By Renée S. Gordon
"When I was made a Lamb, I felt I had been knighted."
Spring is the time when people begin to travel and to plan their summer trips and no matter what your income level everyone's goal is that special vacation that will linger in the memory and bring a smile long after you have returned home. There are several elements that make up the perfect vacation, great accommodations, a wide variety of interesting sites, numerous attractions and dining establishments, in short, a unique destination that appeals to your inner child and outer adult. One of the perfectly obvious and consistently best choices is New York City.
Lenni Lenape Indians chose it first and they were the largest group of natives inhabiting Manhattan Island in 1524 when the first European expedition, led by Giovanni da Verrazzano, sailed into the area. Henry Hudson, who is usually credited as being the first international visitor, arrived at the mouth of the Hudson in 1609 and explored the bay the following year. The Director of the Dutch West India Company, Peter Minuit, landed on the island in 1624 and purchased the land from the natives for 60 guilders worth of trinkets, about $24. His settlement, New Amsterdam, was established in 1625 and the City of New York dates its founding from that year.
Immediately New York City was a multicultural mecca and this diversity has led to the creation of a city that both honors and celebrates its unique population through its museums, institutions and activities. No matter how often you visit there is always something "else" around the corner. The best visits to the city include places that are slightly off the radar and I have created a list that highlights locations that need to be brought to your attention. True to my travel mission, they are all replete with history and stories that add an extra dimension to any trip to the city. www.nycgo.com
Manhattan is an island approximately 13-miles long in New York County, the most densely populated in the country. At its widest point it is 2.3-miles and its narrowest .8-miles. The city has more than 2,000 bridges, the most famous being the 1883 Brooklyn Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan and the oldest surviving bridge being the 1884 Highbridge in Harlem. There are nearly 30,000 parks in the many neighborhoods where you can pause and soak up the area's distinctive ambience.
Manhattan is best seen on foot, the city is easily navigable and maps and guides are available everywhere. Cars tend to be more trouble than they are worth public transportation is reliable, accessible and goes everywhere and cabs are plentiful and affordable. But no matter how you choose to traverse the city the key to an extraordinary vacation is your accommodations.
The historic Chatwal New York is an exceptional hotel, restaurant and spa and is worthy of being a destination in itself. This hotel in the heart of the Manhattan has received awards from "Condé Nast Traveler," "Entrée" and, my favorite, Best Bathroom and Luxury Guestrooms or Suites from "Hospitality Design," among numerous others.
The hotel opened in 2010 but prior to that the 1905 neo-Georgian building was the home of the Lambs Club, the first professional theatrical club in the nation. The club was founded in 1874 by a group of actors and theater lovers because thespians were not highly enough regarded to gain admission to most of the other gentlemen's clubs. Initially they met in Delmonico's Restaurant but in 1903 commissioned the premier architect of the era, Sanford White, to design a building. The resulting six-story structure contained a billiard room, banquet hall, theater and sleeping accommodations. On the Flemish-bond brick and marble exterior he added six iconic, terracotta, ram's heads. In 1915 the building was doubled in size and in 1974 it was deemed a New York City Landmark.
Among the famous people who were members during its time as The Lambs Club were Fred Astaire, Gene Autry, John and Lionel Barrymore, Irving Berlin, Charlie Chaplin, C. B. DeMille, Eisenhower, Douglas Fairbanks, W.C. Fields, Lerner, Lowe, Will Rogers and John Wayne.
Just as the building served to house America's first professional theater it has now undergone extensive renovations and is the Theater District's first luxury hotel with design by Thierry Despont. The interiors are a stylish neo-Art-Deco with superb architectural elements such as an 18th-century, floor length fireplace in the Lambs Club Restaurant.
There are 76 luxurious guestrooms and suites with custom furnishings with faux leather cabinets, ultrasuede walls and all the modern technological advancements, Fretté linens, hand-tufted mattresses and a personal butler. The bathrooms are complete with plush towels, Asprey toiletries, 19-inch integrated television and a Toto toilet that functions as a bidet and has a heated seat. www.thechatwalny.com
The 2,400-sq.ft. Chatwal Spa by Kashwére has been featured in "American Spa." The spa focuses on both health and wellness and pampering the clients. It evokes a serenity and calmness that belie the fact that the bustle of the city is right outside the door. The spa offers a palette of services including their signature Luxe Massage. Please note that you need not be a hotel guest to experience the spa. www.thechatwalny.com/Spa-Fitness
"Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition" is on display at Discovery Times Square until April 15th.The scrolls, dating from 2,000-years ago, are the oldest extant texts of the Old Testament. More than 800 fragmented scrolls were found in 11 caves in Israel on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea from 1947 to 1956. Shepherds tending their flock in the hills made the initial discovery.
The scrolls, written in both Hebrew and Aramaic represent Biblical and secular texts and are numbered according to the cave in which they were discovered. It is believed they are the work of Essenes, writing between 200 BC and 68 AD, on papyrus, copper and animal hides.
The exhibition is a multi-galleried, two-story display of rare and never before seen exhibits that showcase the largest collection of Holy Land artifacts ever amassed. The tour begins with a brief film and an orientation. Jonathan Payne's live introduction is outstanding and set the tone for the journey through the history of the Holy Land, culminating with the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Tour highlights include the Bet David Stele, a House of David basalt pillar inscribed with King David's lineage, a diorama of a four-room Israelite home, a 9th-century BC terracotta bathtub, a three-ton stone slab from the Temple Wall and three clay jars from the time of three pivotal Biblical events. The scrolls are featured in a circular case with interpretive text and the fragment containing the Ten Commandments is accompanied by a short video. www.discoverytsx.com/exhibitions/dead-sea-scrolls
Macys Herald Square is hosting its 38th annual flower show, "Brasil: Gardens in Paradise," until April 7th. The show pays homage to the natural beauty and tropical flora and fauna of the country. This year Macys has added an outdoor display in a tent on Broadway Plaza. The event is free and open to the public. www.macys.com
Winston Churchill, upon learning he was to be buried in Westminster Abbey, tartly responded that he never allowed people to walk over him in life and he was not going to let it happen in death. He is buried in St. Martin Churchyard in Oxfordshire, England.
His wit, wisdom, oratory and literary skills and undaunted courage have always made him a personal hero and from June 8th – September 23rd, "Churchill the Power of Words," will be on display at the Morgan Library & Museum.
The exhibit focuses on his skillful use of language and features personal and official correspondence, drafts, notes, recordings and broadcasts. Special emphasis will be placed on the fact that his mother was born in Brooklyn and he was made an honorary citizen in 1963. www.themorgan.org
Our final foray into Manhattan's unique destinations is the one square mile Garment District. The most famous structure within the confines of the area is the Empire State Building but there are other wonders to behold.
The district's history generally dates from the early 19th-century when immigrants landed in NYC in droves and looked for work. Many of them had sewing skills and they obtained factory jobs. With the advent of the sewing machine in the 1850s the first large consumers of these ready-to-wear garments were southern slaveowners who found it easier to purchase cheap clothing for their slaves than have them made on the plantation. During the Civil War the factories made uniforms for soldiers and after the war clothing for gold miners. By the turn of the century NY produced 70 percent of all American women's clothing. The NY fashion industry continues to have a large concentration of fashion related businesses in the Garment District.
For comprehensive information on purchasing fabrics and trim and general tours of the Garment District go online to www.paulanadelstern.com/fabric/guides
Free tours of the area are offered April 1st, 19th and 29th. These walking tours are led by Mike Kabak and include visits to a private showroom and sample sale. Reservations are required. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fashion Walk of Fame is along Seventh Avenue and is the sole permanent landmark honoring the contributions of the New York fashion designers on the international fashion industry. Brass plaques imbedded in the sidewalk feature Donna Karen, Calvin Klein Marc Jacobs, Halston and Betsey Johnson among the luminaries.
"Youthquake! The 1960s Fashion Revolution" is on view at the Gallery FIT of the Fashion Institute of Technology until April 7th. Featured designers include Courrèges, Saint Laurent and Sant'Angelo. The display of more than 30 garments is enhanced with videos and music. www.fitnyc.edu
I wish you smooth travels!
Advance planning always makes for a better vacation and here are several books that will definitely assist you.
"National Geographic's Walking Guides to the Best Cities in the World" lists easy to follow itineraries, practical information and lots of facts.
"The Ten Best of Everything," also published by National Geographic is another great addition to your travel library. This book can serve as your guide to the top ten in variety of categories from hotels, to drives, to events. It is indispensable if you want to be a globetrotter. www.channel.nationalgeographic.com
The 2012 Entertainment Guides have been providing discounts for attractions, accommodations, services and restaurants in major cities for more than 50 years. Each book offers thousands of dollars in discounts. You can purchase them online. www.philadelphia-north.entertainment.com
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