For me, the Plaza will always be home to Kay Thompson's fictional imp, Eloise. The grand hotel offers afternoon teas in the little six-year-old's honor in the tea room adjacent to its excellent food court. The Plaza's literary background does not end with the book about the precocious kid: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald also resided here.
With grandiose entrances spanning the block between 56th and 57th Streets, Thompson Central Park (formerly known as Le Parker Meridien) has much to be seduced by when stepping inside their doors. After having had a stupendous breakfast at Norma's inside the hotel, Marisa Zafran, the director of public relations & marketing, took us on a grand tour, sharing some of the fascinating history along the way. Coincidentally, while chatting about Jack Parker, who built the hotel in 1981, and has since passed away, we crossed paths with his elegant ninety-three year old wife, as she stepped out of the elevator. Apparently, she now resides on the top floor while her sons run the hotel. When entering the elevators, ourselves, we immediately glanced upward to stare at the constantly looping classic films being shown. On any given ride, guests are treated to Charlie Chaplin films, Laurel & Hardy, the Three Stooges as well as old-time favorite cartoons. Marisa explained that the aim is to eliminate the awkward elevator silence and make it so that people feel completely at home at every turn in the hotel.On the top floor, there is a beautiful and inviting lap pool surrounded by glass windows, and stepping outside onto the terrace we had 360 degrees of breathtaking views of New York, including overlooking Central Park in its entirety. Back down in the lobby, we bypassed the line that was wrapping around the space, despite the early hour, to get into Burger Joint. This tiny, hidden restaurant is considered by many to be the best place for hamburgers in the city. I also fully appreciated the exquisite burgundy-draped Knave where people were quietly sitting over a cup of coffee. Later in the day, the bar opens and guests are invited in for a drink and some elegant "nibbles."
At the heart of midtown, St. Regis New York asserts itself with a resplendent flourish. This hotel's stately facade and gleaming lobby are trumpeters of a legacy that began in 1904 with the inspiration of Colonel John Jacob Astor I - a man whose place in the elite high society of Gilded Age America has not been forgotten. Simply by stepping inside, St. Regis immediately declares itself a veritable symbol of luxury, elegance and historic status.Those who seek the royal treatment will find a haven in the 229-room hotel, which upholds exceptional service as a foremost column of its prestige. Its signature Butler Service promises constant personalized attention; butlers pack and unpack luggage, perform wake-up calls, press clothes, deliver items, and attend to any number of other tailored requests for their customers.Through its more than century-long history, the hotel has hosted celebrities of every era. Marilyn Monroe was one of the most glamorous to visit, while Marlene Dietrich, William Paley, and Salvador Dalí - with his wife and pet ocelot - lived at the hotel for extended periods. But St. Regis New York is not exclusively a nest of the rich and famous. The more common among us in search of an impressive site for weddings and other exceptional occasions may find the coveted taste of specialness in this establishment. Even I had the honor of walking down the aisle in their magnificent ballroom in 1980, when I was a bridesmaid for one of my dearest friends.
A luxury hotel containing 140 guest rooms and 49 elegant suites, the Pierre is a shining beacon overlooking Central Park. Offering some of the best views and the finest amenities in the city, the Pierre has been the US flagship of Taj Hotels, based in India, ever since the company purchased this iconic building on its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2005. It was first constructed by Charles Pierre, an immigrant from Corsica, with the help of a group of Wall Street financiers whom he had met while rising up through the New York restaurant world. Designed by Schultze and Weaver, the hotel was praised for its architecture and opened in 1930 with a gala dinner to which all high society was invited.It is clear that The Pierre is still a hot spot for high society, and the magnificent architecture and luxury are only part of the reason why: The Pierre delivers top class customer service. When we were visiting Sirio, Sirio Maccioni's eponymous restaurant located inside the hotel, we witnessed the employees being coached on the new art installation in the lobby. And on another occasion, we had the extreme pleasure of participating in a private dinner hosted by Executive Chef Ashfar Biju and distinguished Pastry Chef Michael Mignano in the Two E Lounge. Accompanying this fourteen course meal was international jazz singer, Claire Khodara.
After a long, cold January day trekking across 57th Street, the Sideways team found their spirits revitalized at the Row House, where men and women were coming through the doors for their early evening fifty-minute workout. Row House was founded by trainers and couple, Debra and Eric Von Frohlich, as a destination where people of all ages can participate in a variety of exercise classes centered on rowing machines. The idea was inspired by Debra's great cousin, Emery, who lived to age ninety-three maintaining incredible health and form - which he attributed to his daily rowing routine. Promoting this inspirational story along with the full-body workout and non-impact nature of rowing, Debra and Eric have attracted a strong following of those who believe in it as the right alternative to the typical gym routine. After a tour of the facilities and observing a class, I believe that we were each inspired to give this new form of exercise a chance.Located one flight down, we had the pleasure of meeting one of the trainers as he was getting ready to begin his class in the EVF Performance Space - also run by Debra and Eric. Continuing in the same vein as Row House, the staff strives to provide a better alternative to traditional gym machines and utilities. Each class features a variety of cross-fit exercises including box-jumps, gymnastic rings and barbells, with the most popular class being their Signature 360. Although intimidated at first by the intensity of the exercises, I was captivated by the warmth and sincerity of the instructors. I came away believing that every client is given the same amount of guidance and care in order to provide the perfect individual workout for them.
Stepping inside Jim's Shoe Repair is like walking into a time capsule. At first glance, it appears that nothing has changed since the store opened in 1932. Wooden saloon-style booths line the wall opposite shoeshine chairs equipped with golden footrests and leather backrests, while the original cash register still stands proudly in the front of the shop. Jim's is the place for the customer who wants "the best shoe shine" with a bit of small talk or a glance through the daily newspapers. It is simple and unpretentious, which explains its long history of celebrity customers.Vito Rocco came to New York by way of Italy in the 1920s and opened up his shop in 1932, across the street from where it stands today. He called it Jim’s as an ode to America — short, simple, and recognizable. His son, Joseph, began working in the shop in 1940 and did not retire until 2019. “At age ninety, he still wants to come in, but I won’t let him anymore,” his son, Joe, said lovingly. He and his son, Andrew, are now “honored” to be continuing this family business.Although Jim's has largely stayed the same since its inception, Joe noted that they no longer clean hats, as this was deemed a fire hazard in the 1940s. Joe emphasized, however, that their shoe repair is performed the traditional way, with most of it being done by hand. There are no nailing guns used and machine work is kept to a minimum — only for stitching and sanding.Walking through the back is like being granted a tour of Santa’s workshop. Joe strolls through the various departments of the repair services, patting his employees on the back and exchanging laughs along the way. There are rickety ladders to go up and down where one finds every nook and cranny converted into a cozy but busy workspace. “Even if we wanted to change up the place, our customers would never allow us. They appreciate it the way it is after four generations.”
Directly across from the imposing statue of Christopher Columbus, marking both the epicenter of Columbus Circle and New York City as a whole, stands the Museum of Arts and Design. Founded in 1956 - and in this spectacular building since 2008 - the museum celebrates contemporary artists, designers, and artisans who apply the highest level of ingenuity and skill to their work. Inside the light-filled interior, this accessible museum explores a rotating series of exhibitions profiling makers, who work in a wide range of materials and processes, in an effort to explore the intersection of art, craft and design.When I visited the museum with members of the Manhattan Sideways team, I was thrilled to have them walk around with a dear friend who has been a docent at MAD for several years. We were fascinated by the global reach and depth of the Latin American exhibition, "New Territories," as Felicia explained in detail what we were seeing. Our team was also intrigued by the museum's show celebrating its founder, Aileen Osborn Webb, entitled "What Would Mrs. Webb Do," featuring objects from their permanent collection, curated by Jeanine Falino. We then went on our own to explore the technical skill made apparent in the neckpieces and sculptures of Joyce Scott in the exhibit, "From Maryland to Murano." In addition to the shows on each floor, MAD invites guest artists to work in their studios, allowing visitors the opportunity to engage in conversation, and to observe them as they are sculpting, drawing or creating something unique with a mixture of materials. Having been to the museum many times, I consistently find myself absorbed in the variety of art displayed, and when possible, I make my way to the ninth floor where the innovative Robert restaurant allows guests a bird's eye view of Columbus Circle from its exquisite interior.
Guastavino's gets its name from the Spanish architect, Rafael Guastavino, who designed an arcade of Catalan Vaults to fit under the Queensboro Bridge in the early part of the twentieth century. Initially, the arcade was host to a year-round marketplace, but it was shut down during the depression. Not long after this, the NYC Department of Transportation took over the space. In 1973, Guastavino's was designated a landmark as part of the Queensboro Bridge. Terrance Conran opened his British home furnishings shop here for some time, and now on one side is the Food Emporium, while on the other is Guastavino's magnificent private event space. And a very special place, indeed, to one of my daughter's dearest friends, Jenny Posen Cohen, who got married here in 2012.