As the airport taxi turned from Park Avenue onto East 54th Street in Manhattan, I caught myself smiling because I was finally going to stay at one of the most famous hotels in the world. Hotel Elysée, built in the 1920s, was known as the playground for the rich and famous, home to writers, artists, movie stars and acknowledged “intellectuals.” Playwright Tennessee Williams, who inspired my imagination with his brilliant words and plays for fifty years, considered the Elysée his home when in New York. And I couldn’t wait to live the memory!
Frantic taxis, limousines, morning sounds and smells of the city preparing for the day were in exquisite contrast to the sense of calm that swept over my entrance into the lobby. I could feel its European-style of elegant luxury in the furnishings, front desk attire and voices of many languages surrounding me. I entered the Lift (elevator) and found my suite. Opening the door to a grande dame spacious suite reminded me of my past city apartments that I wished were half as splendid as #903.
It was early enough for me to join hotel guests in the Club Room for a bountiful breakfast buffet served by the most attentive hostesses ~ who seemed genuinely glad to meet me. The Elysée, with only 100 rooms, is one of four boutique hotels known as the ‘Library Collection’, and is more than just a hotel. It feels like your home in the middle of pulsating Manhattan where one could spend days languishing with a favorite book and sipping latte. The Library Hotel, Casablanca and Hotel Giraffe all provide their guests with a similar repast – dressed in each property’s themed décor.
I chose a window sofa with a view of 54th Street, finished my fresh fruit and yoghurt and realized that I was anxious to explore the neighborhood. A peek next door into the famed Monkey Bar Restaurant would lure me back for lunch and late night cocktails. Learning how convenient the Elysée is to some of the most stylish shopping and dining, particularly for this visit — the Museum of Modern Art, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Bloomingdales — I stepped out on the town.
Lunch at the Monkey Bar brought memories of the halcyon days of nightclubs and sophisticated soirees. They swept me back to illustrious landmarks that played a role in New York’s history, from the Stork Club and El Morocco to Jimmy Weston’s and Bill’s Gay Nineties — all within steps from the Elysée and now a new hot spot for dining and cocktailing. Lunch buzzed with gentlemen dressed in suits, the cool comfort of being indoors on a drizzly spring afternoon — a perfect formula for deal-making.
Hotelier Henry Kallan and partners are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their distinctive Library Collection. They know how to please. In addition to the well thought out list of amenities that makes traveling a remarkable experience, each of the four hotels is paired with a restaurant that makes a smooth segue from lobby to lunch and dinner. Some also serve breakfast, as does the Monkey Bar. For over the top pampering, each establishment delivers room service, imparting a feeling of genuine comfort to hotel guests.
From Hotel Elysée’s European glamour to contemporary cool, the boutique Library Hotel on Madison Avenue and 41st Street is a block away from the illustrious New York City Public Library. It’s possibly the only hotel in the world that names and organizes its 60 guest rooms according to the Dewey Decimal System and offers 6,000 books to peruse, from floor to floor. I was captivated when taking a brief tour of the hotel; each of the pristine ten stories represents a specific category from History, Math & Science, Literature (poetry, mystery, fairy tales) and mine: Philosophy.
The open 14th floor is a reader’s sanctuary (Writer’s Den & Poetry Garden) during the day while the Bookmarks Lounge couldn’t be more crowded with cocktailers at night. The rooftop Manhattan view reminded me that I was in the center of the City (perhaps even a familiar scene or face from Sex in the City!).What tickled me one morning when I hung the “Please Refresh my Room” sign? It read “Please Dust Off my Books!”
Walk through the Library Hotel’s lobby or out the front door on 41st Street to Madison & Vine, a restaurant with verve. An American Bistro with wine bar, stop in for a quick bite and feel at home in the neighborhood.
The Library Hotel is a five-minute walk from historic Bryant Park, which is behind the 42nd Street library. Discover a bustling scene of New Yorkers and visitors enjoying events, activities, snacking, a grand lawn for sunbathing and people watching. Its history dates to the mid-1600s as a park that has had many lives. George Washington’s troops raced across the site, it was a Potter’s Field, a reservoir, Civil War encampment and was even closed through the 1920s as the subway tunnels were constructed underground.
Today’s park is a scenic landmark that offers weekly calendars of wonderful things to do: jazz concerts, poetry readings, juggling, dance ensembles, ping pong tournaments and pétanque (a French game of boules played in the park). And if you’re traveling with a grandchild, don’t miss having the fun I enjoyed with my little Zack on the Carousel. It’s $1 per ride and adults ride free!