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Sunday, February 20, 2011

A MINI VACATION IN A MINI HOTEL

I am always up for a mini-vacation. Sometimes just getting away for a brief weekend can really feel like a long time away from home, and this Valentine’s Day weekend did just that for us. Valentine’s Day and  Sunday matinee tickets for Broadway’s Billy Elliot gave us a perfect “reason” to spend the weekend in New York City.

Backpacks worked for our overnight things. No suitcases, no wheels, and free hands. We left the car at Ramsey 17 and took the train in. I love trains, and I love traveling off-peak. With my Kindle, I just kick back and read for a longer period of time than I usually have. And no worry about parking! At Penn Station we hopped on the A train to Columbus Circle, a perfect starting point, and then a brisk walk to our hotel on 58th Street.

The Hudson is not your ordinary hotel. There is no marquee announcing its location. There is no address on the lime green, glass automatic doors, and within those doors there is no sign designating the escalator with its glass and lime green lighting as the trip up to the reservations desks in the main lobby.
escalator

Not like a hotel at all!

Reservation desk

We’re early, of course, because we have plans for the day. We check our backpacks and set off.

First stop is the Lubin House, Syracuse University’s townhouse on 61st Street. It’s a can’t-miss location. There aren’t too many buildings with big orange flags out front with a big Syracuse on it. Lubin House also has an art gallery open to the general public, and the exhibit there, in concert with the Dahesh Museum of Art, is worth a stop for anyone.

The exhibit, The Essential Line, is a study of the role of drawing in academic art in the 19th century. At that time, art students spent years studying drawing for it is “seven-eighths of what makes up painting.” The exhibit traces the development of a student of the time who first began copying paintings, graduated to sculpture, and finally was allowed to draw live models. The drawings display a heightened sense of observation, and in the exhibit, notes point out the exceptional growth in producing drawings that also expressed emotion and message. Drawings of horses or portraits of men keenly reflect an understanding of musculature and tension, for instance, and in the Palitz Gallery, we could take our time, observe, appreciate and learn. After the exhibit, and I recommend checking out this venue to see if there is an exhibit open to the public, we thought about our next destination.

We debated about heading over to the zoo on 63rd, but decided it was still a bit too windy, so we went off in search of a Starbucks, some warmth, and a chance to nibble on a protein bar. There we just relaxed and talked for almost an hour. Again, a mid-day rarity for us, and it was lovely.

Back to the hotel for check-in and some really big laughs. I was thankful I’d looked up reviews on the hotel prior to our trip because I would have been shocked! Reviews are sometimes ludicrous: too noisy (this in NYC, people), hard to find (that’s part of the charm), and tiny rooms. I was glad I read that because our room made a cruise stateroom into a suite!

bed
8x8 for the sleeping area, and in that space was a queen bed,

desk

a desk and chair, two night tables and two lamps,

lamp

lamp
These are the lamps, and they are part of the art of this room

two pull out tables, a sound system, drawers, two huge mirrors, a TV, and a wall tray for, I suppose, men to place their pocket contents. True, one had to walk sideways getting in and out of bed, and the wall mounted TV had to be flat against the mirror on which it was mounted to get through from that side, but all in all, it was really cute!!!!! No kidding. There was a tiny ice bucket.

ice bucket

I liked it a lot because it was so different and tiny. The view from our 19th floor took in the Hudson River even if you had to kneel on the bed to see out.

Let me say, everything was coordinated perfectly, and the lamps were lovely. As we entered from the hall, to the left was the doorway to the all white bath

sink

with a window separating the teeny tiny tub from the sleeping area. Pull a shower curtain across or not—depends on the wish for privacy.

mini-tub

Good lighting in the bathroom and all the necessary accoutrements. Just cute!

To the right was an, I’ll say alcove, with a luggage rack, though I’m not sure how one would open a full size piece of luggage in the room, and a substantial number of hangers.

The place was adorable. The desk had pencils, a teeny tiny pad with graph paper inside—I guess to enlarge the teeny tiny writing you might do in this teeny tiny room. And full-size stationery and fax sheets.

pad & pencil

Out in the hall was the "canteen," an interesting bar with stools in front of a series of doors behind which were snack and drink machines.  First time we had something like this, but I could envision friends gathering here for a quick snack; after all, they surely could not gather in anyone's room.


canteen

We headed to the Library for a drink with smiles on our faces, and that’s when I came to become really fond of this hotel. There is a wonderful club atmosphere and plenty of places to meet people.

The Library is huge, and yes, there are actually books there; many are out of reach up by the ceiling and surrounded by an unwalkable catwalk, but on our level there are book racks displaying some intriguing volumes.

library

The art on the wall is comprised of a huge black and white Holstein cow in a variety of headgear. Funny and fun. The seating is nice; big cushy leather or recliners (although poor Rob found one where the back gave way until he fixed the arm) There are pool tables, chess boards and group seating. The bartender is fast and efficient, and we began our night of vodka. AND THIS IS WHY YOU DON’T NEED A BIG BEDROOM; YOU WANT TO BE HERE!

library bar

Between March and October, the hotel has a rooftop bar and a terrace garden which we could only see through the hugh glass French doors. What a great place to meet.   You might be wondering if I'd recommend the Hudson.  I would.  I wouldn't be surprised if we end up there again.  But remember what I said about the teeny tiny room; it's just as I describe it.  If you are in the least bit claustrophobic, this is not the place for you.

roof garden


We went back to our room and changed. We had dinner reservations at the Firebird, a great Restaurant Row classic known for its Russian food. The walk to the restaurant was casually pleasant. The Avenue is a mélange of ethnic restaurants, and frankly, I could have eaten my way down to Restaurant Row. We had planned to go sometime last spring, but we hit traffic coming into the city and had to cancel. This was our make-up day, and, as a friend said, you want that hearty Russian food in the winter.

With 160 or so vodkas on their list, Rob had done his research before hand, but on the advice of the bartender in the Library, he altered one of his selections. We had Ruskova and Chopin vodkas, and tasted each others. Delicious. We chose the $45.00 prix fixe dinner, and it was fantastic. As we both had the same thing, my report is limited, but I can say that the food was outstanding.

We began with salmon caviar blini (for an additional $5.00 per), Alaskan salmon caviar, buckwheat blini, and crème fraîche. Glorious. We continued with Beef Strogonoff, filet mignon tips, onions and mushrooms in a veal jus, fresh pasta, and for dessert with our coffee, Romanov, vanilla ice cream, strawberries served with a Grand Marnier reduction. Dinner was heavenly!

The restaurant was busy, and it was sometimes a big noisily energetic, but when a large party left, things quieted down, and we were left to enjoy our dinner. Service was friendly and excellent. Before we left, we went upstairs to the private room. I’d like to plan something there.

Later some more vodka at the hotel finished the evening.

Sunday, I slept a little later. Checkout is at noon, so Rob went down to Café Europa on the corner of 58th and brought back big hot cups of coffee to go with our protein bars.

At noon, we headed to Sapporo in the theater district for a wonderful ramen lunch. It was heartening to see that the restaurant was filled with entire Japanese families and a few single fathers with their young children. Once again we chose the same dish, Sapporo Special Ramen which is noodles in Miso flavored soup with sliced and minced pork, fishcake, mixed vegetables, corn, scallions and spinach. At $9.95, this is a delicious and incredible bargain of a meal. We also ordered one order of gyoza, Japanese panfried dumplings-pork and vegetable. Everything was superb. I also watched the experts and picked up a better way than slurping up the ramen!

A stop in Starbuck’s before the theater seemed the right thing to do. Now comes my big gaff, and one which could have ruined everything. We got to the theater about 2:30 thinking the doors would be open and we could read the Playbill before the 3:00 matinee. NO NO NO. This matinee was at 2:00! Incredibly, backpacks and all, they seated us! Row F Orchestra and not aisle seats. I don’t even want to think what the people we climbed over thought because I can only imagine what my thoughts would be if two backpacking latecomers barged in during the first act. We hurried and not a word was uttered. Thank goodness for us we knew the story and we caught up instantaneously. But if after all that, we had missed the show….

Anyhow, I loved the show and the dancing, and afterwards we walked back to Penn Station just in time for a train, and we were home before 8 PM. One of the best mini-vacations ever!

travel trips vacations destinations "Third Age Traveler" "third age" photography "travel photos" "travel tips" "travel blogs" seniors "senior travel" "photo blogs" USA "New York" Manhattan NYC hotels Hudson subways "Columbus Circle" trains Ramsey "Penn Station" escalators museums Syracuse "Lubin House" "Palitz Gallery" art drawings Starbucks coffee dinner restaurants library cows bars vodka Firebird Russian food Broadway theater "Billy Elliot"
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