Ged ouda here! A place to stay in midtown New York with a balcony? Ya gotta be jokin’. Not only a personal balcony towering over Lexington Avenue but views along E 50th street right across to the Hudson River plus skyscraper views downtown and across town from the bedroom and living room windows.
I’m not going to give you the exact upper floor or room number because, selfishly, I want to ink this place in every Christmas for the next ten years.
And I have to thank Mrs. Nosebag for it. She, who is always right, had never been to New York. I was the expert. I’d lived here for eleven years as a young reporter. Admittedly, decades ago.
I was all set on renting an apartment for a belated honeymoon (four years late) so we could ‘live like New Yorkers’ and not play tourist.
But people kept telling her about a place I referred to as ‘Hotel Alfalfa’. It’s real name Affinia 50.
‘It’s like an apartment,’ she said. ‘It’s right in the middle of everything’, she said. ‘It’s got a bedroom and a kitchen and a huge living room with a foldout double bed’, she said. She didn’t mention the balcony only because she didn’t know about it.
I was unmoved. ‘It’s still a hotel.’ And I went ahead and rented a two-bedroom apartment on W 57th Street opposite the Russian Tea Room. How good is that? ‘Remember Tootsie?’ I said. ‘That classic scene when Dustin Hoffman in drag is dining with his agent who doesn’t recognise him. Right opposite there. A block from The Plaza and the 5th Avenue shops. Tiffany’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks….’
The place on 57th would have been perfect – except for a minor technicality. The person who rented it to us over the Internet and took $4500 --American dollars – didn’t actually own the apartment we’d rented.
In fact, the building manager had never heard of any of the people who kept emailing my travel agent to inform her that the owner had gone bankrupt and had a stroke and the apartment had burned down.
We came within 24 hours of arriving on the door step supposedly to be met by the ‘owner’ and collect the key. That’s another story to be told in more detail elsewhere.
And so we ended up at Affinia 50 after a delightfully opulent three days ‘emergency accommodation’ at the Hotel Warwick on W 54th and 6th Avenue. That’s the place that media mogul William Randolph Hearst built for his mistress Marion Davies and his Hollywood playmates.
Affinia 50 is a gem. It’s on E 50th between Lexington and 3rd Avenues. It’s a credit card throw from Bloomingdale’s. A brisk few blocks to the famous PJ Clarke’s where Jackie Kennedy used to dine and where my journo hero Jonathan Hunter hung out in my novels Death at Newport and Death in Paradise. We went there on a Thursday night and it was as packed as it was 35 years ago.
Around the corner is a deli come grocery store that stocks everything and serves everything from fruit salads and fresh vegetable dishes to American spare ribs, chicken legs, and Asian pork dishes and fried rice. You make up a combo. They weigh it and you pay for it.
There are nearby bars, restaurants, drug store, news agent and a place that makes a pizza as good as any I have eaten.
Angelo’s on the corner of E 55th and 2nd Avenue. They guarantee they’ll be served crispy and burned on the edges. Pizzas the size of hubcabs for $15 and $17 and for $2.50 an extra they’ll add pepperoni, mushrooms, roasted peppers, anchovies, olives, broccoli. A ‘small’ one will stop most people.
One block away is the Waldorf Astoria. Perch at the main bar off the marbled reception lobby and order lump crab cakes that could have been caught in Alaska that morning they are so plump and juicy.
Affinia 50 has a touch of the trade mark Virgin Blue cheeky irreverence about it. Instead of the usual ‘Please Don’t Disturb’ and ‘Please Make Up The Room’ sign it says: ‘I refuse to get out of this fabulous bed’ and ‘I’m out taking on the world’.
There’s a special pillow selection called ‘40 winks. Six ways’. ‘Get Down Tonight’ is the basic pillow with a blend of down and feathers. There’s a ‘sound pillow’ which has ‘ultra thin speakers buried deep in the hypoallergenic fiberfill’.
And the Magnetic Therapy Pillow. ‘For a real power nap. Reduces swelling and discomfort, relieves insomnia and fatigue, soothes tense muscles and aching joints, and helps improve skin tone by stimulating circulation’.
There’s a cautionary note that it is not recommended ‘for individuals with heart conditions or pregnant women’. I guess they don’t want to reduce their swelling.
So that’s Affinia 50. And it rates 50 out of 50 from me. Like most hotels, room rates vary from season to season and even day to day. Prices for the deluxe suites (like we had) range from $350 to $500 per night. But it could comfortably sleep four. Or be ideal for a family. For a nine-night stint ours averaged out at $417 which is a great price in midtown Manhattan.
And they serve a generous continental croissant and fruit breakfast with loads of coffee.
Anyway, it’s got me. A great base for work or play, in the greatest city in the world. Maybe it’s a news man’s sort of joint. I’m told Rupert Murdoch used to stash his recruits here until they found permanent accommodation.
Footnote: A word of warning when budgeting for a NY visit. The various taxes are crippling. For example: on a room rate quoted at ‘$365.00 per night plus taxes’ you will pay an additional 8.875% sales tax ($32.39) a city occupancy tax of 5.875% ( $21.44) and a city tax of $2.00 per room.
That’s an extra $55.83 per night. Seven nights and you’ve paid for an eighth one in taxes. Ged ouda here!