Sunday, August 30, 2015

Adoring the Waldorf Astoria: History and luxury in New York (we must come back for tea!)

The Waldorf Astoria's beautiful lobby which houses the 9 foot bronze clock
The Waldorf Astoria:  the name is synonymous with luxury and embedded in American history. There are times when we all deserve to treat ourselves to something special and when you are in New York City, we highly recommend a stay at this beautiful hotel.

Located on Park Avenue, the Waldor Astoria is an oasis from the busy Manhattan activity
Located on Park Avenue, anchored by 49th and 50th streets, the hotel is easy walking distance to Saks, Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Broadway and yet a very comfortable distance from the bright lights, crowds and noise. It is an oasis of comfort, elegance and tradition and a place we referred to as "home" during our stay in Manhattan the last week of July.

Charming entry to our room, located just off the main hallway

Room is traditional elegance with fireplace, gold framed mirror and overstuffed chairs.
A delightful change from the cookie-cutter brand of hotels, even the entry of our room was unique. Located in an alcove off the main hallway, it seemed more of personal residence than a short-stay inn. The interior had a touch of old-word elegance with a marble fireplace, gilded above-the-mantle mirror and striped,overstuffed chairs.

Fireplace ambiance, no need to utilize in July
Since the outside temperatures hovered in the 90's during our stay, we didn't investigate the warming powers of the fireplace, but it certainly added to the ambiance.

Pretty vanity says "Welcome Lady Gulley and Lady Rachel!"
We found every inch of our room comfortable and charming. The bathroom was an ample size with a vanity sink furnished with the hotel’s signature toiletries set on cut glass trays. Hello, inner-princess, we're having a wonderful time!

Final inspection on theater night in front of lovely mirrored closet door.
Even the mirrored closet doors added a touch of vintage panache. Used daily for inspection, they provided a double-dose of reassurance before heading out to our night at the theater.

Lion King must be remembered fondly with a plastic cup.
Back "home" with our Broadway souvenir. Time to unwind in our room and investigate where it all began. . . 

Site of original Waldorf Astoria, now home to the Empire State Building
The Waldorf Astoria’s origins date back to the end of the 19th century when Astor cousins built neighboring luxury hotels (The Waldorf and The Astoria) within four years of each other. 

Constructed on the families’ former residences on 5th Avenue and 33rd Street, it was the ultimate in accommodations for its era. Eventually, the site was sold to make way for the Empire State Building and the Waldorf Astoria moved to its current location in 1931. Since then, it’s hosted presidents, royalty and Hollywood’s elite for seven decades.

TV drama always better in a luxurious room
Back to the Gulley Girls, circa 2015.  We got so comfortable during our stay, we took a break in our room to rest up and catch up on a little DOOL.  Watching Dr. Daniel express his feelings to Nicole were never enjoyed in a more cushy setting.

Toasting our last night at the Peacock Alley. Must return for afternoon tea!
We toasted our last night in New York at the hotel lobby’s delightful Peacock Alley Restaurant. We were well tended to and not rushed. It was wonderful just to take a few minutes to soak in the regal environs of our temporary home.

Our only disappointment was finding out afternoon tea is not served during the months of July and August. That must mean, we surely have to come back.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Start spreading the news: Tea time fun in NYC!

I'll start spreading the news:  Rachel and I left two weeks ago for a four-and-a-half day whirlwind trip to the Big Apple. Our visit was to include afternoon tea at The St. Regis Hotel, a Broadway show, lunch at Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and a day excursion to Hyde Park.  Like the "Chairman of the Board", we made a brand new start of it in old New York and loved every New York minute.

Our accommodations were at the historic and elegant Waldorf Astoria. The only disappointing part of the stay was finding out that afternoon tea is not served in the hotel's Cocktail Terrace during the summer months. Not to miss out completely, we toasted our final night in the Cocktail Terrace, a beautiful dining area overlooking the opulent grand lobby with its marble columns, mahogany paneling and the iconic nine foot bronze clock.

Our room at the Waldorf Astoria. No need to light a fire with 90 degree temps outside.

First stop,  after checking in and a quick refresh, was the St. Regis Hotel for afternoon tea. I had been there once before - just to view the tea venue - on my New York tea trip with the former hotel's tea sommelier, Elizabeth Knight. It's been remodeled since then with a more contemporary decor. I must admit, I do like the elegance of the previous "Astor Court", but found the updated environs still pleasing. More importantly, the afternoon tea fare was delicious!

Afternoon tea time at the recently updated St. Regis Hotel 
Next day was our tour of  Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We took some time at the latter to do some family research on my family - Engmans that came over from Finland.  Didn't make much in way of  connections but still very moved by the museum and, of course, the Statue of Liberty.

Visitors from the "D" awed by Lady Liberty

Downpour while in NYC bus 
We did several "hop-on/hop-off" bus tours of the Manhattan. While waiting for one bus to pick us up at Battery Park, we and fellow tour-goers were caught in a downpour that was enhanced by rush hour traffic and some angry customers. But, the sun came out, the bus moved on and we got to our Broadway show with 5 minutes to spare.  No worries, or should I say "hakuna matata" in honor of "The Lion King", the musical we experienced that night.
Made it to show, minutes to spare

After a wonderful night at the theater, we were up early for our day excursion to Hyde Park. The purpose of the trip was to visit Springwood, home of Franklin Roosevelt, but, as an added bonus of the tour, we also had a stop at the Vanderbilt Mansion. The latter was also on the Hudson River, and home to Frederick Vanderbilt, the grandson of the Cornelius Vanderbilt, the shipping and railroad magnate. The homes are within a five minute drive of each other, but  span a great distant in contrasts, showcasing "old money" versus "new". If I had to choose, I'd take either.

Outside the Vanderbilt Mansion

The Vanderbilt residence, although noted to be the home of the most frugal Vanderbilt sibling of his era, is still an ostentatious mansion by any standard and a great example of the gilded-age lifestyle.

So much to see and learn at FDR's home in Hyde Park
Springwood, the home of FDR, by contrast, was understated elegance and, though grand in size, still exhibited a more homey and accessible interior. And, with the Roosevelt Library on the grounds, the visit gave us the opportunity to learn even more about Franklin, Eleanor and the rest of the Hyde Park Roosevelts.

Past the nine o'clock hour, still got a peek inside to see Al!

Easter Island statue at American Museum of Natural History

Back in Manhattan, we ended our day with a night tour of the city. Although in areas like Times Square, there's so much light from marquees and spotlights, you can easily convince yourself it's still daytime.

Iced tea (of course) with lunch at Tavern-on-the Green in Central Park

Other highlights of the trip included a stop in front of the Today Show studios (and spotting Al Roker!), lunch at Tavern-on-the Green, a visit to the American Museum of Natural History  and a late-night dinner at the Stardust Diner, where Broadway-bound waiters and waitresses belt out show tunes in between serving you egg creams.

Recommended egg creams at Stardust Diner

Weren't these guys just serving us egg creams and burgers?

As noted earlier, we did end our stay in the Waldorf Astoria's lobby, toasting our trip with a glass of the bubbly.  It was an exciting trip, but, for now, we're quite content to wake up in a city that does sleep. It's two thumb's up to you, New York, Neeeeeewwww Yooooooorkkk!

Toasting to an amazing trip to New York, the city that never sleeps!

Please stay tuned! More stories on NY to come!