Two Elegant Eras
By Lead Travel Writer Renee Fontaine,
I arrived in the evening after dark. The doorman, finely dressed in a long black coat trimmed in gold, held the heavy door open as I entered this historic landmark, The Essex House. An icon of Central Park South since its construction in 1931, this luxurious residence-hotel has been home to the elite, including royalty, celebrities, and diplomats. The feeling of elegance and sophistication immediately enveloped me as I traversed the grand lobby, stylishly decorated in a tasteful mix of traditional and modern accents. Stunningly beautiful marble floors lit by grandiose crystal chandeliers led the way to the elevators. The words, “THIS CAR AVAILABLE,” scrolled above the ornate golden doors invited me inside; and the car carried me up to my floor.
Upon entry into the apartment, the ambience of the fine details, cream colored furnishings and exceptional style of the 1930’s architecture roused a feeling that momentarily swept me back to an earlier era. From the spacious foyer, my eyes were drawn to the large living room windows to the left, graced by cream satin curtains. Dramatically large and orange, the moon hung heavy over the silhouette of tall buildings with squarely lit windows to the east. Small bright lights of many colors dotted the expanse to the north like a reflection of the night sky: Central Park. A horse and buggy passed by, clipping and clopping on the street below, offering people rides through this magical landscape.
Sophistication, comfort, and warmth are elegantly blended in this spacious two-bedroom two bath apartment. The living room and dining room are large enough to comfortably hold a dinner or cocktail party for eight of your dearest friends or colleagues. Each bedroom has two walk-in closets and private bathrooms.
As I walked from room to room, my eyes were awe-struck by the fine details of the hardwood floors, wide crown molding and panel doors with antique hardware that were in vogue in the 1930s. The fine quality furnishings, soft colors and natural light of this elegant apartment instantly bid me to feel at ease. The large cozy sofas are perfect for snuggling on in the evening with a favorite book. The dining room table invites leisurely dinners for sharing the highlights of your day with friends and family.
The master suite is an oasis in its own right. The bathroom with gray marble and antique fixtures, mirror ornamented bureaus and night stands, cream colored panel doors and woodwork combine to create a feeling of 1931 meets twenty-first century luxury. Like a soft white cloud, the large king size bed wraps around me each night. I sleep like I have not slept in years — a deep sleep without sound, movement, or dreams.
Each morning, I was drawn to the living room windows to gaze upon Central Park in the light of the new day. I marveled at the size of this expansive beauty that stretches for miles to the north set in the center of one of the world’s largest cities. The landscape of Central Park is unique with soft hills, ponds, lakes, rocky outcrops and mature trees which make for a magical setting. From the window, I saw children and adults climb and play on the rocky outcrops that serve as a natural playground for the young and the young at heart. People passed by on their way to work. Two eras melt into one as the horse-drawn carriages and yellow taxis line up side by side on the street below. The grandeur and beauty of Central Park can be felt and seen in all four seasons. This 843-acre wonder was established in 1857 and remains today one of the most important focal points of Manhattan. In springtime the Park is a fairytale land with blooming flowers and melting snow feeding the creeks that run throughout the park. The summertime brings festivities from open-air band concerts to lazy day boat rides in the lake. In autumn, the park is a medley of oranges, reds and yellows. The snow of winter turns the park into winter wonderland. Children build snowmen and start snowball fights.
Beyond Five-Star Service
Five-star service takes a back seat to the impeccable service provided by the hostess and property manager, Lauren Berger. Lauren is a vibrant, smiling, beautiful woman who makes certain that her guests will be treated like her most treasured family members. She takes special care to be sure the small details are perfectly attended to before guests arrive. No aspect is left forgotten, including such fine points as the guest’s preferred pillow type, favorite foods, and flower choices. She is known to add special décor items to meet the tastes of each particular client, and personally caters to the care of each and every one of her cherished guests.
Upon arrival after a long travel day, I was immediately put at ease by Lauren’s warm smile and great sense of humor. Throughout the week, I was fortunate to spend time with Lauren and learn what a remarkable woman she is. I was mesmerized by the stories she shared about growing up in the Big Apple with her ten brothers and sisters. I laughed and cried, as I heard the details of this family’s journey from Turkey to New York and their half-century of experiences lived in this amazing city.
Within a few days, I felt as all her guests must feel, like I had known Lauren my entire life and that she would always be my treasured friend. Without a doubt, she is the master in the field of hospitality and is truly, as she has become known, the Angel of Manhattan.
Each day I ventured into the City to explore its wonders. This luxurious home is perfectly situated in the center of the City. A few blocks to the west, I found the Time Warner Building. This pair of interconnected skyscrapers located in Columbus Circle on the south western corner of Central Park is home to upscale shops, fine restaurants, offices, and condominiums. The large Whole Foods Market in the basement of the building is a food lover’s paradise. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, the fish market, wine section, and bakery blended with smells and sounds creating a rich lively medley that could almost be mistaken for a story shown in an impressionistic painting.
The Plaza Hotel is just a couple blocks to the east. This chateau-style building which opened in 1907 marks the southeast corner of Central Park and the beginning of the fine shops of Fifth Avenue. Prestigious shops such as Cartier, Gucci, Chanel, and Armani line this major thoroughfare between 49th Street and 60th Street. Forbes Magazine ranked Fifth Avenue as being the most expensive street in the world in 2008. Nearby fine restaurants are a delight for the culinary connoisseur where choices of cuisine are truly endless. Continuing my journey back in time, one evening, I visited the Russian Tea Room for dinner. This historic restaurant opened in 1927, just four years before the Essex House, and soon became the gathering place for those in the entertainment industry. The décor of this restaurant maintains the ambience of this earlier time with finely chosen interior design of red covered booths, green lavishly decorated walls, and gold accents. In the spirit of the restaurant’s name, I ordered a Russian dish, Chicken Kiev, which was delectable!
Entertainment choices are almost as vast as the number of restaurants in the area. Carnegie Hall is just two blocks to the south. Built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1892, it is one of the most prestigious venues in the world for both classical music and popular music. Just a few blocks further to the south is Radio City Music Hall located in Rockefeller Center. Radio City presentations include such impressive events as the Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes, the Cirque du Soleil, and live television and sports events.
Invigorated to the End
Staying fit in the Big Apple has never been easier. Some mornings I rose early to attend a yoga class at Exhale, an extraordinary yoga studio and spa just two doors to the east of the Essex House.Other mornings, I took the elevator down to the third floor which has a well equipped gym with weights and elliptical machines. Afternoons, I enjoyed a stroll through Central Park where I saw the more physically ambitious passing by me at full jogging speed and on bicycles. The day before I left, I walked down to the Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park, and rented skates.
I sat on the bench outside the rink as the ice resurfacing machine finished making the ice smooth as glass. Looking south, through the trees was Essex House standing tall and grand: the opposite view from what I had seen from the living room windows each day. I put my skates on and glided, not so effortlessly, around the rink a few times. Children sped by me and couples strolled hand-in-hand by at an equally slow pace.
As I prepared to leave, I took one last long look out the living room window to gaze at Central Park. I felt like I was leaving my new home — a place which had brought me so much warmth, comfort, and good memories. I called to say good-bye to my new friend, Lauren. Her kindness, smile, and immaculate service had been instrumental in making my stay at this beautiful property one of true comfort and luxury.
For availability and reservations at Lauren Berger Collection you may call her at (888) 522-1099, (239)-671-2920, or (646)-629-9669.
This property was chosen for the Ultra Luxurious Vacation Rentals category because of the fine decor furnishings, and view of Central Park. This property is also well suited for the categories of Outstandingly Located, and Super Romantic Vacation Rentals.
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