Arriving at Mandarin Oriental New York feels like coming home – except that this is a home the gal has not visited since Sunday February 8th, 2004.
Go through glass doors off 59th Street at Columbus Circle, go through more glass doors, soar in an elevator up to the 35th floor lobby.
It could have been Tokyo, except at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo the lobby is on the 38th floor. Here, after bellman Mark calls you by name (how does he know?) you soar up, and emerge to an all-white Chihuly glass sculpture (hello Dale, the glass sculptor who is the most famous thing about Seattle other than all those Microsoft and other techies, and Pike Market and all those culinary-touristic attractions).
I am greeted, late at night, by a charming lady in very high heels. Welcome home, do you know my father? Of course I do. He (Christian Hassing) runs the Tokyo Mandarin Oriental.
The boss of this particular place, Rudy Tauscher, a former chef who went on to study real estate at New York University NYU, is sadly out of town but he has written a lovely, really personal note. He has left lots of water and bananas (how did he know?).
There is another note, and a Central Park running map, from his eager-beaver front office guy, Sean Murphy, son of another legendary hotelier, Kevin Murphy. It says something about a place when kids want to follow their fathers’ passion.
Hotel-keeping is not a job. Go round the block to the world’s most profitable Whole Foods, in the basement of the Time Warner Center, and see the dozens of youngsters working the registers (tills, or cash desks). Those are jobs, but knowing Whole Foods everyone there has passion too.
Last time here, in room 4616, I had ten pillows on the bed, but that was daytime. Now it is night and 4100, a charming wedge-shaped suite with floor to ceiling windows looking out of Manhattan, only has four pillows, which means I only have to remove three, rather than nine, unwanted items.
I rush down to the Technogym, rush through kinesis and wave, and at 2045 precisely go to the glass door of the long, seriously long, indoor pool. Locked. It closes, at 2045 precisely.
After a long day – cycling in foggy England, yes still near the Jurassic Coast, two hours’ drive to Heathrow, eight hours’ flight and so on – I dump the entire contents of a bathsalt-filled alabaster pot into my deep bathtub and soak. I find a note: Sleeping is no mean art; for its sake one must stay awake all day (Nietzsche).
The bed is really comfy and I awake to bless really simple light switches and dimmers. At the foot of the bed is a day-bed, a chaise longue in parlance of Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs. Conveniently on a table by it is a stack of books with a card, inviting me to take them home.
There is Chelsea Handler’s ‘Are you there, vodka? It’s me, Chelsea’; Douglas Kennedy’s ‘The Moment’; Isaac Marion’s ‘Warm Bodies’. Such generosity offsets having to pay for WiFi, which anyway is half of what most London hotels charge. I love the real, strong-wood oak floors, which are probably in all 248 rooms here, and fabric-feel wallpaper, and easy-pull curtains.
There is enough store space to buy every couture frock in Bloomingdale’s, and enough electric sockets to satisfy any techie. I have a pair of yoga mats and a pair of binoculars. I like luxury hotels like this.
The faithful Porsche Rimowa has a new item on this trip, a Tea Leaves’ Jetlag Therapy Kit, two whole leaf pyramid teabags. One is Relax, which I will do tonight (it includes valerian, passion flower, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, rose petals, vitamin C and no caffeine).
The other is mint and citrus Energy, just right for now: it has peppermint, ginkgo biloba, yerba mate, fennel, cloves, citrus peel, ginseng, vitamin C, no caffeine. Interesting company, T tealeaves.com, out of Vancouver.
It was founded by enthusiasts who include a biologist and a film animator and it has its own health and well-being guru, David Griffiths, whose experience includes being an avid student of ashtanga yoga, green algae and ‘energy work’ (eh?). Apparently Alain Ducasse, Joël Robuchon and Jean Georges Vongerichten, no less, are into T.
But the best way to beat jetlag is exercise. As the gym opens, there we are, working out. Hot news on CBS is the State of New Jersey holding back supplies of toilet paper to old people’s homes and schools as the same order included paper cups for hot drinks, not allowed.
I switch to another channel, to find a tide of shoplifting of – Tide (yes, the detergent). Thieves swipe trolleys-full by putting coats over the stolen goods and walking out of stores, swapping the detergent for drugs or to sell on, at profit. What is happening to the world, at least the World of USA?
There is one other girl in the hotel elevator. She must be half my circumference, with a ten inch long skirt and a ten-pound dog, a Chihuahua or something, to whom she talks as if ‘it’ is her lover. My nighttime bookmark had said ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know’ (Dr Seuss).
One could also say the more you travel, the more different people you come across. This is certainly a centre of style. During New York Fashion Week this where the ‘cream’ stay. At any time, be a normal guest here and you can book shopping trips with Kathleen Beckett, a former Vogue stylist.
Limo your way inch by inch around Manhattan in a frenzy, Bloomingdale’s and the rest of the best, and recover with a two-hour session in the incredible glass-walled (one-way glass) spa, looking into Central Park. One room even has a working fire. Luxury, at this hotel, gal. It is even just round the corner from Lincoln Center and its jazz. What more could a young lady want?