Tag Archive | "New York City"

Sleeping Around NYC: The Jane

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The-Jane-Hotel-New-York-captains-cabin-bedroom2

Captain’s Cabin at The Jane Hotel, NYC

by Shari Hartford

And now for something completely different.

There seems to be a plethora of new [and new/old] hotels in New York City these days. And, unfortunately, a great many of them are cookie cutter variations on each other. You know? Take a basic sugar cookie recipe and decorate the cookies differently, but in the end they are all just sugar cookies?

That’s not to say that some, or most, of these hotels are not beautifully appointed, conveniently located and provide all the services and amenities a traveler might need. But sometimes folks, don’t you want something unique, an urban hotel you will remember for a long time, a place you might go home and Google? Well, look no further…The Jane is all that, and more.

Located in the Meatpacking district almost on West Street, The Jane is not the best location for the business traveler or a family of vacationers wanting to spend their time with fellow tourists. But if you want a true New York experience and want to walk, explore and become a “native” then this is for you.

First there’s the history lesson. Built between 1906-1908 as The Sailor’s Home and Institute, the hotel served as a refuge for the survivors of the Titanic during the American inquest. After several incarnations as both a hotel and a YMCA, the building was landmarked in 2001 and opened as The Jane in 2008.

The Jane, NYC

The Jane, NYC

Entering the Jane is like a trip back in time to, perhaps, a small hotel in Europe. The eccentric dark furniture, marble floors, the paintings and the staff in their Grand Budapest Hotel-esque uniforms set a stage. On the first level is the ballroom/bar with so much art, antiques and decorative pieces it’s like a feast for your eyes. And, if you’re hungry, the Café Gitane overlooks the Hudson River and features an eclectic menu. The hotel also offers complimentary bicycles for guests to use. Hop on and explore!

A Bunk Bed Cabin at The Jane, NYC

A Standard Cabin at The Jane, NYC

There are three categories of rooms. The first, the Bunk Bed Cabin (inspired by luxury train cabins) is a tiny but beautifully appointed room with wooden bunks, brass hooks for clothing and drawers for storage. Each bunk has its own flat screen television and, as all other accommodations, free WiFi, excellent linens, and other standard electronics. The shared hallway baths, also used by the Standard Cabins, are spotless and spacious.

I chose to spend the night in the Captain’s Cabin, which had a private marble bath and a gorgeous patio. The room was large and unique, with plenty of storage in the armoire and good lighting. Among the other appeals of The Jane are the prices. The 137 Standard and Bunk Bed Cabins start at $99 per night…almost unheard of in New York City for this level of quality and service. Checking out my fellow travelers, I saw European hipsters, 20-somethings who would rather spend their cash on food and theater and just plain folk who were enjoying the neighborhood.

Take the elevator up and visit the seasonally open Jane Rooftop bar and take in the city at sunset. The rooftop, incidentally, was at one time RuPaul’s apartment.

All in all, The Jane has Character with a capital C. The quirky surroundings are comforting and I imagine myself lounging in the ballroom in the winter, with its velvets and fireplace, sipping a drink and wondering why the Edwardian era ever left us.

For more information, see thejanenyc.com. Make sure you check out the website; one of the most innovative hotel websites ever.

 

Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.

Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.

 

Le District: Paris on the Hudson

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Le District, in lower Manhattan.

Le District, in lower Manhattan.

By Beverly Stephen

Photos courtesy of Le District

After a solemn and sobering visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in lower Manhattan, a snack could be in order.  What could be more restorative than steak frites and a glass of hearty red?

ld9So why not go to France? Or at least a French market by simply crossing under the West Side Highway via a space age tunnel that emerges in the soaring Winter Garden with panoramic views of New York Harbor.  There beckons the newly opened Le District, a 30,000 square foot Gallic fantasy divided into four districts—restaurant, café, market, and garden.  Within these districts all culinary needs for eat-in or take-out can be met from poisson to  patisserie from fleurs to fromage. Tourists and worker bees from the likes of Goldman Sachs and Conde Nast are likely to eat-in at one of the restaurants, at one of the counter seats scattered throughout, or on the 7,000 square foot plaza looking out to the Statue of Liberty. Residents and perhaps the same office workers on the way home can buy the raw materials for dinner.  And don’t forget the flowers. Even if you’re staying in a hotel, there’s nothing like a bouquet to make a room feel like home. Fleuriste  Yasmine Karrenberg offers an array of chic arrangements at her shop inside Le District.  “I’ve been doing flowers as long as I can remember!” she says. “As a child, there were lilacs, peonies and lillies of the valley in our family garden. Then my parents always had five bouquets delivered to the house every Saturday!”

Le District is the brainchild of restaurant impresario Peter Poulakakos of HPH restaurant and development company and his business partner Paul Lamas (they pretty much have downtown cornered with Harry’s Café and Steak, The Dead Rabbit, The Growler, and Financier Patisserie among others). They took inspiration from Parisian markets such as La Grande Epicerie and even other countries that have been touched by French culture such as Morocco and Vietnam. Chef Jordi Valles, an El Bulli alum, was recruited to be culinary director of the whole project. Under him is an army of chefs and cheese mongers, butchers, bakers, and sausage makers. It’s part of the stunning development of Brookfield Place, formerly the World Financial Center, which is now home to a carefully curated food court called Hudson Eats, a bevy of high end retailers such as Theory, Hermes, and Burberry and the newly relocated International Center of Culinary Education.  Time, Inc. and Saks are coming soon.

 

 

Little more than a decade has passed since the area suffered the devastating 911 attacks. And then there were the angry flood waters of Hurricane Sandy. Now FiDi, (Financial District), arguably the hottest real estate in the overheated Manhattan market, has literally risen from the ashes.ld

 

The first thing you see entering Le District is the riotously colorful French  candy store La Cure Gourmande which offers an astonishing array of nougats, caramels, biscuits and even olives au chocolat (chocolate covered almonds in disguise) all available in gift worthy tins. This is the first U.S. outpost of the store that originated in Languedoc-Roussilon and now has 45 locations around the world.

The chocolate mousse bar

The chocolate mousse bar

Across the aisle is a creperie, a waffle station, and a patisserie displaying jewel-like French pastries. And of course a coffee bar.  Save room for dessert! But proceed to other temptations—freshly baked breads, cheese, charcuterie, salads, and sandwiches (I chose a delectable roasted lamb sandwich with ras al hanout and hummus white sauce), brasserie style meals, wine, and beer. And packaged goods for Francophiles to take home—French olive oils, argan oil, mustards, spices, salts, and sausages.  If you prefer to avoid temptation, graze before 4 p.m. when the salad bar transforms into a chocolate mousse bar offering eight different varieties white and dark with such toppings as orange confit and speculoos cookies.

Poulakakos himself was standing in the aisle munching on a crepe when I stopped him to ask about his vision. “I’ve always been thrilled with French cuisine,” he said. “It’s the backbone of precision.”  As for the customers. “I want to be there for everyone. People who live and work here love it.”  Of course, he’s not oblivious to the fact that 12.4 million visitors were counted in downtown Manhattan in 2014 and more are expected this year.

ld5

Foie gras cones

Comparisons to Eataly, the insanely popular Italian food hall, seem inescapable. Le District  has already been dubbed the French Eataly. But who’s complaining?  Eataly has become one of the top tourist attractions in New York City behind the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Last year seven million shoppers crowded its aisles while the cash registers rang up $85 million in sales. Should Le District be far behind? Mais non!

Visit Le District

 

Beverly Stephen, the former executive editor of Food Arts magazine, is currently an independent journalist and consultant specializing in food, travel, and lifestyle. She began her career as a newspaper columnist and reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Daily News.

Beverly Stephen, the former executive editor of Food Arts magazine, is currently an independent journalist and consultant specializing in food, travel, and lifestyle. She began her career as a newspaper columnist and reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Daily News.

 

 

 

The New Whitney Museum of American Art

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The Whitney Museum of American Art. Courtesy of the Whitney.

The Whitney Museum of American Art. Courtesy of the Whitney.

By Bobbie Leigh

The Whitney Museum of American Art opens May 1 with a flourish of buzzy celebrity gatherings, a block party and free admission May 2. The inaugural exhibition, “America is Hard to See,” is huge, some 600 works by 400 artists tracing the history of American art from 1900 to today. It is a great show, in fact a dazzling one, but it is almost impossible to enjoy the art, the views, and the spectacular galleries in one visit.

So here’s a suggested mini-guide for your first visit.

*Elevators: Nothing pedestrian here. Instead, four distinctive ones with artwork by painter and sculpture Richard Artschwager.

* Three Outdoor Terraces: Eastern views of the Manhattan skyline. The fifth floor has a large outdoor gallery with May Heilmann’s installation of shocking pink, yellow, and lime green chairs— and yes, this is an installation that welcomes you to sit down.

 

 

*Start at Floor Eight:1920-1940, and work your way down. Familiar works include those by George Bellows, Grant Wood, and Georgia O’Keefe. Food: the eighth-floor café, has soup, salads, toasts, and dessert. You can eat at tables and handsome Harry Bertoia chairs with gray leather cushions or you can opt for an adjoining terrace with striking views of both the Hudson River and the city skyline

Floor Seven:1925-1960: Alexander Calder’s “Circus” has its own glass dome and has never looked more at home. The galleries have an intimate quality in spite of their scale. The pale pine floors recycled from old factories throughout the museum are the perfect complement to the white, gray, and sea-blue walls. A first for some people in this section will be Joseph Cornell’s “Rose Castle.” A highlight is the iconic Ben Shahn “The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti,” one of the best known examples of American social realism.

To avoid a case of “museum feet,” at this point, it’s not a bad idea to exit the museum, take a walk along the adjacent High Line and return at another time or later in the day.

Sixth Floor: 1950-1975: One of the great works among many is Tom Wesselman’s “Still Life Number 36.”

Fifth Floor: 1965-Present: Jonathan Borofsky’s painting “Running People” is on a West wall facing the Hudson River. Against the wall are three gray leather couches facing the floor-to-ceiling windows. This is a good place to enjoy the river view and check your emails as wi-fi is free. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “ Hollywood Africans,” and Eva Hesse’s “No Title” are in this section as well as works by Matthew Barney, Sue Williams, and Lorna Simpson among others and an installation, “Untitled,” by David Hammon.

Floor Three features the multi-use, 170-seat theater, a center for works on paper, and various workshops and study centers. The ground floor features “Untitled,” the Danny Meyer bright and airy restaurant with a huge open kitchen. It’s open for lunch and dinner and an adventurous wine list seems to be in the works: www.untitledatthewhitney.com.

At the ground-floor gift shop, the staff wear vivid orange and green t-shirts with a message: “We’re here to help.” Alas, the shirts are not for sale. At the press opening, when asked what she thought of the museum, an elevator operator said that each time she came to work, she saw something new. Most likely, you will be of the same opinion.

“America is Hard to See” is on view through September 27. 2015; General admission is $22. Visitors should consider buying advance tickets online at Whitney.org. Closed Tuesday.

 

 

Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.

Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.

Boutique Hotel Bliss at The Benjamin in NYC

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The Benjamin in Manhattan.

The Benjamin in Manhattan.

By Monique Burns

Words like “grand” and “luxurious” rarely describe boutique hotels.  Most are too small for such outsized superlatives.  But they fit The Benjamin, one of New York City’s premier boutique hotels, to a tee.

A muscular 25-story Renaissance Revival structure in buff-colored brick, The Benjamin rises majestically in Midtown Manhattan at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 50th Street.  Its monumental façade is an ornate tableau of columns, crenellations and owl carvings, graced with a clocktower and eight-petal stone rose window, and capped with a verdigris copper crown.

Built in 1927, The Benjamin was designed by Emery Roth, perhaps New York’s greatest pre-war architect.  How great?  Take a walk around Central Park West or the Upper West Side.  There’s the San Remo, the city’s first twin-towered apartment building; The Ardsley, a Mayan-style creation with black brick bands, and The Eldorado with metal finials so distinctive that architects named them “Flash Gordon finials.”  The list of Roth masterpieces goes on and on.  As for The Benjamin, the incomparable Georgia O’Keeffe immortalized it in her 1929 work, “New York Night.”

Stand outside The Benjamin for a spell, craning your neck to take in all the stylish details.  Inside, even more grandeur waits. With dark wood paneling, framed mirrors and wing chairs, the lobby looks like the foyer of a posh apartment building or private club.  But toward the back of lobby, there’s a front desk where well-attired personnel check you in with efficiency and a charming stream of banter that’s warm but never intrusive.

The lobby at The Benjamin.

The lobby at The Benjamin.

Excellent service is a hallmark of The Benjamin.  In the 1930s, Benjamin “Bud” Denihan, Jr. worked at his father’s laundry and dry-cleaning store in Manhattan.  Serving the likes of Marilyn Monroe and the Vanderbilts, Bud pledged to remove any stain.  When he couldn’t, he’d call the fabric manufacturer, have a swatch sent to his storefront, and have it discreetly woven into whatever shirt, slacks or dress required perfection.  That kind of service made Denihan a legend in the dry-cleaning business.  It’s also made his hotel company a legend in New York.

Today, the Denihan Hospitality Group includes more than a dozen luxury boutique hotels.  There’s the Affinia Hotel Collection, with five Manhattan locations as well as the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel in Washington, D.C. Also in the group, The James Hotels, with properties in Chicago and New York’s SoHo, and a new hotel opening in the trendy West Hollywood section of Los Angeles in 2016.  The Denihan group also owns The Surrey, New York City’s only Relais & Châteaux property, known for its 17th-floor roof garden, as well as its Michelin one-star restaurant, Café Boulud, where celebrity chef Daniel Boulud holds sway.  Three Manhattan-based affiliate hotels complete the group’s portfolio.

The company’s first luxury property, The Benjamin was acquired in 1997 as the Beverly Hotel and given Denihan Sr.’s first name.  After a $30-million restoration, it reopened in April 1999.  In September 2013, Lauren Rottet of Rottet Studio completed a $10-million renovation.  Named a “Design Giant” by Interior Design magazine, Rottet said her aim was to make you “feel as though you are coming home to your own pied-à-terre.”

The Benjamin really does feel like home, especially if home is a luxury New York City apartment.  All suites—from studio, and one and two-bedroom suites to balcony and terrace suites—feature kitchenettes with refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, dishware and stemware, and all cooking and dining utensils.  There’s an honor bar with more than a dozen healthy gourmet snacks like North Fork Potato Chips (from Long Island), Baked in Brooklyn Sea Salt Pita Chips, and Mast Brothers Dark Chocolate Bar (from a Brooklyn-based chocolatier).  Have a Coca-Cola—it’s actually Coca-Cola de México made from pure cane sugar—or one of R.W. Knudsen’s organic orange or cranberry nectar juices.  There’s stronger stuff, too, like Grey Goose vodka, Jack Daniel’s, Macallan 12-year-old scotch and Bailey’s Irish Cream, along with wine, champagne, and craft beers like Sixpoint “Sweet Action” Cream Ale from Brooklyn and Evil Twin “Falco” India Pale Ale from Copenhagen.

In your spacious sitting area or living room, decorated in a low-key palette of whites, silvers, minks and golds, with contemporary canvases and sculpture, lounge in an easy chair or on a full-length sofa, turn on the 42-inch HD flat-screen TV and watch the morning news over a quiet breakfast.  Better yet, book one of the newly redesigned terrace suites and, if it’s a nice day, have coffee, tea or a glass of wine while taking in Manhattan’s skyscraper-etched blue skies.  Stay 30 or more days, and the Extended Stay Program gives you a range of perks, including a minimum of 20 percent off the best available room rate.

If you must work, your room has high-speed Internet access, two-line speakerphones with dataports, voicemail, direct private-line service, and a streamlined Parsons desk with a power strip and comfy brown leather chair. If you’d rather work out, there’s a 24-hour Fitness Center with steam rooms as well as treadmills, elliptical machines, stair climbers and other equipment by Italian designer Technogym.  Hotel personnel can book a personal consultation for you, including healthy menu choices, with the SIN fitness concierge team.  SIN, by the way, stands for “Strength in Numbers.”

Comfort reigns supreme at The Benjamin.  With only 209 rooms and suites in 25 stories, there’s a spaciousness rarely found even in New York’s biggest and best hotels.  The pre-war building’s thick walls, along with excellent sound-proofing and argon-filled windows, keep rooms and hallways quiet, even hushed.  After a day fighting city crowds, you’ll love returning to this stylish oasis.

A hotel’s basic mission is providing a place for guests to sleep—and The Benjamin takes its responsibility very seriously.  In fact, there’s a comprehensive Rest & Renew Sleep Program designed by hotel consultant Rebecca S. Robbins, co-author of Sleep for Success!  Big comfortable beds are swathed in 500-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, and plush down or hypoallergenic comforters, and guests can choose from a pillow menu with 10 choices.  A popular request is Cloud 10 with over 10 million air beads.  The Lullaby, with hypoallergenic fiberfill, has ultra-thin speakers that you can plug into any MP3 player.  There’s even an Anti-Snore pillow.

The Benjamin’s obsession with giving guests a good night’s sleep doesn’t stop there.  The $20 Power Nap, for people suffering from jet lag or sleep deprivation, includes an in-room aromatherapy treatment, a special sleep mask, a naptime turndown and a wakeup call.  Robbins’ Sleep Team also recommends a light snack 90 minutes before turning in, so you can choose Bedtime Bites like fruit salad, peanut butter on toasted wholegrain bread, and homemade granola with skim milk, plus soothing teas like chamomile and antioxidant-rich rooibos à la verveine.

Little ones will sleep well, too.  The free Winks’ Kidzzz Club, for children 2-10, includes a kid’s pillow (with a pouch for childhood treasures), a child-size robe, a Winks the Owl stuffed toy (reminiscent of the owls that grace the hotel’s facade) and a selection of bedtime books.

The hotel’s goodDog program provides a box of welcome amenities (including paw wipes and plastic bags), luxury treats by BarkBox, an in-room pet mini-bar with Bowser Beer (a beefy non-alcoholic brew with glucosamine for healthy joints) and snacks from Bocce’s Bakery, plus a London-designed Mungo & Maud water bowl and—what else?—a luxurious pet bed.

Did Bud Denihan coin the phrase, “God is in the details”?  No—but he certainly could have.

Inside The National, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian's award-winning bistro at The Benjamin.

Inside The National, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s award-winning bistro at The Benjamin.

Now, if you could just find a nice place for dinner…. Fortunately, The Benjamin is smack in Midtown Manhattan, offering all kinds of eateries.  But one of the closest—and best—is right downstairs.  An upscale American grand café with black-and-white tiled floors, wooden tables and chairs, and leather banquettes, The National is overseen by “Iron Chef” Geoffrey Zakarian, who also “curates” the hotel’s room-service menu, the honor-bar treats and the Bedtime Bites.  Popular with both locals and hotel guests, The National offers stylish  bistro dishes like oysters on the half-shell with apple-ginger mignonette sauce, braised lamb shank with quinoa, Atlantic cod with Bhutanese red rice, and pork chops with broccolini and cheese grits.  Toothsome brunches—how about biscuits and gravy with a braised short rib, asparagus and sunny-side-up egg?—are served on Saturday and Sunday.  There’s also jazz, blues and other live music every Sunday, 6-10 p.m.

While at The Benjamin, you will slumber blissfully, enjoy sumptuous meals at The National, and spend relaxing nights stargazing on your terrace with a cocktail or craft beer in hand.  You might also treat yourself to a Swedish or stone massage, get a new hairdo at Federico’s, and enjoy a few SIN workouts.

What next?   Well, how about sending that silk dress with the little wine stain down to the laundry?  Though founder Bud Denihan is no longer on the scene, his legacy of superb service and attention to detail lives on.

IF YOU GO

The Benjamin.  125 E. 50th St. (at Lexington Avenue), New York, N.Y. 10022; 212-715-2500, or toll-free 866-222-BENJ or 888-4-BENJAMIN; www.thebenjamin.com 

 

Monique Burns is a longtime travel writer and editor, and a European Correspondent for Jax Fax Magazine, a travel magazine for U.S. travel agents.  A former Travel & Leisure Senior Editor, she travels frequently to Europe, but can sometimes be found in far-flung locales like India and Asia.  After more than 30 years in the travel business, she still appreciates the world’s many cultural differences and can honestly say that she’s never met a place she didn’t like.

Monique Burns is a longtime travel writer and editor, and a European Correspondent for Jax Fax Magazine, a travel magazine for U.S. travel agents. A former Travel & Leisure Senior Editor, she travels frequently to Europe, but can sometimes be found in far-flung locales like India and Asia. After more than 30 years in the travel business, she still appreciates the world’s many cultural differences and can honestly say that she’s never met a place she didn’t like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Swinging Midtown Manhattan Weekend

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Swing Remix dance, part of the weeklong tribute to the late Frankie Manning,  one of the Lindy Hop world’s legends.

Swing Remix dance, part of the weeklong tribute to the late Frankie Manning, one of the Lindy Hop world’s legends. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

By David McKay Wilson

New York City’s hotel boom brought me to midtown Manhattan, where I’d decided to spend a weekend at North America’s tallest hotel, a few doors down from The Late Show studios. I live in New York City’s northern suburbs and typically come into the city on weekend nights to dance. But it had been a spell since I’d slept over down there.

Why not live it up? A guy gets to splurge once in a while.
Our destination was the Residence Inn/Central Park Manhattan, located atop the Courtyard New York Manhattan/ Central Park – all 68 stories with 639 rooms. It opened in December, 2013, so our room on the 52nd floor still had that fresh, hadn’t been slept-in smell about it. It was a room with a kitchenette and a shower with a temperature gauge. The locks were high-tech. The alarm went off without us even setting it. Upstairs on the 52nd floor, rain pelted against the window, obscuring the view at the H&M Building and Bank of America, which loomed a few blocks away. The sky darkened. Thunder crackled. A bolt of lightning struck off a building nearby, welcoming me to one of America’s prime tourist destinations.

New York Hilton Midtown

New York Hilton Midtown

We headed for our first destination: Minus 5 Ice Bar, on the street level of the New York Midtown Hilton at West 54th and Avenue of the Americas. The scene was chill when we arrived at 6. We donned faux fur coats before entering the ice cave, which was very cool, at 23 degrees. We wore white cotton gloves and slugged down cinnamon-flavored vodka drinks from ice glasses. There was an ice sculpture of the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park landscapes were etched on the ice walls. You sit on faux-fur pelts and feel your fingers get cold while you drink.

T-45 Midtown Diner in the Hyatt Times Square New York

T-45 Midtown Diner in the Hyatt Times Square New York. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

Refreshed after 40 minutes, we returned to the streets on a brilliant evening, the storm having passed, all of New York aglow.

On West 45th Street, we arrived for dinner at T-45 Midtown Diner, the sleek diner designed by George Wong, with a beautiful poem penned in cursive on the far wall. It’s on the ground floor of the 487-room Hyatt Times Square New York, 135 West 45th ST., which opened in December, 2013. At T-45, we shared a beet salad with goat cheese, and vegan chili. The chili was spicy and hearty. The beets were still a little firm, just as I like them.

We capped our visit at one of the city’s newest rooftop aeries – Bar 54, on the hotel’s 54th floor. There, we ordered glasses of Merlot, sipped them out on the balcony, and peered south to the new World Trade Center tower, its spire shimmering at dusk.

Fortified, we head for the Swing Remix dance, was which was part of the weeklong tribute to the late Frankie Manning, one of the Lindy Hop world’s legends, and the man who taught me the eight-count in 1994. Here I was 20 years later, still dancing that dance. In the Jewish Community Center gymnasium on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the Solomon Douglas Swingtet had hundreds of dancers in motion. All level of dancers were there – from Ryan Francois, this era’s Frankie Manning, to newbies showing up to dance for the first time.

Dancers sort themselves out fairly quickly. If you are there as a couple, you can just dance together for as long as you’d like. If you are there alone, ask someone to dance – it’s perfectly acceptable for a man or woman can make the ask.

Sunday morning dawned on the 52nd floor at the Residence Inn, and we lingered a spell, soaking in the morning light. After all, the buffet was open until 10 a.m. But we lingered too long. You need to show up at the buffet before 9:15 a.m. When we arrived, there were a few scraps of omelet and potatoes left in the buffet pans. The coffee urns were empty too. We waited for 15 minutes. Still nothing. Oh well. I found a bagel and a banana, and headed for Central Park.

The Positive Brothers in Central Park. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

The Positive Brothers in Central Park. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

There, we strolled down the Literary Walk under a canopy of towering elms, with Robert Burns staring up into the spring, inspired, pen in hand. It led us to a plaza, where the Positive Brothers, brimming with energy, provided an entertaining performance of street humor, acrobatic feats, and improvisation. I’d been selected at random from the audience, so I spent a good 15 minutes out on the public stage, lining up with five others, and serving as a candidate to be somersaulted over by one of these tattooed black guys. I dodged that assignment, and was left to part with a few bucks for the show. Collecting the donations is part of the schtick as well, and through it, we learn that we’d been watching the show together, and laughing together, with people from the Netherlands, Italy, China, United Kingdom, Ohio, and Boston. The world had come to New York City for the weekend. We were part of that world.

David McKay Wilson has written on travel over the past 30 years as a freelance journalist, with his travel stories appearing in The Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant, New Haven Advocate, and Gannett News Service. An avid cyclist and skier, Wilson enjoys vacationing in the mountains and by the sea. His articles on public affairs have appeared regularly in The New York Times. He’s currently the nation’s top freelance writer for university alumni magazines, with his work appearing in publications at 81 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Chicago.

David McKay Wilson, a veteran journalist who lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, is an avid cyclist, skier and swing dancer. His travel writing has taken him around the world, with his work appearing in the Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant, and several Gannett daily newspapers.

 

 

 

Sleeping Around: The High Line Hotel, New York

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The High Line Hotel, New York

The High Line Hotel, New York

Shari Hartford

Location, location, location. Certainly not to be taken lightly, it makes the difference between meh and wow when it comes to hotels. During a recent visit to the High Line Hotel, I had the ultimate New York City hotel experience…trendy location, quirky and unusual structure, fantastic room and a great backstory.

The High Line – the area, not the hotel – quite simply, is a reuse of elevated train tracks on the westside of Manhattan that last saw a choo choo in 1980. In 2006 ground was broken to begin the renaissance from overgrown and dilapidated to a glorious park rising 30 feet above the rushing streets. The High Line Park is now a major destination for tourists and locals alike who wish to walk the walk, enjoy the views and admire the carefully chosen plantings that grace the entire length.

A bedroom at The High Line Hotel

A bedroom at The High Line Hotel

The High Line – the hotel, not the area – has an equally compelling history.  Built in 1895 as an Episcopal seminary dormitory, the red brick gothic-style structure experienced several incarnations before its current status as a hotel, opening in September 2013. The vast property still contains a functioning seminary, private gardens and several condominium units. In keeping the character of the original structure, none of the 60 guest rooms are alike and all are furnished with antiques combed from the east coast. Some of the rooms overlook the private garden…in season you can sit and reflect on times past. Think hunting lodge meets Hogwarts without Dumbledore and Harry.

Barista at The High Line Hotel

Barista at The High Line Hotel

When you arrive at the High Line, don’t search for the reception desk. There isn’t one. Instead the small lobby doubles as a coffee café by day and a wine bar at night with comfy couches and chairs that add to the quirky vibe. A staff member with a laptop does all the checking in. My deluxe king had all the charm of the bygone era with large windows, hard wood floors, a [non-functioning] fireplace with mantel, wooden armoire, sharpened pencils in a cup on the desk, a reconditioned black dial telephone and a live terrarium. The nod to the present included a flat screen television, electrical outlets for devices next to the bed, free wi fi, plush robes and a spacious bathroom with upscale bath products. (Also available for guests are bicycles for exploring the city streets and passes to the Equinox gym a short block away.)

Bath and Suite at The High Line Hotel

Bath and Suite at The High Line Hotel

When I departed after a wonderful night’s rest, I was sad to rejoin the present. After a bracing Intelligentsia coffee at the zinc topped bar and a quick wave to the mounted moosehead in the lobby, it was out into the cold, real world. After 13 snow “events” this season, I would have been very happy to hibernate until spring in this little corner of history.

The High Line Hotel, 180 10th Tenth Avenue (at 20th Street), New York, NY 10011. For more information, see thehighlinehotel.com.

 

 

shari2 Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.

 

Sleeping Around: Affinia 50, New York

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Affinia 50 Guestroom Deluxe with King Bed

Affinia 50 Guestroom Deluxe with King Bed

By Shari Hartford

Sometimes a hotel feels like, well, a hotel and sometimes it feels like home. Home it is for the Affinia 50, a jewel of a boutique property, centrally located in midtown Manhattan, just steps away from Grand Central Station. The Affinia 50 is appealing to both the leisure and business traveler with a newly designed lobby and second floor glass-enclosed club room. The nightly wine hour is a perfect location for unwinding before a night on the town or after a day of meetings.

The residential vibe continues in the 251 rooms and suites that are renovated and decorated, with 100 having sleek stainless steel kitchens. And there are 19 accommodations with large furnished terraces – not something you see every day in New York City.

Affinia 50 kitchen.

Affinia 50 kitchen.

Since I spend a bit of time going from hotel to hotel, I have become rather blasé about good bedding, comfy pillows and mattresses – I expect that in a quality hotel. (And, happily, we have kicked non-removable hangers to the curb!) But excellent lighting with dimmer switches, accessible and convenient electrical connections, adequate bathroom storage, good closet space and a large work area make me sit up and take notice. There is all this, plus more at the Affinia 50. I also loved that each room had a hardwood floor foyer; here again, the residential feel.

If a trip to New York is in the cards, consider the Affinia 50. They will welcome you home!

For more information:

Affinia 50, 155 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022  affinia.com.

 

shari2  Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.

 

Sleeping Around: The Refinery Hotel

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refinery-hotel-03

One of the ‘cloud-like” beds at The Refinery Hotel in New York.

 

By Shari Hartford

Back in the day, ladies wore hats…everyday, everywhere and the center for the millinery trade in New York City was 38th Street. Number 63, built in 1912, housed a factory where these hats, and their respective feathers, ribbons and bows (otherwise known as “trim) were manufactured.

Fast forward to May 2013 and the opening of the luxurious Refinery Hotel on this same site. As you step into the lobby your attention is immediately grabbed by the vaulted ceilings and the custom artwork that is both playful and fascinating, like the display of antique hat-making tools behind the reception desk. The twenties-inspired décor pays homage to the building’s roots—and location.

With 197 guest accommodations, the loft like rooms feature distressed hardwood floors, desks custom-designed to resemble sewing machine tables and walk-in stone floored showers. Always a sucker for good bath products, I couldn’t get enough of the Le Labo Santal 33 bath gel. The beds were cloud-like and all the room electronics and electrics are state of the art.

Winnie's at The Refinery, NYC

Winnie’s at The Refinery, NYC

Don’t miss the lobby bar, Winnie’s (named for Winifred MacDonald who ran a tea salon in the building during prohibition), for one of the house-special cocktails, like Cloche & Dagger and Winnie’s Ghost. When you’re ready for food, Parker & Quinn (on the 39th Street side of the hotel) puts forth classic American bistro fare in a clubby and convivial ambiance.

But my favorite spot was the rooftop lounge. Not yet operational when I visited, there will be a retractable roof over an indoor-outdoor space for warm weather hanging out and gazing at the soaring views of the Manhattan skyline, and a large and cozy fireplace for the winter months. A full bar menu and small plates will be served.

The Refinery is a perfect example of looking where you’re walking. On a nondescript street with business storefronts it’s easy to walk right on by. But don’t. It’s well worth the detour and the stay.

For more information, see refineryhotelnewyork.com

 

shari (1)  Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.

 

 

Artful Traveler: Bird by Bird At the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Kimono with Birds in Flight, Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1942 Dye-and pigment-patterned plain-weave silk crepe (chirimen)  Overall: 76 7/8 x 49 3/8 in. (195.3 x 125.4 cm) Gift of Harumi Takanashi and Akemi Ota, in memory of their mother, Yoshiko Hiroumi Shima, 2007 (2007.44.1)

Kimono with Birds in Flight, Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1942
Dye-and pigment-patterned plain-weave silk crepe (chirimen)
Overall: 76 7/8 x 49 3/8 in. (195.3 x 125.4 cm)
Gift of Harumi Takanashi and Akemi Ota, in memory of their mother, Yoshiko
Hiroumi Shima, 2007 (2007.44.1)

 

By Bobbie Leigh

Prepare to be dazzled. Birds in the Art of Japan, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will leave you spellbound. “Inspiration for the exhibition comes from traditional Japanese court poetry, haiku, and a Wallace Stevens  1923 poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” says John Carpenter,  Curator of Japanese Art  at the Met’s Department of Asian Art.  Intermingled among the scrolls, screens, ink paintings, and  bird books are contemporary  textiles, ceramics, lacquerware, and bamboo art.

KoheiNawa, Japanese, born 1975PixCell-Deer#24Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2011Mixed media; taxidermied deerwith artificial crystal glassH. 80 11/16 in. (205 cm); W. 59 1/16 in. (150 cm); D. 78 3/4 in. (200 cm)Purchase, Acquisitions Fund and Peggy and Richard M. Danziger Gift, 2011

KoheiNawa, Japanese, born 1975
PixCell-Deer#24
Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2011
Mixed media; taxidermied deerwith artificial crystal glass
H. 80 11/16 in. (205 cm); W. 59 1/16 in. (150 cm); D. 78 3/4 in. (200 cm)
Purchase, Acquisitions Fund and Peggy and Richard M. Danziger Gift, 2011

 

The mega-watt appeal of this new exhibition  begins with  Kohei Nawa’s glass PixCell-Deer, a contemporary sculpture  recently acquired by the Museum at  the entry point for the galleries.  Although a semi-permanent addition to the Arts of Japan galleries and not specifically related to avian themes,  it encapsulates all that follows—sublime sophistication  emotional and intellectual  complexities,  and  above all, a poetic sensibility.

The exhibition is organized roughly by  galleries devoted to specific types of birds, from pheasants to peacocks,   ravens to roosters,  mynahs to magpies —almost all types of birds  but only one with gossamer wings. Each gallery also features classic  poetic inscriptions that the  bird images might evoke. Intermingled among the scrolls, paintings, and watercolors  are contemporary  works that  match the  sensibilities of the medieval  ones.

Mochizuki Gyokkei ( Japanese, 1874–1939) White Peafowl, Japan, Meiji period (1868–1912), 1908 Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, gold, and gold-leaf dust on silk Image: 59 1/4 x 141 in. (150.5 x 358.1 cm) John C. Weber Collection

Mochizuki Gyokkei ( Japanese, 1874–1939)
White Peafowl, Japan, Meiji period (1868–1912), 1908
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, gold, and gold-leaf dust on silk
Image: 59 1/4 x 141 in. (150.5 x 358.1 cm)
John C. Weber Collection

Cranes, waterbirds, birds of prey,  among others are depicted with meticulous realism  whether in flight,  in battle, soaring in the heavens,  enjoying domestic bliss,  or simply showing  off   their  spectacular plumage. The best example of this preening is a 1908  painting of a  rare white peafowl on a  gold  leaf and gold-dusted  silk screen.  Rather than feathers, its diaphanous,  delicate  grand tail  looks like extraordinary fluffy material.  Another striking feature of this over-the-top  image is that the bird’s eye looks straight at you.

Mori Sosen (Japanese, 1747–1821) Silkies (Ukokkei) Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), before 1808 Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk Image: 33 3/4 x 51 in. (85.7 x 129.5 cm)  Fishbein-Bender Collection

Mori Sosen (Japanese, 1747–1821)
Silkies (Ukokkei)
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), before 1808
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk Image: 33 3/4 x 51 in. (85.7 x 129.5 cm)
Fishbein-Bender Collection

 

In the next case, is a rare  painting of Silkies by 18th center painter Mori Sosen.According to Carpenter, when Marco Polo first saw this rare bird  on one of his 13th century journeys, he is reported to have said that  this bird  was a  kind of fowl that had not feathers, but hair only like a cat’s fur.  As in so many of these paintings,  a lot is happening.

Mynah Birds (detail)Japan, Momoyama (1573–1615)–Edo (1615–1868) period, early 17th century Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper Image (each): 61 x 142 1/8 in. (155 x 361 cm)  The Metropolitan Museum of Art Purchase, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation and Anonymous Gifts, 2013

Mynah Birds (detail)
Japan, Momoyama (1573–1615)–Edo (1615–1868) period, early 17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper
Image (each): 61 x 142 1/8 in. (155 x 361 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation and Anonymous Gifts, 2013

Birds’ eyes also dominate in a pair of 17th-century screens depicting a flock of more than 120 mynah birds (same as blackbirds)  in flight or  hopping along a shoreline. Their expressive eyes, no two are alike,  also suggest human interaction.  Mynah birds have a political significance in Japanese mythology: to defy corrupt political power.  The motive behind this composition may have been  a call to rebel, to remember the time when the ancient capital Kyoto where the emperor lived in his palace was under threat from the Tokugawa warlords.

Gorgeous textiles, both Buddhist and secular,  with elegant bird motifs  and a gallery devoted to ukiyo- prints  are highlights of the art forms used to keep the viewer  focused on the various ways,  classic and contemporary,  Japanese artists explored  and depicted bird motifs.  There are always surprises—tiny seeds woven into a wedding robe with embroidered birds or   amid a classic flock of cranes on a screen painting,  a  soaring  conceptual bamboo sculpture called  Flight by Honma Hideaki (b. 1959).

In the last gallery Fukase Masahisa’s 1978 photograph, The Solitude of Ravens, is a powerful work with nearly the same impact  as Edward Munch’s The Scream.   It depicts a black as night raven silhouetted  against a slightly less dark sky.  Unlike earlier images of crows in previous galleries,  here the raven is imbued with mystery, solitude, and a prevailing sadness.  It’s a bit of a downer to end this riveting show, but it does yet again give the viewer an unprecedented sense of birds in the arts of  Japan.

Birds in the Art of Japan  is on view through July 28;  www.metmuseum.org.  Another rare exhibition, “Audobon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock,”  will showcase Audubon’s  Watercolors in a three-part series at the New York Historical Society.  (Part I: March 8-May 19)

 

bobbie2-200x300  Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques

Well & Good NYC: NYC’s Most Beautiful Yoga Studios

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Yoga Works Soho

By Melisse Gelula and Alexia Brue

Let’s just come out and say it: Pretty yoga studios matter.

Sure, it’s really all about inner reflection, but when a space feels sacred, so does your practice.

Design details, after all—like the amount of light in a room or a deep, warm wall color—are vibe inducing, easily soothing the mind or energizing the spirit.

We rounded up the nine most beautiful yoga studios in the city, from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side, many of which sprang up (recession-be-damned) in just the past year.

Read more at Well + Good NYC

 

Alexia Brue (left) is co-founder of Well+Good. She was a contributing editor at Luxury SpaFinder and Spa magazines and is the author of Cathedrals of the Flesh: My Search for the Perfect Bath (Bloomsbury). She has an MA in arts & culture journalism from the Columbia School of Journalism and has written for the New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and Conde Nast Traveler among others. Alexia has appeared on the Travel Channel, NPR’s All Things Considered, BBC Radio, and more. Melisse Gelula is co-founder of Well+Good. She is the former editor-in-chief of SpaFinderLifestyle.com, spa beauty editor at Luxury SpaFinder Magazine, and travel editor at Fodor’s Travel Publications. She has an MA in English Literature from the University of Toronto and has completed six years of training as a psychoanalyst. Melisse has written for such publications as Departures, Martha Stewart Living, Organic Spa, and Budget Travel and has been featured as an industry expert in the New York Times and on CNN.com, the Travel Channel, E! News, and more.

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