Wonderful Central Park South Location!
By Lead Travel Writer, Renee Fontaine
The Essex House opened its warm and inviting arms to me at the height of the Christmas festivities. A brightly lit Christmas tree and strands of garland accented the already elegant lobby adorned with marble floors, crystal chandeliers and rich colored woodwork. The Essex House is a prestigious landmark of Central Park South. Construction of this luxurious residence-hotel began in 1929 following the stock market crash and the arrival of the Great Depression. Despite the economic hardships, the Essex House was completed and opened its doors in 1931.
The Fifth Floor
The bellman led me down the wide, stylish hallway on the fifth floor to my nicely situated one bedroom apartment. Entering the apartment, I was struck by the beauty of the crystal chandelier hanging gracefully in the center of the living room between two plush, gray sofas creating a feeling of elegance combined with comfort. The spacious, full-sized kitchen has beautiful gray, granite countertops that blend well with the cream-colored cabinets, black appliances, and the gray sofas.
To the right of the living room is the bedroom. It is spacious and inviting with a lush and alluring king-sized bed. Even travelers who have “more suitcases than scarves” will have difficulty filling the full wall of closet space. The en-suite bathroom is elegantly decorated combining cream colored marble wall tiles with modern stainless steel fixtures.
The apartment is warm, comfortable and quiet not what one would expect given its location in the center of the largest city in the United States. Not a single taxi horn or police siren can be heard from the rear of the Essex House which is a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of this magnificent city.
Heart of the City
The Essex House is ideal for travelers who want to be in the heart of the city to experience everything Manhattan has to offer. Across the street is Central Park. This vast natural haven is a striking contrast to the flurry of the rest of the city. The landscape is like something out of a fairy tale with rocky outcrops, creeks, ponds, lakes, mature trees, open fields, gardens, zoo, and even a castle.
Belvedere’s Castle was built in 1869 as a Victorian folly on Vista Rock, the park’s second-highest natural elevation. This centerpiece was built of Manhattan “schist”, quarried in the park and accented with gray granite. Belvedere means “beautiful view” in Italian — a well-suited name as the view from the Castle is impressive. From the Castle’s turret there are dramatic views of not only Central Park, but also the New York skyline.
One morning after a heavy snow, I bundled myself in winter attire and crossed the street to explore the winter wonderland. The park was full of people young and old. Children with sleds laughed with joy as they slid through the powdery snow. Men and women with cameras in hand captured the beauty of the landscape. The elderly walked gingerly along the slippery paths with smiles on their faces.
Crossing the various paths and trudging through areas of deep snow, I made my way to Belvedere’s Castle. The view from a distance was striking — the white dusted gray stone shone in the brilliant day light. The view from the castle was equally impressive. Crystallized tree branches framed the banks of the glass-like lake below.
Restaurants and cafes are too numerous to count in this amazing location. Each morning, I started my day with the wholesome and delicious selections offered at Le Pain Quotedien, located just one block to the west.The philosophy of this bakery and communal table style café is to use organic ingredients of the highest quality thereby establishing lasting and meaningful partnerships with local organic farmers. Friends and strangers alike come together for breakfast and lunch around their communal tables to linger while enjoying some of the delicious breads. Some of Le Pain Quotidien’s specialties include such items as Organic Riz ou Lait, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Omelet, and Toasted Paris Ham & Gruyere Croissant.
The Time Warner Building is located just a couple blocks to the west in Columbus Circle and has several restaurant choices. One of my favorite lunch spots, the Bouchon Bakery and Café, brings back memories of the delectable boulangeries of Paris. Bouchon is located on the third floor and looks across the open lobby through a full wall of windows facing Central Park South. While enjoying my lunch, I watched as yellow taxi cabs lined up next to horse drawn carriages and cycle rickshaws and cycle rickshaws offering so many ways so many ways for people to explore the city! The menu at Bouchon is fresh and healthy. Their Chicken Soup with Herb Dumplings and Salade d’Endiveset de Pommes are exceptional.
Each evening, I enjoyed strolling through the streets in the area where there are many fine shops and restaurants. One evening, I stumbled across what became one of my favorite dinner spots: Rue 57. Located just two blocks south of the Essex House, this brasserie parisienne and sushi bar has a great combination of fine food and bistro style atmosphere. The clientele are friendly and at ease with striking up a conversation with those at a neighboring table. One evening, I had a nice conversation with a couple whom are Manhattan natives. They had moved to Florida several years ago but moved back to New York because they missed this great city. The food is equally as friendly and ranges from such extraordinary creations as Yellowfin Tuna Tartar, Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass, and Crunchy Lobster Roll.
One day I decided to venture a bit farther to the south to Soho. Soho is a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, notable for being the location of many artists’ lofts, art galleries, and one of my favorite restaurants, Balthazar. Balthazar serves traditional bistro fare and is renowned for it’s exceptional design. The feeling is so authentic that I felt like I had been teleported to a fine bistro in the center of Paris. Balthazar’s menu includes many unique choices such as Homemade Pumpkin Agnolotti, Grilled Brook Trout and Duck Shepherd’s Pie. However, their best item and the reason I went to Balthazar that day was the Warm Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Tart.Delicious!
Shopping at its Best
Afterward, I strolled north along Broadway passing by the shops along the way. As I approached Union Square, I was delighted to see a Christmas Market in a style inspired by the markets in Germany. Meandering along the pathways, I admired the fine jewelry, cashmere scarves, hats, and candle shops. As I was walking, I was thinking about the Christmas Markets in Germany that a good friend had told me about and the traditional German Christmas drink Gluhvine. Gluhvine is a beverage usually made with red wine, spices and raisins which is served hot. Just as these thoughts passed through my mind, I looked up and saw a small stand selling Gluhvine, a non-alcholicversion, which was tasty and warming on such a cool December day.
Walking up to 34th Street, I stopped at Macy’s for some Christmas shopping. Macy’s is the largest department store in the world which was made famous by the Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street. The store was stylishly decorated with Christmas décor and was crowded with shoppers, all in a festive holiday mood.
Shopping bags in hand, my journey took me uptown past Time Square. This area of Manhattan has come to be known as The Crossroads of the World and the The Great White Way. This brightly illuminated hub is one of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections and a major center of the world’s entertainment industry. Most of the Broadway theatres are located here, as well as other entertainment organizations. The area lived up to its image and was crowded with tourists enjoying theatrical performances and the holiday atmosphere.
Fifth Avenue led me toward Central Park South. Prestigious shops such as Cartier, Gucci, Chanel and Armani line this famous thoroughfare between 49th Street and 60th Street. In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked this as the most expensive street in the world. Each store was stylishly decorated with jovial holiday decorations and dynamic window displays. Rockefeller Center andRadio City Music Hall were bustling with people waiting in line to see the Christmas Spectacular with The Rockettes.
Home Sweet Home
Back at Essex House 560, I relaxed on one of the plush sofas cuddling up with a good book until dinner time. As much as I enjoyed the vibrant activity of the city, I equally enjoyed the warmth and comfort of this stunning apartment — my haven at the end of an adventure-filled day.
My stay at the Essex House 560 was exceptional, not only because of the amazing location and luxuriousness of the apartment, but also due to the fine service provided by my host, Lauren Berger. Lauren is known for providing exceptional properties with extraordinary service that far exceeds the finest hotels. She sees to every detail before guests arrive assuring that each property is stylishly decorated, comfortable, spotless, and feeling truly like a fine home. Her policy is to treat all her guests as if they are royalty, of which, many are. Once you have stayed at a Lauren Berger property, you will not want to stay anywhere else. She offers a fine selection of properties in New York, the Caribbean, and Europe. 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 selected for the Outstandingly Located Vacation Rentals category due to its prime location in the heart of Manhattan. This property is also suitable for the categories of Luxury, Vacation Rentals for the Sports Enthusiast and Super Romantic Vacation Rentals.
Comments Welcome: Make a comment below (we work hard…give us some love!) on any of our Live Reviews by Travel Writer Cindy White, Deborah Nelson, or Renee Fontaine, and get a FREE Digital version of The Vacation Rental Travel Guide when it is hot off the press!