9 July 2009
“49th and Park,” I told the cabbie as we loaded our bags in at JFK. I had a little surprise for my daughter. And myself, I suppose. We were going to be sleeping in a legend.
Day ten of a fourteen-day round the world trip. Two of us in economy, drinking our way through first-class lounges in seven cities. Perhaps there’s a book in the story, but certainly a great series of blog posts. My daughter kept a travel journal:
New York [from the air] was a little cloudy but Dad saw the Statue of Liberty. We took a cab to the hotel and I was shocked to see us pulling up at the Waldorf-Astoria.
Apparently Dad had a good deal on the room. The hotel is beautiful: Art Deco with a golden clock built in London for the World’s Fair 1890s. There are many little shops selling diamonds, Fabergé eggs, and beautiful service wear. The room itself is very nice but without a fridge or tea/coffee facilities. We have a wide screen TV but no powerpoint. 🙁
Sleeping in a legend
Remember that frequent flyers’ website I mentioned as my number one best travel site? I’d been reading up on flights and accommodation and things to do on our trip, and someone had posted a discount code for the Waldorf-Astoria. We had two nights in Manhattan planned, and when I saw that a room at the Waldorf would only cost us $200 a night, I couldn’t get my credit card out fast enough!
The look on Mary’s face when we pulled up at the Waldorf was reward enough for keeping the secret to myself for months. The cabbie was also surprised, and had no idea of the drop-off point, so instead of sweeping up majestically at the front entrance, we found some underground laneway.
Not to worry. The hotel was every bit as grand and impressive as I’d hoped. Full of souvenirs and photographs from decades of high living. We browsed around the foyer, growing more impressed with each step.
The room itself was pretty ordinary, with not much of a view, not many facilities, and as Mary notes, not even a power outlet to recharge our electronics. Perhaps guests at the Waldorf called up room service for everything including dawn coffee.
But the beds were good, the location hard to beat, and we made the most of our stay. When we got back home, we bragged shamelessly, and I tucked away in my mind the thought that when I brought my wife to Manhattan, I’d better make dam’ sure we stayed at the Waldorf!
End of an era
The news is out now. The Waldorf-Astoria is closing its doors in a few days. To be replaced by luxury apartments. Doubtless the name will live on, and having an apartment at the Waldorf has been something of a tradition for well-heeled visitors. Herbert Hoover lived there for thirty years, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter and many others were long-term residents.
Frankly, the glory was fading when we stayed there in 2009. Lovely old hotel, but not quite the thing for tourists. Maybe the grander suites had more facilities, but for two hundred bucks a night, I want to be able to recharge my phone!
I’ll remember the Waldorf fondly. It was worth the money for the name and certainly for the location. It was our base for a fabulous two days exploring Manhattan, and I have many stories to tell, of breakfast dreams at Tiffany’s, nearly losing Routebear into New York Harbour, watching the New York Mets and helping make a record, and finally, getting the doorman to call us a cab.