And by "she," I mean me. Dear old blog, still waiting here for me to show up and care for it. Sorry for the neglect. I have no excuse.
I was driven back because it occurred to me the other day that I might just have been a witness to history recently and I should probably write that down. Somewhere. Like here. So, here goes.
For the last four years, my daughter and I have traveled down to NYC for one weekend in February with another mother-daughter pair. We have been doing this just long enough for a few traditions to have developed. The main one is that we have stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria.
You may have taken note of the news that the Waldorf has closed for three years for renovations. Most of the enormous building (it was the biggest hotel in the world when it opened in 1931) will be made over into condos by its owner, a Chinese insurance company. The outside of the building has landmark status and can't be monkeyed with. The inside - at least some of the public spaces - are (as I understand things) a topic of discussion. The last guests checked out on Wednesday, Wednesday March 1. 2017. We checked out on Sunday, February 26, 2017. Which mean, of course, we were guests at the Waldorf Astoria for the last Saturday night of its operation.
We had made our reservations months before which was a good thing because the impending closure filled the place. It was mobbed the whole weekend. Lots of people seemed to be taking guided tours of the public spaces. The wait at check-in was painful. The crowd (and in this I include myself) was not glamorous. I saw one guest checking in wearing a faded sweat shirt that said "Rebels 85" on it).
The big money hotel consumers and celebrities are at newer, sleeker places - hence the renovation. The Waldorf was owned by Hilton before the Chinese bought it and, being a Hilton, it was affordable for us. The place had been panned by more than one Trip Advisor review for being past its prime and shop worn, but I didn't mind that the chair cushions in the room were a little spavined and the base boards scuffed. I still loved it - built like a fortress enormous rooms, by NYC standards. We have rented three rooms that connected and had a kind of mini palace. It has atmosphere that can only come with having been around as a Park Avenue landmark since before World War II. It is the product of imagination and of people who were doing their best to make something extraordinary.
|Just off the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria before the doors slammed shut - something kind of "The Shining" about this. Blame the photographer.|
On that last Saturday night, my friend and I went for a cocktail at the storied Bull and Bear Restaurant. We had been cadging cocktail certificates all weekend. The Front Desk was looking after us...
The Bull and Bear was crowded and a little chaotic. We managed to find a table and order something. First drink requests were not available. The bar was using up its stocks. We had our drinks and took in the atmosphere - the fabulous square bar with a sculpture in its center, the milling crowd. It was dark and you could practically feel the old money that was being chased out by the new. When we were done we went back to our big rooms for the last night in the Waldorf.
This year we went back and stayed at a perfectly serviceable Omni in midtown. It was fine. It was even nice - but it was just a hotel.