Quick take: Small, 22-room B&B-style hotel located on Manhattan's Lower East Side, within easy walking distance of Chinatown, Little Italy, and Greenwich Village. It is next door to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where guests can get some historical perspective on NYC's immigrant history.
Good location for: Experiencing a quieter, gentler Manhattan.
As our cab drove from the airport into NYC, the sun reflected just so in the glass side of a tall building as to register golden—bringing to mind the promise to immigrants of streets paved with gold. This seemed a prescient sight, since we were about to be dropped off on the Lower East Side at a restored eight-story brick tenement building that opened in 2006 as the Blue Moon Hotel.
Once a densely populated slum, this cutting edge, hip neighborhood ironically is now less populated than most in NYC due to its smaller scale, low-rise buildings. Only rarely did we hear the usual constant din of sirens and garbage trucks. Instead, the mornings brought on the occasional birdsong and the nights were as close to silent as is possible in a city of 9 million people.
My husband and I were in town to visit our daughter, who lives in nearby Little Italy. Mostly we walked to her teeny, tiny apartment, but occasionally we took a cab--the most memorable of which was driven by a mellow guy with long hair--an ageing hippie like us--who was playing great music (when we approved "Painted Black" followed by "Werewolves of London," he asked if we wanted him to crank it up; we giddily thought we had fallen into a time warp). We also made use of a convenient subway stop located just a few blocks away.
I enjoyed returning every day to our lovely, quiet hotel, the kind you find in NYC only once in a blue moon. We were ensconced in the spacious Duke Ellington room. With cheery, golden, sun-colored walls, it was furnished with green-and-brown floral wool carpeting, new black furniture with drawers that moved easily, and an iron-framed queen-size bed from which we had a view of both the Williamsburg Bridge leading to Brooklyn and of a flat-screen TV. The always immaculately clean bathroom was decorated with a classic black-and-white mosaic tile pattern accented with white subway-tile walls and held a deep tub with shower and a free-standing pedestal sink.
In the morning, instead of having to run out to find a coffee shop, we just took the charming old-fashioned elevator--updated with colorfully painted, original Victorian pressed tin and a hand-painted "Starry Night" ceiling--down to the cheery, spacious, lemon-yellow lobby for the complimentary kosher continental breakfast. Manhattan's only kosher hotel, it featured the area's best: bagels and bialys from Kossar's and cookies and sweets from Gertel's (each room here also has a Jewish mezuzah on the entry door frame). While we ate, we listened to Frank Sinatra tunes, read the New York Times, watched passers-by through large windows, and marveled at our good fortune. For other meals, plenty of restaurants are nearby, including legendary Katz's Delicatessen, where that memorable "I'll have what she's having" scene took place in the movie "When Harry Met Sally."
When not at the hotel, we were out frolicking in the amusement park for adults that is NYC. We saw a midtown play—the very funny "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," which according to our 20-something daughter is right on in its take on contemporary dating; we brunched at trendy, trendy Pastis in the Meat-packing District and caught a glimpse of actress Julianne Moore; we toured the informative Lower East Side Tenement Museum and discovered that our room at the Blue Moon was about the size of a family's entire apartment for the original immigrants; we dined on thin-crust pizza made in a 100-year-old coal-fired oven at Lombardi's, which is said to be America's first pizzeria; we sipped thick Italian hot chocolate near Union Square at the cavernous, roaringly popular Max Brenner Chocolate Bar--it's sort of Velvet Underground ("Walk on the Wild Side" was playing when we arrived) meets "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." I was disappointed we weren't able to fit The Enthusiastic Gourmet's "NY Nosh Tour" of the Jewish Lower East Side into this trip, but did on a later trip, and recommend that you do, too.
Carole Terwilliger Meyers blogs at Travels With Carole.
copyright 2013 Carole Terwilliger Meyers