In the late 1990s, Concorde was the epitome of luxurious travel. Of course, British Airways and Air France offered a few routes but the prized journey was that to New York – the Big Apple – a city so good they named it twice.
I will never forget landing at JFK (often before I had technically left London), being picked up in a limousine and gliding over the bridge into Manhattan and on to The Carlyle Hotel.
New York is made up of five boroughs and the Upper East Side is part of the borough of Manhattan. The Upper East stretches from 59th to 96th and the East River to Fifth/Central Park. It is the most affluent part of the United States, if not the world.
Every street in New York looks like it could have been used as a movie set. The Upper East featured in Breakfast in Tiffany’s, the Thomas Crown Affair (to name but two) and heavily in the likes of Sex in the City and Gossip Girl.
The Upper East oozes wealth; you almost feel that the streets are paved with gold. Dominated by amazing multi-million dollar brownstone buildings, celebrity restaurants and luxury boutiques, even dogs are treated like royalty. Many of the designer shops have smart silver water (bottled and imported from Norway, naturally) bowls outside them where well groomed Cocker Spaniels nonchalantly stop for a gulp or two.
The area offers a plethora of museums and art galleries from the Guggenheim and Whitney to the Metropolitan to my personal favourite, The Frick.
With Central Park as one of its borders, Harlem to the north and the trendy Chelsea and Midtown to the south, the Upper East is a most fabulous area to be located in New York.
There are many luxury hotels in the Upper East, the Lowell and the Mark are two of my favourites but since 1930, one property has been favoured by the world’s rich and famous: The Carlyle.
This 35-storey building, located at 35 East 76th Street, was named, bizarrely, after the Scottish philosopher and writer Thomas Carlyle. Its visitor’s book is a veritable who’s who, every US President has stayed there since Harry S Truman in the 1940s.
Mick Jagger is a frequent guest and both Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe have slept there too, so just what is the attraction of The Carlyle?
The hotel boasts 124 guest rooms and an additional 64 suites. While a “basic” room is around 35 square metres in area, the Empire Suite offers 260 square metres of sheer opulence. All rooms offer plush carpets, expensive furniture and levels of luxury that you would expect from one of the greatest city hotels in the world. The general rule with The Carlyle is the better category of room you book, the higher up the tower you are and the better views you receive. The vista of the Manhattan skyline from the top of the tower at night is particularly impressive.
Of course, there’s a 24-concierge desk, full-service spa, fitness centre, hair salon, children’s club (rare in a city hotel) and the hotel is wonderfully dog-friendly.
One small feature I like is that the lifts (elevators in the States) are manned by white-gloved operators. Fantastic when you are suffering from jet-lag, awful when you have had too much champagne to drink.
There are several bars and restaurants of course with Café Carlyle being the main diamond in the tiara. Since 1955, the Café has played host to jazz greats from the legendary Bobby Short to the gravel-voiced Eartha Kitt. The ardent clarinet player and New York native Woody Allen (yes, him) often plays a set on a Monday evening with his band that specialises in New Orleans jazz.
If you are not a fan of walking or being stuck in cabs, The Carlyle is not for you. Being in the heart of the Upper East, it’s a “journey” downtown and is not walkable with bags of shopping from 5th Avenue.
With Upper East properties selling for an astonishing $15,000 per square metre, staying at The Carlyle is reassuringly expensive. Sure, you can get cheaper five star hotel rooms in New York, but why purchase a Mercedes when you can afford a Rolls-Royce?
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