“Ooh, you’re at the Royalton?” the art director said, admiringly. “I went on a date there. The lobby bar [above] is beautiful. Your room must be really expensive.”
“Not that expensive,” I said, a little defensively. “It’s in the same range as the boring, corporate Hilton right up the street.”
When I’m planning a trip to New York for client visits, I check the rate at the Hilton Midtown, where we had been booked during the first few trips, then use Hotels.com to see if I can find something more interesting at that price range or lower. I was delighted to see that the Royalton fit that bill (literally).
Like the art director, my first trip to the Royalton had because of the lobby bar. Last winter, my client visit coincided with my friend Christopher’s trip to survey productions at the Fringe International festival. I was lucky enough to tag along to see “Super Night Shot,” which tracks four performers for an hour in real time as they race through the city, interacting with the public in an effort to create a storyline worth a movie. After the production, we headed back to the lobby bar at the Royalton, which is where Christopher always stays when he’s in town. I had the same slightly awestruck reaction that my art director friend did.
“This is a place where grown-ups hang out,” I remember thinking. It’s not often that I consider myself much of a grown-up. (Does anyone?) The place felt fun but sophisticated — no suffering through the constant BOOM-BOOM-BOOM of a nightclub (unlike Dream Downtown, where I took video of the water glasses in the cabinet chattering to the beats of the bass thumping through my room).
I didn’t arrive at the perfect time; it was 16 degrees when my plane landed, and the forecast called for up to a foot of snow to arrive starting that night, in what would be just the latest in a series of snowstorms. But when I got to the hotel, it felt like everything would be all right. The room was downright supersize compared to some of the smaller ones I’ve stayed in; the shot at right was taken as soon as I walked in the first day; behind me was the cabinet display, the closet and the bathroom.
Oh, ♥the bathroom♥. I tried to take photos, but couldn’t do it justice. First off, the shower head is one of those super-rainshower types that I’m usually not a fan of, but this had enough pressure and direction to feel like a good shower and not just a drenching. Also, there’s a vanity table separate from the sink countertop, and while I am not the type who needs to sit down to perform la toilette, the extra horizontal space was most welcome. I briefly considering spiriting away the Malin+Goetz bath products every day, hoping for refills, but decided that was uncouth. (OK, what I really decided was that I would run out of room in my TSA-allotted zipper-lock bag. I’m not ashamed to admit it.) Plus, I came back from work on Day 2 and discovered that the housekeepers had arranged all the amenities as they appear in the shot at right. Labels facing! OCD Sammitt was downright giddy.
The bed was quite comfortable, which was lovely because I spent lots of time in or on it. My ¾-mile walk to and from work the next morning involved a lot of snow and slush (although it had warmed up to the low 30s by then … win some, lose some) so by the time I’d get back to the room, all I wanted to do was take a shower to warm up and eradicate the smell of wet wool gloves, then nestle under the covers and work or read. One night I didn’t even get dinner; to avoid going outside I ate a Zone Perfect bar and some fruit.
Here’s my lone gripe (which applies to many other places as well, including the aforementioned Hilton): It’s time hotels either throw in the Wi-Fi for free, or build the cost into the room rate. Maybe the smaller hotels I’ve stayed at can offer free Internet because the number of guests is low enough to keep the bandwidth use from getting out of control? But it’s exactly because smaller places offer it that I think that larger facilities need to as well. If you’re taking pride in providing service to guests, how can you be charging a fee for what is now an essential daily requirement for most guests?
But everything else about the place was top-notch. Even the elevators seemed fast, which in New York can be unheard of when there are only three of them servicing 16 floors. (At least I think I remember there being 16 floors. I was on the 11th, and there was a whole row of buttons to push above mine.) And despite the uncooperative weather, the service was seamless.
In a sad twist, given my intro to the place (and this post), I never stopped in the lobby bar. It always was bustling enough to make it feel like the sort of place that you go with other people, not by yourself. Perhaps on my next trip I’ll nonetheless venture downstairs for a drink. (Jacket not required.)
|WHAT SAM WORE: 2-16-14|
|The shirt: T-shirt by Tailgate Clothing Co., from Nordstrom Rack.|
|The shorts: Cotton twill shorts, from Joe Fresh in New York.|
|The shoes: Custom-made Converse All-Stars, a gift from Funny Michael.
(They were far enough away from everything else that the nonmatching reds—sshhhh!—didn’t distract as much.)