that we could both comfortably sleep in a starfish formation without any trouble.
It was in this room that I had my 'OMFG I can see the Empire State Building / Chrysler Building / New York City from my window' moment, and roughly ten minutes later we promptly fell asleep at 5pm. This was just a short nap that happened to conclude at 8am the next morning. I reclined on the impressively high-backed chair and browsed the menu of the hotel restaurant, The National, where we ate like kings that evening. I'm talking oysters, steaks, martinis, desserts - the works. It was so good. I suggest you go there. It has a great buzz with the New York after work crowd, they make a mean martini, and it is headed up by internationally-acclaimed chef Geoffrey Zakarian - 'nuf said.
What makes this hotel extra special is the 'Sleep Program'. The room comes equipped with a pillow menu, where you can select pillows from varieties including 'snore-no-more' and buckwheat or water pillows. There is a sleep concierge available 24/7, and if you do not have the best night's sleep imaginable, guests will be offered one night for free. Now that is dedication to guest comfort, if ever I have seen it.
I have a confession to make. We snuck up to the roof of the hotel after dinner - I know it was wrong but it happened. The views took my breath away, and whilst we should not have been up there, it was one of the highlights of my trip. We happened to spot a party on another rooftop whilst up there, and promptly left to go and find it, which we did.
This place is perfectly situated to all of the shopping hotspots of 5th Avenue. A lady in Saks told me that she loved koalas.
Second hotel: The Distrikt Hotel, New York
Eleven words: There is a brownie to eat and the shower is massive
After dragging our sorry gin soaked behinds out of the Benjamin, we made our way across town to the Distrikt Hotel. Quite a long walk but we managed it, and to our delight, the Distrikt offers endless iced tea for guests. Oh sweet god! What also makes this hotel great it that they have substituted the c in the name for a k, which instantly provides an element of street cred, don't you think? If this hotel name was itself a subculture, it would be men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock with a touch of witty banter. But, the real reason for the spelling is that 'Distrikt' is the Dutch word for "districts," a nod to Manhattan's early colonial settlers. There is also Apple computers there for guests to use - sweet. As the name suggests, the hotel is centred around portraying the different districts that make up New York, with large collages depicting a visual mash-up of 10 districts created by artist Chris Robino.
The room was smaller than the other rooms that we had experienced thus far, but what is lost in size it made up for in character. Monochrome decor was perfectly complemented by a welcome brownie sitting on my bed ready for my piglet fingers to greedily shove into my mouth. Because it had been about 15 minutes since I last ate. The shower was huge and it had a big comfortable bed and although the view was primarily across a car park, beyond that we could see the twinkling lights of the beautiful woman that is new York, and it was glorious and begging us to become part of the night.
Situated near the New York Times building and not far from Penn station, it had a different feel to it from hanging out on Lexington where we were on previous nights, which does help one navigate and get a real feel for the city. Plus, from our window we could see the SR71 Blackbird where Will Smith was hitting golf balls near in the movie 'I Am Legend'. Alright.
Note: It was the evening at this hotel when I lost my passport. I was using it as ID you see, as they would not accept my 'Mickey Mouse Australian driving licence' as proof of age out on the town. This was a low point. Imagine the shock and disapproval I felt at myself upon this discovery, and trying to recall that last time I used it, which to my dismay was to get into a bar called 'Heifers and Hogs'. "Excuse me, it this Heifers and Hogs?" - I asked on the phone - suprisingly the first time I have said that. I spent a delightful afternoon in the Australian Embassy in New York trying to get an emergency passport. I don't recommend it because it is a: boring and b: expensive. I also got called away for questioning once I landed in the UK, so that was obviously awesome.
Third hotel: The Library, New York
Four words: Oh my god beautiful
This is such a unique hotel. The Library Hotel concept is inspired by the Dewey Decimal system. Each of the 10 guestroom floors honour one of the 10 categories of said system and each of the rooms are uniquely adorned with a collection of books and art exploring a distinctive topic within the category it belongs to. Guests are invited to unwind from their adventures by enjoying the quiet exploration of over 6,000 books in the reading room, which as well as being home to endless literature, also supplies endless tea, coffee and snacks which is a nice touch. I idly flicked through a book on how to be the perfect woman from the 1950's. I have failed as a woman so far if what the points that the book suggest still hold true.
We stayed in a suite which had lush views along Madison Avenue, and the topic our room took was 'Ancient languages'. The room was beautifully appointed and the bed was again huge and comfortable. The bathroom had lots of mirrors which made it feel much bigger than it was, but also allowed me to look at the damage I was doing to my body with my insistence of eating every 15 minutes. Sexy. That said, we were told to visit a great steakhouse called Benjamin Steakhouse, which is conveniently situated an easy 35 seconds walk from the hotel. We actually counted the seconds. After a dinner of rib eye and sirloin done rare followed by a hot fudge sundae, we retired to the rooftop bar at the Library and had some deliciously mixed creations that provided the perfect nightcap. They were also playing the Spice Girls as background music which was amazing, naturally.
In this hotel we were steps from the New York Public Library, 5th Avenue Shopping, Bryant Park, Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, Rockefeller Centre and a whole host of NYC delights, so it is the perfect location to immerse yourself in the heart of midtown Manhattan.
Fourth and final hotel: Dream Downtown, New York
One word: WOW
It was glorious. It is just so cool - the ceiling of the reception area is the bottom of the pool above (Note: wear tight fitting swimwear, boys). I have never been to Miami, but to me this is what Miami would be like in the height of summer. Pumping pool parties every afternoon with beautiful bodies lounging around, a suite filled with white leather sofas and dimmer lights with the addition of a shower curtain made out of heavy chains. A massive stainless steel bathtub and a vast bed. Huge flat screen televisions and bright art work adorn the walls. Graffiti outside by Haculla. Situated in the very hip Meatpacking District, it serves as the perfect place to recoup from a day spent touring the sights of New York City and the ideal meeting place to kick-off a splendid night out in the city that never sleeps.
The hotel is just across from the beautiful Chelsea market where I purchased some artwork from Stray Kat Gallery - they pieces are kind of Asian inspired re-workings of classic rockers via chicks in suspenders, so yeah, pretty great. The hotel is within walking distance to great shopping, numerous Chelsea art galleries, Union Square, Milk Studios and the famous neighbourhoods of SoHo, Chelsea, and the West Village. I also discovered a fantastic little shop within the hotel that features a whole host of designers, both local and international. The jewellery was divine, as was the carefully selected items of clothing available for purchase, with hotel guests getting 10% off. Yes please.
After an early morning dip in the pool and breakfast on the poolside banana lounge in my complimentary hotel flip-flops, I gazed up the seemingly endless port-hole encrusted hotel wall and saw what I knew to be PH-D, the penthouse nightclub. Fast forward 12 hours and we are surrounded by beautiful and eclectic people, and a breathtaking view. A place to see and be seen in Downtown Manhattan. The hotel is also home to the Electric Room, an intimate bar oozing with a cool Brittania feel with union jack adorned chesterfields (Pippa Middleton had some drinks at the bar recently, I believe) Also, take up the offer of complimentary urban cruiser bicycles to get around Downtown, if you are comfortable with riding on the opposite side of the road from what you may be used to.
The staff here are all very beautiful and helpful. It was my boyfriend's birthday whilst there, and we came back from dinner to find wine and cupcakes sitting on the bench with a 'Happy Birthday' note. Very nice touch. I had to stay a night longer than expected (Oh no, stuck in NYC another night, how awful) due to passport related issues i.e. I didn't have one, and apparently they are kind of important. Anyway, the staff at Dream Downtown sorted out another room at virtually no notice. Stay here. Go on. You will not regret it, unless you hate fun and pretty people.
Note: I felt completely at ease in flat shoes in Downtown New York. Although my flat shoes were adorned with studs, you do not have to teeter around on 12 inches, thus ensuring ultimate night-time longevity. Ace.
I hope that this brief little guide to where I stayed provides a bit help if your mind is exploding after trawling endlessly through accommodation options on the interweb.
Take home messages:
- 'Bon Jovi -land' is not a real place, so the cab driver will refuse to take you there if you ask
- Consuming huge calories whilst on holiday are still counted, according to your body
- Your feet will hurt after a day if sight seeing. Alot.
- Try and ditch the shellfish allergy, if you have one. Shrimps and lobsters are delicious
- They advertise pharmaceutical drugs on TV. It looks odd to see that
Nine Zero Hotel / www.ninezero.com/ 90 Tremont street Boston MA
The Benjamin Hotel / www.thebenjamin.com / 125 East 50th Street (at Lexington Ave) NY
Distrikt Hotel / www.distrikthotel.com / between 8th and 9th Avenue on West 40th Street NY
The Library Hotel / www.libraryhotel.com/ 299 Madison Avenue NY
Dream Downtown / www.dreamdowntown.com / 355 West 16th Street NY