The Waldorf-Astoria: 24 Hours, 20 Minutes and a Different World
By Shari Hartford
Hotels in New York City offer something for everyone. There are small boutique properties with ultra-sleek furnishings and a decidedly hip clientele. There are small –and large– comfortable and otherwise anonymous places to lay your head. There are the usual chains with their cookie cutter rooms (is this New York or Akron?).
And then there are the classics. These hotels are so closely associated with Manhattan, and with histories so intriguing, that no further explanation is necessary: the Plaza, the St. Regis, the Carlyle, and, of course, the Waldorf-Astoria. The Waldorf has been a home-away-from-home for presidents, visiting dignitaries and movie stars since 1931, and, recently, I signed the registry too. With a current $299 a night promotion, mere mortals can actually consider it.
The occasion was twofold: the famed Peacock Alley Sunday brunch was back and the luxurious Guerlain Spa was open for business.
After a 20-minute subway ride (is there any other way to arrive at the Art Deco masterpiece?) my friend, Margie, and I checked in and were ushered to room 23M, a one-bedroom suite sumptuously decorated in a traditional style. After a quick spin around the room(s) it was downstairs for brunch.
Room at the Waldorf.
Brunch at Peacock Alley is a combination of an eating frenzy and a chance to see and be seen (request seating in the lobby area – we saw Donatella Versace). After crisp mimosa aperitif, we proceeded to our first stop at the winding displays — the smoked fish, with four kinds of salmon, creamy sable, kippers, whitefish and more. From there it was the caviar bar, complete with blini and all the necessary accouterments. Shellfish was next — lobster, jumbo shrimp and cracked crab. Along the way, we also picked up a couple of tiny glasses filled with just a mouthful of delicate roasted beets with goat cheese and tiny mozzarella balls with heirloom tomatoes. Also in the mix were eggs benedict with salmon, filet mignon, rack of lamb, turkey, chicken and a heavenly French toast with caramelized apples.
Whew! That's a food marathon and we hadn't even tackled dessert. (We wondered if all the getting up and down burn any calories?) We topped off the main courses with a sampling of cakes, cookies, puddings and, since fruit is good for you, a couple of skewers of dried apricots dipped in the dark chocolate fountain.
The price tag for this Roman orgy of food isn't cheap–$95 per person plus tax and gratuity — but we rationalized it's easy to eat that much just in caviar and filet mignon! After a brisk walk around the neighborhood we returned to our suite to watch the World Series in style while wrapped in Frette bathrobes.
The next morning a quick elevator ride took us to the Guerlain Spa, a gleaming light-filled, state-of-the-art retreat. The facility, complete with 16 treatment rooms and a sumptuous footbath lounge, is an oasis in midtown. After our professional treatments, we left both rejuvenated and sated and ready to save our pennies for another option on the spa menu.
Alas, we bid a fond adieu and our chariot, aka the subway, whisked us back to reality. Although our stay was just 24 hours, it seemed refreshingly longer. What a wonderful way to regroup and recharge the batteries without really leaving home!
For more information, visit The Waldorf-Astoria.
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.