When my daughter is away at college, she makes me jealous by telling me of all her adventures in New York City (a short train ride from her campus). Well, not all. I’m sure there are many adventures I have not heard about. So be it. She’s in college. But now that she’s back home for the summer, my husband and I decided it’s our turn to play. We left the kids in charge of the house (and dog) and went off for a romantic weekend in the city.
My husband, the frequent business traveler, had accumulated a lot of Marriott points, so we chose the Carlton on Madison Avenue (around 28th) and I knew it was the place for me as we approached on our walk from Grand Central Station (we parked in CT and took the train in). I was instantly transported to Edith Wharton’s New York. I could just see myself in 1904, when the Carlton was the famous Seville Hotel (pictured pre-renovation).
And as luck would have it, the hotel restaurant was celebrating it’s reopening of the original 1904 entry by giving lunch away at 1904 prices! $1.25 for a light appetizer-entree-dessert, plus cups of coffee for a quarter. We didn’t line up for the 1904 prices, but it was a very popular campaign.
Inside, the Carlton has all the modern conveniences, but I couldn’t shake my Downton Abbey state of mind. We went walking around the city and I was seeing everything through my 1904 filter, the buildings, the shopping, the people.
Walking by the New York Public Library (yes, the one with the lions) I noticed an exhibit to take me even deeper into my historical delusions of grandeur: Shelley’s Ghost, a display of letters, journals, and artifacts from the poet Shelley and his (second) wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.
My husband was in an indulgent mood, because he agreed to go in with me! I’ve loved the Shelleys for years. A bit obsessed, really. So it was a fascinating exhibit for me (and even the husband wasn’t bored- it’s small).
I did have some modern moments. We watched the Preakness at Shorty’s. We stopped by Trump Tower for a crazy overpriced martini at Trump Bar– no love for Trump but it’s a weird tradition for us in New York. I bought a new orange crossbody bag that I adore. I was trying not to spend money on indulgences, but Michael Kors got me by sticking this in the shop window.
But that’s okay, because every time we ended up in the hallways of our hotel, I was transported right back to the gilded age. The rooms were modern and comfortable, but the hallways retained their old-fashioned charm.
On our last night, we ended up at a romantic French restaurant and I got to keep on imagining my life as a Whartonesque heroine.
Our garden table was lit with a taper that kept burning down to the nub. Our host Philippe was friendly and indulgent. The food was outstanding. If you’re in New York, try Gascogne. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.
Are you fascinated with history? Do you ever imagine yourself to be in another time or place? If you could choose any time period to live in, which would you choose? What’s your favorite city?