I spend enough time in cities that I know and love – Boston, Lisbon, Baltimore Munich, Milan – that I don’t look for excuses to go to New York. I don’t dislike it, but it’s not on my wanna-go list. So when I do go, I want as little aggravation as possible. That means looking for a hotel close to my point of entry – Grand Central Station – and where I can feel at home in a cosseted and comfortable cocoon.
Sofitel New York fits my first requirement admirably. I can walk out of Grand Central, straight down 44th Street, cross one avenue and the Sofitel doorman is opening the door for me, with a smiling “Bon jour!”
Inside the lobby, where several comfortable seating areas transform a rather grand space into a welcoming place where guests feel comfortable to read a newspaper (I notice several reading today’s Le Monde) or chat with friends and associates. The bits of conversation that drift past are equal shares of English and French, as in any city, Sofitel is the home-away-from-home for French travelers.
The look and feel of the large lobby is a stylish blend of Belle Epoque grandeur and cheeky Art Deco, exuding New York 1920s glamor. Between the spacious seating area and the reception desk end is a little rotunda with a curved stairway sweeping down to an inlaid floor. Tucked discreetly beneath the stairs’ curve are two pairs of leather easy chairs, separated for more intimate conversations or for those who wish to read or work a little distanced from the lobby’ cosmopolitan hum. The reception desk, where I never saw fewer than four staff members, is decorated in panels that recall Roaring '20s NY.
Our room on the 11th floor was as stylish as the lobby, though not grand. I wouldn’t term it compact or cozy – the usual code words for smallish – but it was certainly not palatial. There was plenty of room for the king-sized bed – heavenly comfortable in a cloud of down comforter and pillows enough for a choice, but not so many that we had to stack the extras in a corner to sleep (why do so many hotels do that?)
It was the details that we noticed: the custom furnishings were of blond curly maple and chrome or black lacquer with black-and-white tweed upholstery, and the carved design of the room’s ceiling molding matched the edge of the desk. On the desk was a stylish Art Deco chrome lamp, and each of the bedside tables had large reading lamps. Closets were hidden behind a solid wall of full-length mirrors which made the room brighter by day and more spacious at night when the bold striped curtains were drawn.
The closet had plenty of hanging space and removable wooden and padded satin hangers, as well as both hanging and shelf space, plus an iron, ironing board, two plush terry robes and slippers. Another luggage rack would have been handy, since there were two of us.
In-room décor was enhanced by a large contemporary painting above the bed, a colorful Picasso print in the foyer and a quartet of vintage black-and-white photos of New York City and Paris. In the bathroom was a Modigliani bather.
The bath had plenty of counter space around the sink, a well-lighted magnifying make-up mirror, a tub and separate shower, and bath amenities by Les Notes de Lavin. Plentiful towels were thick and fluffy.
Despite its location in the heart of Manhattan, the hotel was silent at night, with no street noise and no sounds creeping under the door from the carpeted hallways. And the heating/cooling system gave off a low steady hum instead of turning off and on repeatedly during the night (a sleep-disturbing annoyance of all too many hotels).
In fact, we didn’t find anything to be annoyed about at the Sofitel New York.