Sunday, November 27, 2005

NYC Recap: Hudson Hotel

My cousin who lives in upstate New York is moving to California in a few weeks, so we decided to spend Thanksgiving together in New York City before she left the East Coast and David would have dinner with his mother.

David's health during the week made me reassess the feasibility of this trip, but after monitoring the situation on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, we decided it was OK for me to go to New York overnight and return as planned on Thursday evening.

I used Hotwire this time to see what hotel deals were available for Midtown. I was expecting higher demand, what with it being the holidays and the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the expected crowds (estimates run in the area of 2.4 million spectators). I'd found some deals in the Upper East Side, but figured I'd gamble on getting in closer to the action along the west side, even though sites such as Hotwire don't divulge the name of the hotel or its exact location until after the purchase is made.

I lucked out this time, getting a hotel less than two blocks off Broadway, a block from Columbus Circle metro station, near Central Park West:

Hudson Hotel
356 West 58th Street

I read hotel reviews on various travel sites, and the number one complaint was how small the rooms are. I don't know if the majority of people just don't do their research or are accustomed to expansive hotel rooms, but New York is high-density living and space is at a premium. It's clearly stated on the website that the rooms are compact:
"Inspired by the romance of ocean travel, and reminiscent of a private cabin on an upscale yacht, Hudson's 1000 guest rooms - most with gorgeous views of the Private Park - have walls richly paneled in imported African wood, flowing white curtains, sleek stainless steel tables, crisp white linens, brass-riveted furniture and Starck's modern take on the classic U.S. Naval chair. Bedside lamps with allegorical images designed by renowned painter Francesco Clemente lend a spirit of dreamlike fantasy to the room."

I'm a long-time hosteller -- I'm used to tight spaces and bunk beds and sharing European-sized bathrooms, but I was curious to see how the Hudson would manage to fit 1,000 hotel rooms in a single building. This I had to see for myself!

The traffic into New York City was, in a word, nuts, but really only towards the Lincoln Tunnel and it was MUCH worse leaving the city. I arrived at Port Authority 45 minutes later than scheduled, but I took an express subway so it was really only two stops to the hotel.

I was warned by Mister M, who'd stayed at the Hudson recently, that the hotel was hard to find because it lacked signage out front, and he wasn't kidding! If you visit their website, a photo of the front entrance will fade in, and there is absolutely no sign whatsoever. At street level there are automatic doors leading towards a set of escalators, which I took a shot of here with my cameraphone. The escalators take you straight up to the lobby, which also has no mention of where you are.

Hudson Hotel
It's like entering an alternative universe, where everyone is aware of their co-ordinates. Everyone, that is, except you.

'Hmmm,' I mused, 'I must be here, then.'

That was when my cousin Maureen rushed to greet me. I was relieved to see her, since she said she would drive... rather brave, I thought. It's the eve of Thanksgiving, and I witnessed the rivers of traffic on the way in. But she said she took the bus instead, so that explains how she beat me to the hotel.

I checked in at the Anonymous Counter of Black-Garbed Reception Staff, and showed my room card to the elevator man. I guess the Hudson skimped on the card-coded elevator system to finance the ultra-trendy elegant-by-day, disco-by-night flooring seen here in my other cameraphone shots:

Hudson HotelHudson Hotel

When we exited the elevator and cruised down the corridors, it really did feel like being on a ship -- the room doors were very close together. I opened our door and immediately started laughing: this is DEFINITELY the smallest hotel room I'd ever seen! But I was impressed with how they designed the room for best use of space.

Hudson Hotel
I would never recommend a standard room for people, say, over 200lbs (91kgs). The bathroom would be too small. There is literally just enough space to open the door -- the sink is directly in front of the door. There is probably less than two feet between the toilet and the wall. The bathtub is more of a glorified shower, but if you're so inclined you could push aside the curtain and put on a show through the plexiglass wall separating the sleeping area and the bathroom. Except there's a tiny desk right below, on the other side of the glass, so it might be a more intimate show than someone, say, sitting at the desk working on a laptop might be prepared for.

The other scenario I don't recommend for a stay at the Hudson Hotel is with luggage. My cousin and I only took overnight bags, which fit fine in the closet but anything larger won't fit under the (child-sized) desk, beside the bed, or underneath it because the beds are low to the floor. There is only enough space around the bed for -- you guessed it -- one pair of legs. Amazingly, they fit a small television, stereo, and hotel bits and bobs in a tall narrow cupboard in one corner of the room beside the desk. Everything you'd find in a standard American hotel room (including an air conditioner behind the headboard!), but much smaller. Not quite Lilliputian, but similar dimensions.

I loved it -- for our purposes, this hotel was great. We didn't need more room than what we had, the bed was comfy and spacious (that's the priority!), and everything was within easy walking distance.

Practically the first item of the evening was to hit the sushi restaurant a few doors down, and it was like manna from heaven... I hadn't eaten sushi since I was in Vancouver, and it was even better and cheaper than my last sushi experience in New York. There were also three 24-hour pharmacies nearby, and I got a good deal on a 5-pack of film at the local CVS. I was so happy to be getting around on public transit, without car dependency, and the best part -- being a pedestrian again.

After a walk around Midtown, we even had dessert and coffee at a little late-night restaurant across the street from the hotel. I really missed being in a city, where the restaurants are open late for nighthawks like me.