Friday, 9 November 2012

The Bryant Park Hotel

Source: TripAdvisor

A weekend Facebook post from the Bryant Park Hotel in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, words to the effect that their staff had not worked and that the hotel had no guests, made me realise that I'd not written the positive review of this hotel that I'd meant to pull together after our stay in April of this year.

My wife and two daughters (5 and 4) spent a week at the Bryant Park Hotel after a fortnight enjoying theme parks in Orlando. The original intention of the stay in New York was to be a week spent enjoying the city, doing more 'adult' things after two weeks of the comparative unreality of Florida. As it happens, our two girls enjoyed endlessly walking round Manhattan and Brooklyn every bit as much as we did. Their prior knowledge of New York's unique topography has been informed by the number of pictures, prints and books about the city in our house and from seeing landmarks in films. But one of the things that made their enjoyment of New York so strong was the hotel itself.

The Bryant Park Suite we had overlooking Bryant Park in the former American Radiator Building was modern, clean, spacious and functional without feeling too minimal. My eldest daughter slept on the day bed in the window of the lounge while my youngest slept on a foldaway bed a good few feet away. Despite the lounge being converted into a kids' bedroom, it remained spacious and uncluttered throughout our stay, and we made good use of the sofas and dining table, including one night eating take-out pizza from John's at Times Square, and occasional breakfast pastries from Pret or the patisserie across the other side of the park. Every morning and evening the kids would rush to the window to look out at the huddled skyscrapers of Midtown, the changing colours of the spire of the Bank of America tower, the deep canyon of Fifth Avenue and the people sitting .at tables in the park or at the long benches visible through the windows at the rear of the Library. To say they were enthralled by New York's vibrancy would be a gross understatement, and we would all go to sleep at night with the city's buzz pleasantly in our ears.

If the suite was perfect enough, our stay was made all the better by the staff at the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel from JFK, we were greeted at the door by Ryan, with whom we spoke every day, talking about what we were going to be doing that day and his readiness for and apprehension over the birth of his daughter; at the desk we were checked in by Chase, a really friendly guy who went out of his way to greet us with a smile and a massive good morning every day we saw him; and then there was Sarah at guest services who my youngest daughter struck up a friendship with and who she would rush to see whenever we passed through reception, Sarah on the last day fussing over the American Girl dolls my two girls had twisted my arm to buy. These three people were among the friendliest we've ever encountered as a family, and the fact that I still remember them so fondly six months on is testament to that. I can't thank them enough for how welcoming and friendly they were - particularly in a trendy hotel that's not necessarily best-known as a destination for families with two small and very excited children.

The Bryant Park is not a cheap hotel, but then again nowhere is in New York. Nevertheless, its location right in the centre of Midtown, effortless stylishness and general atmosphere are worth paying for. I took one trip to the basement bar and the crowd on a midweek evening was a cool mix of office workers and über-hip young adults; one evening we came back from a long day's schlepping round the streets to find a huge queue at the door of the hotel. After skipping right past the line thanks to being residents, we asked what was going on. The security guard, an intimidating but cheerful guy, told me there were two events that evening, an NFL Draft party and a private fashion show up in the penthouse. At the time it seemed perfectly normal, both for New York and for the Bryant Park, but looking back now it seems otherworldly.

Staying a week in New York is, it seems, relatively uncommon. People tend to spend a weekend or a few days and strike the main landmarks off the 'must-do' list. After our week-long stay and our return to the UK, we resolved to go back again, feeling like we had what we've described as 'unfinished business' in the city, and will be heading back to Manhattan again next May. For us it would be unimaginable not to stay at the faultless Bryant Park Hotel again, and so that's exactly where we will be heading to next year. It cannot come soon enough.

Once again, my thanks to the staff mentioned above for making our stay so enjoyable.